In a fresh wave of violence, Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province has endured three major terror assaults over the last 15 days. Thirty-eight have been killed and scores injured, among them the Deputy Chairman of the nation’s Senate, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi.
In a new development, however, two Chinese nationals were kidnapped from the Jinnah Town area of Quetta, Balochistan’s provincial capital, on Wednesday afternoon. China’s foreign minister and ambassador to Pakistan have urged Islamabad to improve the security situation in the region and help recover the abductees.
The incident, which was allowed to happen despite raised levels of security, does not augur well for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Security analysts believe the incident is likely to be “demoralizing” for the hundreds of Chinese technicians working in Balochistan.
In one of the recent terror attacks, 10 laborers constructing a road at Gwadar – the port city that is a lynchpin of China’s One Belt One Road (Obor) efforts in Pakistan – were gunned down, on May 13, just as China’s President Xi Jinping was getting his international Obor forum underway in Beijing.
The second incident took place on Friday May 19, when three workers busy on a Chinese-funded highway project linking Gwadar to Quetta were shot dead by unknown assailants. The belligerent Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which has been struggling since 2000 for a “free Balochistan,” claimed responsibility.
The BLA terrorists made a mockery of the Pakistan army’s surveillance to hit their target. In a statement sent to media, BLA spokesman Jeander Baloch, said the group would not allow a “conspiratorial plan” to ruin the future of Baloch in the name of “development projects.” This line of threat seriously calls into question the the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project’s chances of success. The BLA claims to have killed some 300 non-native workers in the province and carried out a number of subversive activities including an attempt on the life of the former army chief, Gen Pervaiz Musharraf.
It is concerning that Islamic State – which is based in Iraq and Syria – has started to claim attacks in Pakistan. The Pakistani government still insists the former has no organized presence in the country
In yet another incident, the deputy Senate chairman, Hyderi, who is a central leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, narrowly escaped with his life following a May 12 suicide bomb attack on his cavalcade in Mastung which left 25 dead and 35 critically injured. Islamic State claimed responsibility. Earlier, the same group said it was responsible for a deadly bomb attack targeted at a Sufi shrine in Khuzdar, Balochistan, that killed at least 52 people.
It is concerning that the militant group – which is based in Iraq and Syria – has started to claim attacks in Pakistan, including an assault last year at a police academy, also in Balochistan, in which more than 60 people were killed. A Pakistani militant group claimed to have collaborated with Islamic State on that occasion. The Pakistani government still insists the former has no organized presence in the country.
Since 2013, the leadership of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (JUI-F) has been under seige, with terrorists killing a score of its central leaders in Balochistan. A militant group, Jundullah, has claimed responsibility for these attacks. A local JUI-F leader told Asia Times that “JUI-F is a stumbling block against the creation of something like the Islamic State in Pakistan; that is why we are a target of terrorists.”