Baloch militants seek independence for the western Pakistani province of Balochistan
Pakistan said today it had carried out airstrikes against separatist militants in Iran, the latest development in the standoff that erupted after Iranian missile and drone strikes in Pakistan’s border province of Balochistan (Balochistan).
Here’s some background on the organization targeted by Pakistan and the troubled province at the heart of the tensions.
What is the organization that Pakistan targeted in Iran
The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), which an intelligence official said was the target of Pakistani strikes in Iran, is seeking independence for the western Pakistani province of Baluchistan (Balochistan).
Militants from the Baloch ethnic group have been fighting the government for decades to create a separate state, arguing that the central government is unfairly exploiting the rich natural gas and mineral resources of Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.
The BLF is among the insurgents who frequently target gas facilities, infrastructure and security positions there, but have also begun launching attacks in other parts of Pakistan.
They also attack Chinese construction sites and occasionally kill Chinese workers, despite assurances from Pakistan that it is doing everything it can to protect Chinese construction sites.
What is the significance of Baluchistan (Baluchistan)
This sprawling province, home to about 15 million people, is mostly an arid, desert and mountainous terrain that has untapped mineral wealth.
It is the largest province in Pakistan, but with the smallest population. It borders the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan, where Pakistan carried out the strikes.
Hundreds of Baloch protesters, many of them women, have held protests in recent weeks in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, alleging the treatment of the province’s residents – including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
Balochistan (Baluchistan) is an important site for the massive multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of President Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road initiative.
China has undertaken mineral mining projects and built an international airport and port in Gwadar, the province’s southern coastal city.
Canadian mining company Barrick Gold owns a 50% stake in the Reko Diq mine in the province’s Chagai district, with the rest owned by the government of Pakistan and the province. Barrick considers this mine to be one of the largest largely untapped copper and gold deposits in the world.
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