Balochistan: Tentative peace prevails but new challenges may be ahead

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41 per cent decline in militant attacks during 2015

Security forces conduct counter-insurgency operations as campus force raised to protect educational institutions

Merely two years ago, Balochistan had become a major challenge for the law enforcement agencies due to rising terrorist attacks in the restive province. However, a report released by an Islamabad-based independent Think Tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) recorded 41 per cent decline in militant attacks during the year 2015 as compared to 2014.

The report says overall security situation in the province witnessed a positive change as security forces foiled a number of conspiracies.

Improvement in security situation in Balochistan could be attributed to multiple factors including behind the scenes efforts for engaging angry Baloch leaders including Khan of Kalat and Brahamdagh Bugti, improved governance, announcement of “Pur-Amn Balochistan” Programme for encouraging insurgents to surrender in return for financial gains and reintegration, enhanced security measures and conducting of operations by security forces and killing/arrest of some top tier insurgents.

But, with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) entering implementation stage, a recent apex committee meeting was informed that Balochistan had become a target area for covert operatives of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who were recruiting Afghan migrants and Baloch militants to carry out sabotage activities in across the province.

“However, the committee was briefed that all such conspiracies had been thwarted by timely and prompt actions taken by the security forces duly backed by civilian and military leadership of the province,” an official in Balochistan government told Pakistan Today.

The official said that Balochistan had emerged as a model for swift and effective implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) where civilian and military leadership had joined hands to weed-out the menace of all forms of terrorism.

“At least three conspiracies of the enemy were foiled during the year 2015 due to the joint efforts by the provincial government and the military. First, Pashtun labourers were picked up and killed by Baloch insurgents. This was a plot to trigger an ethnic conflict. However, the government took effective measures to help thwart this plot,” the source said.

The source added that another bid was made to trigger sectarian riots in the province by targeting people from two different sects.

“This conspiracy was also foiled successfully and perpetrators of the crime were killed,” the source added. The source said that the enemy also plotted to spread ethnic hatred as Punjabi workers were targeted but the security agencies traced the criminals and apprehended them.

The source said that a major question discussed at the apex committee meeting was exploring ways and means as to how the Afghan refugees could be sent back voluntarily.

“The meeting was informed that Balochistan hosts around 784,000 Afghans which is a problem for the provincial administration as many of them have been found involved in terrorism and criminal activities. Out of the total, 337,045 registered Afghan migrants in Balochistan have proof of registration cards (POR holders). Another 456,212 are illegal migrants living in the province,” the source said.

The source said that the apex committee was informed that now the federal government had allowed the Afghan migrants to stay till July this year.

“The meeting decided to urge all the donor agencies to help repatriate the Afghans. The meeting was informed that no agency was ready to facilitate the repatriation process. The meeting urged the federal government to ask the donors to help repatriate the Afghans as these donor agencies had played a key role in urging Pakistan to host them with a refugee status,” the official added.

When contacted, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told Pakistan Today that the credit for successful operations against militant outfits went to both the civilian and military leadership of the province.

“One must give credit to the new Chief Minister of Balochistan Sardar Sanaullah Zehri and Corps Commander Lt General Amir Riaz for their full support to the Home Ministry. The credit also goes to the outgoing chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and former Corps Commander Lt General (r) Naseer Khan Janjua,” he added.

The home secretary said that the civilian and military leadership were not only on the same page vis-a-vis the counter-insurgency policy but they were also on ‘one table under one roof’.

He said that Balochistan also had set up an Intelligence Fusion Cell where civilian and military intelligence agencies were working day and night to counter the enemy’s plans.

“During the past 13 months, Balochistan government has successfully implemented NAP. A total of 2,570 intelligence-based operations (IBOs) were conducted in across province. During these operations, 12,149 terrorists were arrested while 315 others have been killed and 51 injured,” he added. Durrani said that the security forces had recovered 3,717 weapons form the possession of the terrorists along with 248,345 rounds of ammunition.

“These successful operations broke the backbone of terrorists as eight districts previously in the grip of insurgency have been cleared of terrorists,” he added.

Explaining the IBOs, the home secretary said that 233 operations had been conducted by the police while another 255 operations were carried out by the levies.

“The IBOs conducted by Intelligence Fusion Cell along with the FC were 2,082,” he added.

LAWS ENACTED:

The home secretary said that the lawmakers also supported the government’s efforts and passed laws to improve the security situation in the province.

He said that the Balochistan Assembly passed The Balochistan Restriction of Rented Buildings (Security Act) 2015, The Balochistan Hotels Restriction (Security Act) 2015, The Balochistan Sound System (Regulation Act) 2015 and The Balochistan Prohibition of Expressing Matters on Walls Act 2105.

“Another important piece of legislation, Witness Protection Bill 2015 and The Cabinet Committee Balochistan Arms (Amendment) Bill 2015 are under process,” he added.

CAMPUS FORCE RAISED TO PROTECT UNIVERSITIES:

Akbar Durrani said that the Balochistan government had become the first province of the country to raise a campus force to ensure protection of universities.

“The Protection of Education Institution Ordinance has been prepared to help raise campus force for universities. Another Ordinance will be promulgated for raising a force for schools and other educational institutions. Under the plan, we are in the process of hiring 500 retired servicemen from army and FC. We have taken onboard the Arms Services Board for hiring retired soldiers and the hiring process has already started,” he added.

The home secretary said that the campus force would be stationed at the university buildings to ensure permanent security for the varsities.

“We are in the process of posting campus force at 23 universities in Quetta where watchtowers are being constructed. We plan to construct over 90 towers, each one about 18-20 feet high, with a view to improving security.,” Durrani said.

He said that security cameras would also be installed along with heavy lights at these towers as well as buildings on the campus.

“Quetta would have the security towers and the campus force by March 15 this year,” Durrani said.