Refocus on Pur Aman Balochistan | By Sajjad Shaukat

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Refocus on Pur Aman Balochistan

WHEN, during the President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime in March 2002, Pakistan initiated the construction of Gwadar Deep-Seaport in Balochistan province with Chinese assistance, sirens went off in the capitals of some European countries, especially the US, India and Israel which took it as a threat to their global and regional plans. Afterwards, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s BRI has been rapidly developing. CPEC will prove to be a gateway to prosperity for both countries as well as the region. Under the project, China is investing as much as $62 billion in various sectors in Pakistan in a phased manner.

Besides energy projects, CPEC will open new doors of development relating to various fields, as the national economy of the country will grow fast, leading to creation of new job opportunities, poverty reduction, and development of transportation sector—boost agricultural and industrial growth, including exports. Notably, India was openly opposing the CPEC and China’s BRI; the US also joined New Delhi.

In May, 2020, the outgoing US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells had once again criticized BRI and CPEC by saying that the US was concerned about CPEC projects due to the unfair rates of profits which are guaranteed to Chinese firms. The Chinese Embassy called her statement totally baseless by stating: “We take Pakistan as an equal partner and never asked Pakistan to do more.” Islamabad and Beijing have, repeatedly, dismissed the criticism as a Western propaganda and the latter also insisted that the CPEC will equally benefit Pakistan.

In fact, Gwadar seaport project which is backbone of the CPEC will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan, including developments in other backward areas by redressing their grievances, which the hostile elements, supported by the US, India and Israeli do not want. The ink on Pak-China agreements related to the CPEC was barely dry when especially American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad had accelerated playing up the Baloch insurgency. Malicious propaganda against the CPEC coincided with the terror attacks in various regions of Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan.

Pakistan’s defence forces and primary intelligence agency ISI have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists. Peace has been restored in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Karachi as well as in other vulnerable regions. But, in the recent past, terrorist attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and particularly Balochistan show that these external intelligence agencies are destabilizing Pakistan and want to damage the CPEC. Especially, RAW is also using some terrorist outfits such as ISIS and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)-linked Majeed Brigade which claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist assaults on workers and labourers, working for the CPEC projects in Balochistan. These terror entities also abducted and killed many Chinese nationals.

It is mentionable that the Taliban fighters on 15 August 2021 entered the Afghan capital Kabul and seized power, taking control of Afghanistan. The Taliban-led government clarified that Afghan soil would not be used for any terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for terror attacks against neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. But, regarding some recent terror attacks which also include Balochistan, sources suggested that some militants of the TTP, which is based in Afghanistan, have entered Pakistan from Afghanistan. Hence, the military leadership has warned Kabul to check this infiltration.

It is noteworthy that in November2020 at a joint press conference, DG ISPR Maj Gen (now Lt-Gen.) Babar Iftikhar and the then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi unveiled a dossier containing “irrefutable evidence” of India’s sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan—also targeting the CPEC. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram had handed over the dossier to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. In its 27th report, dated 3 February 2021 and the 28th report, recently published, the UN Security Council’s monitoring team for tracking terrorist groups confirmed Pakistan’s dossier, and drew attention to the increasing cross-border terrorist threat to Pakistan.

Regarding various terror assaults, the then Foreign Minister Qureshi had remarked that if the international community had taken timely notice of Islamabad’s concerns over New Delhi’s involvement in terrorist activities across Pakistan, Lahore’s Johar Town blast and several terrorist incidents in Balochistan would not have taken place. While under General Bajwa’s command the fencing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which also entails Pak-Afghan border of Balochistan started in June 2017 by the Army to improve the security situation and the near-completion of the project in 2021 is praiseworthy.

And Pakistan Army also contributed a lot in socio-economic development of Balochistan besides giving military training to the youth, while protecting mega-projects and the CPEC staff. It is notable that presiding over an apex committee meeting in Quetta, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the plan—PurAman (Peaceful) Balochistan on August 6, 2015—for the return of the angry Baloch into the national mainstream. In this respect, the apex committee meeting reviewed the overall security situation in the insurgency-hit province and progress on the National Action Plan.

The then Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Governor Balochistan Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch were among those attending the meeting. Earlier during the day, Prime Minister Sharif also performed the ground-breaking of three important development projects namely Mangi Dam, Balochistan Agriculture University and Flyover on Smungli Road. The PM also inaugurated Sariab Road Flyover, which has been completed at a cost of 1581 million rupees.

PM Nawaz Sharif had stated that Balochistan would be a major beneficiary of CPEC and the project would open new avenues of development and prosperity for Pakistan. Premier Sharif elaborated “Gwadar’s deep sea port would link the land-locked Central Asian States with the rest of the world—will attract massive amounts of local and foreign investment.” PM further stated: “We will provide fool proof security to CPEC projects and we will ensure that maximum benefits reach the common people.”

—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.

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