QUETTA -- Successive counter-terrorism and intelligence-based operations have largely eliminated the operational capacity of militant networks in Balochistan, officials say.
"The militant groups have been trying for a long time to keep Balochistan in a state of unrest and instability," provincial Minister for Home and Tribal Affairs Mir Sarfraz Bugti told Pakistan Forward.
"The federal and provincial governments are trying their best to ensure peace and stability in the province, and security forces have destroyed the main hideouts of militant groups in all restive areas of the province," he said.
"In the on-going security force operations, most of the top commanders, target killers and improvised explosive device experts have been arrested or killed," he said. "The anti-peace elements are now dependent on foreign aid, and our forces are working their best to eliminate their support network."
"The state is taking all possible steps to develop an effective mechanism for sharing information between law enforcement agencies and for apprehending all militants involved in terrorism," he said.
81 militants arrest in past week
Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan is conducting large-scale intelligence-based counter-terrorism operations throughout the province, said Brig. Nadeem Ahmed, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman in Balochistan.
"In the past week, 81 militants have been arrested and a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from militants' hideouts," he told Pakistan Forward.
The FC carried out targeted intelligence-based operations in 32 areas where militant groups operate in the province, he said, including "in Quetta, Sibi, Dalbandin and adjacent areas, where a large number of militants linked with the banned Baloch Republican Army and Balochistan Liberation Army were held".
FC Balochistan Inspector General Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed Anjum is personally leading the counter-terrorism operations in the province, according to the ISPR Balochistan spokesman.
"FC troops will continue their efforts towards the goal of lasting peace in Balochistan," Ahmed said.
Extremism hindering development
The menace of terrorism is one of the major hurdles to the development of Balochistan, said provincial Minister of Education Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal.
"After receiving a massive setback from counter-insurgency operations, now the militants have started disseminating propaganda against the state," he told Pakistan Forward, adding that militants blamed law enforcement agencies for human rights violations and claimed that security agencies were involved in taking innocent lives.
"The Balochistan government has changed its policy for addressing the issue of militancy and [...] is now focusing on [countering] militancy on the grass-roots level," he said.
"Militant groups operating in Balochistan might differ in ideologies, but their goals of violence to attain their ambitions are the same," he said. "Therefore, the government is acting to curb militants' influence among the general public."
"Countering the narrative of extremists is the pioneer priority in the National Action Plan, and the steps taken [towards this end] are proving positive results," he said, referring to the counter-terrorism strategy in place since January 2015. "Extremism has become an existential threat to the state."
Competition for legitimacy, members
"We have reports that several militant groups operating in Balochistan have switched their loyalty to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] and are trying to increase their influence in the province," said Mohammad Ishaq, a senior intelligence official in Quetta.
"The militant groups active along the Pakistani-Afghan border are competing for recruitment, and most of them are dependent on those elements sponsoring their proxy war," he told Pakistan Forward, referring to local and international sympathisers that provide financial or logistic support to militants.
"Pakistan has taken comprehensive steps for a better border control mechanism to stop illegal movements on the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border and to better control the security situation," he said.
"The intelligence agencies are closely monitoring the propagation of hate literature and extremist [ideology] in Balochistan, which is one of the biggest sources that militants have for building their influence among the general public," Ishaq said.
"Via the implementation of the 20 points of the National Action Plan, we have gained great success in the fight against terrorism, but it is still a big challenge to smash the support networks of militant groups," he said.
Not Pakistan's war
"Without stopping the flow of money to militant groups, the goal of lasting peace in Balochistan cannot be accomplished," said Mohammad Nadeem, a Quetta-based security analyst.
The Federal Investigation Agency and other intelligence agencies must monitor the sources of money coming from foreign countries that might fund militant groups, he told Pakistan Forward.
"The war on terror that today we are suffering from is not the war of Pakistan," he said. "This war was waged on us intentionally through regime change tactics."
"The militants have long been using the general public as a cover for their anti-peace activities; therefore, it is necessary to gain public support to effectively combat extremism and terrorism," he said.
Tougher border security is essential he said, adding, "The investigation agencies must effectively use forensic tools to trace the perpetrators of terrorist attacks and [...] to examine crime scenes."
"Militant groups operating in Balochistan are trying to pressure the state to achieve their demands," Nadeem said.
"The provincial government must take all the political parties and tribal heads into confidence for improved results in the on-going war against terrorism and radicalisation in the province," he said.