An attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23rd resulted in the deaths of 2 policemen as well as 2 civilians, while leaving a private security guard injured. Three armed men flung hand grenades into the consulate, followed by gunfire targeting security personnel deployed at the consulate.
Crossfire between the assailants and security personnel continued for some time. A combined retaliatory operation carried out by Police and Rangers put an end to the attack; killing the 3 terrorists.
The attack was soon claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). They said that the attack was in retaliation to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the growing Chinese population in the region.
Since its emergence in 2000, the BLA has claimed that it fights for equal rights and self-determination of the Baloch people in Pakistan. They say that the Baloch population has been subjected to repression for decades. However, the two civilians who lost their lives were identified as father and son Haji Niaz, 55, and Zahir Shah, 25, respectively from Quetta. At the time, they had been waiting to renew their visas at the consulate.
The BLA ended up losing members of the same community they claim they want to protect, in addition to losing 3 of their own in the retaliatory operation.
The BLA wasn’t always very keen on suicide attacks. According to reports, this sentiment came about in 2016. One of their local commanders, Aslam urf Achu, who survived an FC operation in Sibbi in 2016 and ran away to Afghanistan, met with members of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies who promised him their support. It was decided there, that the BLA should expand into suicide attacks as well. The new aim of the BLA was to jeopardize CPEC.
Achu offered to sacrifice his own son, Rehan Baloch, for the cause. Therefore, the BLA claimed responsibility for its first suicide attack in August this year. The attack was on a bus carrying Chinese engineers in Dalbandin, District Chaghi. At least six people, including three Chinese engineers were wounded in the attack.
Recent news reports stated that Achu had been transported to New Delhi on an Afghan passport, and has been seeking treatment at a facility there. Reports suggested that the decided agenda between the BLA and, the Indian and Afghan agencies, is to hinder progress and foreign investment in Balochistan.
Since its formation, BLA has claimed numerous terrorist attacks, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians. It has been banned and declared a terrorist organization by the state of Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Consequently, they have failed to effect any substantial change towards their mission.
This means that they might need to reevaluate their approach, since their present one has only managed to alienate them from the masses, and damage any credibility they might have had.
Owing to recent events, violence and disruption may seem like an easy way of getting a message across. However, the amount of collateral damage such an approach causes isn’t always worth it.
A possible substitute could be to eliminate the very issues that are being protested. BLA feels that the rights of the Baloch people are in danger of being violated and that they could be exploited when the time comes to reap the benefits of CPEC. Rather than projecting these fears on to external factors like the government and the Chinese migrants, it would be better that the community take up the responsibility of its own development and empowerment.
An example of such a community is the Hazara population in Balochistan, an integrated populace who have taken the responsibility of empowering their own community and youth through development programs in education and skill building. Their system is not one based on economic benefit but rather on the mutual benefit of serving their own people. Rather than depending on external agents to help, they are self-reliant and contribute time and effort to these initiatives.
The Baloch population could undertake the responsibility to empower themselves as well. As a unified community, they should initiate programs for education and employment that are easily accessible to people from lower socio-economic classes. These programs could be sustained through employment of locals. This could help lessen poverty by providing employment opportunities. Such initiatives would also help change attitudes and mindsets that cause people to resort to violence in the first place. People would be encouraged to eliminate mentalities that allow them to fall prey to extremist ideologies and behaviors.
Another such example is the Japanese culture. Rather than waiting for the government to improve their policies, the Japanese people take the development of their communities unto themselves. As a collectivist society, social responsibility is one of their top priorities.
The BLA is a classic case study in how violence has become a redundant means of communicating any messages to the government. Their activities have only managed to get them labeled a terrorist organization and disregard their message and credibility. The Baloch people should publicly disown them, they should not condone violence. The Baloch youth should speak up against such activities and educate themselves and others to eliminate mindsets that allow for manipulation by extremist groups.
As socially responsible citizens, we should undertake the responsibility of developing healthy mindsets and educating ourselves. An informed and empowered public cannot be exploited. We should also value our vote and elect members of parliament and provincial assembly who will listen and respond to the people’s problems. This would mean that the government and public would be on the same page and no one would feel the need to resort to violence to have their voice heard.