Balochistan’s peace—latest causality of ISIS shadows & proxy warfare?
Almost after four weeks since the change at the political leadership in Balochistan, there have been serious security incidents including terrorist attack of February 6, suggesting new dynamics underpinning Balochistan province’s militant landscape.
Threat levels seem also changing in form and substance as Balochistan is going to be the gateway to landlocked Western China and Central Asia with CPEC being connected via Gawadar strategic port.
Starting from Islamic militants, there seems to be some signs that ISIS Afghan-affiliates may be finding recruiters and foot soldiers in Balochistan. The focus is mainly some of the religious-politico outfits with low hanging brain-washed potential militant.
The group that has associated with the ISIS Afghan-Affiliates is led by Mullah Mansur Dadullah. He is the brother of Mullah Dadullah- who was once the Afghan Taliban’s commander and killed by NATO forces. Dadullah is currently based in Zabul province of Afghanistan where reports suggest that he is involved in skirmishes with Afghan government forces and the Afghan Taliban led by the Mullah Mansur group.
Some of his foot soldiers are believed to hail from Pashtun areas of Northern Balochistan. Since there is a weak border control on Chaman entry/exit point, it is easy for these militants to join Mullah Dadullah partly for better pays and partly for Idealogical reasons.
The bigger question is what if battled hardened foot soldiers once free from Zabul battles, may return to Balochistan and may play havoc with its security. Their exact number is impossible to figure out at this stage. However, some estimates suggest around 200 plus.
Second dynamic is the increasing signs of some sort of collaboration between the defeated Pakistani Taliban and Baloch insurgents. Yes the remnants of the Taliban and Baloch militants have been reported to have forged some sort of understanding against the state of Pakistan if not tactical cooperation at this stage. There are two main motivations behind this emerging nexus: 1) your-enemy-is my-enemy principle driving both group of militants, 2) since both have handlers pulling the strings, it makes best strategy to resuscitate militancy in a province where mainly the Baloch militants have increasingly been defanged of lethality, 3) Balochistan having porous border, and large swath of territory and ethnic population, pulls the remnants of FATA based militant to take shelter and lie low, notwithstanding, recent successes in Pashtun belt of Balochistan suggest that law enforcement agencies are on high alert and on the look out to prevent any spill over of militants from FATA region into Balochistan.
Yet it will be a dangerous escalation if FATA based militants find sanctuaries and succour in Balochistan and make some sort of tactical alliance with the Baloch militants.
The third dynamic is the component of international terrorism: that regional agencies are typically sponsoring proxy in Balochistan is in evidence almost 25 kilometre to the Chaman border of Balochistan into Afghanistan’s frontier border town Spain Boldak. There are camps of Baloch insurgents being run and managed by the Afghan intelligence. They are being looked after, while the younger Balochs are being recruited and trained for to join insurgency in Balochistan. All logistics is being paid for by their handlers. Crossing into border town Chaman, a typical Baloch militant pays around Rs 10000 for a taxi ride whereas a local will pay only Rs 500, for example.
The border management challenge exacerbate the task of checking those who have ill-intend to enter into this province. Unfortunately, the talk of Indian version of CPEC and Iran’s reported counter offer to China establishing connectivity via Chabahar Port bypassing Gawadar, will only add to worries of worsening dynamic of international terrorism of Balochistan. At least for the next three to five years, terrorist incidents will likely to happen before CPEC see the light of the day from its current position of paper project.
Lack of job opportunities and better pays from various militant outfits in the region makes Balochistan’s youth a very attractive pool to recruit from.
The government of Balochistan really needs immediate focus on providing jobs to the unemployed youth and stipends to the young abled-bodied men. It is not asking too much when Balochistan has no border controls with Afghanistan and Iran and a very weak coastline enforcement mechanism on its vast coastline stretch at thrown away distance from the Gulf region.
Secondly, since NAP implementation remains a challenge in Balochistan, the government of Balochistan needs better performance in reforming education systems including Madrasa regulations; leaving every thing for the non-civil institutions is setting up province for big failure in security and governance reforms.
Author is security analyst.