New Delhi: Within a week, the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) struck Pakistani security forces twice in Balochistan – in Panjgur and Noshki districts on Wednesday and at a checkpoint in Kech on January 25.
The BLA has led an insurgency since 2000 and has been classified as a terrorist group by Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. He was responsible for the June 2020 attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi, Sindh province, resulting in the death of a police sub-inspector and four security officers, as well as the Quetta explosion in April 2021which killed at least four people.
The scale of recent attacks carried out by the BLA has been described as “unprecedented”, and there are suspicions that it may receive help from outlawed groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) despite their different aims.
Naveed Elahi, Pakistan Security Analyst noted in pakistan online newspaper DailyTimes this the attacks in Panjur and Noshki reflect a “gross intelligence failure”.
On Friday morning, more than 36 hours after the initial attack on the Pakistani military camp of Panjgur, the BLA noted he continued to have a hold in the area, claiming he had killed over 100 people.
Previously, the media branch of the Pakistani military had noted the attacks in Panjgur and Noshki were “repelled”, but “suspected assailants” were hiding in the area.
The “conflicting statements” have further fueled concerns about the situation in Balochistan.
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From “scattered killings” to targeting military camps
According to Daud Khattak, a journalist with “Mashaal Radio”, the Pashto-language radio station of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the targeting of military camps is a bold new move.
“Baloch militants are usually involved in scattered targeted killings and roadside bombings. Now we are seeing suicide bombings and skilled attacks on military camps,” he told ThePrint.
He added: “The last time we saw such audacious attacks was in 2009-2011 during the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) era. There was even the December 2009 mosque attack in Rawalpindi near the Pakistani army headquarters.
Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir said the TTP could likely provide support to the BLA to carry out the recent spate of attacks. “They [TTP and BLA] provide logistical support to each other but ideologically they are different,” he told ThePrint.
the goal of the TTP, which depends on the tribal belt along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, is to overthrow the Pakistani government and establish an emirate based on its interpretation of Islamic law. The BLA demands the independence of Pakistan and their main complaint is that the Pakistani government is exploiting the resources of Balochistan without sharing the benefits with the local tribes.
Some media reports hinted at Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China for the Winter Olympics, while referring to the situation in Balochistan, but a link seemed unlikely, Khattak said.
“Several analytical pieces mention that these incidents are related to Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing, but these attacks take time and recognition. They are planned for the long term. Khan’s visit was only recently confirmed,” he added.
‘Increased military capability’ of BLA, ‘links to TTP’
Ayesha Siddiqa, a senior researcher in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, called the attacks “unprecedented”.
“The sudden increase in the military capacity of the BLA is so far unexplained, but so is what it took for the military to regain control. This is why the attacks seem unprecedented,” she told ThePrint.
Siddiqa also hinted at links between the TTP and the BLA.
“BLA’s increased capacity deserves our attention. Are they in partnership with the PTT, who is known for this kind of operations or something else? ” she said.
According to Siddiqa, it is necessary to look at the change in leadership of the Baloch separatists coupled with the military repression factor in Balochistan in recent years.
“The Baloch insurgency is changing. The new leadership is now middle class and probably tired of state violence. Given their sudden increase in military capacity, I think they would be less ready for any political compromise than the surface tribal leaders,” she said.
In recent years, the BLA has garnered support in both urban and rural areas of Balochistan, independent of the traditional network of tribal leaders.
She observed that there are growing fears of other attacks of a similar magnitude.
“With these kinds of unprecedented attacks, the military could justify further action in Balochistan,” she said. “However, it is difficult to understand why, despite the use of helicopter gunships and firepower, they failed to regain control. Not some sort of smoke screen. There is a major security situation that needs to be explained.
On Friday, Baluchistan Provincial Interior Minister Mir Zia Langove was quoted in International news like saying that several threats had been issued by various terrorist organizations this month, during which he highlighted the fact that Pakistan shared a border with Iran.
“He said that through the border management committee, Iranian officials have been briefed on Pakistan’s concerns in this regard and received assurances from the other side,” the outlet said.
According to Mir, the BLA shares close ties with Jundullah (the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran), a Sunni insurgent group based in Sistan and Baluchestan in southeastern Iran, near the border with Pakistan.
Iran and Balochistan share a border of nearly 1,000 km.
“BLA has close contact with Jundullah who is active in Iranian Balochistan. They are Sunni extremists who are fighting for independence and also have the end goal of uniting all Baloch activists,” he said.
(Editing by Sunanda Ranjan)
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