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News Analysis |

Two Navy sailors were martyred and at least three others were wounded when their vehicle was attacked in the Jiwani area of Gwadar district, Baluchistan on Monday. Security was tightened after the cowardly attack and a search operation was launched in the area.

Pakistan Navy spokesman confirmed the incident. “Two sailors embraced martyrdom while another three sustained wounds,” he said in a press statement.

The naval official reiterated the anti-terror resolve, saying: “Miscreants can’t shatter our morale with such acts of cowardice. They will be recompensed for their evil deeds.”

Read more: Will CPEC negatively affect the social culture of Pakistan?

Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims.

Terrorist outfits active in Baluchistan

While Jammat-ul-Ahrar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have conducted attacks across Pakistan, organizations like BLA, BLF, BRA, and UBA are active only in Baluchistan.

A number of terrorist outfits are busy spreading terrorism in the largest province of Pakistan. These outfits include Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baluchistan Republican Army (BRA), Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF), United Baloch Army (UBA), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and Jammat-ul-Ahrar among others. These groups have targeted civilian and military alike.

2016 saw an increase in these occurrences. The attack on lawyers in a hospital in Quetta resulted in the deaths of more than 80 legal practitioners. Jammat-ul-Ahrar claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a sectarian outfit which mostly targets Shiite community. Its infamous attacks on Hazara community resulted in the imposition of Governor Rule in the province in 2013. The group also claimed responsibility for an attack on police recruits in Quetta in 2016.

Read more: CPEC: Is the sovereignty of Pakistan being compromised?

While Jammat-ul-Ahrar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have conducted attacks across Pakistan, organizations like BLA, BLF, BRA, and UBA are active only in Baluchistan. They consider themselves to be purely insurgent groups struggling for independence of Baluchistan from Pakistan’s rule. Their connections with premier Indian intelligence agency RAW were revealed by Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian naval commander arrested by security agencies last year. His revelations damaged the legitimacy of the stance of these groups. Pakistan government consider these Baloch insurgent groups as terrorists and has conducted a number of operations to flush them out from their mountainous hideouts.

CPEC and the unrest in Balochistan

China is also developing the warm water Gwadar port, a prominent feature of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. The CPEC project with an investment of $57 billion and the Gwadar port as its lynchpin is billed to be a ‘game-changer’ and manifestation of a strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

Read more: CPEC will not stir up Indo-Pak Trouble, says China

The biggest threat to CPEC comes from within Pakistan. The ongoing attacks against security forces guarding the strategic corridor and the laborers busy in the construction of roads and other installations in Balochistan have caused serious concerns in Islamabad and Beijing.

However, this mega project is facing a number of challenges. The construction of Chabahar Port in Iran, located very close to Gwadar, being financed by India, has been considered by many experts as having great strategic significance for India because it will enable it not only to counter Chinese ambitions in the Indian Ocean but also to enhance its trade with Central Asia and Europe. They consider Chabahar as a strategic threat to CPEC.

However, the biggest threat to CPEC comes from within Pakistan. The ongoing attacks against security forces guarding the strategic corridor and the laborers busy in the construction of roads and other installations in Balochistan have caused serious concerns in Islamabad and Beijing. Pakistan has established a special security division to fend off such possible attacks but the attacks have continued unabated.

The latest attack on sailors in Jiwani area is a reminder that all is not well in Baluchistan and more needs to be done to ensure that CPEC goes on as planned. An effective strategy needs to be put in place to neutralize every threat to this project, which if materialize, has the potential to change the fortunes of the volatile province and entire Pakistan.

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