Pakistan’s ruling institutions have reportedly adopted a multi-pronged strategy in Balochistan to counter the Baloch national independence movement. This includes infiltration of religious extremists into Baloch society to counter the Baloch movement.
The Baloch society historically has been secular in nature. However, over the past two decades, systematic attempts to propagate religious extremism have emerged, leading to a shift away from the traditionally tolerant coexistence of different religions in Balochistan. Incidents of this nature continue to occur, particularly in the Makuran division, which is heavily affected by the Baloch insurgency. Religious extremists are targeting supportive groups and progressive institutions associated with the Baloch insurgency, resulting in concerning consequences.
Instances such as the burning of girls’ schools in Panjgur, the postponement of musical events, and targeted violence against individuals like Principal Sir Zahid Askani and writer Ustad Abdul Rauf Baloch have been attributed to religious extremism. The situation has led to allegations from organizations linked to the Baloch Freedom Movement and nationalist parties, claiming that jihadist elements linked to the Kashmir Jihad are being organized and settled in Balochistan. Their aim is to steer Baloch society toward religious extremism, with recent incidents in Turbat serving as evidence.
Nationalist parties are also pointing fingers at Shahmir Aziz, who has a history of religiously motivated violence. Amidst these concerns, a de facto ban on national politics within Balochistan appears to be in effect, enabling those who engage in religious politics to operate unchecked. To safeguard the cultural and social fabric of Balochistan, political institutions and parties must take decisive actions to curb the rise of religious extremism and preserve the region’s tradition of religious tolerance.
Should political forces fail to address the growing influence of religious extremists, the Baloch society could face irreversible damage. It is imperative that Balochistan’s political forces work together to address these challenges effectively.