11 die in Quetta bus bombing
Muhammad Akbar Notezai TFT Issue: 30 Oct 2015
There has been a decline in violence in Balochistan, but the battle against militancy is far from over
On October 19, 2015, a bomb explosion on a local bus in Quetta killed at least 11 people and injured 22. The device was planted on the roof of the bus, a police official told reporters.
According to media reports, the bus was overcrowded with more than three dozen passengers, some of who were sitting on the roof. Most of them were laborers. A majority of the victims were sitting at the back when the explosion took place, while passengers in the first row of the bus suffered minor injuries.
Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Balochistan’s chief minister, condemned the incident and vowed to chase down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Terrorists do not seek the government’s permission
In the beginning, it was reported to have been a sectarian attack targeting Shias during Muharram. But Sarfaraz Bugti, Balochistan’s home minister, said the purpose of the attack was only to kill innocent people.
A militant outfit called the Baloch Youth Tigers (BYT) claimed responsibility for the attack in telephone calls to reporters.
“Terrorism will continue to threaten Balochistan in general and in Quetta in particular as such groups and their sympathizer networks intact,” according to Jan Achakzai, a strategic affairs analyst in Islamabad. “Balochistan is situated on international political fault lines, and is therefore even more vulnerable. There are the Saudi Arabia-Iran proxy wars, the emerging threat of ISIS next doors in Afghanistan, and the involvement of India. So Balochistan is in for long haul in terms completely eradicating terrorism: Expect less but more spectacular attacks unfortunately.”
Without administrative, social and educational reforms to supplement the use of military muscle, Pakistan will not be able to insulate Balochistan from outside influence, he believes.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, a veteran journalist based in Quetta, says the security situation in Balochistan has improved in general after action against militant groups since June, but it is hard to say if that change is permanent.
But this decline in violence does not mean sectarian and ethnic militant groups are not present in the province, according to independent journalist Kiyya Qadir. “The terrorists have changed their tactics,” he says. “For example, many sectarian groups are now trying to build a soft image, holding public demonstrations against Shia Hazaras and Ahmadis.” In short, he says,
they are using new tools to spread hatred.
The Hazara community has been a soft target in Quetta in the recent years, where they have faced a spate of attacks because of their Shia beliefs.
“Somehow, these religious fanatics have realized that bombing a minority group is not their only option,” says Kiyya Qadir. “Their policies have changed. They are now using other tactics.” He said sectarian leaders had been openly using hate speech in their Friday sermons.
Government officials say the police and the Frontier Corps (FC) launched a crackdown against hate speech in Quetta and other towns of Balochistan earlier this year. Security forces have carried out a number of raids since the beginning of this year after the government decided to go after militant groups following the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. In February, the head of the Balochistan chapter of banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was killed in one such raid in the provincial capital. The Balochistan government says it is fully implementing the prime minister’s National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism.
“Pakistan is good at making plans,” says Sajid Hussain, formerly associated with The News. “But do these plans work? The government says terrorism will not be allowed. But terrorists do not seek the government’s permission.”