Counter-Terrorism: Pakistan Plays With Fire And Gets Burned


September 7, 2013: Pakistan’s policy of tolerating, and often supporting and encouraging, Islamic radicalism continues to manifest itself in a lot of dead civilians and security personnel. The war in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) is getting very personnel for the security forces. On August 8th, a terrorist suicide bomber attacked a funeral for a policeman in the provincial capital. The main targets were senior police commanders and several were killed. Most of the 40 dead were lower ranking police. Terrorist violence is setting records this year in Baluchistan and it has nothing to do with the Taliban and everything to do with tribal and religious tensions that have existed in the area since before Pakistan was created after World War II. 

While these attacks on police get a lot of media attention, the growing incidence of government tolerated terrorism is largely ignored in the media. This is the anti-Shia violence, which the government is less concerned about. What does get the attention of the security forces is the separatist unrest involving Baluchi tribesmen. All this takes place in southwest Pakistani province of Baluchistan. In the last decade over 4,200 terrorist deaths have occurred in Baluchistan (population eight million), with about a third of them in Quetta (population 900,000), the provincial capital. The death rate is increasing. Last year there were 954 terrorism related deaths last year, compared to 711 in 2011, 347 in 2010, and 277 in 2009. Worse, less than ten percent of the deaths were terrorists, most were civilians (72 percent last year and 76 percent in 2011). Most (over 80 percent) of these deaths were not the result of the usual (anti-Shia, anti-government) terrorists but civilians the army suspected of being Baluchi rebels or supporters. These people just disappeared, although their bodies sometimes showed up eventually. This secret war against Baluchi rebels is largely driven by desperate efforts to halt the attacks on the natural gas pipelines. The government sponsored campaign against the tribal rebels has not been stopping the attacks. The government is under increasing pressure to call off the illegal police and army kidnappings and murders. The intimidation has not worked and the Baluchi tribes are even more determined to gain a measure of autonomy and freedom from government-sponsored terrorism.

Meanwhile, the war between Sunni and Shia Moslems is most violent in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan. Last year there were 113 terrorist attacks against Shia in Pakistan, leaving about 400 Shia dead. The Sunni radicals responsible for this violence have been at it for decades, but it has gotten worse since al Qaeda came along in the 1990s. Nearly half of the attacks occurred in Baluchistan, where the majority Baluchis have come out publicly against the Sunni Islamic terrorists who are killing Shia. Most of the killers in Baluchistan are not Baluchi, and that’s another reason for the Baluchi to be hostile to the government supported terrorists.

Only 10-15 percent of Moslems are Shia. Most (about 80 percent) of the rest are Sunni, and many of them consider Shia heretics. In several countries there is constant violence between Shia and Sunni radicals. In Pakistan, about 15 percent of the population is Shia and these Shia are becoming increasingly loud in their demands that the government do something about the terror attacks on them.



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