Baloch separatist outfit kidnaps 10 tourists in southwestern Pakistan

Policemen stand guard outside a building in Quetta on February 5, 2024. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 21 June 2024
Follow

Baloch separatist outfit kidnaps 10 tourists in southwestern Pakistan

  • All 10 persons, including Pakistan Customs official, hail from eastern Punjab province, says Levies official 
  • Banned outfit Baloch Liberation Army, which has targeted Punjab-based laborers in past, claims responsibility

QUETTA: Separatist militant outfit Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) this week kidnapped 10 tourists in southwestern Pakistan who hailed from Punjab, an official of a local law enforcement force confirmed on Thursday.

The incident took place on Wednesday night at a famous tourist point named Shaban, 35 kilometers from the provincial capital of Quetta in southwestern Balochistan province, Levies official Ajmal Khan confirmed. 

Khan said around 50-60 armed men kidnapped 14 people from a rest house in Shaban. After checking their identification cards, four were released while 10 were detained, he revealed. 

“Ten people, including one Pakistan Customs personnel, belonging to Punjab were taken to an unknown place,” Khan, who is the head muharrar or person responsible for documentation at the Levies station in Harnai district where the incident took place, told Arab News. 

Khan said the BLA was responsible for the kidnapping, adding that the militant group had hoisted its flag atop the rest house. He said it is difficult for authorities to carry out a search operation as the area where the incident took place was a far-flung one. 

“Here BLA has camps and we have warned tourists to not come to this place,” the Levies official said. 

In a separate statement, BLA claimed responsibility for kidnapping the tourists. 

“In an intelligence-based operation in Quetta’s Shaban area, Baloch Liberation Army’s Fatah Squad took into custody 10 suspicious persons,” the group stated. 

It said the detained persons were being questioned, adding that a detailed statement would be issued to the media “soon.” 

Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, which shares porous borders with Afghanistan and Iran, has been wracked by an insurgency launched by ethnic Baloch militants since decades. 

These Baloch nationalists have long accused the Pakistani government and Punjab province of monopolizing profits from Balochistan’s abundant natural resources, saying it has led to political marginalization and economic exploitation.

However, Pakistani administrations have denied these allegations, citing several development initiatives launched in the province to improve local living conditions.

In April and May, three separate attacks in Balochistan targeted laborers from Pakistan’s Punjab province. A group of unidentified gunmen attacked and killed seven laborers in a residential quarter in Gwadar, a coastal town in Pakistan, on May 9. 

In April, the BLA claimed responsibility for the killings of nine Punjab residents traveling to Iran from Quetta. In another incident that took place in April, two workers from Punjab were targeted in Balochistan.


One month on, family awaits recovery of sons abducted by Baloch separatists in southwestern Pakistan

Updated 9 min 23 sec ago
Follow

One month on, family awaits recovery of sons abducted by Baloch separatists in southwestern Pakistan

  • Baloch Liberation Army kidnapped seven ethnic Punjabi tourists from a picnic spot in Balochistan on June 19
  • BLA offered to release the abductees in exchange for its fighters, but the government refused the proposal

QUETTA: Shan Raza, 58, was devastated last month upon learning that a separatist group had abducted his three sons, Rehan, Farhan and Hassan, along with two other relatives, in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.
Since then, Raza has been trying hard to bring a smile on the faces of his grandchildren, whom he finds wearing a dismal look since their fathers were taken away from Shaban, a tourist spot some 35 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Quetta.
Pakistan’s most impoverished Balochistan province shares its border with Iran and Afghanistan and has been the scene of a low-level insurgency for the last two decades. The separatists demand independence from Pakistan and seek control over provincial resources like gold and copper.
These groups have often targeted Pakistani forces and people from the Punjab province, the heartland of Pakistani military and political elite, in the restive southwestern region over what they say are enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Baloch men. Pakistan denies it.
Raza’s sons, his nephew and a relative had gone to Shaban for picnic on June 19. They were among seven people abducted from the spot by the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
“My entire house is empty now, my family keeps asking me about the release of my abducted sons, but now we are in very gloomy conditions for the last thirty days,” Raza told Arab News this week.
“The tears in the eyes of my wife and daughters-in-law are dried, they want nothing from me but the safe return of my sons.”
Recalling the day when his sons left home for Shaban, the 58-year-old said they had initially planned to go to Peer Ghaib, another picnic spot in Balochistan’s mountainous Bolan district, but he didn’t allow them due to security concerns.
“Then they told me that they were going to Shaban, but I didn’t know this place was not safe either,” Raza added.
Shortly after their abduction, the BLA offered the government to negotiate their release in exchange for BLA fighters incarcerated in Pakistani jails.
The group this month announced it would “implement punishments of the arrested suspects” after the government refused to negotiate their release, but there has since been no news of the hostages. The separatists accuse ethnic Punjabi settlers in Balochistan of spying for state agencies, though they have rarely offered any evidence to support their claim.
But Raza was hopeful that the government might be making efforts to secure the release of his sons and others. “I want nothing from them [Pakistani officials], but a safe recovery of my sons,” he said.
Shahid Rind, a spokesman for the Balochistan government, said the government and Pakistani security forces were making joint efforts to recover the abductees.
“The chief minister met with the despondent families and apprised them of government efforts,” Rind told Arab News. “[But] the demand to release detained terrorists for a swap of Shaban abductees is unacceptable for the government of Balochistan.”
Rihan, the son of Raza’s abducted nephew Muhammad Raza, said his family was praying day and night for the release of his father. “My mother, sister and grandmother are very much depressed since my father was kidnapped,” the 13-year-old said.
Raza said the wait for his sons and other abductees has been “excruciating.”
“We run toward the door on every single knock and get alerted on every single call on our cell phones with hopes that my sons will return home,” the dejected father said, with teary eyes.


