WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tues­day designated the Balo­chistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist group, making it a crime for anyone in the US to assist the militants. The action paves the way for similar actions by the United Nations and other states.

In a separate statement, the US Department of Treasury has also frozen all BLA assets in the United States and forbidden American citizens across the globe from having any financial dealings with the entity or the people associated with it.

The Foreign Office in Islamabad welcomed the US decision, hoping that the designation would ensure that BLA’s space to operate was minimised. “It is important that the perpetrators, organisers, financers and external sponsors, including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan, are held accountable and brought to justice,” the FO said in a statement.

The US State Department also describes the group’s activities as terrorism, while the European Union calls it a terrorist organisation.

The designation follows improvement in relations between the United States and Pakistan, which is now playing a key role in persuading the Taliban to reach a peace deal with Washington and Kabul.

Last week, officials in Washington and Islamabad indicated that Prime Minister Imran Khan might visit the US capital later this month for a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.

A notification by the US Treasury Department identified the BLA as a militant organisation based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, noting that it was also known as the Baloch Liberation Army.

The BLA is listed as a terrorist organisation in Pakistan and the United Kingdom as well. An updated list, issued by the National Assembly in October 2012, included the BLA among 50 militant groups not allowed to function in Pakistan.

The British Home Office included the BLA on its list of proscribed organisations in July 2006. London, however, allows BLA leader Hyrbyair Marri to stay in Britain as a refugee, ignoring Pakistan’s protests.

Since 2004, the BLA has waged an armed insurgency, operating mainly in Balochistan where it carries out attacks on both civilian and government targets.

Recently, the BLA claimed responsibility for the Nov 23, 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi that killed four people. Later, the mastermind of the attack, Aslam Baloch alias Achhu, was killed along with five other militants in Kandahar.

On May 11 this year, the BLA claimed responsibility for an attack on the Zaver Pearl-Continental Hotel in Gwadar, killing five people.

The US Treasury Department also announced other changes to its designation list, including Jundallah, aka the Baloch People’s Resistance Movement, as a terrorist group.

The notification points out that Jundallah was formerly known as Jundallah of Iran and Jonbesh Moqavemat Mardom-i-Iran. The announcement said that the group, which had operated under various other names as well, had been active in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd , 2019