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In Balochistan, Dying Hopes for Peace

Increasing attacks by the Islamic State in Balochistan are connected to Pakistan’s failed strategy of encouraging and using Islamist militants to crush Baloch rebels and separatists.

Pakistani troops in Quetta carry the coffin, wrapped in the national flag, of the provincial candidate Siraj Raisani, who was killed in Friday’s suicide bombing in Mastung.CreditArshad Butt/Associated Press

On Friday, several hundred tribesmen and students from religious seminaries gathered at a public meeting in Mastung, a town in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, to hear Siraj Raisani, a 55-year-old politician from the Balochistan Awami Party.

As he appeared on stage wearing dark sunglasses, the crowd cheered, whistled and raised their hands, in a gesture affirming their loyalty to him. “O! Brave people of Balochistan!” said Mr. Raisani, who was known and feared for his strong ties to the Pakistani military. Before he could utter a second sentence, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the stage. The explosion killed Mr. Raisani and 149 of his supporters, and injured 186 others.

Abdul Khaliq, a resident, told the BBC Urdu that three of his sons had gone to the rally. “All three of them were killed,” he said. Another person lost 15 relatives. In some homes, there were no men left to lead the funerals.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, citing Mr. Raisani’s relationship with the military. The group has been terrorizing Pakistan’s border regions such as Balochistan by attacking unarmed civilians. The suicide bombing was the first time the group targeted a prominent political asset of the military.

The carnage in Balochistan can be understood by considering the long history of separatism in the province, the resentment against the federal authorities for denying its people their proper share of resources and opportunities, and the failed strategy of the Pakistani military to use repression and to encourage and use Islamist groups and militants to crush Baloch nationalist rebels and politicians.

Balochistan, which is home to about 12 million of Pakistan’s 208 million people, is the country’s largest province, stretching from the Arabian Sea coast through a vast desert and mountainous landscape to Iran in the west and Afghanistan in the north. The gas, gold and copper reserves of Balochistan are among the largest in Asia and account for half of Pakistan’s gas production. The province’s resources generate about a billion dollars every year for the federal government, but its people barely receive their share of state investment and opportunities. Read more

Source: The NY Times

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