By Ahmed Rashid
Even as Pakistan remains under partial lockdown, Coronavirus deaths continue to mount and the country faces multiple economic and social problems, there is little attention given to the dangerous armed clashes and bloodletting that continues on both its borders.
“On the western border, there are multiple militant Baloch groups attacking security forces in both the southern Mekran region as well as the north, especially around Quetta”
The level of danger is clear – as history teaches us – at any point in time these border conflicts could expand into all-out war.
In the east there are almost daily skirmishes between Pakistani and Indian troops as tensions in Indian occupied Kashmir continue to grow. Pakistan is anxious to show its support for the Kashmiris, while India is determined to keep the border hot and Pakistan under pressure.
On the western border, there are multiple militant Baloch groups attacking security forces in both the southern Mekran region as well as the north, especially around Quetta. On May 8 six Pakistani soldiers and a Major were martyred in the Kech district of the Mekran region close to the Iranian border.
The Pakistani Taliban and other militant Pashtun groups are also back in business attacking security forces in Waziristan and FATA even as Pakistan’s relations with the Kabul government and the Pashtun tribes deteriorate.
The tragic murder of Arif Wazir, the cousin of MNA Ali Wazir on May 1 has led to increased anger among the tribes on both sides of the border. Tensions between the local population and the Pakistan state are getting worse.
“Pakistan needs to first reduce tensions within its own border. Only then can it claim to be genuinely involved in trying to resolve problems with its neighbors”
Meanwhile, Kabul still believes that the Taliban and other Afghan militants are being supported by Pakistan. Islamabad needs to reassure Kabul by taking action against its own militants first. Nevertheless, the danger is that a widening of the conflict is always possible.
It is vital that the government take time off from dealing with the virus and tries to improve relations between Pakistan and its neighbors. More importantly, Pakistan needs to open up a dialogue with militants in Balochistan and FATA, condemn arbitrary killings and make sure that the disappeared are found and released from whoever is holding them captive.
Pakistan needs to first reduce tensions within its own border. Only then can it claim to be genuinely involved in trying to resolve problems with its neighbors.