For a while terrorist attacks in the restive Balochistan have been increasing both in frequency and intensity. On Monday, nine personnel of the Balochistan Constabulary —including two brothers — were martyred, and 13 others wounded, four of them critically when a suicide bomber riding an explosives-laden motorbike rammed into a police truck on the Sukkur-Quetta Highway in Bolan district. An obscure militant outfit, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), claimed responsibility for the attack. Since the IS-K also took credit for the bombing, it is unclear whether or not TJP is a splinter group of the self-styled Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has made a common cause with the IS-K. In any event, they are all birds of a feather flock together.

It needs to be noted that Balochistan has traditionally been a secular society. That has gradually changed. The prolonged conflict in the neighbouring Afghanistan, causing influx of Afghan refugees, has helped TTP and IS-K to secure a foothold there. In the past few years, they have been involved in several terrorist attacks on their rival religious leaders as well as politicians. The otherwise secular Baloch insurgent groups have also forged a nexus with these violent religious extremists for the furtherance of their own agenda. That seems to explain the sharp rise in terrorist strikes on the security forces, the police as well as civilians. In two separate incidents last December, five FC and Levies men were martyred in Turbat and Chaman claimed by the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the TTP, respectively. The next day, in two back-to-back attacks in Kohlu district, five soldiers, including a captain, embraced martyrdom in an IED blast claimed by the BLA while a soldier lost his life in Zhob and several other security men and civilians, including children, were injured in a string of attacks in Hub, Kalat and Quetta. Last month saw as many as 22 acts of terrorism in which at least 25 lives perished.

Complicating the security situation is a blowback of the state’s own flawed policies. The TTP and IS-K have sympathisers and facilitators in alumni of sectarian madressahs established all over the province. The 20-point National Action Plan devised at an all-party conference in 2014 in the wake of the Peshawar Army Public School massacre, among other measures, called for registration and regulation of religious seminaries, and dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists. More than six years later, the plan remains a mere talking point. The problem of insurgent groups’ violence stems from the Centre’s failure to resolve long-standing grievances of the Baloch people, further fuelled by the security establishment’s resort to use of force. It should be recalled that NAP also asserted that Balochistan government be fully empowered for a political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders. If only the powers that be could pay heed to this particular point, things would be much better in that troubled part of the federation.