Beyond symbolism – TBP Editorial

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On June 29 at 10am, four armed men stormed Pakistan Stock Exchange’s (PSE) building in Karachi with an apparent intent to penetrate the building and set up a siege. The battle resulted in the four deaths and six injuries of security personnel and the deaths of all four attackers. Baloch insurgent group, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed the responsibility for the attack stating that they aimed at hurting Pakistan as well as China’s economy as China held 40% shares in the PSE.

According to a statement by the Chairman PSE, they had a foolproof security plan and there were 25 guards of a private security firm including police commandoes stationed at the building, holding the posts at a three-layer protective system of the building. However, the heavily armed men succeeded in crossing the three layers but at the cost of their lives.

It is evident that the attack held symbolic value but the capabilities that BLA showed on June 29th were beyond symbolism.

Chief Minister Sindh, Mr. Murad Ali Shah in his address said if the attack was not thwarted it would have harmed Pakistan more than the attack on World Trade Centre harmed America. It might sound exaggerated but Mr Shah was not wrong as Pakistan’s fragile economy is lingering at the brink of being collapsed and an attack on the confidence of investors in Pakistan at such a crucial moment in history would have definitely worked as the final nail in the coffin of Pakistani economy.

Unlike what was claimed in the media, the Pakistani economy did feel the shock wave of the attack within a few hours, a sell-off was started which pulled the index down to intra-day low by 220 points. Similarly, the already deteriorating value of Pakistani rupee depreciated the very next day by 0.3% against the US dollar, settling at 167.6.

Whereas, the economic shock that Pakistan felt in the aftermath of the attack, the most concerning truth which was revealed on Pakistan’s security establishment was that insurgency in Balochistan has crept out of the boundaries of Balochistan and the insurgents have built capabilities of attacking Pakistan’s economic hub, Karachi and the most secure buildings (Chinese Consulate and PSE building) twice within a short span of time.

According to security analysts, the type of arms and ammunition used by the insurgents in the attack depicted that BLA has gained access to the underground arms market which was visible by the availability of a ‘multiple grenade launcher’ in the hands of attackers.

The attack also highlighted that BLA has entered a new era of Urban guerrilla warfare in its decades-long insurgency. According to the statement released by the BLA, they had the complete support of the Sindhi nation which tells that the attack was not an incursion in the neighbouring territory (Sindh) but was an invitation to join hands against the common enemy. This could indicate more collaborative attacks in the future.

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