On 7th November, two policemen were killedwhile three others were severely injured in an attack which targeted an Oil and Gas Exploration Company’s camp in Dera IsmailKhan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in Pakistan. This attack follows the multiple attacks seen in the KP and Balochistan provinces in the days prior.
On November 3rd, an IED blast near a police patrol consumed lives of five while leaving over 20 injured in Dera Ismail Khan city. The District Police Officer (DPO) Abdul Rauf Babar Qaisranireported that anImprovised Explosive Device (IED)was planted on a motorcycle near the police van which was tasked to carry out checks near Tank Adda.
The same day, 14 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives after militants attacked two vehicles of security forces in Gwadar in Balochistan. After the incident, the Pakistani military carried out a sanitisation operation to eliminate the threats in the area. The attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF).The attack not only poses threat to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but also the RekoDiq project.
The Baloch citizens, as with the case ofpeople of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, consider themselves as becoming marginalized in their own provinces as a result of Pakistan’s iron hand at subjugating them, with little to no benefit to the Baloch, Sindhi or Pashtun communities. Due to Pakistan’s ongoing relationship with China and its need to draw all profits to Punjab, a sense of disgruntled feeling has been brewing in the provinces which feel exploited at the hands of Pakistan and its foreign investors. Hence, the Pakistani law enforcement, military andgovernment establishment or citizens from the foreign nations investing in Pakistan are often made targets by the insurgents.
The Chinese nationals employed to work in Pakistan are often targeted by various active insurgents in Pakistan due to CPEC and other projects under the China Pakistan friendship cooperation.
Pakistan’s additional development with Barrick Gold, a leading Canadian based company dealing with copper and gold production has also struck the nerves of the Baloch. Barrick Gold wants to invest $7bn in the mining project, RekoDiq (located near the border with Iran, to the Gwadar port). If the project succeeds, it would not only put Pakistan on the map for its untapped reserves of copper and gold but would also elevate Barrick Gold as the world’s largest producers of copper. The question of the representation of the Baloch, however, seemed hard to be mitigated. Barrick Gold has 50% share of the project and the remaining 50% belongs to Pakistani entities distributed as follows: 10% government of Balochistan free float (i.e. the government of Balochistan is “gifted” 10% ownership, respectfully the future profit), 15% government of Balochistan Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will be part of the future funding using state budget and 25% Pakistani State Owned Enterprises (SOE). Considering the system of distribution of federal revenues to state governments (heavily influenced on population figures) and the network of state owned enterprises in the corporate structure, it is safe to assume that the majority of what is allocated to Balochistan from the project will be funnelled out from the state budget and next to nothing will find its way back, thus benefiting predominantly (and indirectly) Punjab.
Since the agreement to take the Reko Diq project forward last year, the Baloch insurgents from BRAS have issued a warning against it. It was expected that the project would sooner of later fall underattacks from the insurgents.
In case of Gwadar too, the port is Pakistan’s idea of a bridge which would allow access to sea for the landlocked states in Central Asia and the Chinese Xinjiang province.
For Pakistan, the foreign investors such as Barrick Gold are proving to appear as a litmus test to gauge the Pakistani government’s ability to draw in foreign investors and its ability to protect them while overseeing the requirements to meet project success.
The CPEC and RekoDiqprojects are clearly becoming major factors in the provocation of the insurgents. Therefore, the recent attacks in Gwadar areas come as no surprise.
On November 4th, nine militants from a newly formed Islamic Jihadist group, Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) attacked M. Alam PAF Training Base in Mianwali in Punjab. According to most analysts, TJP is an affiliate of Pakistan’s home grown TTP. Even though much remains to be unravelled about TJP, it is known that the outfit is responsible for a string of high-profile attacks in Pakistan.
There have been several speculations with regard to the Mianwali airbase attack, most analysts have raised a possibility of the activation of sleeper cells and a plausible reaction to the recent exodus of the undocumented Afghan nationals living in Pakistan.
The Mianwali Air Force Base’s strategicimportance can also be attributed to its close proximity to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which has been a consistent target of the Taliban related attacks.
It is evident that Pakistan has witnessed a huge surge in terrorism in the past months, specifically in KP and Balochistan since the TTPcalled off its ceasefire last year.
Pakistan is in a morass of chaos and turmoil. While the elections are on the horizon, the interim caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq has been pushing for stringent reforms and changes in Pakistan. It is apparent that the orders emote the voice of the Pakistani military.
While Pakistan has been swarmed with issues stemming from its own political instability and economic crisis, it fails to self reflect but blames its failures on the insurgents or its neighbours.
Since its fall out with the Taliban, it has consistently blamed the Taliban for harbouring Pakistan’s proscribed terrorists on its soil.
In the past,Pakistan has often spoken of a westward connectivity, which it referred to as an important catalyst for stability in Afghanistan. While its rhetoric may have been somewhat true, given it needed a westward connectivity to have access to Central Asia through Afghanistan, it was done with an intention to have the United States out of Afghanistan for Taliban to come to power. This, they believed would have ensured them the necessary access to Central Asia through Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the plan failed to transpire. With TTP waging terror on Pakistan and Pakistan unable to meet their demands, there was a deterioration in the rapport between Afghan Taliban and Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban had tried to broker a settlement between TTP and Pakistan. This way, it looked to be a saviour to TTP and secondly, prove that it wasn’t Pakistan’s puppet. After calling off the ceasefire on November 28th 2022, TTP has ramped up its activities in KP and certain areas in Pakistan. The trouble which lies before Pakistan is the grouping or the regrouping of various insurgents or militant outfits against Pakistan. Majority of the outfits or the militants bear the commonality of targeting the military and government institutions due to their dissatisfaction with Pakistan or for the separation of their provinces from Pakistan, who they believe to be an illegal occupier.
Also, the recent strengthening of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has also sparked a conflagration of hate and rebellion on behalf of the minorities who view these laws as a means to persecute, arbitrarily detain or eliminate them. This has certainly caused serious discontentment amongst its civilians.
The increment in the attacks could also be attributed to the heavy steam rolling Pakistan has been doing on its citizens to curb the dissatisfaction being raised against its military. While Pakistan suffers its economic crisis and looks towards China for a bailout, it exchanges the freedom and the rights of its citizens to please China.
In such a scenario it may appear that Pakistan’s Albatross is a problem of its own making, taking a shape in form of insurgencies. The situation is not likely to changefor the better for some time to come.