From India with “Love”!
Apologies to Ian Fleming for adapting the title to the situation in Pakistan. Terrorism is back again in Karachi and it is: “From India with love”.
The attack by the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) by four heavily armed terrorists has cost the lives of four people. A police officer and three guards have been martyred.
Due to the decisive response of the police and the law enforcing units, the purpose of their attack – to enter the stock exchange and play havoc – was frustrated. Within eight minutes, the attackers were not only stopped from entering the PSX but all them were killed. The weapons, including AK-47 rifles and grenades, besides water and food recovered from their possession showed that they had come with the intention of entering the building, killing people and holding some hostage.
Past experience of the Karachi security forces with terrorist attacks had resulted in an immense improvement in their counter-terrorist capabilities. Within hours not only the fingerprints of the badmashes (miscreants) were identified, their origins were traced and their approach to the attack site reconstructed. That is a remarkable improvement.
The so-called Balochistan Liberation Army, a well-known and banned terrorist outfit, known to be pampered and financed by India’s RAW. Kulbhushan Yadav was caught on Pakistani territory in Balochistan while doing his subversive job operating from Iran. Indian’s RAW has a decades-long history of subversive activity in Balochistan.
Till today some disgruntled Baloch feel that they have, over the years, been neglected by successive governments in Islamabad. This is true to some extent but the majority of the Baloch recognize that they have been betrayed more by their own tribal chiefs than others. The tribal chiefs have accumulated fantastic wealth, live a luxurious life in their Karachi (and foreign) mansions with their children driving fancy SUVs and studying in the best schools. Over the decades they have misappropriated money, mainly from Islamabad, that was meant to build schools and roads.
Building roads and schools was not in their interest. Roads would make it easy for people to leave their miserable villages and find better lives outside. Schools would teach Baloch children to ask questions as to why the tribal chief is lording over their lives.
For decades, the entrenched tribal elite have managed to keep direct and indirect influence over the people and preserve age-old dependencies. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is now threatening to open up Balochistan by roads, railway lines, industrial parks and the Gwadar harbour. Harbours have always been points of entrance of new people, goods and ideas which change the local society.
In addition, because of the scarcity of local, trained Baloch work force, an influx of workers from other provinces and from China is threatening established power relations.
The PSX has been chosen as the target because it is a symbol of Chinese economic and financial power that is threatening old power structures in Balochistan. The Chinese are the anchor investors in the bourse. They secured management control after acquiring 40 per cent of its shares in 2016. The shares are held by Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shenzhen Stock Exchange and China Financial Futures Exchange. Another five per cent of shares held by a local company are also linked to the Chinese investment.
The question that the Baloch should ask themselves is what kind of ‘liberation’ and liberty they want. Would not liberation from tribal overlords be the better option, opening the way to development, better education and jobs? By supporting BLA, the Balochare supporting those who have been exploiting them while getting rich. More than that, they support India’s nefarious designs to break up Pakistan – a thing they had done in 1971 already.
The geo-political changes in the South Asian region have been force-multiplied by the current pandemic. The resultant economic meltdown is true for Pakistan. It is even more true for India. India's growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 will go down to 3.1% according to the Indian Ministry of Statistics. The Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India said that this drop is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Notably India had also been witnessing a pre-pandemic slowdown. According to the World Bank, the current pandemic has only "magnified pre-existing risks to India's economic outlook".
Another problem that has shaken the Indian public mood is the aggressive Hindu-nationalist sentiment that has been supported and promoted by the Narendra Modi government. It’s anti-Muslim policies are slowly creating resistance in Indian – not only in Muslim- society. Last year’s change of the status of Jammu & Kashmir and the break-up of the State into two Union Territories ruled directly from Delhi, have exposed its true nature in the eyes of the world and China too.
Unfortunately for Modi (and India), one of the newly created Union Territories, Ladakh, is a disputed area vis-à-vis China. Socially and culturally as well as historically, Ladakhis have more in common with Tibet in China than with India. The June 5 Indian provocation in the Galwan Valley evoked Chinese anger and brought to the forefront the issue of Ladakh being a part of Tibet.
India’s decision to join the ‘Quad’ alliance led by the US and meant to counter China is just another facet of the same situation. These developments have created a vulnerable situation within India that has the capacity to go out of hand.
India is in the process of losing its platform in Afghanistan from which they waged a four decades long proxy war against Pakistan. This explains the intensified Indian activities in Balochistan. Moreover, the entire Indian strategy exists on neutralising its immediate neighbours and imposing its hegemony.
Modi and his National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are desperate. What better way there is to assert themselves than to launch a fresh wave of terrorism in Pakistan or launch “false flag” operations through their paid proxies? With the Indian public and media baying for Chinese blood, this will divert both domestic and international public opinion.
Given this situation, Pakistanis must brace themselves for more of the same. The attacks on the Rangers in Sindh and the failed hostage attempt at the Karachi Stock Exchange are only the beginning. Moreover, the MQM has been openly outed itself as an internal terrorist entity, with Anwar acknowledging to be the money handler for RAW in the UK and confirming on prime-time TV the funds he handed over to Altaf Hussain over the years. Meanwhile, the BLA is being allied with MQM militants and Jiye Sindh activists by RAW.
Direct terrorist attacks are only the tip of the iceberg. There is, in addition, hybrid warfare in all its facets to undermine the country’s integrity. Fake news will be spread and false flag operations will be launched. And there will be cyber warfare. Pakistan’s security forces will have to be alert.
(The writer is a defence and security analyst).