Focusing on latest trends in Baloch insurgency
THE Government is primarily focused on surviving a determined challenge by the joint opposition in the shape of a no trust motion in the National Assembly.
The focus of the masses is also fixed on this event, courtesy the coverage by the electronic media of the latest developments on an hourly basis.
Under these circumstances, it is perfectly understandable, if our readers are not up to speed, on the increase in frequency and ferocity of the attacks carried out by militant Baloch groups, both in and outside Balochistan.
Militant or terrorist attacks in Balochistan are not limited only to the Baloch separatist groups; rather such attacks have also been carried out by both TTP and the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K).
In this short piece, however, I propose to focus on the secular – separatist Baloch groups, and on the latest changing trends observed in the leadership, operations and strategy of these groups.
The emergence of multiple factions and alliances reflect a marked change in the structure and leadership of the insurgent groups.
Traditionally Baloch nationalists’ and separatists’ struggle was led by tribal elders or sardars.
But now groups like BLF; BRAS and BNA are largely led by middle class educated Baluch youths.
These separatist groups contain a certain degree of dissatisfaction with traditional Baloch separatist leaders who live abroad in comfortable self-exile.
The new crop of Bloch insurgents are politically radicalized and are striving to convert a tribal uprising into a full-fledged guerrilla warfare.
The previous feudal leadership of the insurgency was amenable to compromise and reconciliation due to personal and family interests.
The present leadership has no such compulsions as they come from the lower strata of society and are not part of the elite power grab.
All these factors and trends have made the Baluch insurgency more formidable and complex.
Under the new leadership and changing pattern of strategy, these Baloch militant groups have ratcheted up their attacks.
Since January of this year, various Baloch groups have carried out at least 17 attacks, including two against security forces.
These attacks killed more than 50 and injured over 100 people. The deadly guerrilla cell of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army called the Majeed Brigade has carried out eight attacks this year.
These attacks have included certain major fidayeen style attacks in Nushki, Punjgur and Sibi districts.
A number of Baloch insurgents are active in Balochistan, including the BLA, the Baluch Republican Army (BRA); the Baloch Republican guard, BLF and the Baloch Raji Aajoi Saanger that is an umbrella grouping of Baloch insurgent outfits.
While most of the attacks of these groups took place inside Balochistan; the new formed insurgent group the BNA also conducted bomb blasts in Lahore.
In February of this year, the Majeed Brigade of BLA, carried out two major gun battles and suicide bomb attacks against FC camps in Panjgur and Nushki districts.
Hundreds of soldiers are usually housed in these camps.Militants not only successfully infiltrated these camps; but kept the troops engaged for over three days.
In the month of March, the BLA militant targeted a FC Convoy with an IED, in which four FC personnel lost their lives.
Conventional wisdom would have told us that after the takeover of Kabul by the Afghan Taliban; the secular Baloch separatist groups would certainly be reined in.
The support of the Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies would also not be available to them.
But on the country, however, we see an increase in the activities of the militant Baloch groups.
According to Afghan analysts, some of the factors responsible for the increase in the attacks by Baloch insurgent groups could be the following.
Firstly, the uncertain law and order situation across the border has created uncertainty and chaos in Balochistan also.
As Islamic militant groups like TJF and IS – K are active both in KP and Balochistan the environment for Baloch militant groups to conduct their attacks has also become conducive.
It is well known that leaders of many Baloch insurgent groups are still hiding in Afghanistan.
The fate of these Baloch leaders has not yet been decided by the Taliban leadership. This is basically due to weak operational capacity and soft corner of the Afghan Taliban towards militants, especially of the Islamic kind.
Doubts have been expressed by our intelligence agencies that the Baloch separatist groups may have developed some kind of operational linkages with TTP.
Many Baloch separatist leaders have, however, relocated to Iran and Balochistan.The Afghan Taliban are also circumspect in dealing with Baloch insurgents, as they have also to consider their own Baloch population.
The increase in the attacks by the Baloch insurgents can be seen as an opportunity for them to grab the international spotlight.
This in turn emboldens them to carry out more high impact attacks on the security forces.
By carrying out high intensity attacks, the groups also hope to inspire and recruit more local youths.
As far as counter insurgency measures by the Government are concerned, I think the best bet would be to act on the recommendations of our National Action Plan, in both letter and spirit.
Using militant religious and sectarian groups against the Baloch separatists will only aggravate the situation, as it did in the past.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is a former Health Minister of KP.