QUETTA: General Zia’s Government should be blamed for making Quetta and some other cities unsafe and insecure. It was part of the strategy of the military Government to allow the Afghan refugees or militants to settle Afghans in the main population centres or cities like Quetta to hide their identity.
Presumably, some of the Afghan militants were thought to be ‘valuable and strategic assets’ and the planners and strategists tried to hide their identity from Afghan intelligence or the erstwhile Soviet KGB.
We, as civilians, were unaware about the benefits those militants or credible tribal elders provided to the people of Pakistan as a whole or how far they were benefitted the State of Pakistan in defending its borders from a possible Soviet military adventure which they never tried during their military presence in Afghanistan—from 1979 to 1988—following the unilateral withdrawal of Red Army contingents from the region.
We are completely blank on any military or defence advantage allowing the Afghan refugees and militants to hide themselves in Quetta city and other major human settlements of Balochistan. However it is confirmed that they brought terror and brought the Afghan civil war to Pakistani territory, wittingly or unwittingly.
Why they were not kept in barbed wire refugee camps guarded by the security force? There is no explanation to this action of the Zia’s military regime. The apologists of the Zia regime are unable to defend it now.
In some of the cases, senior civilian officials of the local administration were dispatched to nearby Afghan settlements close to Pakistan borders and they met the elders and persuaded them to come to Pakistan and become refugee and they were given facilities and privileges and treated as honourable guests.
Some of the Afghan elders who refused to become refugee and resisted pressure to leave Afghanistan; they were reportedly threatened by the Afghan Mujahideen and their ferocious commanders notoriously known for their manslaughter.
However, their unplanned and unwarranted presence in Quetta and other cities brought many problems for the local population regardless of the political or ethnic divide. There was a surge in crime graph in this Provincial Capital witnessing kidnapping for ransom cases for the first time. There were more cases of violent killing; unidentified people were found shot dead by unknown persons presumably for small amount of money.
The surge in crime against humanity and State of Pakistan was reported and most of the accused persons were found to be Afghans who disturbed the peace and security in many parts of Balochistan and elsewhere in the country. Overwhelming majority of the suicide bombers was found to be Afghans.
After three long decades, journalists were stunned to hear a lecture from a security official praising the Government of Iran in handling the Afghan refugee issue with no complaints. Rather praise from the world over for generously treating the Afghan refugees in Iran.
Iran simply kept all Afghan refugees in the barbed wire camp and no one was allowed to leave the camp without a valid reason. If a contractor hiring the Afghan work force for a construction site, the Afghans were handed over to him with a guarantee that he will return all the Afghans back to their camps with security. In short word, their movement was officially regulated by the security officials. The Afghans had enjoyed all the rights parallel to Pakistani citizens for being the prestigious guests.
On the contrary, a small number of refugees were kept in camps established by the UN in the early stages of the Afghan civil war. Later on they were allowed to go anywhere they wanted and all the camps now look deserted as all refugees are involved in gainful employment in the main population centres, particularly Quetta. Now most of the Afghans are dominating smuggling, the real estate business and drug trafficking from Afghanistan to world over using the Balochistan corridor.
According to a rough estimate, more than two million Afghans, overwhelming majority of them illegal immigrants, are residing in Quetta or its neighbourhood posing a serious security threat to the people and the country. It is almost impossible that the Government will be able to make Quetta a safe city in presence of millions of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan.
There are no two opinions on the issue that mostly Afghans were found involved in acts of terrorism in Quetta and its surroundings or elsewhere in Pakistan. The security establishment had already declared the Afghan immigrants as a serious threat to the security of Pakistan and suggested their earliest repatriation.
In presence of millions of Afghan immigrants, both refugees and illegal immigrants, how the police and security official will make Quetta safe and secure. How many of them are working for the enemy security agencies or directly involved in subversive activities to destabilize Pakistan.
By installing thousands of CCTV cameras will not work as thousands of vehicles roaming in the streets of Quetta or elsewhere in Balochistan have fake registration number plates. The camera will identify the vehicle. But its registration number is fake and misleading.
Even a member of the Balochistan Assembly was found riding a vehicle with fake registration number plate and he used his smuggled car in running down a Traffic police official for dare to signal to stop for routine check. It is an irony that a member of the Balochistan Assembly was involved in such a crime.
The CCTV cameras will be ineffective with such a large number of registration number plates on vehicles, some of them are under use of VVIPs, chosen representatives of the people and the Cabinet Ministers considering it as a sign of prestige. Even the official vehicles without officially standardized number plates are being used by the Ministers.
First the Government should regulate the laws of the land and make it applicable on all without any discrimination and after that the CCTV cameras will be useful for investigation and monitoring the movement of the people and vehicles.
Thus, the Government should give priority to early repatriation of all Afghans, particularly the illegal immigrants, so that they should not pose a serious security threat to the people and the State of Pakistan. In presence of millions of aliens in Pakistan, all security measures are meaningless and waste of resources, time and energy.
After expulsion of all aliens from Pakistan, there will be a marked improvement in law and order situation which should be followed by proper training of the law enforcing agencies, mainly the Balochistan Police, Balochistan Levies, Balochistan Constabulary for maintenance of law and order.
The Government should use local law enforcing agencies in securing the life and property of the people as they proved to be more effective and efficient comparing them with alien forces. Once the local law enforcers are properly trained, there will be no need to call Federal forces in aid of civil power in all circumstances.
Quetta will be safe and secure only when the local elements of law enforcing agencies are given the task and all other elements are made subservient to the local administrators.
Police and Levies proved more effective even during the current crisis. Ironically people feel more secure only when the security cover is provided by the Balochistan Levies or Balochistan Police. Even in all sensitive events, outer security cordon is manned by the personnel of Balochistan Levies.