The recent terrorist attack in the town of Sob in Balochistan, in which the Pakistani army lost nine soldiers, was the latest in a series of attacks targeting security forces in areas previously considered relatively free of terrorism.
This is a separate phenomenon from the insurgency affecting Baloch-majority areas of the province; Groups linked to the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its offshoots are now stepping up attacks on security forces in the northern parts of the province – traditionally considered a Pakhtun-majority area.
Although these areas are close to the border with Afghanistan and close to tribal districts such as South Waziristan, terrorist activity has been relatively low in the past.
Asif Baloch, a Quetta-based newspaper editor, believes that two fronts have opened up against the regime since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, namely that the TTP has intensified attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pakhtun belt of Balochistan.
“The security situation has always been bad in Baloch parts,” he notes, adding that the Pakhtun belt was not in the crosshairs of such groups.
In recent months, the TTP has even been trying to gain a foothold in the Baloch-majority areas of the province, releasing propaganda videos in Balochi.
In some of these videos, the group talks about missing persons and the deprivation faced by the people of the province, a clear attempt to make inroads among the Balochis by appealing to their sensibilities.
According to analyst Muhammad Amir Rana, the TTP has traditionally had a support base in the Pakhtun belt, which is why it has been able to launch attacks in these parts.
“Also, their goals are specific. Earlier, they used to attack police forces, but now they are targeting FC, military personnel and their camps. Although the number of attacks has not increased, the TTP is trying to create unrest in the area,” he says.
Also, the TTP – by its own admission – divided the province into two. In a statement released by the group some time ago, it claimed that the Baloch-majority area was part of its Kalat-Makran chapter, while the Pakhtun-dominated parts were under the Sob chapter.
As for the new outfit that claimed responsibility for the brazen attack on the military establishment in Sob – using the name Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan – experts believe it is a “cover name” for the TTP or one of its affiliates.
Asked to explain the shift in tactics on the part of the TTP, Asif Baloch points out that the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a key project of Beijing – passes through Pakhtun-dominated parts of the province.
Baloch see this as one of the possible reasons behind the increase in attacks as China seeks to consolidate its position in the region. The security of CPEC is the responsibility of the Pakistan Army, which has been assigned a special security wing to protect its assets and infrastructure.
A security officer the morning It was pointed out that hostile agencies are trying to disrupt peace in Balochistan and their involvement in the province is the reason for such attacks.
“But thanks to our security forces, most of the attacks were averted,” he noted.
Jalal Noorzai, a Quetta-based columnist and analyst, suggests that militancy is a relatively new phenomenon in the Pakhtun-majority parts of the province.
It shows that the banned TTP is trying to consolidate its position in the region, he said, adding: “This does not bode well for peace in general in the region. Unfortunately, if the threat is not contained, its scope may increase in the future.
Posted on July 15, 2023 in Dawn