QUETTA - Balochistan which is already passing through a political crisis witnessed more bloodshed and violence last month that dominated political scenario of the province.
Hardly after one month of the tragic twin bombings on Alamdar Road of Quetta that claimed over 100 lives on January 10. Another devastating bomb blast occurred on Kirani Road, a Hazara neighbourhood, which took lives of over 90 Hazara people.
The Hazara community strongly protested the bomb blasts and demanded immediate deployment of army in the city, by placing in front of them coffins of the victims. The sit-in of Hazara community continued for three days despite severe cold weather.
To express solidarity with the Hazara community, the sit-in protests were also held in other towns of the country, which compelled the PPP government to send a delegation to pacify the protesters. The federal government formed a six-member parliamentary delegation, headed by Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, which reached Quetta to hold negotiations with the protesters.
Before arrival of the parliamentary delegation, Frontier Corps (FC) in a targeted operation killed four accused and arrested seven others, allegedly involved in sectarian violence, from Qambarani area of Quetta.
It was the biggest action after the January 10 bombings. On the same night, dozens of other accused were arrested by the police and other law-enforcement agencies in different raids in the suburbs of Quetta.
A leader of Ahle Sunnat wal-Jamaat, Haji Rafiq Mengal, was also arrested by the law-enforcement agencies as his arrest was one of the main demands of Hazara community.
However, the demand for deployment of army in Quetta city was not entertained as the protesters were persuaded by the parliamentary delegation, rendering burial of the victims possible. Some officials argued there was no need to call the army because Frontier Corps, being led by army officers, had been given a free hand to take action against the elements spoiling peace.
A committee comprising members from government and Shia community was formed, which was tasked to review the implementation of demands of Hazara people.
The government has started a crackdown against the elements involved in sectarian violence. At least six accused have so far been killed and several others arrested in targeted operations in different parts of Quetta.
Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfikar Magsi said all-out efforts were being made to maintain peace, adding the law-enforcement agencies had been given a free hand against perpetrators, but in the same breath, he criticised the intelligence agencies for their failure to track down the culprits.
The government officials say the law-enforcing agencies have carried out 129 raids in connection with targeted operations in the province since imposition of the governor’s rule in Balochistan, besides recovering huge cache of weapons and explosives and arresting many suspects.
In another tragic incident of February’s last week, six Pashtoon labourers were shot dead in Shadi Kor area of Pasni in Gwadar district. Armed men ordered six labourers from Zhob to stand in a line and shot them dead. The attackers, however, spared a 12-year-old boy.
Political bandits say repeated suicide blasts and incidents of violence depict ineptitude of the government and argue that if sectarian violence was not controlled timely, it could spew disastrous results in the coming days in the province. The Pakistan government ultimately decided to hand over Gwadar Port to China Overseas Ports Holing Company Limited after taking it back from the control of Port of Singapore Authority.
President Asif Ali Zardari formally presided over a signing ceremony of handing over the Gwadar Port to the Chinese company and hoped this step would open new economic opportunities for Pakistani people.
China had assisted the former government in constructing the port, which was widely protested by Baloch nationalist forces. Despite its inauguration some years ago, the port has not become fully functional because of scantiness of the road infrastructure required to connect the port to Central Asia.
Handing over of Gwadar Port to China was opposed by Baloch nationalists as well as Baloch parliamentarians and expressed their serious reservations.
Former Balochistan chief minister Sardar Attaullah Mengal termed the decision as the last nail into the Baloch coffin. Another Baloch leader, Nawabzada Jamil Bugti, son of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, says different quarters are giving an impression that Gwadar Port would bring prosperity and development in Balochistan, but it is absolutely wrong. He argues that this step is aimed at further strengthening control over Baloch resources with the help of China, adding that handing over Gwadar Port to China is a proof that Pakistan is not capable of running its institutions. He says it is evident from the history of Tibet that China is not a so much pro-development country.
Legislators in the Balochistan Assembly also expressed their reservations over handing over of Gwadar Port to China and stressed they would only accept the accord if the people of Balochistan were given equal status.
They said the provincial government should have been taken on board before handing over the port to China. The legislators said they should not be taken as helpless and warned they would raise voice for the legitimate rights of people.
Political observers say that taking people of Balochistan into confidence in signing projects with foreign countries is essential and wining their trust is inevitable for success of the projects. They say Baloch nationalists fear the project will not be beneficial for the Baloch. Instead it would open doors for non-locals, creating a demographic imbalance against the native people.