Cash in return of BLA-related information

By Malik Siraj Akbar

The government of Balochistan is absolutely clueless about the murderers of as many as 32 people, including 18 personnel of the Pakistan army, Frontier Corps (FC) and the police who have been target killed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in 21 violent incidents in the past four months.

In an unprecedented move, the Balochistan Home Department has placed an advertisement in the local newspapers seeking help from the civilians about any information they have about the suspects of target killing. The department has announced a reward of Rs. 21 million in return of any information about the killers. Having listed 21 violent incidents, the department has announced a reward of Rs. One million for information about a single attack.

The advertisement mentions 21 deadly incidents chronologically in which a thumping majority of the killed is that of police men, FC and army personnel. However, it is the first time that an official advertisement about wanted terrorists fails to give a single clue about the perpetrators of these attacks. Unlike the past, the advertisement does not contain the names, sketches or the suspected residence addresses of the wanted people.

Ironically, an underground Baloch separatist outfit, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which claims to be fighting for the independence of Balochistan province, has openly accepted its involvement in all these attacks. Besides justifying the attacks saying that majority of these forces are mainly staffed by non-Balochs, the BLA has also warned the fellow Baloch to refrain from serving in the government forces. In case of noncompliance with the warning the BLA has threatened to kill such Baloch people.

According to the government advertisement, a FC recruit, Mohammad Arif, was killed on January 5, 2008 on Spinny Road and two other FC men, Qaiser Jan and Azam Jan, were ‘badly injured’. On February 17, a civilian Mohammad Shahid Raisani was killed on Brewery Road. In another incident on February 23, an incident of target killing resulted in the murder of three policemen: Sub-inspector Abdul Latif, head-constables Bashir Ahmed and Mohammad Ayub. They died in a firing incident in Kili Ismail area.

As the list goes on, unknown men killed a policeman, Zulfiqar Ali, on Baqu Street near Girls College Quetta on March 19. On March 27 this year, a firing incident at Najeeb Khan Street in Liquat Bazaar killed a traffic policeman, Abdul Latif. On March 29, unknown men killed Jamil Shah, a head constable of Saddar police station, in a firing incident in Shahbaz Town.

Two FC men, Habib-ur-Rehman and Naveed Khan were killed by unknown armed men on April 1, 2008 on Sariab Road near Bhukhari Petroleum service. In addition, two more FC personnel, Amir Nawaz and Abdul Wali Shah received serious injuries in the same violent attack.

Two personnel of the Pakistan Army, Zafraan and Saeed Ahmed, were shot dead in April 2 this year near Omer Medical Store in Liquat Bazaar.

Eight days later, the armed men killed a civilian, Abbass Ahmed on April 10, 2008 on Mc Congy Road. On April 15, two policemen Sher Zaman and Saif-ur-Rehman were killed on Sabzal Road at Sasoli Chowk. Two days later on April 17, a man, Hussain Atif, was murdered in Railway Colony which was followed on 22 April by the murder of a Balochistan University professor. A Punjabi-speaker Dr. Safdar Kiyani, the pro-vice chancellor of the Balochistan University, was killed on April 22 in Green Town of Sariab Road. Accepting responsibility for the murder of the university professor, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) said the professor had allegedly been working for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and providing information about the Baloch people. The shadowy force said it had warned the university professor to give up his activities or face death.

On May 1, unknown attackers killed a policeman, head-constable Jummah Khan on Jinnah Road and killed other head-constable, Rasool Baksh, the next day on May 2 near Shandar Hotel on Sariab Road.

A majority of these attacks have been taking place either on Sariab Road or Brewery Road, both heavily populated with the Baloch people. There has been a tremendous increase in the anti-military and Punjabi sentiments in these parts of the provincial capital since the instigation of a military operation in Dera Bugti and Marri tribal areas by the previous government.

Thus, another assault on Sariab Road on May 7, killed a police constable, Mohammad Nasir and injured two others, Noor Ahmed and Kareemullah, a passerby. The next policeman who fell victim of target killing was Constable Mohammad Ishaq who was murdered by unknown armed motorcyclists on May 13 on Jail Road near Mano Jan Chowk.

Two civilians, Irfan and Mohammad Faisal, were killed on May 26 near Ayub Stadium and three of their friends, Mohammad Adnan, Rashid Ali and Ghulam Murtaza received serious injuries. Two days later on May 28, two more people were killed in Railway Colony on Joint Road. They were identified as Waqar Ahmed and Abdul Saeed. Two other civilians, Mohammad Iqbal and Mohammad Israr, were assassinated in the same Railway Colony on May 28.

One of the worst BLA attacks took place on May 30 when five boys playing cricket in front of the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were target killed. Identified as Ali Sohail, Jhangir, Zahid Hussain, Amirullah and Mohammad Jawad, all members of the Hazara ethnic community, were billed as the agents of the secrete services by the BLA.

The last incident that the home department advertisement has pointed out is that of the murder of two personnel of the Military Intelligence (MI) in Khuzdar district. They were killed on April 29 when they were having tea in a local restaurant.

While being sworn in as the chief minister, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, Balochistan’s first chief minister from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said his topmost priority would be to ensure peace in the province. He vowed to negotiate with the BLA and other armed groups in order to end the ongoing insurgency in the province. On its part, the BLA outright rejected the government offer for talks and further intensified its attacks.

Despite repeated attempts by this writer to contact Balochistan home minister, Mir Zafarullah Zehri and the officials from the home and police departments as to why the police failed to arrest or trace the culprits of as many as 21 incidents, no one was available for comments.

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