2008 most violent year in a decade for Balochistan
* Number of targeted killings rose to 400
* Terrorist activities registered an increase with 120 bomb blasts, 141 landmine explosions
By Malik Siraj Akbar
QUETTA: The outgoing year was the most violent in a decade for the Balochistan province in which 433 people lost their lives, including 73 victims of ‘target killing’ and 43 were killed in the name of honour.
Statistics indicate a constant rise in murder cases in the country’s largest province since 1997, when 241 people were killed.
Official data confirms 303 people were killed in 2005, the number rose to 341 in 2006 and was recorded at 390 in 2007.
It was the first year that the killings crossed the 400 mark.
The year saw a considerable rise is target killings, with the targets including police personnel and even journalists. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a banned militant outfit that demands an independent Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the majority of the killings, justifying them as a response to the ‘state’s injustices against the Baloch people’.
The most alarming targeted killing was the murder of Professor Safdar Kayani, acting vice chancellor of University of Balochistan, on April 22.
The BLA victims also included two personnel of the Pakistan Army and two recruits of the Military Intelligence (MI). The four officials were killed in April.
The BLA also killed six boys, most of them from the Hazara community, who were playing cricket in front of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) office on May 30. July saw the targeted killing of 54 people, including a Balochistan High Court lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa. Forty-one 1 people were killed in August, most victims of targeted killing. The number of people targeted in September was 73.
A majority of the targeted killings’ victims were officials of the Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, police, intelligence agencies and members of the Punjabi, Hazara and Baloch ethnic communities, who the BLA claimed, ‘spied’ for the government against Baloch interests.
Terrorism: The year also witnessed an increase in terrorist activities, as 120 bomb blasts, 208 rocket attacks, 141 landmine explosions and 32 hand grenade attacks were recorded in the province, which killed more than 150 people and injured an estimated 200. Sources said 24 explosions occurred in January, 71 were recorded in February and 52 explosions occurred in March.
There were 32 explosions in April, including 19 rocket attacks, six hand grenade assaults and six bomb blasts, which killed four people, including three government officials, and injured nine civilians.
Twenty-one people were killed in terrorist activities in the months of May and June, while around 25 explosions in July killed 16 people, including eight government officials.
August followed with 16 bomb blasts, 80 rockets attacks, nine hand grenades attacks and two landmine explosions that killed 16 people, including four government functionaries and injured 60 people.
There were seven rocket attacks, seven bomb blasts and three hand grenade attacks in September that killed seven people, while 12 explosions in October killed 12 people. Thirty-one explosions in November killed four people, while when 45 explosions, including 16 bomb blasts, 26 rocket attacks and three landmine explosions in December killed four people.
Around 43 people, including 32 women, were killed in various parts of Balochistan in the name of honour during the first nine months of 2008, said a report by Aurat Foundation.
In most cases of honour killing, the culprits were reported to be the victim’s family.
Security experts believe the situation in Balochistan could have been worse had the three militant groups - the BLA, the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) - not declared a ceasefire in September.
However, the BRA announced the end of the ceasefire on January1, saying the government had killed several innocent Baloch tribesmen in fresh attacks on Dera Bugti. The two other groups are likely to follow suit, analysts say, fearing the Balochistan government was likely to face further problems in 2009.