A suspected commander of the banned Daesh terrorist outfit was gunned down during an operation in Balochistan’s Mastung area earlier this week, according to the provincial Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD). Originating in the Middle East in 1999, Daesh has since sets its sights on Asia, seeking to form a Khorasan Province stretching from Kazakhstan in the north to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the south, and from eastern Iran in the west to western China in the east. This, naturally, ropes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with members of the Taliban and Pakistani Taliban alike defecting to the group over the past decade.
The CTD statement said it had acted on intelligence regarding a visit to Mastung by Ghulam Din alias Shoaib, one of the leaders of Daesh’s Balochistan chapter, “to plan terrorist activity in the area and its surroundings.” It said Shoaib had been involved in several high-profile terrorist activities in the province, where the writ of the Pakistani state is already weak, including an attack on Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) leader Maulana Ghafoor Haideri; the 2016 suicide attack on lawyers in Quetta; the suicide attack on Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq; multiple suicide attacks on the Sibi Mela and Quetta police; and the “slaughter” of Hazara coalminers in Mach.
The terrorist attacks, spanning nearly a decade, highlight the extent of Daesh’s penetration in Balochistan. The worst of these occurred in 2018 when Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) politician Siraj Raisani, 55, was targeted at a rally in Mastung, killing 130 people and injuring at least 186 more. Five years later, Daesh continues to target law enforcers and civilians across Balochistan, making clear the dearth of the sovereignty of the state in the province. Following the Afghan Taliban’s return to power in Kabul, Daesh has also ramped up attacks in the country’s north, challenging the Pakistan Army in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tackling the threat requires strengthening the Durand Line to be strengthened and made impregnable, but without adequate writ of the state, any such effort is unlikely to bear fruit.