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Gwadar PC terror attack: Yesterday’s “Missing Person” is today’s terrorist?

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News Desk |

The Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar is left badly destructed after the explosions and rocket fire attacks conducted by terrorists who stormed inside the hotel on Saturday. Dawn News reported that the fourth floor of the hotel has been destroyed because the terrorists had planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at different entrance points, alongside firing rockets.

Damages have also occurred on the ground floor and other three floors where the terrorists were encountered by the security personnel. Earlier, ISPR had issued an official statement to explain how the terrorists entered the hotel. The official press release noted that the operation against the terrorists led to the martyrdom of 5 individuals, including 4 hotel employees, and a soldier of the Pakistan Navy, while 6 individuals sustained severe injuries.

The attack was also condemned by the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, who issued a strongly worded statement. It stated, “Chinese Embassy strongly condemns terrorist attack on PC Hotel in Gwadar.

How it All Happened?

The statement issued by ISPR noted that the terrorists had stormed the Pearl Continental Hotel with the aim of “targeting and taking hostage the guests present in the hotel”. The security guard attempted to deny them entry into the main hall, and the terrorists used the staircase to access the upper floors. On their way, they opened up fire which led to the martyrdom of the brave security guard, Zahoor.

The press release stated, “Enroute to stairs, terrorists kept firing indiscriminately resulting into martyrdom of three more hotel employees, Farhad, Bilawal and Awais while 2 got injured.” Forces from the police, Pakistan Army and Navy reached the hotel immediately to secure guests and staff members, and the terrorists were restricted within the corridor of the fourth floor.

Once the guests and staff members were secured, the security forces launched a clearance operation to eliminate the terrorists, who by this time had planted IEDs and damaged CCTV cameras on all entry points of the 4th floor. The security forces had to create “special entry points” to access the 4th floor, after which the terrorists were shot down and their planted IEDs were cleared. During this operation, Pak Navy soldier, Abbas Khan embraced martyrdom while 2 army captains and 2 soldiers of the Pak Navy were severely injured.

Read more: Chabahar Port: The end of Gwadar?

The operation ended around 7:15 pm, and the attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army. BLA issued a statement, dispatched to mainstream media personalities and journalists shortly after the attack occurred, “Our fighters have carried out this attack on Chinese and other foreign investors who were staying in PC hotel.”

Attempt to “Sabotage Prosperity” in Balochistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that the attack on Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel is an attempt to “sabotage the prosperity of Balochistan”, a province that is most detrimental to the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, primarily due to the geostrategic significance of the Gwadar port.

In a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, PM Imran Khan stated that such attempts to undermine the prosperity of Baluchistan are aimed at crippling the developmental projects that will boost economic prosperity. The statement warned, “We shall not allow these agendas to succeed”.

On Saturday, it was discovered that Hammal Khan was one of the terrorists who carried out a brutal attack in a bid to terrorize and kill innocent guests staying at Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel.

The attack was also condemned by the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, who issued a strongly worded statement. It stated, “Chinese Embassy strongly condemns terrorist attack on PC Hotel in Gwadar. The heroic action of Pakistani Army & law enforcement agencies is highly appreciated. We express condolences to the families of the security guard who sacrificed his life and two security men who were injured.”

Ever since its inception, CPEC has not hailed much popularity amongst separatists, who have blamed the federal government for usurping their economic resources. The proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army has carried out multiple attacks targeting Chinese workers and foreign investors. Only last year in November, an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi claimed four lives.

The attempts to reignite the flames of terror in Balochistan have intensified after the Pak-India border skirmishes that cooled down in April, marking a wave of terror attacks in the province. In a period of one month, six terror attacks have been observed in Balochistan. Earlier on 12th April, the Hazarganji market blast claimed 20 lives, and weeks later, terrorists offloaded 14 passengers from buses, who were shot down on the Makran Coast Highway.

Read more: PIA to cash in on CPEC by announcing flights to Gwadar

Hammal Khan: Missing Person or Terrorist?

The Gwadar PC hotel attack has shed light on various narratives prevailing against the armed forces of Pakistan, particularly the dynamics behind the cases of missing persons. One of the three terrorists involved in the attack has been identified as Hammal Khan Mari, an old member of the Balochistan Liberation Army.

In 2016, Hammal Khan, son of Qadir Khan Marri, was listed as a missing person by the BLA, and Baloch separatists had initiative an overwhelming propagandist campaign about the alleged kidnapping of Hammal, claiming that he had been killed by the security forces. On Saturday, it was discovered that Hammal Khan was one of the terrorists who carried out a brutal attack in a bid to terrorize and kill innocent guests staying at Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel.

This discovery really makes us wonder about the agendas behind issuing lists of “missing persons” and what activities these “missing persons” engage in during the period they are “missing”. The case of Hammal Khan Mari is a clear indication that he used this time to undergo training and prepare himself to carry out a terror attack.

The provincial authorities have deployed more police officers, Levies, Frontier Corps personnel and Anti-Terrorist force across Gwadar to intensify security and patrolling.

Senior anchorperson Arshad Sharif discussed the issue while speaking to ARY News, he observed, “Security agencies are convinced that there is a disparity on the lists compiled on missing persons, and this disparity is because of the militants who are undergoing training in Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Baloch separatists amongst other anti-Pakistan entities are using Afghanistan as a training ground.”

He further went on to explain,  the case of missing persons is a rather complex issue, which first emerged in General Musharraf’s tenure, and in most cases, families are unaware of the anti-state activities and contacts harbored by the accused militants, which ignites animosity towards the armed forces. However, now the security forces and agencies are dealing with the complexities of the missing persons with a fully documented procedure to allow transparency.

In a series of insightful tweets, geo-strategic analyst and Chairman of the Centre for Geo-Politics and Baluchistan, Jan Achakzai put forward his analysis of the missing persons list. Achakzai explains that the identification of Hammal Baloch, once a missing person now a BLA terrorist, questions the “narrative of ethnic politicians” who uses missing persons as a “leverage to blackmail state to extract political benefits”.

Read more: Pakistan Navy launches “Task Force-88” to protect CPEC

Jan Achakzai added that the list of missing persons allows “some in the civil society and journalistic community to play hero within their constituencies”. He added, “No ‘grievance’ justifies taking up arms, glorifying arms, justifying rebels’ cause, and questioning monopoly of state on violence.” Geo-strategic analyst Jan Achakzai stressed that the state has the right to investigate facilitators, terrorist sympathizers, recruiters, glorifiers and financiers.

Heightened Security in Balochistan

In the wake of the Gwadar Hotel attack, CM Balochistan Jam Kamal has given orders to heighten security arrangements across the province, and placed greater emphasis on reviewing security arrangements across Gwadar.

Special measures have been taken to increase security in the port city of Gwadar, while the employees of the Chinese Port Handling Company, who are working on multiple CPEC developmental projects, have been provided with heightened protection.

Read more: Pakistan leverages CPEC to launch 2 auxiliary corridors: SPEC & RPEC

The provincial authorities have deployed more police officers, Levies, Frontier Corps personnel, and Anti-Terrorist force across Gwadar to intensify security and patrolling. Key roads and landmarks leading to the Gwadar Port have been sealed and no one is allowed to access them.

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