Balochistan Liberation Army
Balochistan Liberation Army members somewhere in the Sarlat Mountains on the Afghan-Pakistani border. SOURCE IPS Image Credit: IPS

Dubai: Pakistan has hailed the US decision to declare the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as the global terrorist group on Wednesday and called for action against their financiers.

The Pakistan Foreign Office expressed hope that the designation of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S. Administration would ensure that its space to operate was minimised.

“We have taken note of the designation by the U.S. Administration of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). The BLA remains a proscribed entity in Pakistan since 2006 and in recent times has carried out several terrorist attacks in the country,” the foreign office in a press release said.

Huge achievement

Pakistan Foreign Office says that it was important that the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and external sponsors including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan were held accountable and brought to justice.

A senior official at the Pakistan Foreign office told Gulf News that branding of BLA as global terrorist organisation by the US is a huge achievement for Pakistan.

“This step will pave the way for development in Balochistan especially at Gwadar port development plan and the Chinese projects in the province,” he said.

Earlier, the United States on Tuesday declared Pakistan’s separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) organisation a global terrorist group and says it will seek to deny it resources for planning and carrying out attacks.

The US State Department announced the decision Tuesday.

It says the Balochistan Liberation Army is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians mainly in southwest Pakistan. It says the group carried out a suicide attack in August 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate General in Karachi, and a May 2019 attack on a luxury hotel in the port town of Gwadar.

Pakistani security personnel at the Chinese consulate after an attack in Karachi on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

Balochistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources. The US State Department also describes the group’s activities as terrorism, while the European Union calls it a terrorist organisation.
The security forces have been fighting terrorists in Balochistan since 2004, with the militants recently finding a new focus in rallying against China’s investment that is part of its major Belt and Road initiative.

The BLA has targeted Chinese nationals in Pakistan multiple times, including a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese Consulate building in Karachi that killed four people in November 2018.

In May, five people including a soldier were killed after gunmen stormed the only five-star hotel in Gwadar, the port city which Islamabad is hoping to develop into a major commercial hub.

Claiming responsibility for the hotel attack, the BLA warned China to stop its “exploitative projects in Balochistan” and threatened further attacks.

The US designation of the group comes despite vocal concerns by Washington over the Belt and Road initiative, with Washington accusing China of imposing debt traps on developing nations.

The BLA designation follows improvement in relations between the United States and Pakistan, which is now playing a key role in persuading the Taliban to reach a peace deal with Washington and Kabul, according to Dawn news.

Last week, officials in Washington and Islamabad indicated that Prime Minister Imran Khan might visit the US capital later this month for a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.

A notification by the US Treasury Department identified the BLA as a militant organisation based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, noting that it was also known as the Baloch Liberation Army.

The BLA is listed as a terrorist organisation in Pakistan and the United Kingdom as well. An updated list, issued by the National Assembly in October 2012, included the BLA among 50 militant groups not allowed to function in Pakistan.

The British Home Office included the BLA on its list of proscribed organisations in July 2006. London, however, allows BLA leader Hyrbyair Marri to stay in Britain as a refugee, ignoring Pakistan’s protests.

Since 2004, the BLA has waged an armed insurgency, operating mainly in Balochistan where it carries out attacks on both civilian and government targets.

With inputs by agencies