The unrest in Pakistan's south-western Balochistan province threatens to dent the military operation against the Taliban militants and its economy, a news report has said.
The Baloch nationalists in the province have for decades waged a separatist struggle, accusing the central government in Islamabad of exploiting the region by failing to give its people the appropriate share of royalties from the gas reserves, the country's largest. The unrest threatens to distract the security forces from tackling Taliban militants along the restive Pak-Afghan border, most of which abuts Baluchistan, the Financial Times reported.
"It is a very grim situation and in many respects is deteriorating," said a senior security official in Quetta, the provincial capital. "[Separatists] are openly telling the Punjabis, 'Leave while you can, otherwise your corpses will be sent back.' While everyone is worried about Swat, Balochistan is getting out of control," he was quoted as saying by the British daily.
A senior western diplomat said if Pakistan fails to stabilise Balochistan, "plans for stabilising Afghanistan will suffer". "Stability in Balochistan and dealing with (Baloch) nationalists is essential in order for the government to focus on the Pak-Afghan border." The unrest has already prompted China to suspend plans to build Pakistan's largest oil refinery in Gwadar, where Beijing has financed the construction of a deep-water port, the report said.