The death of 10 labourers in Gwadar at the hands of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), reminds us once again how complicated the security situation in Pakistan is. A day after Islamic State’s Afghan wing struck across the border in Mastung, a separatist group armed and supported by foreign powers carried out this execution-style killing in Balochistan, while skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) with India continue to injure people at the border. In the past weeks tensions have also flared at the borders with both Afghanistan and Iran. At the moment, the only safe border Pakistan seems to have is with China while armed groups – both infiltrating from across the border and based in the country – can freely strike in all provinces of the country.

While it is undeniable that the overall security situation has improved, especially in Balochistan where a mixture of clever diplomacy and military action has managed to all but end this separatist threat, there are still issues to be addressed. As the attack shows that it only takes a small group – two men on a motorbike in this case – to cause a disproportionate number of causalities against unprotected civilians. Construction teams and labourers have been a declared target of armed groups in the region, allowing a large group to work 20km away from the safety of Gawadar with an escort is a serious oversight of the security regime in the region. The presence of a single law enforcement officer or paramilitary personal would have dramatically reduced the number of deaths – at the very least it could have prevented the easy roundup of the laborers and their gruesome execution. Their needs to be an institutional inquiry and the people responsible for this oversight need to be held accountable.

Beyond this incident the government needs to rethink its security strategies. The state of almost-open hostilities with the neighbours is diverting attention and resources from the exercise of rooting out terrorist networks domestically, which are the same networks that provide support to those that cross the border.

The terrorist threat continues to evolve, new groups have taken the place of previous ones, and each brings with them their own brand of violence. The government can deal with them as it is doing right now, individually and reactively, or it can move to indiscriminately deny space to all armed groups, which will limit the areas these foreign backed groups can operate in.