Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a dramatic increase in attacks by banned Baloch separatist groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, with security forces being specifically targeted. Authorities have been pointing fingers at neighboring India, Afghanistan and Iran since the latest terrorist attacks in Balochistan’s Panjgur and Noshki districts, while observers believe a coalition of Baloch militant groups is behind the attacks.
On February 3, seven personnel, including an army officer, were killed in an attack on terrorist security forces camps in Panjgur and Noshki, while an army spokesman, ISPR, claimed to have killed 13 militants.
Bashir Zeb is the leader of the faction of the banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) operating in Balochistan, which has claimed responsibility for the attack. Federal and provincial interior ministers have accused Baloch separatist groups of receiving support from neighboring countries, including Afghanistan and India, as well as Iran.
Mir Ziaullah Langu, Advisor to the Chief Minister Balochistan on Home Affairs, has said that terrorist organizations in Balochistan are getting support from Afghanistan and India and non-state elements are also taking advantage of Iranian territory.
According to him, Pakistan has raised the issue with Iran and the Tehran authorities have assured action against non-state elements.
The Taliban government in India, Iran and Afghanistan has not officially responded to Pakistan’s allegations of foreign aid to terrorists. However, speaking to VOA, a member of the Afghan Taliban’s Interior Ministry’s media cell said that Afghan territory was not being used for terrorism against any country.
According to him, whether it is the issue of Baloch separatists or the TTP, it is a matter of Pakistan’s internal security.
Pakistan’s Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has acknowledged that terrorist attacks have increased in the past few weeks. The Federal Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a security alert and directed the police and security agencies of the four provinces and Pakistan-administered Kashmir to remain vigilant.
‘Attacks in Balochistan are new phase of insurgency’
Voice of America spoke to security experts, law enforcement officials, Balochistan political analysts, and local journalists familiar with the affairs of Baloch separatist groups to find out the reasons behind the escalation of terrorism in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. Is.
Abdul Basit, a researcher at the KS Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, says the growing attacks by Baloch separatist groups in Balochistan are in fact a “new phase” in the province’s 15-year-old insurgency.
According to him, “Islamabad is increasing pressure on the Taliban government to eliminate the hideouts of Baloch militants in Afghanistan, forcing a large number of Baloch militants to leave the Afghan provinces of Nimroz and Kandahar and return to Balochistan.” Or they are hiding in Iran, which is considered one of the reasons for the increase in terrorism in Balochistan. “
Speaking to VOA, Abdul Basit said that after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, anti-state groups active in Pakistan (TTP, Baloch separatists) have either resolved their internal differences in view of the changing situation in the region. They have moved towards integration or they have formed an alliance with each other.
Pakistan has claimed that there are safe havens for Baloch militant groups in Afghanistan. India has been accused of backing him in this regard but India has always denied such allegations.
A political leader in the Balochistan city of Turbat says that Baloch people living in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province have relations with each other and crossing the border is normal.
On condition of anonymity for security reasons, he said that whether it was criminals from Lyari area of Karachi or Baloch belonging to a separatist group, it was not difficult for them to hide in the border province of Iran.
According to him, “Sunni Baloch organizations like Jaish-ul-Adl or Jundallah active against the Iranian government in Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran have also been taking refuge in Balochistan of Pakistan.”
Why the increase in attacks in Makran region?
Researcher Abdul Basit thinks active militants in Balochistan are led by European tribal chiefs
Attacks in the province have also increased as non-tribal and middle class resistance fighters have moved out of the country.
Abdul Basit believes that there has been an increase in attacks by Baloch separatist groups in the Makran region because most of the militants belonging to these groups belong to those areas. According to him, the tribal insurgents mostly belong to the Bugti, Murree and Mengal tribes.
According to the annual report of the Islamabad-based security think tank Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), in 2021, Balochistan will be the second most terror-hit province in the country after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 136 people were killed in 81 acts of terrorism. More than 300 have been injured.
Among the terrorist attacks, 71 were carried out by Baloch militant groups, mostly targeting security personnel.
According to the PIPS security report, the highest number of 19 attacks in Balochistan took place in Ketch district where security forces have been attacked in the past as well.
The reason for the increase in attacks is the alliance of Baloch organizations?
Activist field commanders in Balochistan have either formed new factions or merged with the Baloch Liberation Army of Europe, the Baloch Republican Army of Brahmadagh Bugti and the United Baloch Army of Mehran Murree. established.
Organizations active in Balochistan had formed an alliance called ‘Brass’ in July 2020 to target Chinese interests in Pakistan. The Baloch Republican Army and Bakhtiar Domki’s Baloch Republican Guards. Later, the Sindh Revolutionary Army, a militant organization in Sindh, also allied with Brass.
Now Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has claimed that the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has the support of Baloch separatist organizations.
Fahad Nabil, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research, a security think tank based in Islamabad, says the TTP and Baloch separatist groups have different views, but actions against the state of Pakistan force them to unite.
Speaking to VOA, he echoed Sheikh Rashid’s statement, saying that due to the mutual support of TTP and Baloch separatist organizations, terrorist activities in Pakistan are on the rise.
The role of Majid Brigade
The BLA claimed responsibility for the recent attacks in Panjgur and Nushki and said in a statement that the attack was carried out by the attackers of its “Majid Brigade” whose pictures have also been released.
The Majeed Brigade was formed by BLA Field Commander Aslam Baloch alias Achho. The organization was formally announced in March 2010, but its first activity took place on December 30, 2011 in Quetta.
The Majeed Brigade had detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at the house of Shafiq Mengal, son of former Federal Minister Naseer Mengal, killing 13 people and injuring 30 others. The organization remained inactive for almost seven years after the incident.
In 2017, differences escalated with Harbiyar Murree, head of Aslam Baloch’s Europe-based organization, who reactivated the Majeed Brigade in an operation in Dalbandin in August 2018 in which his son Rehan Baloch took part.
In the Majeed Brigade operation, a suicide attack was carried out on the bus of Chinese engineers in which three Chinese engineers and five others were injured.
The third attack of Majeed Brigade was carried out on November 23, 2018 at the Chinese Consulate in Karachi. Majeed Brigade also claimed responsibility for the attack on PC Hotel in Gwadar in May 2019 and Karachi Stock Exchange in June 2020.
The Majeed Brigade is named after Majeed Lango, a young man affiliated with the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) who was killed in a grenade attack on a meeting of the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Quetta in August 1975. It was later reported that the young man intended to attack Bhutto.
In a report by the American think tank Jamestown Foundation, security expert Farhan Zahid writes that the militants of ‘Majid Brigade’ use sophisticated weapons in their operations. The weapons include improvised explosive devices (IEDs), anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, grenades, RPGs and various automatic weapons, as well as BM-12 107mm, 109mm rockets.
Rehan Baloch, a leader of the Majeed Brigade, said in an interview with news websites of Baloch militant organizations that the Majeed Brigade consists of an operational, logistical and intelligence unit.
According to him, the mercenaries of the operational unit go on the target and carry out mercenary attacks.
According to Hamal Baloch, the brigade commander is directly accountable to the BLA chief.
A senior Quetta-based law enforcement official said the Majeed Brigade sets its target in view of its political, symbolic and international significance.
Speaking to Provision of America on condition of anonymity, the security official said that if there is an attack on the FC headquarters or the building of the Chinese Embassy, Karachi Stock Exchange, then the action should be taken against the PC Hotel in Gwadar. The main purpose of the BLA is to spread its terror internationally.
According to him, the BLA also carried out attacks in Noshki and Panjgur at a time when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a visit to China.
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