Why BLA is against Chinese investment in Balochistan?

Image source: SCMP

The Baloch Liberation Army

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is a militant organization based in Afghanistan and Balochistan province of Pakistan. According to the two KGB agents, the original BLA was built around the core of the Baloch Student Organization (BSO). It is listed as a terrorist organization by Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The BLA is the largest and the oldest-surviving insurgent group in the region and is an armed wing of the Balochistan separatist movement. The Baloch secessionist militant group is headed by UK-based Hyrbyair Marri.

In the past, the BLA was influenced by radical Marxist ideology and this led to the theory that was initially, propped by erstwhile Soviet Union’s intelligence agency KGB during the 1970s. Some of its leaders were also, allegedly, trained in Moscow.

The BLA, armed wing of the Baloch movement, has carried out several violent attacks in Pakistan. It has about 6,000 cadres spread across the Balochistan Province and in the bordering areas of Afghanistan.

The group, primarily, seek independence from Pakistan and wishes to form a separate state ‘Greater Balochistan’. Their core grievance is that the Pakistani state has been exploiting resources in Balochistan, without sharing any of the proceeds with the local tribes. Being the largest province in Pakistan, there are no proper facilities for education, health and no sign of development.

In recent years, the BLA has emerged as a movement and have supporters in both urban and rural areas of Balochistan and continues to draw from the same revolutionary spirit but has added the younger generation of fighters.

Baloch Insurgents/ Image source: The Diplomat

Baloch Insurgency

In 1947, Balochistan consisted of four princely states of Las Bela, Kharan, Makran and Kalat. On 14 August 1947, Pakistan was divided from India and the province of Balochistan geographically became the part of Pakistan after the creation of Pakistan, Khan of Kalat declared his state is independent but on 27 March 1948 the armed forces of Pakistan were mobilised to launch an operation against the Khan of Kalat and on 28 March 1948 khan of Kalat was captured by Pakistan.

Balochistan was divided between the Pakistan Province of Balochistan, the Iranian Province of Sistan and Balochistan and the Afghan Region of Balochistan. The Baloch people since then are fighting against the government of Pakistan and for a separate country. According to the insurgents, they are fighting against human rights violation, lack of basic facilities like education, hospitals and lack of economic opportunities, etc.

Baloch nationalists fought insurgencies in Pakistan in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973–1977 and with the new and ongoing fifth Baloch insurgency against the Pakistan state that began in 2003, with small guerrilla attacks, suicide bombing. In the past Baloch militants used to only target the army but now they have started targeting non-Baloch civilians living in Balochistan in an attempt to drive out other ethnicities.

Why BLA is against Chinese investment in Balochistan?

Balochistan is geopolitically situated at the heart of West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia and is stretched nearest to the northern shores of Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The strait is the sole sea passage between the Gulf and the open ocean. It is beneficial for both Pakistan and China, especially with Belt and Road Initiative, which includes CPEC as one of its components, aiming to join China with central Asia. Balochistan have the largest natural gas reserve and contains a vast array of resources such as Coal, Oil, Copper, Gold, lead zinc.

BLA believes if China mark hold in Balochistan through its projects by providing economic opportunities to Pakistan, it will soon become a ‘Chinese Colony’ and that will make them refugee in their own land. They believe that locals will never get a proper share of their resources and they will even get more deprived of basic facilities and development.

BLA also believe that development project violates the rights of the indigenous population that cannot be endorsed and there are chances that violation of human rights will increase especially against women and children. The native Baloch are of the view that, under the banner of economic development and prosperity, CPEC might turn them into a minority within their own land. That’s why BLA have been opposing the Chinese investments in Balochistan.

In 2018, when BLA attacked Chinese consulate, BLA leader Jihand Baloch said: “The objective of this attack is clear: we will not tolerate any Chinese military expansionist endeavours on Baloch soil.”

Last year, A man wearing military fatigues and a black cloth over his face in a video said: “President Xi Jinping, you still have time to get out of Balochistan or you will witness a retaliation from Baloch sons and daughters you will never forget”. The video came soon after an attack by the “Majeed Brigade” on a five- star hotel in Gwadar, where the Chinese delegations usually stay.

Image source: CPEC News

Chinese Angle

According to a December 2016 report in the Dawn newspaper, the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) sold 40 per cent strategic shares to a Chinese consortium. The consortium is led by   China Financial Futures Exchange Company Limited, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzen Stock Exchange which bought 30pc of the strategic stock. Local financial institutions Pak-China Investment Company Limited and Habib Bank Limited bought 5 per cent each. The transaction was valued at $85 million. “The significant feature of the deal is that it is the first such sale of strategic interest in a bourse in the regional markets. Through the deal, the Chinese bourse has also made its first foray in an acquisition outside China,” Dawn said at the time.

According to a June 2020 report in Dawn newspaper, Moreover, China is planning to raise tens of billions of dollars for the financing of future CPEC projects through PSX. This, it is believed, could be the prime motive behind this attack.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

Kavita Sewda and Vasundhra Singh Panwar

Kavita and Vasundhra are Interns at The Kootneeti's South Asia Desk

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