Pakistan’s northwestern province forms inquiry commission after deadly shooting at Bannu rally

Updated 41 min 12 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan’s northwestern province forms inquiry commission after deadly shooting at Bannu rally

  • KP administration says the commission will ensure ‘transparent’ probe and its report will be made public
  • It says the incident occurred at a sensitive area in Bannu cantonment that was on alert due to militancy

PESHAWAR: The provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Saturday announced the establishment of an inquiry commission to ensure a “transparent investigation” into the killings of people in a shooting incident at a rally in Bannu a day earlier, where people were calling for peace amid a surge in militant attacks.
At least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured after gunfire triggered a stampede at the procession attended by tens of thousands of people. The demonstration was held at a time when KP, which borders Afghanistan, has seen a surge in attacks on security forces, government officials and anti-polio vaccination teams in recent weeks.
The shocking increase in daily attacks led the residents of the area to demand peace only a few days after 10 soldiers were killed by militants in the cantonment area in Bannu.
In a statement shared on his social media account, KP government’s spokesperson Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur was personally monitoring the situation in the city.
“The chief minister has also announced the formation of a commission for a transparent investigation into the incident,” he informed. “The commission will conduct an impartial investigation and present a report, which will be made public. The role of those responsible will be determined and legal action will be taken.”
Local residents and some Pakistani politicians accused the security forces of the shooting incident, though the KP official was reticent about who was responsible.
“The unpleasant incident occurred at a sensitive location in Bannu cantonment, the same place where a suicide bombing took place recently,” he added. “Sensitive areas generally have high security alerts, and soldiers and civilians were martyred in the suicide attack. The sensitive nature of this location was also a factor in yesterday’s unfortunate incident.”
The KP spokesperson urged the public to exercise “extreme caution” given the current wave of militant attacks.
Meanwhile, a global rights organization, Amnesty International, took notice of the firing incident in Bannu, calling it a violation of the right to peaceful assembly.
“The use of lethal force at a peaceful rally advocating for peace is unlawful and is at odds with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,” it noted in a statement.
“The Government of Pakistan has repeatedly failed to promote and facilitate peaceful assembly, and to ensure the safety of protesters,” it continued. “[Amnesty] urges the government to promptly investigate and hold to account officials responsible for the attack.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also said it was “appalled” by the development.
“This seemingly state-sanctioned violation of citizens’ right to life and right to freedom of peaceful assembly is reprehensible and reflects a dangerous contempt for citizen-led calls for peace,” it added.
The participants of the public gathering in Bannu have announced to continue their rally.


Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Israeli occupation of Palestine, calls on world to implement it

Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Israeli occupation of Palestine, calls on world to implement it

  • The International Court of Justice on Friday said Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem violated international law
  • Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 1967 Mideast war, Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday welcomed the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) advisory opinion on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and demanded the world implement the ruling to ensure the Palestinians get their due rights.
The United Nations (UN) top court said Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem violated international law as it delivered on Friday a non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state. The ICJ ruling could have more effect on international opinion than it will on Israeli policies.
In a post on X, Sharif said the ICJ ruling that Israel must end its occupation and illegal settlements was a vindication of the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people.
“I urge the international community & UN to implement the ruling, ensuring Palestinian self-determination through a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions,” he said.
“Proud that Pakistan contributed to the case, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.”


Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters.”
Friday’s ruling by the ICJ came against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating 10-month military assault on Gaza, which was triggered by the Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel.
The court also found that Israel’s use of natural resources was “inconsistent” with its obligations under international law as an occupying power.
In a separate case, the ICJ is considering a South African claim that Israel’s campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide, a claim that Israel vehemently denies.


Pakistan to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors

Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Pakistan to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors

  • Development comes days after Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $7 billion loan
  • Islamabad is trying to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support economy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors of the economy, Privatization Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said on Saturday, amid the South Asian country’s quest for foreign funds to support its economy.
The statement came after a meeting attended by Khan, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal Khan with regard to bilateral trade between Pakistan and China, according to Pakistan’s Privatization Commission.
These major sectors include medical appliances, plastics, clothing, leather, meat, fruit and vegetables, and waste and fodder, while a strategy for joint ventures between Chinese and Pakistani companies has been finalized.
“Cooperation between Chinese companies can increase bilateral trade by $1 billion,” Khan, who is also the chairman of Pakistan’s Board of Investment (BOI), was quoted as saying in a statement by Privatization Commission. “Pakistan wants to open new doors of bilateral trade with China in various fields.”
Khan asked officials to immediately discuss the proposals with investment firms and take measures to set up new industries where maximum supply of electricity was possible. “For Chinese companies, the Pakistani embassy in Beijing should also be taken on board,” he said.
Commerce Minister Jam Kamal also held detailed discussions regarding Chinese companies and trade affairs, according to the statement. He directed his ministry to fully cooperate with and join efforts of the Board of Investment.
Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, this month reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $7 billion loan.
The South Asian country is making desperate attempts to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support its $350 billion fragile economy.


Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan

Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan

  • KSrelief implemented Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan’s Sindh and Balouchistan provinces
  • During the program, KSrelief’s medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful surgeries

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)