ONE day, one provincial capital, three violent incidents

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Quetta in particular, and Balochistan in general, appear to be slipping back towards outright anarchy and the state seems utterly clueless and impotent.

Start with the attack on the Shia Hazara community. With the majority of Hazaras settled in one particular zone in Quetta and the community under sustained and deadly threat, the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the provincial capital ought surely to be able to do better to protect the community. Yet, whatever measures were taken in the wake of the devastating bombings in early 2013 on the Hazara community have clearly proved inadequate.

If preventing a drive-by shooting of a bus is fiendishly difficult, far more obvious is the failure to follow up on intelligence reports suggesting that Quetta is infested with sectarian militants with an explicit agenda of attacking the Hazaras.

All that ever seems to happen is after each terrible crime against the Hazaras, the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies briefly go into overdrive, raiding suspected terrorist hideouts, arresting people, etc before slipping back into complacency until the next hideous attack, when the cycle is repeated all over again.

Of course, if failure to defend a shocking vulnerable and under-siege community were not bad enough, the law-enforcement apparatus led by the paramilitary Frontier Corps was unable to even defend its own soldiers in a roadside bombing in Quetta yesterday.

Again, no counterterrorism system can be perfect and some attacks in a state of insurgency are inevitable, but that only underscores the wider point: whatever the army-led security establishment has done to counter terrorism and insurgency in the province over the past decade has not worked — indeed, is not working.

To add to that already chaotic scene came a third attack, this time on Fazlur Rehman in the evening. There are obvious possibilities for who can and would want to attack the JUI-F chief, including an unverified early claim of responsibility last evening, and those possibilities suggest that yesterday’s attack could have ramifications far beyond Quetta, given the maulana’s political base in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and his party’s presence in parts of Fata.

What is also clear is that across the spectrum of the country’s political leadership, there are very real and disturbing threats to the lives of politicians for any number of reasons.

Returning to Quetta, however, the signs are ominous. The attack against the Hazaras and the JUI-F chief in particular come in the run-up to Muharram, when security worries and religious sensitivities tend to spike.

The first priority of the provincial and federal governments and the law-enforcement and security apparatus should be to urgently reassess any and all plans for keeping the peace in Quetta in the uniquely challenging weeks ahead. Else, the forgotten problems of Quetta could burn right through to the front of the national stage. —Dawn

 


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