Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Armed groups kill Pak mining official as resource nationalism surges in Balochistan

In a major blow to Pakistan’s efforts at inviting international investments in Balochistan, project manager of the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) Shabahat Mirza was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Balochistan’s capital Quetta on Sunday.

Pakistani newspaper, The News International reports that the PMDC official was traveling to the Sor Range in a car along with his driver, Muhammad Zakir, when a bicycle bomb exploded in a crowded market area near a police station in Quetta. While Mirza died on the spot, his driver was critically injured.

Balochistan’s interim government announced an “all-out war” against terrorists in the province.

The Pakistani Army and the government had recently identified minerals as one of the critical areas for investment through the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). With a serious downturn in the country’s economic progress, the army has taken over the important task of steering the economy by inviting investors, hyphening off strategic assets like airlines, airports, ports and government-run hotels.

The government had in early August organised the mineral summit to invite foreign investors to exploit the mineral riches in its largest but poorest province. Saudi Arabia had shown interest in picking up stake in the Reqo Dik mines which are partly owned by Canadian mining corporation Barrick Gold along with the governments of Pakistan and Balochistan. In a latest development, the Pakistan government has said that it will sell off its stake to the Saudis.

Even Western countries like Germany and the US have shown interest in investing in Balochistan, ostensibly to reduce the Chinese influence over Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the Baloch armed organisations are clear that they will not allow their minerals to be exploited by Pakistan or by foreign investors. The alienated and estranged Baloch community feels that Pakistan is generating a huge amount of revenue by looting their minerals – gas from Sui region, gold and copper from Saindak and the Reko Dik mines, uranium from Dera Ghazi Khan, precious stones from Wadh and Khuzdar, coal from Mach, Chamalang and harnai regions.

The rebels have launched multiple attacks on the Hub cement factory as well as attacks on Chinese engineers and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. The attacks on Chinese nationals have also led to frosting in diplomatic relations between the two nations. An unhappy and angry China has reportedly decided not to invest further in Pakistan.

The Baloch feel that any foreign investor or country that seeks to invest in Pakistan should first check with the local community and grant them a substantial stake in the projects.

The armed insurgency has taken a heavy toll on Pakistani security forces who have been losing their personnel almost every day to IED attacks, ambushes, as well as fire raids on security camps as they resist the Pakistan government and its agencies from ethnic cleansing, mass enforced disappearances, kill and dump strategies.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)




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