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EDITORIAL: After a relative quiet period terrorists returned in a big way on Monday morning, routing for the high profile target of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in Karachi. According to reports, four assailants launched a grenade and gun attack at the PSX gate, where their attempt to enter the main building was foiled by the police, PSX guards and security forces. In the short but fierce exchange of fire, all four attackers were killed whilst one police officer and three guards embraced martyrdom. DG Rangers later told journalists that in addition to weapons, including AK-47 rifles and grenades, water and food were also recovered from the possession of the terrorists. That meant they had planned to seize hostages to attract maximum international attention. But thanks to the prompt and brave response from those responsible for security, all terrorists were neutralized within just eight minutes, and routine activity inside and outside the PSX restored within 25 minutes.

The so-called Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) said it was responsible for the attack. The motive behind selection of the target appeared to be to undermine the economy, and also to show to the world that Pakistan is an unsafe destination for any prospective visitors/investors. However, the militant group later claimed in a statement its purpose was to attack both Pakistan's economy and China because of the latter's involvement in Balochistan. As a press report points out, Chinese have made major investments in Pakistan's stock market having acquired 40 percent of its shares back in 2016. It is worth noting also that this is not the first time this militant group has targeted the Chinese. In 2018, it attacked the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, and earlier in the same year, it took credit for bombing a bus carrying Chinese engineers near Dalbandin in district Chaghi of Balochistan. The Baloch insurgents have problems with Islamabad, not the Chinese. So why target them? The ostensible reason is that they are engaged in various development projects, including the CPEC and the deep sea Gwadar Port. As far as different Baloch nationalist parties are concerned, they have no objection to development projects with or without Chinese assistance, as long as the people of that province command control over them.

It makes little sense therefore for the insurgents to focus on Chinese interests. But a reference to the context makes the picture clearer. BLA is known to be based in Afghanistan, and have a nexus with India, whose stated policy is to destabilise this country and also undermine the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is also pertinent to recall here that Kulbhushan Jadhav, an operative of the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, arrested from Balochistan a while ago, had admitted in his confessional statement that his mission was to foment terrorism in Balochistan and Karachi. Whatever be the BLA's claim, India will continue to use its proxies, the BLA and others of its ilk, for the achievement of its objectives. We need to keep the vigilance levels high, especially in places that could be in the crosshairs of those out to cause harm to both Pakistan and China.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020