QUETTA (AFP) -Pakistan has branded an underground militant group operating in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan a “terrorist” organisation.
“The federal government has declared Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) as terrorist organisation over its involvement in sabotage and subversive activities,” provincial police chief, Chaudhry Mohammad Yaqub, told AFP Sunday.
He said Baluchistan police had arrested an unspecified number of militants who confessed they had been receiving money and weapons from the group for attacks on government installations.
“BLA itself had been claiming responsibility after almost every incident,” Yaqub said.
He said now the group was officially a terrorist organisation, its name could not appear in the Pakistani media.
The police chief said the group was allegedly led by a provincial deputy, Balach Marri, who was facing several criminal charges including landmine blasts and bomb explosions.
“He will now lose his seat in the provincial assembly,” he said.
The BLA leader’s brother Gazin Marri, who served as provincial home minister from 1993-96, was arrested in Dubai late last month on charges of money laundering, he said.
“This confirms our belief that the group had been receiving funds from abroad,” Yaqub said without giving details.
Along with some nationalist tribes the BLA has been waging a sporadic revolt in recent years in sparsely populated Baluchistan to win more political rights and a greater share of profits from the region’s rich natural resources.
The government launched a fresh crackdown in Baluchistan after militants fired rockets in the town of Kohlu during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf last December.
BLA last week claimed responsibility for killing five tribal policemen and a private security official guarding an oil and gas exploration site in remote Bolan district.
It has also been claiming landmine attacks on gas pipelines and railway tracks in the province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. It also claimed responsibility for a recent attack on power pylons that plunged more than half the province into darkness.
Balach Marri told reporters in his hometown of Kahan last month: “I have no links with BLA but I appreciate their struggle because they are demanding complete control of Baluchis on their natural resources.”