ISLAMABAD: The United States on Tuesday declared the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist organisation in a significant development, which Pakistan hopes will ensure the “BLA’s space to operate is minimised”.
The US State Department, confirming the decision, said it was classifying the BLA as a global terrorist group, making it a crime for anyone in the United States to assist the militants and freezing any US assets they may have.
“The BLA is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan,” the State Department noted, citing reason behind the move.
“The outfit has carried out several terrorist attacks in the past year, including a suicide attack in August, 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November, 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and a May, 2019 attack against a luxury hotel in Gwadar,” it added.
The move to declare BLA as terrorist organisation is seen here as “positive development” since Pakistan had long been calling for such a decision.
“We have taken note of the designation by the US Administration of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT),” said an official statement issued by the Foreign Office shortly after the US announcement.
It pointed out that the BLA has remained a proscribed entity in Pakistan since 2006 and in recent times has carried out several terrorist attacks in the country. “It is hoped that this designation will ensure that BLA’s space to operate is minimised,” the statement said.
“It is important that the perpetrators, organisers, financers and external sponsors including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan are held accountable and brought to justice,” it added.
Defence analyst Lt-Gen (retd) Amjad Shoaib termed the US designation of BLA as terrorist organisation as diplomatic victory for Pakistan. “BLA has been the proxy of RAW and it is certainly a setback for India,” Gen Shoaib commented while reacting to the US decision.
Shoaib also said the timing of this decision suggested that the Trump Administration wanted to send a positive message to Pakistan ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to Washington.
Washington’s announcement comes as Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to undertake his maiden trip to the US from July 20. He will have a face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Pakistan declared the BLA a terrorist organisation in 2006 after its involvement in a number of terrorist attacks, targeting both civilians and security personnel. The group was recently involved in a terrorist attack targeting a five-star hotel in the strategically important Gwadar Port.
Gen Shoaib was of the view that the US decision could also be linked to its current tensions with neighbouring Iran. He said since BLA was operating both from Afghanistan and Iran, Washington might use the ban against Tehran.
Other observers believe that the US decision would give legitimacy to Pakistan’s crackdown against BLA. Some analysts say that the move could be an acknowledgement from the US of Pakistan’s “constructive and positive” role in facilitating the Afghan peace process.
Meanwhile, the US also declared Jaish al-Adl, involved in deadly terrorist attacks against Iran as global terrorist organisation. “Additionally, the Department of State has amended the terrorist designations of Jundallah to reflect the group’s new primary name Jaish al-Adl and associated aliases. These aliases have been added to the group’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and as an SDGT under EO 13224,” the State Department said.
The department also reviewed and maintained the FTO designation of Jundallah. “Today’s actions seek to deny Hazzima, BLA, and Jaish al-Adl the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. All of their property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.”
The State Department further said that Jundallah, which was designated as an FTO and SDGT in 2010, began using the new name Jaish al-Adl and associated aliases in 2012. “Since its inception, the group has engaged in numerous attacks that have killed scores of Iranian civilians and government officials, including a February, 2019 suicide bombing and the October 2018 kidnapping of Iranian security personnel,” the statement said.