QUETTA -- After on-going operations have inflicted massive setbacks on militants in Balochistan, a large number of them recently contacted authorities in the province to discuss surrendering, officials told Pakistan Forward.
The militants come from a number of banned groups.
"More than 350 militants, as well as several key commanders of banned groups", reached out to the authorities via tribal leaders, Muhammad Bilal, a Quetta-based senior intelligence official, told Pakistan Forward.
A major development
The impending surrender is "a big development", Bilal said, adding, "Those militants ... revealed that they understood the reality of the war they've been waging for a decade."
For more than two years, troops have been pounding insurgents in Balochistan, killing them and destroying their hide-outs.
Via the tribal leaders, the militants conveyed that "they want to accept the ... Peaceful Balochistan package announced by the federal government August 6, 2015", he added.
The package includes generous cash incentives to surrendering militants, ranging from Rs. 500,000 (US $4,770) to rank-and-file militants to Rs. 1.5m (US $14,320) to senior commanders.
"The militants' proposal is under consideration," Bilal said. "Law enforcement is working to verify the real number and the realities on the ground of those seeking to surrender."
The Peaceful Balochistan package "is enticing militants to give up", Maj. (ret.) Muhammad Omar of Islamabad, a senior defence analyst, told Pakistan Forward.
"Successive counter-insurgency strikes largely smashed militants' operational capacity too," he said.
The militants who want to resume their normal lives represent a large number of militant groups, Bilal said, citing the Balochistan Liberation Army, Baloch Republican Army, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and others.
"Several senior commanders ... have already surrendered in Noshki, Sibi, Dera Bugti and some other areas of Balochistan," he said.
Besides defeats on the battlefield, internal feuding has also pushed the militants to consider surrendering.
"We have reports that colossal differences emerged inside militant groups in Balochistan over their war agenda," Muhammad Saad, an Islamabad-based counter-terrorism official, told Pakistan Forward. "They began fighting each other."
Militant groups were killing and kidnapping each other's members in Turbat, Awaran and other areas of Balochistan, Saad said. "We identified a number of bodies found in the Awaran, Mashkay, Khuzdar and Kalat areas ... as militants whom rival groups kidnapped," he added.
In a recent case, Levies Force personnel on November 22 in Khuzdar found two bodies. The Balochistan Liberation Army took responsibility for the deaths, calling the two dead men rival militants "who worked against our cause".
Prescriptions for more success
As encouraging results like mass surrenders trickle in, "the law enforcement agencies must step up counter-insurgency strikes in areas where the militants' existence is affecting the state's ability to enforce peace", Omar the analyst continued.
The state also needs to "address the trust deficit shown by people in insurgency-stricken areas", he said.
The state can help ensure peace and stability in the region "by bringing the discontented into the national mainstream", he said of this opportunity.
Militants, when they lay down arms, "acknowledge that they could never accomplish their goal by war", Quetta-based political analyst Ghulam Nabi Baloch told Pakistan Forward.
"The average citizen in Balochistan wants peace and development," he said. "The majority of people involved in anti-peace elements are misguided by elements playing proxy war."
To keep progress going, the government must ensure that militants who surrendered earlier fully benefit from the Peaceful Balochistan package, he said, adding, "The state must create more incentives to eradicate militant influence in our youth's mindset."
Army chief's valedictory
As Gen. Raheel Sharif wound down his tenure as army chief, he noted the waning force of militancy in Balochistan.
"The tide in Balochistan has turned against militants," Raheel said in Quetta on November 23 during his final visit as army chief, according to Inter-Services Public Relations. "A large number of militants are continually surrendering."
"The army will continue to work with the province for greater security and stability," he said.
Pakistanis "can rest assured that the state will never compromise national ideology or security", Saad the counter-terrorism official said.