In Pakistan, Anti-China Militancy Is Increasing

The April 26 terror incident in the heart of the University of Karachi shows that militancy in Pakistan, of both religious and ethnic varieties, is increasingly anti-China, and it should worry self-described “iron and all-weather friends.”

On paper, a poor but friendly Pakistan has welcomed China, primarily through the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will allow the latter to expand and into the Indian Ocean region.

In actuality, however, it has proven to be a costly endeavour on multiple fronts, not least in terms of human lives lost. According to Pakistan’s Samaa news and television network, 24 Chinese people have perished and many more have been injured in targeted attacks in the last year alone.

Furthermore, many people perished – unaccounted for or hidden – during the construction of the Gwadar port and naval base, as well as other projects in the pre-CPEC era.

Despite state brutality and hundreds of youngsters who ‘disappeared,’ ended up dead or imprisoned indefinitely, Nawaz Sharif’s governments and Imran Khan battled miserably with CPEC, unable to deal with coordinated surprise attacks. Creating a special Army division dedicated just to CPEC security hasn’t helped.

The Karachi University, which was founded in 1851 and is one of the oldest in South Asia, has a long history of strong student politics of all colours, but it is also a hotbed of sectarian conflict fostered by mosques and clerics who work the country’s vast poverty-stricken youth.

However, it does not have a record of suicide attacks by organised groups. The attack, which claimed the lives of four people, three of whom were Chinese, has spawned a slew of unwelcome “firsts.”

One was that the act was chosen for a university campus rather than an industrial or infrastructure project with a substantial Chinese presence. Second, the target was not a CPEC project that has sparked local criticism, but the Confucius Institute, China’s cultural centre, one of several throughout the world.

It was founded in 2004 with the goal of providing free education in Chinese language and culture, but it has been denounced as a propagandist by several Western countries. Third, and maybe most concerning, it was a “suicide attack,” and fourth, it was carried out by a woman.

Another ‘first’ is that she had made an announcement on social media beforehand. On social media, Shari Baloch was seen with a smile and a ‘V’ for victory sign. She was a member of the Majeed Brigade of the Balochistan Liberation Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

She was a post-graduate, a teacher by training and profession, and the mother of two children, according to her Express Tribune biography. This reveals another another troubling feature of rising militancy.

It backs up Pakistan’s prominent security analyst, Amir Husain Rana of the Institute of Conflict Studies, who believes that militancy in Balochistan has taken on a new face. It is not only drawn from impoverished tribal youths, but also from the province’s urban and educated classes, who feel exploited as a result of the CPEC.

The Balochs have already targeted Karachi’s metropolis. The BLA also claimed responsibility for an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November 2018. The BLA claimed responsibility for the Karachi stock exchange bombing in 2020. Baloch militants were also suspected of being behind a Dasu incident in 2021, which targeted a bus carrying Chinese nationals and murdered nine of them. It was also claimed that this was a suicide attack.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has a sectarian goal, whereas the Balochs have a political and economic purpose. It has spread its wings across the country and into Afghanistan’s border territories, apparently using Afghan land as a base.

As a result, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) crossed the border early this month, strafing and killing TTP cadres as well as Afghan civilians. As a major gesture of diplomatic hostility, Kabul has since notified the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), marking the first time since Pakistan aided the Taliban in regaining control in Afghanistan.

“The TTP brand of terrorism has already made a resurgence in Pakistan. And now there’s an added security concern: Chinese-targeted strikes “In an editorial, the News International tabloid stated.

“The Chinese are no strangers to attacks in other parts of the country, where the development projects they have initiated are viewed with suspicion by many of the locals as well as militants,” Dawn newspaper wrote in an editorial about the targeting of the Chinese (the Confucius Institute Director and two faculty).

It was also mentioned that “The Baloch insurgency had been dismissed as a low-intensity conflict for years. This, however, is no longer the case. The attacks are becoming more daring, as seen by the death of ten troops earlier this year in an attack on an FC station in Kech. As a previous strike in Lahore revealed, the extremists’ reach is expanding.”

Shehbaz Sharif’s new government has stated its intention to deal with militants, notably those in Balochistan. However, security in the provinces is overseen by a jumble of civil and military intelligence organisations, and there are still militants being raised as ‘assets,’ to be pitted against one another until they go rogue. As a result, it faces a difficult task.

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