n June 22, two journalists became the latest victims to disappear in Balochistan. In April, the dead body of Sajid Hussain Baloch, editor-in-chief of Balochistan Times, was found near Uppsala, Sweden. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) maintain that his death is linked to his work. Between 2007-2015, 29 journalists were killed in Balochistan. Mama Qadeer, the activist who initiated Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) and launched a 2,800 km march from Quetta to Islamabad in 2013, leads regular protests in front of the local press club at Quetta. Qadeer says that at least 47,000 Balochs have gone missing since 2000, and the figure also quoted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its latest report.
Balochistan province accounts for nearly half of the landmass of Pakistan. It is immensely rich in natural resources, including chromite, fluorite, marble, oil, gas, copper and gold. Despite these huge deposits of mineral wealth, the area is one of the poorest regions of Pakistan.
Resource nationalism in Balochistan has got its second wind after Beijing and Islamabad jointly launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). When the CPEC agreement was announced in 2015, Baloch nationalists accused Islamabad of sidelining their interests in favour of Chinese investment and selling out Balochistan’s immense natural wealth without consulting them.
Since then, BLA attacks have largely been focused on Chinese interests. Several deadly attacks on Chinese labourers have taken place since May 2017, which according to BLA spokesman Jeeyand Baloch, are part of the “BLA’s policy of not allowing any force, including China, to plunder the Baloch wealth in Balochistan”.
Other significant attacks include a November 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi and the May 2019 attack on the luxury Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar.
In retaliation, Islamabad has severely tightened its security apparatus in the region. According to journalist Akber Notezai, many Balochs, particularly Zikris, are afraid of being displaced along the CPEC-dominated M8 route that runs from Turbat to Hoshab — an action that could push an already alienated population toward the BLA for protection.
In a recent interview, Karima Baloch, a former chairperson of Baloch Students Organisation—Azad said: “Pakistan always talks about acquiring the land. They don’t want the Baloch people but want the resources there. It has been its policy of exploiting the resources to make use of its geostrategic importance since a pro-freedom struggle is ongoing in Balochistan.”
Revolutionary Baloch poet Habib Jalib, who was shot dead outside his home in Quetta 10 years ago, wrote in Urdu:
“Mujhe jung ka maza maloom hai, Baluchon par zulm ki inteha maloom hai, mujhe zindagi bhar Pakistan mein jeene ki dua na do, mujhe Pakistan mein saath (60) saal jeene ki saza maloom hai
(I know the thrills of fighting a battle, I know the extremes of atrocities on Balochs, do not pray that I live forever in Pakistan for I know what a punishment living for 60 years in Pakistan has been for me)”.