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(Col Dr Muhammad Khan)

Meerak Baloch, the spokesman of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), while taking responsibility of blowing the Ziarat Residency of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on 15 June 2013, said, "We blew up the Ziarat Residency. We don't recognise any Pakistani monument." The Father of the Nation spent last few months of his life in this residency. No one in Pakistan expected that terrorists could go to the extent of blowing this historical site.

Constructed during British era, this wooden monument was about 100 years old. According to the details, it was a well-planned attack by the terrorists' outfit BLA, which burnt away everything in the residency, from the chairs and beds used by the Quaid to souvenirs and mementos. Memorable pictures encapsulating the Quaid's struggle for a Muslim homeland went up in smoke. It is also learnt that the attackers removed the National Flag with that of BLA at the Residency building.

As this was not enough, the terrorists targeted women university bus through a bomb killing 14 girl students and injuring many more. Following this, the terrorists attacked Bolan Medical Complex and kept many people hostage for few hours. They kept fighting with security agencies until four of them were killed and one was arrested. In the clearing process of the Medical Complex, Deputy Commissioner of Bolan, Abdul Mansoor Khan, four hospital nurses and four FC personnel laid their lives whereas in total, 28 people were killed during these multiple attacks.

The most disturbing aspect of attack on women university bus is targeting of women folk which is against either Baloch and Pashtun culture and above all our Islamic values. Having done this, the terrorists have earned further hate of the people of Pakistan and international community. In the wordings of Interior Minister, "We know that traditions of Baloch and Pakhtuns provide protection to women, children and common people and the attacks on (students of) Sardar Bahadur Khan University and on Bolan Medical College Hospital had nothing to do with religion or tradition."

Indeed, the current instability in the province has been caused by many domestic and international factors. There is in fact a history of these occurrences. The Province has been bestowed with lot of natural resources besides its geo-strategic significance in the emerging international political and economic order. Involvement of external forces in exploiting the issue is no more a secret.

Besides anti-Pakistan sentiments, these regional and global actors are indeed being attracted by geo-strategic and geo-economic positioning of the province. The God gifted province of Balochistan has immense natural resources with traditionally proud and strapping manpower. The Nawabs, Sardars and Khans, in a bid to retain their age-old grip over their tribes and general masses, have contributed to the miseries of their people. Resultantly, the socio-economic conditions deteriorated to an extent that terms like patriotism, federation and national cause became alien to the people of the province.

The current crises in Balochistan are centred on two things: first; continuous deprivation and extensive poverty of the Baloch masses compounded by the lack of economic and social development and second; lack of national unity and inter-provincial harmony, further fuelled by external powers through sub-nationalist elements. A cavernous analysis of the problem leads us to the essence that; the establishment of the writ of the state is always taken as a threat to the existence of tribal system by Baloch Sardars.

The sub-nationalist elements forcefully get the backing of the ignorant and illiterate people who get nothing in return. At the level of government, huge amounts were allocated for the province during last decade or so but this could not be converted in mega projects. This led to feeling of deprivation and poor socio-economic order of the area.

Indicators like lack of job opportunities and non development of the area have remained one of the main causes of poverty in province. The insurgents have always exploited this fact and have used it to pollute the minds of locals. Similarly, the education and health facilities outside the cities and towns are almost nonexistent or poorly managed. Even the educational institutions are plagued with sub-nationalistic agendas that generate negative politics. External factors and foreign involvement have always exploited the unstable situation of the Province.

The terrorists have stepped up their terrorist activities following the General EIections-2013. This is evident from the fact that twelve people were killed and their bodies were dumped within first week of the elections and five more were killed on the day Dr Abdul Malik took oath as the Chief Minister (CM) of the province. This indeed is a display of extreme frustration by the anti- Pakistan forces which were against the elections and a resultant stability in the Province.

Premier Nawaz Sharif has taken a good start by providing an opportunity to the nationalists to form the provincial government despite having majority in the Provincial Assembly. The new CM hails from a middle class background and is determined to stabilise the province through confidence-building-measures. In this regard, he sought support from all concerned to show progress for restoring peace in the Province in the initial 100 days of his rule. He has promised to reach to all separatist groups for their return to mainstream national politics.

Sequel to the current rise in the terrorist attacks and particularly after attacking the Quaid's residency, Dr Malik has serious challenges to face, though he has promised to reach out to everyone and resolve the issues. After having a nationalist CM, the terrorists have no excuses now, thus in frustration they arc going all out to terrorise the people. They are the ones, who kill and dump the bodies of the innocent Baloch and then allege intelligence agencies and malign them.

There is an immediate requirement that all stakeholders should play a role for the normalisation of the situation in the Province. The anti state elements; mainly the three sub nationalist groups involved in terrorist activities need to be persuaded to accept the writ of the state. Interior Minister, Ch Nisar Ali Khan announced in Quetta, "The government is ready to hold talks with those who want dialogue but not with those who want to continue militancy and they would be responded in the same coin." Surely, dialogue can be done with only those who are willing to do that.

However, the fragility of the situation and challenges being faced to the security of Pakistan merit a three-pronged strategy; a political engagement through dialogue with all rebels, socio-economic development of the rural Balochistan including creation of job opportunities for the youth and use of force against those, who still challenge the writ of the state.

The terrorists should understand that they have no ideological basis for their nefarious designs and that; they have no support from the masses of the province. It is only few hundred people; either the disgruntled elements or the hostages of a handful anti-state self-proclaimed leaders.

The incidents of June IS, 2013 are of grave nature, thus need serious deliberation and consideration at national level. Blame game and temporary measures may not be a good way forward.

The writer is the Head of International Relations Department at Faculty of Contemporary Sciences (FCS) at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad, drmk. ndu. [email protected] com