Regional instability and the path to peace

The Noshki Attack affects the entire region

The recent attack in Noshki, Balochistan, has once again cast a spotlight on the tumultuous security situation in Pakistan’s largest province. This incident is not just a reflection of the localized grievances that have plagued Balochistan but also underscores the broader geopolitical dynamics affecting the region.

Balochistan has been a hotbed of insurgency and conflict for decades. The province’s troubles stem from a complex interplay of historical, economic, and political factors. This economic grievance has been compounded by political grievances. Hostile elements, while sitting in Pakistan and abroad, are spreading flimsy propaganda against the government and armed forces to accomplish their heinous objectives.

The recent attack in Noshki was a stark reminder of ongoing security challenges in Balochistan, which are occurring due to the activities of non-state elements with the help of foreign hands. Insurgent groups in Balochistan, including the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), have often carried out attacks against security forces, infrastructure and pilgrims visiting Iran. Those who were killed in the Noshki attack were also going to Iran to visit holy sites. Unfortunately, they were identified and killed by BLA terrorists.

From a security standpoint, the attack cannot demoralize Pakistan’s brave armed forces which have been fighting tirelessly to eradicate the menace of terrorism and extremism from the society. The rugged terrain, vast and sparsely populated areas, and the complex tribal dynamics make it difficult for security forces to operate effectively and root out insurgency without causing collateral damage that fuels further resentment. However, they are still fighting valiantly against non-state actors.

The terrorist incidents in Balochistan cannot be viewed in isolation from the broader regional and international dynamics. The province’s strategic location at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, coupled with its coastline along the Arabian Sea, makes it a geopolitical hotspot. Hostile elements are proactively carrying out propaganda against projects of CPEC in order to derail Pakistan’s socio-economic development. However, this international interest has also meant that the conflict in Balochistan has implications beyond its borders. There are serious concerns about foreign involvement, with various actors accused of supporting insurgent groups as a means to counter rivals or influence the direction of CPEC. Moreover, the situation in Afghanistan, with the return of the Taliban to power, has added another layer of complexity. The porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan allows for the movement of militants, further complicating the security landscape.

Various incidents of killings have been reported in Balochistan in the recent past. In all these incidents, Iranian links emerged as those terrorists were using Iranian soil. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Iranian government to undertake stringent actions against such elements who are using their soil, which could affect bilateral ties of Iran and Pakistan.

Achieving peace in Balochistan requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses both the symptoms and the root causes of the conflict. First and foremost, there needs to be a genuine effort from the Pakistani government to address the economic and political grievances of the Baloch people. This includes ensuring that the benefits of local resources and development projects like CPEC are shared equitably with the local population.

Secondly, there must be a shift in the security paradigm. While security measures are necessary to maintain order, law enforcement agencies must put robust mechanisms in place to cater this menace while neutralizing terrorists. Building trust with the local community is crucial, and this can only be achieved through transparent security practices.The government has also offered general amnesty to all non-state elements while asking them to lay down arms and join the mainstream politics of the province and work with provincial authorities.

Regional cooperation is essential. Iran and Afghanistan must work with Pakistan to secure borders and prevent the movement of militants. It is not only the responsibility of Pakistan to fight against these non-state actors. International partners, particularly those involved in projects like CPEC, should also play a role in promoting development. The Noshki attack is a reminder of the persistent challenges in Balochistan. However, it also presents an opportunity for a renewed focus on addressing the deep-seated issues driving the conflict.

Likewise, media outlets play a significant role in shaping public opinion, and the way they choose to report on sensitive issues can indeed have wide-reaching implications. It has been observed that a few media outlets have tried to legitimize the demands of non-state actors in Balochistan while publishing critical content regarding the Noshki attack. If such outlets are legitimizing non-state actors, they could influence public perception and possibly policy decisions related to those groups.

This is a serious concern, especially in contexts where non-state actors are involved in conflict or political activities that are contentious or harmful.Critically evaluating media content, questioning editorial decisions, and discussing these issues openly can contribute to a more informed public discourse. Such news outlets must avoid toeing the lines of hostile elements and must discourage such incidents. Glorifying concerns of non-state actors will further substantiate their illegitimate claims, which will set a negative precedent.

Various incidents of killings have been reported in Balochistan in the recent past. In all these incidents, Iranian links emerged as those terrorists were using Iranian soil. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Iranian government to undertake stringent actions against such elements who are using their soil, which could affect bilateral ties of Iran and Pakistan.

Asad Ali
Asad Ali
The writer is a freelance columnist

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