Last week in South Asia, separatist militants in Balochistan province of Pakistan launched targeted attacks against Pakistani security forces. Targeted violence also increased in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region of India, where unidentified militants conducted remote attacks on security force camps and public spaces. Also in J&K, while the cross-border exchange of fire between Pakistan and India has decreased, tensions at the Line of Control (LoC) persist. In Bangladesh, unidentified attackers killed three politicians and a political party supporter during local polls. Lastly, ongoing demonstrations against new farm laws have intensified across India with the beginning of a nationwide strike and clashes with police forces.
In Pakistan, Baloch separatist groups have increased targeted attacks against Pakistani security forces. Five Frontier Corps (FC) officers died in an encounter with the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which opposes the construction of Kohlu-Kahan road in Kachhi district. The BLA claims that the road would allow the Pakistani army access to take advantage of Balochistan’s natural resources; they demand that the roadwork be stopped. This is the second recent targeted attack aimed at halting the roadwork and forcing the withdrawal of the Pakistani army from Balochistan. At least four Pakistani soldiers were killed in the week prior by a remote blast triggered by the BLA. Meanwhile, another separatist group, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), attacked a check-post in Awaran district and killed one soldier. Three BLF militants were killed in an exchange of fire with the army in Kech district and two relatives of BLF fighters were allegedly killed by security forces. The BLA and BLF, two of the largest Baloch armed groups, formed the Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) alliance in 2018 to strengthen the separatist movement (for more on Baloch separatism, see this recent ACLED report). ACLED records a rise in organized Baloch separatist violence in 2020, partially due to greater unity among separatist groups.
In the J&K region of India, targeted attacks against security forces have increased, both in security camps and public spaces. Four targeted attacks on security forces involving grenades took place in various districts by unidentified militants, injuring at least eight civilians. There has been an increase in grenade attacks in recent months in the region, which is currently conducting its first District Development Council (DDC) elections (Deccan Herald, 9 December 2020). Meanwhile, in Pulwama district, three Al-Badr militants were killed in an encounter with military forces during a Cordon and Search Operation. Security forces had focused on ensuring peaceful elections and had ceased operations since the beginning of the DDC polls on 28 November, with this being the first anti-militancy operation in December (Deccan Herald, 9 December 2020).
Cross-border violence between Pakistani and Indian forces along the J&K border has decreased compared to previous weeks. Twelve cross-border incidents were recorded, resulting in the reported deaths of at least five Pakistani soldiers in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region. The attack in AJK was an alleged retaliatory action by the Indian army in response to the Pakistani army’s continuous firing at the civilian population in Poonch district (Daily Excelsior, 10 December 2020). Despite the decrease in violence last week, routine ceasefire violations have continued and signal rising tensions along the Line of Control (LOC), with both countries blaming each other for the conflict (Reuters, 23 July 2020).
In Bangladesh, violence against government officials, political party candidates, and their supporters marked Thursday’s elections and by-elections to nearly 100 local bodies. Two Awami League (AL) members and affiliates, a Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti-MN Larma (PCJSS-MNL) member, and a government official were killed in four separate incidents by unidentified attackers. Attacks carried out by unidentified groups represent a large share of political violence in the country. Preserving an anonymous identity is common to avoid law enforcement and retaliation, especially in the case of attacks against the ruling AL party. Historic rivalries between the two major parties, AL and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), frequently lead to violence and targeted attacks against politicians.
Lastly in India, farmer demonstrations against the central government’s new farm laws have continued at a higher frequency. Farmers, and at least 30 actively protesting farmer unions, have initiated a nationwide strike, with tens of thousands setting up camps and road blockades concentrated near the city of New Delhi (Al Jazeera, 10 December 2020). Demonstrators clashed with police in New Delhi, as well as in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states. Many demonstrators and officers were injured in the clashes. As nearly 60% of the Indian population depends on the agricultural sector for their livelihood, farmers have frequently demonstrated, feeling misrepresented by the government and demanding better prices and loan waivers (The Associated Press, 8 December 2020). They fear that the proposed market deregulation would place them at a risk of losing their livelihoods to large corporations.
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