By Iftikhar Hussain
The latest killing of 15 Baloch insurgents by Pakistani troops in exchange of gunfire in a remote region of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, near the border with Iran, is raising questions on the continuous insurgency and military’s option for quelling the insurgency via military action.
The fighting in Baluchistan’s Washuk region on Tuesday also wounded three soldiers, a spokesman for the Pakistani forces in the region told VOA Deewa.
The spokesman said insurgents ambushed security forces that triggered the fighting. A search operation was underway in the area, he added.
The human rights activists in recent months have questioned the role of military in the volatile Balochistan province. Baloch nationalists allege they had found hundreds of dead bodies after their forced disappearance. The Pakistan government denies the allegations of troops’ involvement in the forced disappearance of Baloch nationalists.
A journalist and author of the book “Balochistan-at the crossroads,” Willem Marx has recently summed up the rise in kidnappings in Balochistan in one of his tweets:
AFP quoting intelligence officials reported that the militants that clashed with security forces belonged to Baloch Liberation Front, which has been blamed for carrying out attacks on security forces and government installations in the province, which also share a long border with Afghanistan.
A senior journalist in Quetta -the capital city of Balochistan, Syed Ali Shah, told VOA Deewa that security forces are conducting an operation in several parts of Baluchistan.
He said, “The security forces operation is currently going on in Gawadar, Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Jafarabad areas and we have seen para-military forces have intensified action against insurgent groups in the past two weeks.”
Shah said, “Baluchistan remains mostly inaccessible to journalists. Many journalists have lost their lives in target killings in the past years. Due to security concerns journalists have to rely on the information provided by the security forces, insurgent groups or the govt”.
The separatist insurgents in Baluchistan often blow up railway tracks, electricity towers and gas pipelines with bombs.
Balach Maree a separatist leader said in a Twitter feed that “Pakistan forces killed 15 people including Mohammad Bux Baksh and his 4 sons martyred during military operation in Besima Baluchistan.”
Baluchistan, Pakistan’s largest but least developed and most sparsely populated province, has been racked for decades by a separatist insurgency that was revived in 2004.
The separatists believe locals do not receive a fair share of the province’s energy and mineral wealth. Rights groups accuse the government of extra-judicial detentions and killing of activists.