Pakistan lost what was called East Pakistan in 1971 after a bloody conflict, which involved its military against the separatist fighters from the former East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. Thousands of Bengalis lost their lives, hundreds of women were raped, and many locals went missing, as the Pakistan Army unleashed a campaign of terror at the beginning of 1971, in Operation Searchlight – which was the codename for a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army in an effort to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in former East Pakistan.
Today, Pakistan is running multiple similar secret military operations against different ethnic groups, especially the Baloch, who are being oppressed by the country’s powerful military.
The Baloch demand an independent nation, and consider Pakistan as an occupying force. The indigenous population also claims that Pakistan has been exploiting their natural resources’ rich region which is known to have large gas and other mineral resources reserves without reinvesting the huge profits they earn. In response to the political demands of the Baloch people, Pakistani military has abducted thousands of locals and the mutilated bodies of missing persons are found daily.
Secondly, the Pashtun region in the North-west part of the country, are also facing state persecution, triggering an ethnic movement in the region called the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) which has repeatedly accused the Pakistani military of oppressing the locals using different tactics including militant groups to target kill those who ask for their rights.
The third group under that Pakistani state targets including ethnic Sindhis and Mohajir (which means migrants in the local Urdu language) groups who live in the south of the country. The ethnic Sindhi movements for separation are targeted in the same way as the Baloch, with the people going missing without any trials and no one knows their whereabouts, where as the Mohajirs are targeted by police and paramilitary security forces known as the Rangers who control the Sindh province.
Owing to these fault lines and Pakistan’s inability to learn from its mistakes in former East Pakistan, there is a growing perception among Pakistani intellectuals that the other regions of the country may also head towards a civil war and the country may end up being divided further. Given that Pakistan is now a nuclear armed country with the fifth largest population in the world, any destability in the country can have dire consequences for the region and the world at large.