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Quetta: Unending Bloodbath

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By Anurag Tripathi
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On August 8, 2013, at least 38 persons, including 21 Policemen, were killed and another 40 were injured in a suicide bombing at a funeral in the Police Lines area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. Among those killed were Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations, Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal; Superintendent of Police (SP), Headquarters, Mehrullah; Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Shamsur Rehman; SP Traffic, Mohammad Anwer Khilji; Inspector Shakeel Akbar; and five personnel of the Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF). The majority of the injured personnel were from the Balochistan Constabulary, ATF, and Police.

According to sources, Inspector General (IG) Balochistan, Mustahq Ahmed Shukera and Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Mir Zubair Mehmood were the prime targets of the attack. However, they escaped the blast since they arrived at the location just minutes later.

The bomber struck when the officers and personnel had gathered to pay their last respects to the Station House Officer (SHO) of the City Police Station, Mohibullah, who had been killed by terrorists in the Killi Almo area of Quetta earlier in the day. The terrorists had opened indiscriminate fire on a Police van, killing the SHO and injuring six others.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for both incidents.

A day later, on August 9, 2013, eight persons were killed and several others were injured when terrorists opened fire targeting former Provincial Minister Ali Madad Jattak, in the Eastern bypass area of Quetta, during Eid prayers. Jattak, however, survived in the attack.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Quetta alone has recorded at least 1,325 fatalities [1,091 civilians, 189 Security Force (SF) personnel, and 45 terrorists] out of a total of 4,217 fatalities (2,813 civilians, 787 SF personnel and 617 terrorists) in the Balochistan Province, since 2004 (all data till August 11, 2013). The Province has already recorded 702 fatalities (537civilians, 105 SF personnel and 60 terrorists) in 2013, of which 369 fatalities (309 civilians, 43 SF personnel, and 17 terrorists) were killed in Quetta alone. The current year has already recorded the highest fatalities in Quetta.

Fatalities in Quetta: 2004-2013*

Years

Incidents

Killed

2004

13

64

2005

47

14

2006

52

41

2007

104

95

2008

81

62

2009

94

82

2010

83

153

2011

114

240

2012

148

205

2013

117

369

Total*

853

1325

 Source: SATP, *Data till August 11, 2013

Some of the major incidents (involving three or more killings) in Quetta in 2013 include:

June 30: At least 28 Shias were killed and 60 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Abu Talib Imambargah (Shia place of worship) in the Aliabad area of Hazara Town in Quetta.

June 15: At least 14 female students, four nurses and four SF personnel, including Quetta Deputy Commissioner of Police Abdul Mansur Khan, were killed and another 27 sustained injuries when unidentified terrorists first blew up a bus of the Sardar Bahadur Khan (SBK) Women’s University in Quetta, and subsequently carried out a blast inside the Bolan Medical College’s teaching hospital in the city, where the injured were admitted.

May 23: 13 persons, including 12 Balochistan Constabulary (BC) personnel, were killed and another 17 sustained injuries in an explosion near Link Badini Road in Quetta.

May 12: Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhera narrowly escaped a suicide attack in the high security zone on Zarghoon Road in Quetta that killed at least six persons and injured 46.

February 16, 2013: A remote-controlled bomb targeting Shias killed 84 persons, including women and children, and wounded another 200 in Quetta.

January 10: At least 117 persons were killed and over 216 were injured in three separate bomb blasts in Quetta. At 8.30 pm, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a snooker club on Alamdar Road, which has two Shia prayer halls. Within 10 minutes, as Police, rescuers and media persons rushed to the site, another bomb fixed to a vehicle parked nearby went off. The twin blasts killed 105 persons and injured another 169. Earlier in the day, at 3.50 pm, a powerful bomb exploded under a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle near a public plaza and crowded food market at the busy Bacha Khan Chowk, killing 12 persons and injuring 47.

Anti-Shia extremist formations including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are the principal perpetrator of violence in Quetta. In 2013 five incidents resulting in 239 fatalities have been claimed by the LeJ, and another two incidents, resulting in 39 fatalities, were claimed by the TTP. Separately, Baloch nationalist groups have claimed responsibility for six killings in two incidents. The remaining the fatalities remain unclaimed.

Significantly, Northern Balochistan, of which Quetta is a part, is dominated by Islamist terrorist outfits and Sunni sectarian formations such as the TTP and the LeJ. A multiplicity of Baloch nationalist groupings operate principally in South Balochistan. According to the SATP database, since 2004, the Baloch insurgency-affected regions of South Balochistan have accounted for at least 1,684 fatalities, including 940 civilians, 413 SF personnel and 331 terrorists. The Northern areas of the Province, under the influence of Islamist and Sunni sectarian terrorist formations, LeJ and TTP, recorded 2,533 fatalities, including 1,981 civilians, 403 SF personnel and 149 terrorists, over the same period.

Since 2004, 243 civilian killings (141 in the South and 102 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA). The Islamist extremist formations, primarily LeJ and TTP, claimed responsibility for the killing of 422 civilians, all in North, mostly in Quetta. The remaining 2,103 civilian fatalities remain unattributed. As SAIR has noted, a large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan). Sectarian violence orchestrated by Islamabad-backed Islamist formations is also responsible for a significant proportion of civilian fatalities.

Evidently, the Islamist terrorist formations have created havoc in Quetta in particular and Balochistan at large, with Government failing to respond. On July 2, 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his visit to Quetta, indirectly conceded the failure of an adequate state response, “The administration here needs to bring improvement in their governance and the authorities in police need to realize their duty.” Sharif pointed out that Quetta was a ‘small city of around 20 lanes’ and that it should not be too hard to secure such a place.

As in other areas of Pakistan, it is the collusion and complicity of elements within the state establishment that have created spaces for the proliferation of terrorist groupings, and have inhibited effective state responses against the terrorists. It is significant that Quetta has long been the operational base of a number of terrorist formations operating in Afghanistan with the backing of the Inter Services Intelligence. Given Islamabad’s unchanged game plan to continue with its mischief in Afghanistan, and to use Sunni extremist mobilization and terror as an instrument for domestic political management, the present crisis can only deepen.

[Source: SATP]

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