Balochistan, a hub of the ethnic Baloch population, is the largest yet the least populated and least developed province of Pakistan. Global infrastructure projects have further deprived the locals of their rights to the resources and development in the region.
While mainstream Baloch politicians have been pushing the federal authorities into giving the Baloch populace greater autonomy and their due rights, we simultaneously, witness the fifth wave of insurgency in Balochistan that has paced up in recent years since 2020.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) records 30 organized violent events involving Baloch separatists and 95 fatalities in the first half of 2020. The re-emergence of separatist groups is a direct consequence of increased unity with the formation of trans-provincial alliances between Baloch separatist groups and other separatist groups.
Over the years, the attacks have been becoming more intense as the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has started to target foreign nationals as well as prominent military and official personalities. In April 2022, a female suicide bomber carried out an attack in the proximity of the Confucius Institute at Karachi University that killed three Chinese tutors and other Chinese individuals.
Earlier this year in January, an explosion in a busy Lahore business district killed three individuals and injured 20. Later, the Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) took the responsibility for the said attack. Another attack carried out by BLA on the Frontier Corps (FC) in the Kech district took away the lives of 10 soldiers.
Justice Noor Muhammad Meskanzai, a man of honor and utmost dignity, served as the 17th Chief Justice (CJ) of the Federal Shariah Court until May 2022. Prior to this role, he served as the 18th Chief Justice of the High Court of Balochistan from December 2014 till August 2018.
He was a learned man with extensive experience and knowledge in the field of law and justice, evident from the prestigious positions he had held. He had the honor of serving as the Additional Judge of the High Court of Balochistan and was later elevated to the Judge of the High Court of Balochistan in 2011.
Being a native of the most neglected and underprivileged province of Pakistan, CJ Meskanzai stood loyal and devoted to serving the people of his home province. His career started and ended in Balochistan with his death, reflecting his faithfulness to the province.
CJ Meskanzai was shot dead on 14th October 2022 outside a mosque after Isha prayer in the Kharan province of Balochistan. He was immediately shifted to a hospital in Quetta, but he could not stand his fatal injuries and breathed his last. According to the police, he was accompanied by his son-in-law Haji Mumtaz, who was also critically injured in the ambush.
BLA has taken the responsibility for the assassination of CJ Meskanzai, and according to reports, he had been a long-awaited target of the insurgent group. Back in 2015, CJ Meskanzai successfully evaded a blast in the Reko Anjeri area of the Naushki district.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences to the bereaved family and strongly condemned this abominable act. The Prime Minister also instructed the Balochistan government to use all its resources to put the criminals behind the bars. Similarly, Balochistan High Court Judges termed the martyrdom as an irreplaceable loss. Members of the legal fraternity also observed a boycott of courts across the entire province for three days to mourn the loss of a dignified personality.
The Balochistan government immediately formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the assassination of CJ Meskanzai. According to Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department, the JIT will have members from the Police, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and Military Intelligence (MI).
The assassination of key official personalities like CJ Meskanzai reflects clear loopholes in security operations in the region and the increasing military strength of insurgent groups. That is not to say that the efforts of the government toward incentive-based disarmament and rehabilitation programs have been unsuccessful. In fact, according to government records, more than 2000 Baloch separatists surrendered to the forces.
There had been a decline in insurgent activities following internal conflicts among Baloch separatist groups and a loss of leadership with the demise of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri in 2014, who provided an ideological platform for Baloch armed movements.
An increase in recent cases of violence is because of a new alliance called Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), which is between Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). This stronger alliance coupled with increased marginalization because of infrastructure projects in the region have given impetus to insurgent groups to increase military retaliation and attack high-profile officials.
The government and military of Pakistan should collaborate and adopt a multi-pronged strategy. The issue is essentially political and economic deprivation and should be solved through major institutional reforms. Individuals like Chief Justice Meskanzai should be at the negotiating table, not in their graves after being a victim of insurgency.
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