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Baloch armed rebels attack Pakistan’s energy sector by targeting mining projects

Coal trucks set afire by Baloch fighters (Photo: Twitter)

Baloch armed rebels are systematically targeting Pakistan’s energy sector by attacking coal mined in Balochistan province, where resource nationalism is rife.

On Tuesday, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) set fire to 20 coal trucks in Harnai, Balochistan. These trucks were reportedly ferrying coal to thermal power plants in Punjab. The BLA fighters also attacked the motorcade of the deputy commissioner of Harani.

In a press release, the BLA said: “Freedom fighters of Baloch Liberation Army targeted convoy of Deputy Commissioner and vehicles transporting plundered Baloch national resources in Harnai last night. A suspicious individual was also arrested”.

Highlighting the modus operandi, the BLA statement added: “The main highway was blocked throughout the night and at least 20 vehicles involved in plunder of Baloch natural resources were destroyed”.

Giving insight into the targeted attacks on the coal mining operations, Qazi Rehan, Spokesperson of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), told India Narrative that Coal from Chamalang mines in Balochistan is transported to various cities in Punjab for industrial purposes and generation of electricity.

“This activity has been a source of constant conflict between the Baloch nation and Punjab since the seventies. In the past some Baloch sardars wanted to assert their authority for these resources and collaborate with people in Punjab for industrial development but the Baloch fighters have been resisting this through continuous attacks”, Rehan said.

He added that the resistance to the exploitation of mineral wealth has affected Pakistan’s economy in the past and will continue to affect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has at least six coal-fired power plants out of a total of 21 power plants.

Coal trucks in Balochistan were attacked at the beginning of this month also. On June 1, 42 coal trucks from Harnai and Duki coal fields were held up at gunpoint on the Harnai road. At that time the Baloch fighters opened fire and punctured the tyres and damaged the trucks.

The frequent attacks on the coal trucks has rattled the Pakistan Coal Suppliers Association and Good Transport Association. It has asked Islamabad to provide proper security to the truck drivers and the coal supplying firms.

Dawn reports that the associations have claimed that they are “paying Rs 230 per tonne to the Frontier Corps [the Pakistani paramilitary forces guarding Balochistan] for providing security to the trucks transporting coal to other cities” and have threatened to stop coal supply.

Baloch resource nationalism was also evident on Wednesday, after a  blast took place at an ammunition store related to the Saindak mining project in Balochistan, injuring three soldiers and a watchman.

The Saindak management issued a press release saying that a sudden explosion occurred in an ammunition store of the Wah Noble Company in a hilly area five km away from the Sendak project and township.

The statement added that the explosion in the ammunition store might have been caused by an electrical short circuit or due to heat from the sun.

Pakistan has given the Saindak gold and copper mines to Chinese company Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), a subsidiary of the China Metallurgical Group Corporation. Saindak mines are located in the Chagai district near the Afghan-Iran border.

Incidentally, the spate of attacks are also driving fissures among the various ethnic communities in a highly radicalised Pakistan as some social media tweets have said that Pashtun businessmen and Pashtun laborers are being targeted through the attacks on coal trucks.

Some of the Twitter users have blamed the Pakistani security forces for usurping Pashtun resources by allowing attacks on the trucks.