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Quetta Attack: Reflection Of Grave Security Situation In Pakistan

Bhatnagar writes: The unfortunate attack on the Police Training Centre in Quetta leaving 58 dead is a reflection of grave security situation in Pakistan. The instability in restive Balochistan, the troubled heartland of the CPEC, has geo-strategic implications for China to reconsider.

At least 59 police trainees were killed in an overnight raid by militants on a police academy in southwest Pakistan, authorities said early on Tuesday after a military counter-operation was finished.[i] The authorities have blamed a faction of the Lashker-e-Jhangvi militant group and said the attackers “were in communication with operatives in Afghanistan”.[ii]

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan province, which is battling an insurgency as well as Islamist militants, with violent attacks common. In Aug 2016, 88 people were killed in separate bomb attacks targeting a hospital and lawyers in Quetta.[iii] The region remains plagued by constant acts of violence. But insurgency and armed conflicts in Balochistan are not a new phenomenon. The violence dates back to late 19th century when the region came under the administration of the British Empire. During the early 20th century, Balochistan strove to become a “British free” region; later on, it was forcibly annexed by newly founded Pakistan in 1948 and ever since the inhabitants of this region are striving for provincial autonomy as promised by the father of the nation and the constitution of Pakistan. However, continuous suppression by the federal government through military might has turned this quest into a separatist movement.[iv]

CPEC will pass through troubled Balochistan and isexpected to further cement the          Sino-Pakistan bond that goes back over five decades. The CPEC has understandably triggered concerns in India. However, it is surprising to note that developments in Balochistan have not propelled the strategists in China to re analyse the security implications on this strategic project. Stability in Balochistan is vital not only for the realisation of CPEC in the initial stages but its long term viability.

Pakistan is highly sceptical of India’s role in Balochistan. It feels that India is bent on sabotaging CPEC by funding and training anti-state elements in Balochistan. Its unfounded claim is supported by India’s official concern over CPEC and a potential Chinese naval base in Gwadar to ensure Chinese maritime hegemony in Indian Ocean.[v] Indian PM’s words of support to Baloch freedom movement from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 15 Aug 2016; which immediately saw protests in Dera Bugti, Khuzdar, Quetta, Chaman and other parts of the province by the tribesmen exacerbate Pakistan’s concern.[vi]  In response the authorities had registered cases against separatist Baloch leaders Brahamdagh Bugti, Harbiyar Marri and Banuk Karima Baloch in Pakistan for supporting Indian PM’s statements.[vii] Incidentally exiled Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti,(the grandson of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was killed by Pakistani forces 10 years ago), who is leader of Baloch Republican Party (BRP), heading the movement in Balochistan is seeking an asylum in India not only for himself but other Baloch leaders currently staying in Balochistan, Afghanistan and in some other countries.[viii]

Interestingly, Pakistan has now linked such activities to Iran also, whose Sistan province borders Balochistan; the only land route that connects both countries travels through this region. However, the same is surprising keeping into view Iran’s interests in joining the CPEC which it feels will facilitate regional growth.[ix] The issue of Balochistan is not restricted between the regional players. The US has also expressed concerns regarding human rights violations in Balochistan, making Pakistan wary of an intrusion into the Islamic Republic’s internal matters.[x]

Pakistan cannot ignore India’s stance on Balochistan. It is significant keeping into view the CPEC and the ongoing Kashmir imbroglio in an overall environment of endemically strained relations between India and Pakistan and mutual distrust between India and China. Emerging India’s growing interests in Afghanistan (Pakistan’s backyard) and the strategic partnership with the US have implications on the regional dynamics.[xi] Among all the speculations, apprehensions, assumptions, and accusations, Balochistan remains at the centre for a successful CPEC and a peaceful South Asian region. Its importance has grown beyond all estimates.

An emerging India has a vital role to play to ensure stability in South Asia. It should continue to extend its full support not only to the Baloch cause but highlight the overall situation of turmoil in the Pakistan on the international stage. Pakistan, the epicentre of state sponsored terrorism which ironically calls itself a victim of terrorism needs to be exposed and isolated in the international community.

Endnotes

[i] (2016 )’’As it happened: Gunmen storm police training centre in Pakistan’s Quetta’’[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL : http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/live-gunmen-attack-police-training-centre-in-quetta-hostage-situation-feared/story-CA0yipkOXzlVih1INRRnCO.html

[ii] (2016) ’’Quetta attack: Militants kill dozens at Balochistan Police College’’[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL : http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37757914

[iii] ibid

[iv] Shahid Usman (2016)‘’Balochistan: The Troubled Heart of the CPEC’’ ,[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL: http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/balochistan-the-troubled-heart-of-the-cpec/

[v] ibid

[vi] Hariharan R (2016) ‘’ Balochistan – Pak’s untold story’’,[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL:  http://www.asianage.com/editorial/balochistan-pak-s-untold-story-544

[vii] (2016) ‘’ Baloch leaders who supported PM Modi’s comments booked in Pakistan’’ [Online:web] Accessed  25 Oct 2016 URL : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Baloch-leaders-who-supported-PM-Modis-comments-booked-in-Pakistan/articleshow/53810280.cms

[viii](2016)’’ Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti approaches India for asylum’’[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Baloch-leader-Brahamdagh-Bugti-approaches-India-for-asylum/articleshow/54432342.cms

[ix] AbbaSyed Sammer(2016) ‘’Iran wants to be part of CPEC, says Rouhani’’ [Online: web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL : shttp://www.dawn.com/news/1285404

[x] Shahid Usman (2016)‘’Balochistan: The Troubled Heart of the CPEC’’ ,[Online:web] Accessed 25 Oct 2016 URL: http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/balochistan-the-troubled-heart-of-the-cpec/

[xi]  ibid

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