The heart bleeds for the innocent victims of the terror assault that hit a police training center in Quetta and claimed at least 61 lives leaving hundreds crippled. It occurred two months after a horrific attack in a hospital that killed more than 70 lawyers in Quetta. Human life in Balochistan has become worthless. Political leadership repeats its classic mantra of sorrow, sheds fake tears, condemns the cowardly act and pledges to bring the culprits to justice. Enquiry committees are formed as knee-jerk reactions to deceive the people before going into deep slumber of insensitivity. Tragedies and disasters become a forgotten history in a couple of hours and routine political events occupy the news headlines.

Balochistan is the largest province, abundant with energy resources, valuable minerals and a deep sea port that regional players are rushing to invest in. However, despite its natural richness, it remains the poorest province of Pakistan. Balochistan has become a hub of regional conspiracies due to its geostrategic importance and its potential to become a valuable trade route that will connect China and other regional players with the outside world. But terrorism and separatist insurgencies are playing havoc with its potential of becoming a prosperous land. Terrorism is deep rooted in this region and has domestic and international dimensions.

The grand military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ against terrorist organisations has been quite successful. Key militant leaders along with their fighters have either been killed or kicked out towards Afghanistan, and their hideouts and bases have been destroyed in FATA. Due to the military operation, the number of terror incidents has drastically reduced, but the number of causalities is almost the same. Events occur after months but their scale is devastating. While the number of terror incidentshave significantly dropped country-wide, it has become more destructive in Balochistan. Low population density, socio-economic disparity and political grievances of the masses are a great attraction to establish new bases for terrorism. Although Pakistan has always been denying the presence of ISIS on its soil, the recent terror attacks in Quetta were carried out by this organisation in collusion with local militant groups.

Terrorism and foreign interventions in Balochistan are a consequence of the insane policies of the arrogant, insensitive and incompetent rulers since decades. The country meets its major energy requirements from huge gas reserves of this province. But almost 60 percent of Balochistan’s urban population has no access to this energy. The Sui town, only four miles from the gas discovery site, itself does not have gas. Majority of the People of Balochistan have got a feeling that their natural resources have been exploited by other provinces. Furthermore, socio-economic indicators are alarming. 71% population of Balochistan is suffering multidimensional poverty and 52% live below the poverty line. According to UNICEF, about 60% people are living without basic health facilities and 70% of its children don’t go to schools.

Total budget of Balochistan is 289 billion rupees out of which 71 billions have been allocated for development projects. It’s shocking to note that Punjab government is spending 165 billions on a 15-km orange train project in Lahore. Some media reports suggest that cost of this project might even go up. If this is true, then the cost of this small fancy project might even overtake the entire budget of Balochistan. Ruling elite knows that Balochistan is lying at the centre of a complex existential hazard involving regional powers and a confusing array of militant networks, but it has done nothing substantial to avoid the catastrophe of human lives. Terrorists jumped over the little mud-wall of police training center in Quetta and there was only one guard for the protection of more than 400 cadets. Rulers spend billions on extravagant expenditures but they lack resources to build an effective security infrastructure for the people of Quetta. These decades-old disparities and grievances have inculcated a belief among the Baloch nationalists that they don’t belong to this country and will never be treated on parity as respectable citizens of Pakistan. These grievances prepared the grounds for armed insurgencies and separatist movements which were later hijacked by the foreign elements.

You can exploit their resources but can’t take away their right to livein peace. You can cause terror in their hearts by throwing disfigured bodies of miscreants but can’t stop them from crying in pain. World media and Indian lobbies are slowly building their momentum to highlight separatist movements of Balochistan. On the other hand, Pakistan is a diplomatic failure on multiple fronts and no serious regime pays attention to its narrative on international forums. World knows us for all the wrong reasons; terrorism, corruption and human rights violations. But the world somehow needs us due to our geostrategic significance. China’s CPEC project provides us an opportunity to emerge as a respectable nation. But this is not possible unless we bring peace in Balochistan, win their hearts and address their grievances. We don’t have any other options for survival. If we don’t do it now, we don’t do it ever.