ISLAMABAD - Vowing to support the Balochistan government in eliminating terrorists, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Wednesday sternly warned foreign states and international agencies to refrain from destabilising the province.

“We will unearth terrorists, their abettors, sympathisers and financers. None of them will find any place in the country to hide,” General Raheel Sharif said during his visit to Quetta.

Commander Southern Command Lt-Gen Nasir Khan Janjua received the army chief upon arrival.

According to the ISPR, the army chief also held meetings with the governor, the chief minister and the Commander Southern Command and reassured them that the Pakistan Army will go to any length for full restoration of the writ of the state.

Credible sources in the Balochistan government told The Nation that plans were afoot to expand military operation Zarb-e-Azb to Balochistan to tackle the challenge relating to terrorism.

The COAS also visited Frontier Corps Headquarters and reviewed security situation in the province. He reviewed the progress of FC operation against terrorists. Senior military officials, FC personnel and other high-ups attended the meeting.

The army chief commended law enforcement agencies and the Frontier Corps for noticeable law and order improvement. He vowed to stand by the people of Balochistan to bring peace and prosperity. He said that Frontier Works Organisation will continue development projects. He emphasised the need to adopt an integrated approach by civil and military leadership and law enforcers for a peaceful Balochistan.

FC Inspector General Major General Sher Afghan briefed the COAS about law and order situation in the province and search operations being carried out in Turbat and outskirts. General Raheel Sharif expressed grief over the recent brutal killing of innocent labourers by terrorists in Turbat. He said: “We will defeat terrorism comprehensively.”

Twenty construction workers were killed and three others were injured on Saturday when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat. The victims belonged to Sindh and Punjab, Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti had said at the time, adding that they were working for a private construction company and building a bridge over a stream in Gogdan. The banned Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the massacre, security was beefed up in and around Turbat. Patrolling by FC, Levies and police was increased in the town to keep a vigilant eye on the movement of suspects. On Monday, at least 13 suspected militants belonging to the BLF were killed in a raid by security forces near Turbat. The dead militants were allegedly involved in Saturday’s gun attack on labourers. Turbat is considered one of the most sensitive districts in Balochistan. It is also the hometown of Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch.

Upon his return to Islamabad, General Raheel Sharif called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and discussed the law and order situation in Balochistan. Their meeting, following the daylong visit of the army chief to Balochistan, gained more significance as it was probably the first time the military chief issued a public warning to foreign actors involved in destabilising the restive province.

Sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting informed The Nation that various options to contain the growing unrest and activities of insurgents came under discussion in the meeting and it was decided to work out a strategy to contain the insurgency and to bring peace and tranquillity to the restive province.

The COAS informed the prime minister about the evidence of foreign hand behind the killing of innocent labourers in Turbat and it was decided in the meeting that all state organs should be used to crush all those working on the nefarious plan to destabilise Balochistan.