Mastung carnage is one of the deadliest terrorist incidents that our nation has gone through in the recent past. It was heart wrenching to see so many mutilated corpses, blood soaked injured political activists scattered all around at the scene of occurrence. It is a sobering reminder that terrorism is still alive and dormant terrorists are still capable enough to cause damage on such a colossal scale. The incident occurred in Daring Gar, a small town some 25 kilometers away from Mastung. The death toll has reached nearly 150, whereas several critically injured patients are still hospitalised. This gruesome act of terrorism took the life of Nawab Siraj Raisani who was addressing a political gathering in connection with the upcoming general elections July 2018. It is the single most terrorist attack by a suicide bomber which has claimed so many precious lives.
The day of Mastung massacre will live in infamy and will be recounted with profound grief. Sadly, on the day of the morning the electronic media totally blacked out the incident and preferred to dish out the content which was perhaps more politically interesting. This apathy and indifference is ignominious. The victims do not receive relief with media publicity, nor the souls departed on heavenly journey return back. But certainly the mentioning in the press highlights significance of an issue. It unites the nation; even the divisive elements tend to hold in abeyance the contesting issues and desires to defeat the bogey of terrorism – the like of which we witnessed after the APS attack.
However, an overhauling of the entire situation on the security landscape would help us understand the root of the problem. The area of Mastung massacre is operated by Levies, which is called “B” Area. Out of the total area of Balochistan province, almost 95% area is regulated through Levies, while the rest of 5% is controlled by Balochistan Police. This is where the problem starts; the confusion regarding jurisdiction over “A” and “B” areas is creating a space for the terrorists to exploit it in the pursuance of their nefarious designs. The criminals and terrorists commit crime in “A” areas and conveniently slip into “B” areas. In the absence of any formal coordination mechanism between Police and Levies, the fugitives remain scot-free. Likewise, it provides a leeway to law enforcement agencies to shrug off responsibilities in the wake of security lapse.
The place where Nawab Siraj Raisani has been martyred among his political activists was not provided even essential security in the first place; there were no metal detectors, nor has walk through gates been installed to prevent any unforeseen occurrence. This inherent incapacity of the Levies is claiming so many precious lives. Levies are relic of the past which has lost its utility whatsoever it had once in a tribal setup in a primitive society. The indigenous Levies personnel are recruited with the approval of tribal Sardars. Insomuch as in the Federal Levies inheritance is a consideration for recruitment. Thus, instead of becoming a service provider to control law and order situation and combat terrorism they have become a militia. They owe their allegiance to their respective tribal leaders and have little to do with the functions and responsibilities vis a vis state.
The capacity of Levies is woefully inadequate to meet the modern day intractable challenges of crime and security. Burking is a frequent practice in the Levies operated B areas; crime is not even registered what to speak of detection, investigation and conviction. They still rely on manual methods and are totally bereft of application of modern digital devices which are now part and parcel of policing functions. To add insult to the injury, they are deployed on the recovery of the revenues along with operation and investigation of crime, which are equivalent to policing functions. This halfhearted and casual treatment with the serious challenges like crime and security is revealing the sorry state of affairs. Consequently, the situation is getting from bad to worse. The backwardness of levies as a force can be gauged with the fact that they do not have requisite women participation. Out of total strength of 25,447 Levies personnel, only a dozen women are currently serving in the Levies. This gender exclusion undermines the effort of gender mainstreaming in any organization.
The conversion of “B” areas into “A” areas under a uniform police law is not a choice, it is the only way, “one way”, to control the precarious security situation and stem the tide of terrorism. A primitive force which was created to appease a handful tribal chieftain cannot hold hostage the security of the entire province. It is time to rise above political expediency, instead of cajoling few influential, let us serve the common masses. Politically easy measures may create a momentary stability but as long as the elephant in the room is not addressed, the problem is not going to get away. Thus instead of shying away from the real issue, let us take some inconvenience steps and address the issue once for all.
In the end, the enemy operating in Balochistan is very smart. It has created a nexus along with ideological contours; TTP, Baloch sub national miscreants, foreign elements and proscribed organizations have synergized their efforts to cause maximum damage to the federation. In order to outsmart the enemy, all law enforcement agencies, civilian and military alike, have to work in a coordinated way to secure the results for lasting peace and stability.
By Akhlaq Ullah Tarar
The writer is a police officer, serving in Balochistan.