Pakistan Economic Jugular Vein Under Attack

That Pakistan has successfully averted a profound lethal attack on its economy on Monday, June 29 2020 is a fact.

Not only did the security personnel deployed on Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) effectively thwart the enemy’s designs by laying down their lives, trading on the bourse encountered no disruptions; the bourse in fact ended on a positive note on a day when it faced the deadliest attack on its functioning or existence in the entire history of country’s financial markets.

The personnel of law enforcement agencies and private security companies, therefore, deserve rich tributes for their prompt action and valor through which they have successfully protected and preserved the economic or financial propriety of a stock market that carries the reputation of one of the best performing stock markets in the world despite country’s growing economic woes which have been deepened by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The success of the Pakistan Stock Exchange even in the midst of this pandemic appears to be a thorn in the side of the forces that are inimical to the economic and other interests of this nation of over 200 million people.

In other words, the bourse has been continually frustrating enemy’s designs to create a negative image of the country in the eyes of foreign investors.

The PSX is situated at one end of II Chundrigar Road (named after a former prime minister of the country) or the “Wall Street” from where country’s principal seaport is on a few minutes drive.

These thoroughfare houses, among other establishments, the State Bank of Pakistan, the headquarters of national and multinational banks, and city’s main railway station from where all trains of passengers and goods originate for upcountry.

The road that runs parallel to II Chundrigar Road, MA Jinnah Road (named after the founder of Pakistan), is full of wholesale markets of a variety of goods.

The successful execution of a terror plan, which was purportedly aimed at mass killings and hostage-taking inside stock exchange’s trading hall, would have certainly caused immense harm to country’s foreign investment prospects in particular; it would have also created a strong sense of panic or extreme nervousness in all the markets, including financial markets, in Pakistan.

The responsibility of the attack, however unsuccessful, is said to have been claimed by Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). But the insurgents must have found to their utter chagrin that after this or similar militant acts that they had carried out in the past, including attacks on Chinese consulate in Karachi and a five-star hotel in Gwadar, they’re widely perceived and increasingly described as a catspaw of country’s ambitious enemy which is presently involved in a nasty standoff with China regardless of the merit of their own set of grievances, including the one relating to missing persons, against the state.

The PSX incident is closely preceded by PTI-led ruling coalition’s loss of one of its allies, BNM-Mengal from Balochistan, on the eve of presentation of country’s national budget for fiscal year 2020-21 and prime minister Imran Khan’s seemingly knee-jerk reaction to this development through his order for implementation of six percent reserved quota for this province in federal government jobs.

But it was too little and too late to deal with the exit of Mengal’s party and its contribution to the deepening sense of alienation in the country’s largest province in terms of area.

It is about time the federal government revisited its strategy in relation to Balochistan through an approach that displays not only its sincerity of purpose but also a strong political will.

Not only will it successfully persuade Sardar Akhtar Mengal to rejoin the coalition, but it will also help dilute the arguable credibility of insurgents’ narrative with a view to providing the government with an opportunity to wean their supporters and sympathizers away from them.

The prime minister must not lose sight of the fact that all the four attackers who were eliminated by security forces outside the main building but on the premises of PSX reportedly hailed from Balochistan’s vast coastal swathes of Mekran; none of them belonged to the areas such as Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Khuzdar, which are strongly characterized by the hold or sway of sardari (chieftainship) system.

Moreover, one of the Baloch insugents killed yesterday is said to be a poet of considerable repute. The government must accord high importance to the fact that ambiguity has always surrounded the power of local rulers or chieftains.

It must therefore, take these factors into consideration in order to fully appreciate the contours of the Baloch insurgency, however low, before it decides to reach out to all disgruntled Baloch people residing inside and outside Balochistan by initiating a concerted effort aimed at hosing down the simmering cauldron of Balochistan on a permanent basis.

In this regard, the government would be required to take a leaf out of Henry Pottinger’s book. According to the first governor of Hong Kong, who was also an authority on Balochistan, for example, once through to the Mekran region, the land became increasingly lawless.–Editors

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