Balochistan Liberation Army out to bleed Pakistan economy, Chinese interests
An hour after the attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), sent out emails to journalists and posted a message on its Twitter account claiming the responsibility for the attack.
The group said its ‘Majeed Brigade’ executed the attack and to prove it, it also released a picture of the four militants who took part in the assault, donning camouflage outfits and carrying guns.
The BLA said the purpose of attack was to simultaneously target Pakistan’s economy and China because of its involvement in Balochistan.
Majeed Brigade, named after a guard of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was killed while attempting to assassinate him (ZAB), was formed by the BLA in 2011. Its presence in Afghanistan is well documented and even reported by Indian media.
The so-called brigade, which is the suicide squad of the BLA, mostly targets security forces and Chinese interests in Pakistan.
In August 2018, the group attacked a bus of the Chinese near Dalbandin and the Chinese Consulate in Karachi in November 2018. Last year, it struck a luxury hotel in Gwadar. Days after the hotel raid, Majeed Brigade released a video warning China to leave Balochistan, the province through which passes a large part of the CPEC’s land route, besides the all-important port in Gwadar.
In May alone, there were three attacks carried out by the group on security forces in Balochistan.
This raises a question, why did the group pick the Stock Exchange as its target? It wasn’t just for staging a high-profile attack against Pakistan’s financial infrastructure. There was a clear message behind it. The intent was to hit Chinese interests.
The Chinese are the anchor investors in the bourse and secured its 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 5 per cent of shares held by a local company are also linked to the Chinese investment.
The Chinese invested in the PSX at a time when China was ‘frontier market’ — a less established market, while Pakistan was at that time an ‘emerging market’ — one that is on way to become a developed one.
The Chinese then envisioned Pakistan to become their gateway. However, things changed and the Chinese market got upgraded in 2017. The value of PSX shares too has dropped significantly.
The Chinese investors have, however, kept holding on because of strategic reasons.
According to sources in the bourse, Chinese are planning to raise tens of billions of dollars for financing of future CPEC projects through PSX. This, it is believed to be the prime motive behind this attack.
Pakistani leaders expressed their suspicions about the hand of a foreign actor in the attack.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, in a statement said: “With the support of our resilient nation, we will foil all efforts of enemies aimed at destabilizing the hard-earned peace achieved through sacrifices of our martyrs.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeted: “We have repeatedly warned about externally supported terrorism.”
China was one of the first countries to denounce the attack.
“China condemns all forms of terrorist attacks, expresses its condolences to the innocent victims of this incident, and expresses its condolences to its families and injured people. China firmly opposes all forms of terrorism and firmly supports Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and maintain national security and stability,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.