* Pakistan angered by Indian PM's references to Baluchistan
* Rebel leader refuses peace talks with Pakistan govt
* Vows to continue to attack Chinese-funded construction
* Rebels deny targeting citizens, say focus on "traitors"
By Asad Hashim
ISLAMABAD, Sept 29 The elusive leader of a major
rebel group fighting for independence in Pakistan's Baluchistan
province said he would welcome cash and other help from India,
words likely to alarm Islamabad which accuses New Delhi of
stirring trouble there.
In his first video interview in five years, Allah Nazar
Baloch, head of the ethnic Baluch group Baluchistan Liberation
Front (BLF), also vowed further attacks on a Chinese economic
corridor, parts of which run through the resource-rich province.
The planned $46 billion trade route is expected to link
western China with Pakistan's Arabian Sea via a network of
roads, railways and energy pipelines.
"We not only wish India should support the Baluch national
struggle diplomatically and financially, but the whole world,"
said Baloch, a doctor-turned-guerrilla believed to be about 50,
in filmed responses to questions sent by Reuters.
Baloch's appeal for Indian help may deepen Pakistani
suspicions that India has a hand in a decades-old insurgency in
the vast southwestern province.
Historically fraught relations between the nuclear-armed
neighbours deteriorated this month after 18 Indian soldiers in
Kashmir were killed in an attack on an army base that New Delhi
blames on Pakistan. Pakistan denies the accusation.
In the buildup to the raid, Pakistan had voiced outrage over
the crackdown on protests in India's part of the Muslim-majority
region, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit back by
accusing Pakistan of atrocities in Baluchistan.
Baloch, leader of one of three main armed groups fighting
for Baluchistan's independence, said that while he wanted
support from India, the BLF had not received funding from Modi's
government, or India's spy agency, the Research and Analysis
"We welcome the statement that Narendra Modi gave to morally
support the Baluch nation," added Baloch, clad in a traditional
beige shalwar kurta outfit, with an automatic rifle across his
lap and ammunition hanging from his belt.
Pakistan's military had no comment on Baloch's interview.
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Baloch is the only leader of a sizeable separatist group who
is believed to be waging a guerrilla war from inside
Baluchistan; the other two leaders are in exile in Europe.
Security analysts say his fighters stage most of the attacks
in the province and have borne the brunt of army operations
against the insurgency. Reuters has not been able to establish
the scale of the BLF campaign.
Pakistan has long suspected India of stoking the Baluchistan
rebellion. Those fears grew in March when Pakistan arrested a
man it said was a RAW spy in Baluchistan, and accused him of
"subversive activities". India denied he was a spy.
Brahamdagh Bugti, the Switzerland-based leader of the
Balochistan Republican Party, another major separatist outfit,
last week told Indian media that he planned to seek "political
asylum" in India.
BLF chief Baloch claims to have "thousands" of fighters.
Domestic news coverage of the Baluchistan conflict is rare and
foreign journalists are broadly forbidden from visiting the
Baloch answered questions in a video recording, which was
Although the exact date of the recording could not be
verified, he was responding to questions sent by Reuters six
weeks ago. His responses contradicted government claims that he
had been killed last year.
China's investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC) has brought fresh focus on Baluchistan, which is endowed
with rich but largely unexploited reserves of copper and gold.
Several planned CPEC routes will snake across Baluchistan to
its deep-sea port in Gwadar.
Chronic instability in the province, which has experienced
waves of revolt by Baluch nationalists since it was formally
incorporated into Pakistan in 1948, is a source of concern for
China, which has appealed to Pakistan to improve security.
Baloch, speaking from an undisclosed location, called CPEC a
Chinese "imperialistic scheme", and vowed to attack roads,
security personnel and construction crews associated with it.
Government officials say security has improved.
They point to freshly-paved CPEC roads, built at breakneck
speed despite Baluchistan's rugged terrain, as proof of success.
To allay Chinese fears, Pakistan is also raising a force of
15,000 personnel, mainly serving army soldiers, to secure the
But risks remain. Frontier Works Organization, the army-run
company building most of the CPEC roads in dangerous areas, said
44 workers had been killed and about 100 wounded in attacks on
its CPEC sites over the past two years.
"We are attacking the CPEC project every day. Because it is
aimed to turn the Baluch population into a minority. It is
looting, plundering and taking away our resources," Baloch said.
Baloch and other separatists fear that indigenous Baluch
people, who are estimated to number about 7 million people out
of Pakistan's 190 million population, will become an ethnic
minority in their ancestral lands if other groups flock to the
region to work on exploiting its natural resources.
The rebel leader alleged that 150,000 people had been
evicted from the route of the trade corridor by security forces
to clear the way for roads and other infrastructure.
Pakistan's military, which manages security for most of the
province, did not comment on the number.
Human rights activists say that thousands of people have
been killed or arbitrarily detained in Baluchistan by the
military, a charge Pakistani security forces deny.
Charges of abuse have also been levelled at rebel groups,
including the BLF, which are accused of targeting non-Baluch
citizens as part of their rebellion.
Baloch denied BLF killed civilians, but said his group did
go after "traitors".
Asked if he would be open to negotiations with the Pakistani
state, the rebel chief was clear: there would be no dialogue
with what he considered "the biggest terrorist country".
"There will be no negotiations with Pakistan without
national independence and without the presence of the United
Nations," he said. "Our destination is independence."
(Editing by Mike Collett-White and Drazen Jorgic)