Quetta - Gunmen Saturday opened fire on construction workers, killing 10 in Gwadar - the emerging port city which is expected to serve as hub of regional and transnational trade in near future.

Mineral-rich Balochistan, where Gwader is located, has been plagued for decades by a separatist insurgency and sectarian killings and gunmen have previously targeted labourers seen as outsiders in the region.

The shootings come a day after a suicide bomber targeting Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri killed 28 people and injured 40. Haideri himself survived the Friday’s attack - claimed by Islamic State - in Mastung.

Ten labourers were gunned down while working on link roads to connect outlying towns to the country’s $57-billion Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative, security officials confirmed.

“Two gunmen riding on motorbikes opened fire on a group of construction workers in Peshukan Ganz town of Gwadar,” local administration official Munir Zamari told a foreign news agency. “One worker sustained injuries and he is being treated at a local hospital,” he added.

The incident, which came some 20 kilometres from the main Gwadar city, was also confirmed by Gwadar Deputy Commissioner Naeem Bazai, who said that all the workers were from Naushahro Feroze district of Sindh.

AFP reported that a spokesman for the separatist Baloch Liberation Army had claimed responsibility for the incident in a telephone call to the news agency.

The men killed and wounded on Saturday had been working for a private construction company on a provincial government project at two separate construction sites, three kilometres apart along the same road at Peshukan and Ganz areas, according to Makran Division Commissioner Bashir Bangulzai.

“Eight labourers embraced martyrdom on spot, while two were seriously wounded – of which one worker succumbed to injuries on way to hospital,” Gwadar DC Naeem Bazai told The Nation. Another worker was separately shot dead at Ganz by the same attackers while he was constructing a boundary wall.

“All the labourers were shot at close range,” said senior levies official Muhammad Zareef. The levies are a paramilitary force that oversees security in Balochistan where police jurisdiction is limited to major urban centres.

“I saw two men coming from Peshukan side and I talked to them in Balochi,” Qadir Bakhsh, an eyewitness told The Nation. “They asked me to step aside, displaying their guns. They told Sindhi labourers to stand in a line and then they shot them in the head one after another.”

Qadir Bakhsh said the dead labourers had been working at different projects in and around Gwader for last one and a half years. He said there was no security arrangement for them at the site they were killed.

But district administration officials claimed the workers had come from Sindh to work in Balochistan only a month ago.

The law enforcement agencies rushed to the murder sites and launched a search after cordoning off the area; however, no arrest had been made till the filing of this report.

Nine of the ten dead were identified as Muhammad Khan, Ali Dost, Shuban, Abdul Hakim, Rasool Bakhsh, Waheed, Zaheer and Sadam. The surviving worker was identified as Hazoor Bakhsh.

The funeral prayer of martyred workers was offered at Senator Marwoom Ishaq Cricket Ground at 3pm.

Edhi sources said the head of the welfare organisation, Faisal Edhi, had left for Gwadar along with ambulances and he will transport the dead bodies to Karachi, from where they will be transported to their respective areas in Sindh.

Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri denounced the gruesome incident and dubbed the act as a futile attempt of terrorists to hinder the progress and development of Gwadar and Balochistan.

The roads the labourers were working on are not specific CPEC-funded projects, but they are part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor.

The gruesome murders by a separatist organisation just a day after the deadly IS attack on Haideri’s convey in Balochistan shows the gravity of security challenge in the province.

 

 

Security meeting

Following the Mastung and Gwadar terrorist attacks, a high level security coordination conference was held in Southern Command headquarters on Saturday to review the security situation in province.

The moot was attended by Commander Southern Command Lt-General Aamir Riaz, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Chief Secretary Auranzab Haq, Additional Inspector General of Police and other senior civil and military officials.

The participants discussed the challenges being faced by the security and law enforcement agencies in view of militant and terrorist activities and expressed their resolve to bring enduring peace and stability in the province through a comprehensive and coordinated joint response. The participants also offered Fatiha for the martyred of Mastung and Gwadar incidents.

 

 

Security challenges

Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.

A greater push towards peace and development by Pakistani authorities has reduced the violence considerably in recent years.

The push includes starting work on a massive Chinese infrastructure project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – which gives Beijing a route to the Arabian Sea through Balochistan that forms the southern hub of CPEC.

Gwadar’s deep-water port is the exit point for the planned route from China’s far-western Xinjiang region to the Arabian Sea.

Nadeem Javaid, who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and works closely on the CPEC program, told Reuters earlier in the week that the Gwadar-Xinjiang corridor should be operational from June next year. He said Pakistan expects up to 4 percent of global trade to pass through it by 2020.

But all this development still faces serious security concerns. Separatist militants in the province have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.

Security officials have said previously that militants trying to disrupt construction on the “economic corridor” have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of whom were Pakistani.

Pakistan’s military created an army division in 2015, believed to number more than 10,000 troops, specifically to protect CPEC projects and Chinese workers.

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Sanaullah Zehri denounced the gruesome incident and dubbed the act as a futile attempt of terrorists to hinder the progress and development of Gwadar and Balochistan.

The roads the labourers were working on are not specific CPEC-funded projects, but they are part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor.

The gruesome murders by a separatist organisation just a day after the deadly IS attack on Haideri’s convey in Balochistan shows the gravity of security challenge in the province.

Security meeting

Following the Mastung and Gwadar terrorist attacks, a high level security coordination conference was held in Southern Command headquarters on Saturday to review the security situation in province.

The moot was attended by Commander Southern Command Lt-General Aamir Riaz, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Chief Secretary Auranzab Haq, Additional Inspector General of Police and other senior civil and military officials.

The participants discussed the challenges being faced by the security and law enforcement agencies in view of militant and terrorist activities and expressed their resolve to bring enduring peace and stability in the province through a comprehensive and coordinated joint response. The participants also offered Fatiha for the martyred of Mastung and Gwadar incidents.

Security challenges

Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.

A greater push towards peace and development by Pakistani authorities has reduced the violence considerably in recent years.

The push includes starting work on a massive Chinese infrastructure project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – which gives Beijing a route to the Arabian Sea through Balochistan that forms the southern hub of CPEC.

Gwadar’s deep-water port is the exit point for the planned route from China’s far-western Xinjiang region to the Arabian Sea.

Nadeem Javaid, who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and works closely on the CPEC program, told Reuters earlier in the week that the Gwadar-Xinjiang corridor should be operational from June next year. He said Pakistan expects up to 4 percent of global trade to pass through it by 2020.

But all this development still faces serious security concerns. Separatist militants in the province have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.

Security officials have said previously that militants trying to disrupt construction on the “economic corridor” have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of whom were Pakistani.

Pakistan’s military created an army division in 2015, believed to number more than 10,000 troops, specifically to protect CPEC projects and Chinese workers.