Pakistan seeks peace with anti-China Baloch rebels

When Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged recently to start talks with Balochistan’s entrenched and restive armed insurgents, it was not clear he was moved by the economically deprived and politically emasculated state of the nation’s largest province.

Nor was his outreach likely motivated by any assessment long-active Baloch insurgent groups had become too weak to continue their hit-and-run campaign.

Instead, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government appears to have belatedly awakened to the grave threat the rising Baloch insurgency poses to the China and Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and how the security and political situation in Balochistan could deteriorate in the wake of the Taliban’s resurgence in next-door Afghanistan.

The province, with its strategic port of Gwadar where China is pouring in billions of dollars in investment funds, is a vital territory within the wider US$60 billion CPEC.

At the same time, Balochistan has also historically been a secure political base for the Afghan Taliban’s leadership, or Quetta Shura, and is now arguably turning into a confluence area of religiously inspired militancy and long-standing ethnic insurgency.

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