The kidnapping of four workers, two miners and two engineers, on Tuesday at Hanna Urak, Balochistan on Tuesday while they were returning from work, throws into relief some of the problems that afflict the province. Responsibility has not been claimed, which means that Baloch separatists and sectarian militants must be considered possibilities. While it is perhaps lucky that no immediate headaches for the government have been created for the government, as no foreigners are involved, there have been enough Chinese victims and targets in the past that it is a certainty that this incident will be monitored abroad by all those with the remotest interest in investing in Balochistan.
The failure to provide security actually reflects a double failure. It is primarily a failure of the security establishment, which has a lead role in this. However, if it is distracted by other things, such as playing politics or providing cover to the many forced disappearances plaguing the province, it will not be able to play its primary role, of preventing such incidents and ensuring that the province enjoys the sort of security that will allow it to become the sort of investment hub that has been promised. The second failure is by the national political parties. It became clear during the last no-confidence motion that both sides merely regard Balochistan’s MNAs as lobby fodder. Neither side has thus brought about the sort of changes in the province that would put paid to both separatism and religious extremism.
Balochistan may be the country’s least populous province, but is its largest, and has the largest section of its coastline. In providing access to the rest of Asia, it may be crucial, especially with Gwadar being developed as one end of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, while all this potential exists, it must not be exploited to the exclusion of the Baloch. It is not healthy, for example, that those kidnapped belong to an industry, where the bulk of miners are brought in from other provinces. The present incident should not be seen merely as a crime to be solved, but as an urgent demand for a major reset in attitudes.