ISLAMABAD, April 9: The government on Sunday banned the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) after declaring it as a terrorist organisation for its alleged involvement in terrorist activities. According to a notification issued by the interior ministry, the BLA is headed by some tribal leaders.

However, a news agency quoted Balochistan police chief as saying that Balach Marri, an MPA, heads the group and he will now lose his assembly seat.

The notification has been sent to provincial governments for action against the outfit.

The federal government exercised its powers under section 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, to declare the BLA a terrorist organisation.

The decision was made after the government cancelled the arms licences issued earlier to main nationalist leaders in Balochistan.

According to evidences collected by the federal government, the notification said, the BLA was involved in sabotage activities, including rocket attacks on national installations, civilian population and security forces. It was also accused of laying landmines in various parts of the province.

Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told reporters that anyone associated with the BLA or supporting its terrorist activities would be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

He said the investigation into several past terrorist acts found that majority of the incidents had been planned, engineered and executed by BLA operatives to create a situation of anarchy in Balochistan.

The offices of the BLA operating anywhere in the country, he said, would be sealed and bank accounts associated with it would be frozen immediately.

The interior secretary said no prominent leader of the BLA had been arrested. He, however, added that several of its operatives had been caught who had admitted to their involvement in terrorist activities.

He said intelligence agencies had credible evidence that the BLA operated with foreign support, adding “the organisation is being financed from certain foreign sources.”

He pointed out that the BLA had ‘farrari camps’ to train its workers to carry out acts of sabotage.

Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Muhammad Jamali, also a former chief minister of Balochistan, recently accused Indian consulates in Afghanistan of assisting terrorist activities of the BLA.

The reported objective of the BLA is to obtain the ‘right of independence’ for the people of Balochistan.

Agencies add: Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan in an interview to PTV World said: “Balochistan Liberation Army has been proscribed for the reason that they were involved in terrorist activities.”

The minister pointed out that for a couple of months the BLA had been involved in blowing up railway tracks and electric towers. “They themselves have admitted responsibility of these actions,” he said.

The government kept a watch on them and now it has decided to proscribe them, he said.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the people arrested had revealed that they were being paid for damaging national assets and disturbing the law and order situation.

He said it was imperative to ban the BLA as it was playing with the lives of innocent people.

Talking to AFP, Balochistan police chief Chaudhry Mohammed Yaqub said the group was now officially a terrorist organisation, its name could not appear in the media.

He said the group was allegedly led by Balach Marri, an MPA who is facing several criminal charges, including landmine blasts and bomb explosions.

“He will now lose his seat in the provincial assembly,” he said.

The BLA leader’s brother Gazin Marri, who was provincial home minister from 1993-96, was arrested in Dubai late last month on the charge of money laundering, the police chief said.

“This confirms our belief that the group had been receiving funds from abroad,” he said.

The BLA last week claimed responsibility for killing five tribal policemen and a private security official guarding an oil and gas exploration site in Bolan.

It has also been claiming landmine attacks on gas pipelines and railway lines in the province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The group also claimed a recent attack on power lines that plunged more than half the province into darkness.

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