Pakistani police has arrested a group of 11 children aged between 11 to 18, who are suspected of involvement in a series of bombings organized by separatist militants in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
Local police chief, Mir Zubair Mahmood, has revealed that some of the children claimed that "they did not know what the packets contained and what they are doing" and that they were only content to receive "a small amount of money for dropping the packets." He added that they received between 2000 to 5000 rupees per blast.
The youngsters, coming from extremely poor families, had been attracted by a Baluch militant organisation to place packages containing home-made bombs in markets, dustbins and on routes used by police and security forces. Mahmood suggested that the militants chose the children knowing that police would not suspect them. During the police operation, eight Baloch separatist militants managed to escape. The police also seized from the children anti-personnel mines, explosives and other arms and ammunition.
Mahmood also revealed that some of the children had confessed to being involved in more than one dozen bomb explosions, including the January 10, 2013 bombing near a vehicle of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), which killed two FC soldiers and nine civilians. This incident was claimed by the United Baloch Army as a response to the FC-led Mashkay, Awaran and Bolan operations.
Since 2005, Baluchistan has been affected by a rebirth of an insurgency of Baluch nationalists wanting political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's wealth of natural oil, gas and mineral resources. The province has also witnessed rising sectarian violence, with two major bombings targeting minority Shiite Muslims, which claimed the lives of over 200 people, hitting the capital this year.
Another important child-related problem facing Pakistan is the fact that the wide majority of suicide bombers are children believed to be aged between 12 and 18. Pakistani Taliban commander Qari Hussain has proudly revealed that his organisation recruits children as young as five years old for suicide attacks. He emphasized that: "Children are tools to achieve God's will, whatever comes your way you sacrifice it."
Some of these children are prepared for militancy in madrassas, religious schools which provide free board and education and often the only opportunity for advancement in poor and isolated regions. Many others, however, are kidnapped and coerced by armed gangs. Children are frequently used for suicide attacks, because they are more gullible and less likely to be searched by the police at checkpoints.
As researcher and psychologist Anees Khan pointed out, "these young boys are as much the victims of terrorism as those they kill. They are victims of the most brutal exploitation."