At least 10 laborers were killed in Balochistan’s Gwadar district on Saturday as unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site where they were working, Levies sources said.
Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire on a group of laborers working at a road in Gwadar’s Pishgan area, killing eight of them on the spot, Levies sources confirmed.
A spokesman for the separatist Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the incident in a telephone call to AFP.
Two of the injured laborers succumbed to gunshot wounds while they were being rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital, they added.
Local administration official Munir Zamari told AFP there were two gunmen riding on motorbikes who opened fire on the construction workers at the site in Ganz — a desolate coastal village on the Makran coast, 50 kilometers from Gwadar.
The assailants attacked the men at two separate construction sites three kilometers apart along the same road. They then fled the scene.
“All the laborers were shot at close range,” said senior levies official Muhammad Zareef.
The slain laborers belonged to Sindh’s Naushahro Feroze district. Their remains will be handed over to their family members later in the day.
Frontier Corps, police and levies personnel have reached the spot and an investigation is underway.
Security challenges facing Balochistan and CPEC
The shooting incident occurs as Pakistan and China ink agreements aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors between the two countries on the sidelines of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum, which is underway in Beijing at the moment. The $62 billion China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of the OBOT. PM Sharif is attending the OBOR conference.
China is also developing the warm water Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian seashore, a prominent feature of the CPEC plan. The CPEC project — with an investment of $46 billion and the Gwadar port as its lynchpin — is billed to be a ‘game-changer’ and manifestation of strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.
Though the road where the laborers were working was not a specific CPEC-funded project, it was a part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor ─ a common target for separatists militants who view construction projects as a means to take over their land.
The government has deployed a Maritime Security Force (MSF) and Special Security Division (SSD) to protect projects under CPEC, including Gwadar and other coastal areas, and ensure safety of locals, Chinese and other foreigners working on CPEC projects.
Security officials have said previously that militants trying to disrupt construction on the CPEC have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of whom were Pakistani but often hailing from other provinces.