Massacre in Mastung

Despite a growing security budget, there is no peace in Balochistan, writes Asad Khan Betini

Massacre in Mastung
As the nation waited for Nawaz Sharif and his daughter to arrive in Lahore and be handcuffed, there was a horrific suicide bombing in Mastung with a gut-wrenching death toll of 149. The bomber targeted a corner meeting of Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) Siraj Raisani, who was also among those killed in the militant Islamic State (IS) attack. Most of the injured succumbed to their injuries on their way to Quetta for emergency treatment as the hospital in Mastung was not equipped to deal with the crisis.

Raisani was a candidate from PB-35. He was born on April 4, 1963 in Mehrgarh area of Bolan. He was the youngest brother of former chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani and Senator Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani. Siraj had recently been elected chairperson of Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz and he merged his party with the Balochistan Awami Party on June 3. He was scheduled to contest election for PP-35, Mastung. Raisani’s father, late Ghaus Baksh Raisani, was governor of Balochistan and rendered services as federal minister for food and agriculture. He was also the founder of Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz in 1970.

Siraj Raisani was among the 149 killed in a suicide attack in Mastung last week

Siraj Raisani married a Thai woman, a daughter of a farmer he accidentally met. Raisani had gone to Thailand for tourism nearly three decades ago and met a terrible accident. A farmer took care of him and gave him money to approach the Pakistani embassy in Bangkok for travel documents and an air ticket. Three months later, he returned to Thailand, paid back the money he owed the farmer and married his daughter. He settled there and bought a large piece of land. He had two sons and a daughter. She is completing her masters in International Relations and hopes to join Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of Siraj’s sons was killed in a bomb attack in Mastung and other son plays for Thai national football team. Recently, he constructed a new house in Chiang Mai province and painted the Pakistani flag on its entrance. Despite losing a son at the hands of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) for his pro-Pakistan stance, Siraj was a patriot and loathed Baloch Insurgents. On March 23, he travelled to Thailand with his wife to attend the Pakistan Day reception. His friends asked him to try his luck in Thai politics and forget Pakistan for some time, given that the security situation in Balochistan. He was eyeing a ministerial slot after these elections. Siraj was optimistic about his victory in the general election.
The province saw 52 suicide attacks between 2003 and 2018 and over 1,068 people were killed

During his visit to Quetta following the attack, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan said, “Pakistan’s internal and external enemies are behind the Mastung attack. These attacks are meant to postpone elections.”

Imran criticised the National Action Plan for failing to produce the desired results.

“We will not postpone elections since that is what the enemies want,” he said during his condolence visit to Sarawan House.

Talking to The Friday Times, Balochistan Awami Party President Mir Jam Kamal said, “We will not cave under such tactics. We feel even more courageous. Raisani was a true patriot and his death is a huge setback for the party but we will continue with our campaign and demand that the elections be held on time.”

Investigations into the attack are underway. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered and Mastung tehsildar Buland Khan was assigned as the investigating officer, the deputy commissioner told this scribe. He said a no objection certificate (NOC) was not obtained for the corner meeting.

Balochistan is facing many challenges although it is a province rich with minerals. Gawadar is significant point of trade due to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a major component of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Despite its importance, the province saw 52 suicide attacks between 2003 and 2018 and over 1,068 people were killed. These figures do not include target killings. Kidnappings, suicide attacks and daily target killings have destroyed any hope for peace in the province. Constant strikes have crippled trade and commerce in Quetta.

The budget of security personnel continues to grow each year. Nearly Rs35 million per month is spent on security of over two dozen platoons deployed in some of the most disturbed areas of the province including Kalat, Awaran, Killa Abdullah, Quetta, Mastung, Kachhi, Sibi, and Pir Ismail Ziarat. As much as 16.4 percent of the Rs352.3 billion budget is spent on security.