CPEC has become a major trigger for Baloch insurgents, galvanizing their movement as they employ new tactics, including suicide attacks in an escalation that could send China into a frenzy.
Majeed Brigade, also known as the “Suicide Squad” of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) on Sunday in a video threatened Chinese President Xi Jinping to withdraw CPEC from Balochistan or else face dire consequences.
The masked commander in the video claimed that a special unit has been formed in Majeed Brigade to particularly “attack Chinese officials and installations in Balochistan.”
In reference to the attack on Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar a week ago, the commander said, “The motive of our attack was to inflict heavy losses upon both Pakistan and China.” He further added this is a continuous operation that has been initiated to safeguard the Baloch Sea from China and Pakistan.
The Majeed Fidayeen Brigade is well-equipped with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), anti-personnel & anti-tank mines, grenades, RPGs and various automatic weapons as well as BM-12, 107MM, 109MM type rockets. They also have sophisticated explosives such as C4 for making suicide vests, and they are also equipped with M4 rifles. Therefore these threats cannot be taken lightly anymore, as BLA’s intentions are very clear. Anger against the Chinese and Pakistan Army is for real and powerful. The desire and capacity to attack is highly visible. A timeline of such attacks opposing CPEC are listed as under:
- The first suicide attack carried out and claimed by the Majeed Fidayeen Brigade was on December 30, 2011, when the group attempted to kill former Minister Nasser Mengal at his house in Quetta with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED). The attack, which was formally claimed by the BLA, left 13 people dead and 30 more injured.
- 10 laborers were killed by two BLA gunmen on motorbikes in Gwadar, on 13 May 2017.
- On 14 August 2017, BLA claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb blast that killed 8 FC troops in Harnai.
- In August 2018, BLA attacked Chinese engineers traveling in a bus in Dalbandin. Three Chinese engineers and five others were injured.
- A direct attack against the Chinese consulate in Karachi was carried out in November 2018, in which two police officers and two visa applicants were killed.
- Last month, an alliance of Baloch separatist groups ambushed a passenger bus en route from Gwadar to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and carried out target killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers.
- The most recent being the attack on the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar which left four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier dead and six others including two army captains, two navy soldiers, and two hotel employees critically injured.
Virgin Economy exploited by the Chinese
The BLA and other armed groups have been demanding autonomy and a fairer share of resources for more than a decade. Their claim that for long they were neglected by the Pakistani state and their virgin economy is now up for grabs by the Chinese cannot be overruled.
The atrocities on Baloch people have only increased as Pakistan further stepped up its systematic violence to pave way for the much-hyped CPEC. Over the past few years, thousands of Baloch political activists and intellectuals have disappeared, many brutally killed by Pakistan’s snooping agency and army. This has intensified their rebellion against the Pakistani state.
Forceful listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and these threats by BLA have put the so-called “project of the century” under serious threat, giving Chinese officials sleepless nights. For obvious reasons a lot is at stake for the Chinese and they would not let CPEC drown at this stage. Therefore various possibilities seem to be emerging out of the current scenario:
- Rise in targeted suicide bombings of high profile Chinese officials.
- Orchestrated attacks on armed personnel of Pakistan Army & Navy.
- Counter attacks/ retaliation by Pakistan Army.
- High possibility of Chinese boots on the ground in Gwadar, Balochistan.
CPEC is the focal point of the economic corridor planned by the Chinese. Gwadar port is a strategic asset for the Chinese as it solves the logistical nightmare of crossing Mallacan straits during the war, which other countries can easily choke off.
So the Chinese will leave no stone unturned to fructify this project even at the cost of bleeding Pakistan’s adopted province – Balochistan.
Whether Chinese forces are already deployed in Balochistan is a mystery since there were a few reports which suggested so. China expects Pakistan to provide security for CPEC. Ultimately there is no free lunch even in relationships which are “deeper than the ocean, higher than the Himalayas and sweeter than honey”. So Pakistan will have to bear the security costs in an area which is breeding ground for extremist anarchy.
However, it’s an open secret that China is unhappy over the Pakistani Army’s alleged inability to ensure the safety of the project despite repeated assurances. Therefore, in case the Pakistan Army is unable to tackle the deteriorating situation, Chinese forces will most certainly be deployed in Gwadar, Balochistan. The Chinese mean business and any loss of Chinese lives on Pakistani soil imply Chinese military intervention. It would be done either silently or openly with total disregard to the image of Pakistan Army. Much to their dislike Pakistanis will have to accept this compromise of sovereignty, as beggars are not choosers.
Pakistan in effect is turning into a colony of China – apart from being called so, China exerts a seemingly free hand in Pakistan without the necessary consent of Pakistani people. An economically riddled, puppet government heading Pakistan is not capable of doing much to stop China in favor of the already neglected Baloch people. In short, it’s fait acompli for the already suffering people of Balochistan.
20 May 2019/ Monday Written By Afsana