The poverty of security

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AndleebAbbas

Do not send your children to school or outside to play. Do not take your family to park on a holiday. Do not go to hospital to visit a sick one. Any of these daily, routine and normal activities are now an invitation to kidnapping, injury, and death. Nearly every quarter we have a horrible terror attack that stuns us, stings us and makes us indulge in some emergency actions. Things begin to normalize, and then comes another terrible attack. No province is safe and no city is secure. Are we fighting a war that is futile? Are we really in the right direction? Are we doing all we can to prevent and fight this menace? Are we really sincere in our purpose to eliminate terrorism? These are the key questions that need an honest and upfront appraisal to determine why we are subject to continuous blows of deadly nature at regular intervals.
Balochistan is a case study of neglect. It is a province that has been almost as marginalised as FATA, and consequently, it is a province that has bred terrorism almost with the same ferocity. The insurgencies and separatist movements have destroyed the economy of the province. It is the largest province with the lowest population, and the worst human development figures in the country. It has become a centre for discontent. The taboo topic of the “missing people” has been suppressed by every government. Every family that has a missing person and is not being heard and given justice will produce a rebel and breed ground for retaliation. The marches of Mama Qadir and the protest by Amna Janjua have all been treated with disdain by both the government and the agencies, and it has resulted in deepening the feeling of alienation.
This feeling of not caring and not belonging are reinforced by governments who have exploited Balochistan’s resources, and indulged in rampant corruption. Imagine the vulgar loot sale on display in Mushtaq Raisani’s house. A finance secretary’s house was literally overflowing with Rs 750 million cash, spilling out of the water tank, car fender and furniture. Just imagine what emotional havoc it must have created in a population that suffers from abject poverty. The latest poverty figures show that 71 percent people live in multidimensional poverty in Balochistan, where one meal a day is a struggle. Add to that misery its highest-in-the-country infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, and the breeding ground for violence and corruption becomes highly fertile.
Deranged terrorists and an organised enemy infiltration exploit such dangerous deprivation to the hilt. From Taliban to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to RAW to Jindullah, all have eyes on human vehicles of the likes of Raisani to hoodwink the system, and pollute and poison the process to the extent that it wreaks havoc on the innocent people of the province, leaving the intelligence and law enforcement agencies looking inadequate.
The terror groups in Balochistan comprise the nationalists, the separatists and the opportunists. The Sardars had created tribal monopolies and controlled the resources. Take the example of Reko Diq mines’ dispute. It is a dusty, little town near Chagai of the nuclear blast fame. Its estimated potential by some geological surveys is close to three trillion dollars. From Moeen Qureshi in 1990s to the present government, everybody acknowledges its potential, but is unable to make transparent deals to properly utilise it with the result that very little benefit of this unique treasure has been capitalised. Government is not the only one indulging in this corruption, as some high-level army personnel have also been found guilty. Recently, in an unprecedented move, General Raheel Sharif sacked six top army officials for corruption of billions of rupees in Balochistan. These officials had served in the Frontier Corps of Balochistan along with paramilitary forces.
With this background it is but natural that Balochistan with its porous border with Iran is an ideal kill-and-disappear haven. On ground, corruption of government officials and departments facilitate terrorist logistics. We still have no clue as to how Mullah Akhtar Mansoor had a visa to come across the border. NADRA has been caught issuing fake IDs and having dubious people employed in its offices, but very little except re-verification of IDs has been done so far. If on-ground infiltration was not enough, an aerial drone attack also set a new precedent in Balochistan as Mullah Mansoor was targeted by the Americans with scant regard to the country’s sovereignty.
The recent tragic blast in Quetta is an example of how all stakeholders are trying to escape the blame and cast a shadow of doubt on others. Mahmood Achakzai, a mouthpiece of the government, held the agencies responsible for this disaster, diverting the attention from the allegation of the chief minister of Balochistan that RAW was involved in the terror attack.
Achakzai’s connection with the Afghan government is an open secret where his statement that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a province of Afghanistan made headlines in the Afghan newspaper, Afghanistan Times. His links with the Afghan intelligence are in media attention, and have caused a controversy. Thus we have a merry-go round of blame games. The army blames the government, the government blames the provinces, the provinces blame external forces, and the allies blame the agencies. This round of finger-pointing resulted in high-level meetings to revisit the National Action Plan (NAP).
NAP has been validated as missing in action. The opposition says 80 percent of programmes have not taken place, and government says the opposite. It is encouraging to note that in a recent meeting, eight out of 20 areas were highlighted as inactive. They include choking terror financing, shutting down banned organisations operating with new names, developing a counter-narrative and engaging with madrassas to inculcate it, and of course, the lifeless NACTA. Another task force has been formed to supervise implementation. But who is responsible for not taking action in these eight areas and causing hundreds of more deaths? What is needed is action on accountability of ineffectiveness of NAP, and all people responsible for this criminal negligence to be penalised. Without this accountability and due diligence we will just be waiting for the next bigger disaster.