Baluchistan

Iran: ISIS attack escalates Persian Gulf tensions

ISIS claimed responsibility for simultaneous attacks on Iran's Majlis (parliament) and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini on June 7, through a statement from the official Islamic State news agency Amaq. At least 12 are reported dead at the Majlis, and several wounded at the mausoleum. Reports indicate four gunmen, disguised as women, entered the visitors' hall of the Majlis building and opened fire, while a suicide-bomber pre-positioned inside the building blew himself up. Two other suicide-bombers meanwhile detonated at the Khomeini shrine. Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards accused Saudi Arabia and the US of being behind the attacks. "This terrorist action, coming one week after the meeting of the president of the United States with the leader of one of the region's reactionary governments...shows they are involved in this savage action," it said in a statement.

Linguistic struggle heats up in Pakistan

A bill is advancing in Pakistan's Senate that would amend the coonstitution to give Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and Balochi the status of "national languages" along with Urdu. The bill this week cleared the Senate's Standing Committee on Law and Justice. Under Article 251 of the 1973 constitution, Urdu is recognized as the only "national language," with text calling for it to become the "official" language within 15 years. The text states that English can be used provisionally for official purposes until the transition to Urdu is complete. Other tongues may be promoted as "provincial languages," but this is a clearly subsidiary position. Urdu is actually a minority language itself, as Punjabi has the most speakers of any language in Pakistan. Urdu, long used as a lingua franca by various peoples, was chosen above Punjabi as the "national language" so as not to unduly favor Punjab province, the country's most populous. But English is still used for most administrative functions, and the transition to an "offically" Urdu state was never completed. The proposed amendment would make the other languages equal to Urdu, and "establish a fund for the development and promotion of national languages." It would also allow the provinces to promote other local languages, forseeing their eventual adoption as "national languages."

Iran: Baluchi militants pledge 'coordinated' struggle

Baluchi militants on Jan. 6 carried out an armed operation against Iranian security forces on the outskirts of the city of Sarbaz in Baluchistan province, claiming dozens of casualties, including senior Revolutionary Guards officers. The Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) group said the operation was carried out by its Abdulmalik Mollazadeh Brigade. A press release said their forces ambushed two military vehicles carrying a large number of Revolutionary Guards personnel in the Jekigvar area, with the drivers and nearly all passengers killed or injured. A terse report from the regime’s official Fars News Agency acknowledged only that one border guard had been killed and others wounded in an ambush by "terrorists."

Pakistan: court issues arrest warrant for Musharraf

The Balochistan High Court issued an arrest warrant Nov. 28 for former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is accused of involvement with the murder of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military operation in 2006. Bugti had led a campaign for greater autonomy in the Balochistan region. Cases against Musharraf have been ongoing since 2010. In April Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court issued a nonbailable arrest warrant against the former president and military leader for detaining more than 60 judges after declaring a state of emergency in 2007. He was also indicted in 2014 on charges of high treason, for which could face the death penalty. Musharraf pleaded not guilty to each of the charges against him, including unlawfully suspending the constitution. He called the charges politically motivated and maintained that the country had prospered under his 2001-2008 rule.

Pakistan: blast at Sufi shrine leaves scores dead

A blast at a Sufi shrine in the Pakistani region of Balochistan killed at least 60 and injured more than 100 on Nov. 12. The Shah Noorani Shrine in the mountain town of Hub, straddling Lasbela and Khuzdar districts, was packed with worshippers when the bomb exploded. Devotees were gathered for a traditional dhamal dance ritual at the shrine to the saint Shah Bilal Noorani. The shrine's remote location has impeded rescue efforts. The shrine attracts devotees from all over Pakistan, as well as neighboring Iran. The local franchise of ISIS issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News Agency, saying it was carried out by a suicide "martyr," and sought to target "Shi'ites." The shrine is venerated by Sunnis and Shi'ites alike.

Pakistan: who was behind Quetta attack?

ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban both claimed responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attack at a police academy in Quetta that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 120. But Pakistani officials claim another jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, carried out the assault. At least three fighters armed with assault weapons, grenades, and suicide vests attacked the dormitory of the academy as cadets were sleeping. Two of the suicide bombers detonated their vests, causing the bulk of the casualties, while the third was shot by security guards. Pakistan's Frontier Corps said that a cell of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi network carried out the attack, and claimed that the assault team communicated with handlers based in Afghanistan. The Islamic State's "Khorasan Province" also took responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Amaq News Agency, the ISIS propaganda arm. The Karachi faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan likewise claimed credit for the attack. In an e-mail received by Long War Journal, the group said four of its "suicide fighters" executed the attack, which was carried to "avenge the martyrdom of our mujahideen." (LWJ, Oct. 25)

Civil society responds to Pakistan hospital blast

Hardline Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for an Aug. 8 suicide bombing that killed at least 70 at a hospital in Quetta, capital of restive Balochistan province. The attacker targeted a crowd that had gathered as the body was brought in of Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer who had just been assassinated. Several lawyers and journalists were among the dead. (BBC News) Lawyers across the country will boycott court proceedings for three days to protest the attack, the Pakistan Bar Council announced. (Pakistan Express-Tribune) Journalists have also staged demonstrations in various cities, chanting slogans against terrorism and the Balochistan government over a lack of security measures taken despite imminent threat. (Dunya News)

Mullah Mansour death: blow to Pakistan?

The apparent killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in a US drone strike May 22 actually took place in Pakistan—and without the consent of Islamabad, which has demanded a "clarification" from Washington in the hit. It was also the first US drone strike in Pakistan's restive province of Baluchistan, rather than in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where they have mostly been concentrated. The US has flown drones out of a base in Baluchistan, but never actually carried out any strikes there until now. The FATA is seen by Islamabad as something of a special case due to al-Qaeda's presence there, and the US has been given a free hand in the Tribal Areas. The insurgency in Baluchistan, in contrast, is seen strictly as Pakistan's internal war—despite the fact that the Afghan Taliban had evidently established it as their new staging area, with FATA getting too hot. This Taliban consolidation in Baluchistan was presumably permitted (if not actually overseen) by the Pakistani state. The strike on Mansour was apparently carried out from Afghan territory, and by the Pentagon rather than the CIA. And there are other ways in which the strike seems to indicate a break between Washington and Islamabad...