Reports emerging from Balochistan suggest that the indigenous Baloch people, through whose territory a major section of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes, are up in arms against the project, with sections of the population even carrying out attacks on those building the corridor. This is in complete contradiction to what the Pakistan government has been propagating internationally, that the Baloch are welcoming the CPEC as a project that will bring development to their doorstep.
The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), an armed insurgency group, which released its “quarterly report” for July-September, claims to have carried out multiple attacks on officials and assets stationed along the CPEC. According to individuals monitoring the area, the Pakistan government is trying to ensure that the real story of the resistance being offered to CPEC does not become public, and is clamping down on the local media. The BLF claims that it carried out four attacks on the Pakistan army’s construction company, Frontier Works Organization (FWO), which is working on the CPEC. In these attacks, BLF claims to have destroyed three FWO vehicles and blown up two bridges with explosives along the CPEC route. The group also claims to have killed “several personnel deployed on CPEC”, but has not given the exact number of Pakistani soldiers killed.
On 6 August, the BLF blew up a bridge in the Rakhshan Giradi area of Washuk district, Balochistan, along the CPEC route. A second bridge was blown up on 7 September in the Rakhshan Gorgi area of the same district. On 31 August, the BLF attacked two check posts of the Pakistan military along the CPEC route—in the Asank area of Balgatar district—in which one person was killed and two injured.
As per the quarterly report, in July, August and September 2017, a total of 127 attacks were carried out on Pakistani forces at various places in Balochistan. BLF claims to have killed over 70 Pakistani soldiers, including a lieutenant-colonel, in these attacks. Five BLF fighters too died.
The group also claims to have destroyed 27 Pakistan military vehicles, apart from killing 15 militants and injuring eight militants belonging to ISIS affiliated terrorist organisations active in the region.
Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, secretary-general of Balochistan National Movement-North America, a political organisation, which comprises several Baloch independence activists living in exile, told this newspaper, “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is now the key ingredient to the spread of human rights violations across Balochistan along the route of its construction sites, leaving a trail of burned villages and destroyed homes in its wake. Baloch people are paying a heavy price for their freedom from the terror state Pakistan. And while the Baloch and Sindhis are being butchered by the Pakistan army, the United Nations is not only silent, but also rubbing salt in our wounds by electing Pakistan as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.”
The CPEC, a multi-billion dollar project between China and Pakistan, has been criticised continuously by various Baloch separatist groups that see the corridor as an intrusion by foreigners, subverting the rights of indigenous people over local resources. According to the Pakistan government, the CPEC will open new avenues of economic development for the people of Balochistan. The estimated cost of CPEC is $56 billion approximately. Out of this, an estimated $7.1 billion is slated to be invested in Balochistan, with initial investments coming in energy, transport, and development of Gwadar city and port, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, Pakistan.
However, Baloch freedom activists insist that not only does the CPEC pass through disputed areas of Balochistan and India, but it is also resulting in the Pakistan army carrying out massive human rights violations. Justifying its armed struggle, the BLF said in its report, “As an organised and timely motivated organisation in Balochistan’s struggle for independence, BLF is fighting on the frontline against Pakistan army and its proxies, including jihadist groups like ISIS and other extremist elements. This front has cost many sacrifices of our fighters, but we stand as strong as our will to defend motherland Balochistan. The question of indigenous Baloch people’s survival and national identity is at risk and attack by enemy Pakistan’s evil intentions of greater exploitation, plunder and genocide in Balochistan.”