The three headlines at first appear unrelated. ‘19 killed in Peshawar van attack‘. ‘12 die in militant attack in Kashmir‘. ‘Two relief helicopters attacked in Balochistan‘. Surely this is how many will interpret them, if they even bother to think about them at the same time. Divided by great distance not only of land but also of ideology, attacks in Balochistan, Peshawar, and Kashmir for many couldn’t be any more different. Actually, though, they are birds of a feather.
The first response most people will make is that Baloch militants are trying to split the nation and Kashmiri militants are trying to make it whole. With this, perhaps, there can be less room for disagreement. It is not the whole of the matter, though, and actually thinking critically about this explanation will reveal the root cause of the problem.
The key to the explanation given is one of justification, that is whether the militants are justified in their acts by what they are trying to achieve. For most of us, trying to separate Balochistan from the nation is not justified and trying to free Kashmir from Indian oppression is justified. In other words, ‘the ends justify the means’.
There is a problem, however, with this idea that ‘the ends justify the means’ because people agree on means but not everyone agrees on justification. For example, Baloch separatists and Kashmiri separatists do not agree ideologically, but they do agree on means – using violence to force those who don’t agree with them to give in to their demands. There is no room for compromise or negotiation. Instead, the battle becomes a war of attrition. In other words, whoever can kill the most people and continue fighting for the longest will get their way. It sounds like a ‘winner take all’ strategy, except that the reality is that it usually results in a stalemate where neither side wins but both lose heavily.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In Kashmir, there are very serious issues that must be sorted out. There are atrocities that must be accounted for and the people of Kashmir should be allowed to determine their own future in a democratic way. However, using violence to achieve this aims has failed for decades because both sides are willing to kill and wait out the other side. In the end, it is the people of Kashmir who lose the most.
Same in Balochistan where the Baloch people have very legitimate grievances about how they are treated by the state. The response from certain quarters has been to use more violence and intimidation to silence these complaints, which has only resulted in a response of violence. As tit-for-tat attacks build on one another, what is left is neither an improved lot for the Baloch people nor a stronger nation. Actually, it is the opposite for both.
Pakistan is being pulled apart by militants of different names, ideologies, and goals. The different acronyms or ‘ends’ that these groups seek are not what is important, however, it is that we must change the mindset that believes militant violence is a strategy that can succeed. It can’t. No matter how much the fighters believe they are justified in their means, militant violence is never justified because no matter whether they call themselves as BLA, LeT, or TTP, their ends will be the same: everybody loses.