The new century brought challenges created by non-state actors and Pakistan falls in that part of the world which had to face maximum fallout of war on terror. Fata, Karachi and Balochistan are the most hit areas which suffered at the hands of terrorists in their race for power and in turn became fuel for objectives of hostile foreign agencies. Though Pakistan had to suffer the most but the nation recollected itself and created a history of fighting and winning insurgency in a short time when we compare with Sri Lanka and other insurgencies in the world.
The operation was carried out with a focus on these three areas but Fata and Karachi remained in limelight. Media reports did talk about the success of operations and environment of peace in Balochistan but the magnitude of success and more importantly the efforts and effects were seldom discussed. The news of success builds morale of the nation but story of success gives confidence to society to stand up as one force to take on the challenge. Where Karachi is important being a heavily populated area, existing sea port and a business hub of the country Balochistan is of significant strategic importance to Pakistan in the future mapping of the world.
Balochistan with its huge reservoir of natural resources shares 1268-Km border with Afghanistan and 909-Km with Iran. In the South, it has 745-Km long Coastline. Province has five seaports which are Jiwani, Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara and Gadani. The province is also sharing boundaries with other three provinces of the country, ie, Sindh, Punjab and KPK. Balochistan has an area of 347,190 Sq Kms, which is approx 44% of the entire land mass of Pakistan. The upcoming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the future port of Gwadar has further enhanced its importance for the region.
Deprivation, bad governance, tribal system, corruption and undemocratic culture in existing democracy of Balochistan were identified as the main evils. Groups like BLA, BRA and BLUF came up as militant organisations with some demanding independence of Balochistan. The situation was progressively tailored by initial low profile presence of militants in media and diplomatic circles outside Pakistan, till the time situation was ripe for direct international funding and support with increasing influence of terrorism in this part of the world. The high value target for anti-state powers was Frontier Corps (FC) the main law enforcers in Balochistan.
Missing persons’ perception was raised to put law enforcers into a defensive position. The hostile forces managed to show their presence by 2011-2012 when terrorists were able to control the communication networks and education institutions in remote areas of Balochistan. There were reports of ban on Pakistani Flag in schools in interior province and railway lines, gas pipelines and even roads at places were threatened. Police under government and Levies the law enforcing forces under the local Sardars are neither well-trained nor equipped to perform the law enforcing tasks. Therefore, Frontier Corps (FC) was tasked to fill in the capacity voids in addition to its prime responsibility. The emerging issues were realised by the government and the main issue of deprivation was addressed through NFC award and Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan in 2009. Factually the money came, the efforts were made but were diluted due to no checks and control. Absence of monitoring mechanism made the mafia even stronger. Soon it was realised that solution lied from within and not blaming foreign interest as these interests only emerge when a weak state provides opportunity.
A two-pronged strategy was put into action on firm footings. Action against terrorists was closely followed by visible efforts to reach out to general population of Balochistan. Education, health and communication infrastructure were picked as prime movers to be made approachable to the population. The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) adopted a proactive approach against terrorists. According to LEA in 2015, so far forty main operations have been launched and over 200 hard-line terrorists have been killed. The recorded comparison of Destruction of gas pipelines show reduction from 134 in 2011 to 22 incidents in 2015.
Destruction of railway lines decreased from 16 in 2011 to 8 this year. Abduction figures also show downward trend from 291 in 2011 to 100 this year. On other side there has been a surge in LEA operations against terrorists from 33 in 2011 to 930 in 2015. This increasing grip of LEA and enhancing government writ in Balochistan is likely to pickup pace in coming days as general population become the main stake holders and contribute towards overall environment.
To fill in the void in education, government has extend education facilities especially to the under- privileged and far flung areas of Balochistan. Frontier Corps only contributed 41 FC public Schools which are functional and there is a plan to further increase. More than 15,000 students are studying in these schools out of which many are being provided free education. Balochistan being scarcely populated has issue of distance travelling for students. To accommodate students from far flung areas, boys hostels have been constructed. Such investments ensure a bright future for the area. The strategy has either completely eliminated insurgents or have restricted them significantly.
The terrorists and insurgents are on the run and many who were forced to facilitate the terrorists have gained confidence to the level of joining hands against the terrorists and they now work with government of Pakistan and its LEAs. Today Balochistan celebrates all national days, sings national songs and dances on our folk music like patriotic Pakistan without any fear. Those, who were perpetrating and promoting separatist move, are now willing to surrender and sit on negotiation table. The environment created by FC Balochistan now requires to be capitalised by local police and converting Balochistan into “A” areas under police control.
As Pakistan enters 2016, Balochistan is full of life, hope and peace. The Pakistan Flag flutters high in Balochistan and its people now stand with LEAs and government to defeat terrorist and gear up to benefit from the Pak Chinese investment (CPEC) in the region. The people hope that new political set-up will take advantage from the performance of government in last 30 months. The improved security offers an opportunity for economic growth and prosperity of people.