‘RAW’ involved in recent terror attacks in Balochistan, says interior minister

Quetta: Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti on Saturday alleged that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign
QUETTA, SEPT 30: Caretaker Federal Minister for Interior Sarfraz Bugti addressing a press conference.=DNA PHOTO

Quetta: Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti on Saturday alleged that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, was involved in the recent terror attacks in Balochistan.

Speaking to the media in Quetta, he claimed: “Those playing the role of a facilitator, whoever is doing this — be it anyone, whatever you may call it — they all are the same for us, all have the same origins, all are being handled from one place, RAW is behind all them.”

The minister added, “All incidents that took place before this… they all were unearthed — all major incidents that occurred in Balochistan — and the RAW’s involvement has been there behind all those, and the forces that want to destabilise Pakistan.”

He did not provide any proof or evidence to back his statements.

Bugti’s remarks come a day after a grisly suicide blast targeting a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Balochistan’s Mastung claimed the lives of 55 people, including a police officer.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. However, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan, denied its involvement.

The caretaker government of Balochistan announced three days of mourning in the wake of the attack.

A second bomb attack took place yesterday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu, which targeted a police station’s mosque in the city. Five people were killed, and 12 were injured as the mosque’s roof collapsed in the explosion’s impact.

Speaking to the media today, Bugti vowed to pursue terrorists to their “dens” and that the policy of appeasement would not “happen anymore”.

“What we know is that these appeasement policies adhered to — what we saw in the past two to three years — there is no tolerance for that.”

He added that the state knew where the terrorists were operating from and asserted, “We will go to their dens, where they are nurtured and which are their safe havens, and we will go against them.”

Noting that at times an attack would be conducted by one organisation and another would claim its responsibility, the interior minister said the recent attacks were being investigated.

“Whether it is Daesh or TTP or anyone else… anyone committing violence under any banner… violence will only be exercised by the state,” Bugti said while vowing to hunt terrorists.

Recalling an attack earlier this month that left Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah injured, the minister stated that the mastermind of that attack was killed later.

He also lamented past occurrences of the state switching to an “appeasement policy” when dealing with terrorist elements.

He stated: “I am honestly telling you that our issue is that we reach a certain level against terrorists — whether it is terrorism under the name of nationalism or religion — we reach a certain position of strength and then all of a sudden, our state switches to an appeasement policy and we reduce our [action].”

Responding to reporters’ queries, he said the provincial Information Minister Jan Achakzai could tell in detail about the matter of “suspending DCs (district commissioners) and SPs (superintendents of police)”, and asserted that a “thorough investigation” will be conducted.

The minister highlighted that yesterday’s blast was the “first ever in Balochistan regarding [the occasion of] 12th Rabiul Awwal” and noted that in the past, the Hazara community and Muharram processions were targeted.

Speaking about the matter of footballers abducted earlier this month from the Dera Bugti district, Bugti confirmed that four of them have returned.

When asked by a reporter if they had been recovered or were released by the abductors, Bugti said, “Four have come [back] and the remaining two will also be recovered, God-willingly.”

CTD registers FIR of Mastung blast
Meanwhile, the Balochistan Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said it has registered a first information report (FIR) of the Mastung attack that claimed the lives of 55 people, including a police officer, yesterday.

In a statement issued today, the CTD said an FIR with murder charges and terrorism offences has been filed against an unidentified attacker.

It added that the investigation into the incident was ongoing and no arrests have been made so far.

The CTD said the deadly attack resulted in the loss of at least 55 lives and left more than 60 people injured.

The national flag was lowered to half-mast on government buildings, including the Balochistan Assembly, Chief Minister House, Governor House, and the Balochistan High Court today.

Pakistan’s flag flutters at half-mast at the provincial assembly in Quetta on September 30, a day after a suicide bomber targeted a procession marking the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Mastung district. — Banaras Khan/AFP
Balochistan caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the entire region of Mastung was “engulfed in sorrow”. He added that despite the heartbreak, the “courageous administration and security institutions are making efforts to restore a sense of normalcy as they and the families lay the martyrs to rest”.

He stressed that the government “remains resolute in its determination to combat terrorism and ensure the safety and security of its citizens”.

In an official statement, the provincial government said the injured people were currently undergoing treatment at several hospitals, including the Civil Hospital, Trauma Center, Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Raisani Hospital, and Mastung District Headquarters (DHQ).

Furthermore, over 15 injured individuals were transported to CMH yesterday, following the directives of Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor.

Relatives stand next to blast victim at a hospital in Quetta on September 30, 2023, a day after suicide bomber targeted a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Mastung district.—Banaras Khan/AFP
Yesterday, Balochistan interim Information Minister Jan Achakzai had said that the “enemy” wanted to destroy religious tolerance and peace in Balochistan with “foreign blessings”.

In a subsequent press conference, the minister had said the death toll in the blast “is immensely unfortunate”. He had revealed that a number of families had buried their loved ones without bringing them to the hospital, adding that the government had not included these people in the official death toll.

Senate chairman visits Mastung attack victims
Also today, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani visited the Civil Hospital to inquire about the condition of those who were injured in the Mastung blast yesterday.

Senators Naseebullah Bazai, Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai and Rukhsana Zuberi also accompanied him.

He urged Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and the Balochistan chief minister to announce packages worth Rs20 million for those martyred in yesterday’s attack, and worth Rs10m for those injured.

Hoping that they would do so, Sanjrani expressed his sympathy towards the blast victims and asserted that the government “would not allow the peace process to be sabotaged”.

International condemnations
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the terrorist attacks that took place a day ago, calling for bringing the perpetrators behind them to justice.

“It is abhorrent that these attacks targeted people during peaceful, religious ceremonies,’ he said in a post on social media site X (formerly Twitter).

Speaking at the regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric also condemned the terrorist attacks, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

Separately, UN Security Council President Ferit Hoxha also strongly condemned the terror incidents in a press statement, the report said.

It added that the UNSC members expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, and wished a speedy and full recovery to those injured.

Radio Pakistan further said the UNSC reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

The UNSC members underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, it stated.

The report quoted the members urging all states to cooperate actively with Pakistan as well as all other relevant authorities in this regard, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant UNSC resolutions.

PM Kakar received a telephone call from UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement today.

“The UK foreign secretary condemned the terrorist attacks in Mastung and Hangu and condoled the loss of innocent lives,” the PM Office said.

Cleverly expressed solidarity with the families of the victims and hoped for the speedy recovery of those injured.

“The prime minister thanked Secretary Cleverly and the United Kingdom for their expression of solidarity and reiterated his government’s firm resolve to bring those responsible to justice and wipe out the menace of terrorism,” it added.

Rise in terror incidents
Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan, after the TTP ended its ceasefire with the government in November last year.

Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah, were injured in a blast in the same district.

A week prior to that, a Levies official was gunned down at a bus stand by unidentified men, while two others who were passing by were injured.

In May this year, unidentified attackers targeted a polio vaccination team in the Killi Sour Karez area on the outskirts of Mastung, resulting in a policeman being martyred.

In October last year, three people were killed, and six others were injured in a bomb attack targeting two vehicles in the mountainous area of Qabu in Mastung.

In July 2018, at least 128 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and more than 200 were injured in a deadly suicide blast in the same district.