Balochistan has become a massive source of insurgency in Pakistan. Over the past few weeks, numerous have lost their lives to terror attacks in the restive province and the Baloch Liberation Army (BPA) has emerged as a prominent player.
According to experts talking to the Eurasian Times, a situation is being formed just like Sri Lanka (during the LTTE insurgency), which makes one question if a civil war is breaking-out in Balochistan, Pakistan.
Who is Baloch Liberation Army (BLA)?
The BLA is an armed separatist militant group that targets security personnel and citizens, mainly in the Balochistan province of Pakistan and bordering areas of Afghanistan. It is the largest and the oldest surviving insurgent group in the area and while many political leaders of the mainstream Baloch movement are said to be sympathetic to the BLA, they do not openly recognize their support towards the group.
The BLA is a group of about 6,000, people who have been actively leading the insurgency against Islamabad. Although the movement has been going on for seven decades the BLA has vigorously behind it since 2000 and has claimed responsibility for many violent attacks in the country.
What does the BLA seek?
The primary demand of the militant army is to form a separate state of Balochistan and their core grievance lies in the exploitation of their resources by the Pakistani state without sharing any of the proceeds with the local tribes.
In the past, the BLA was influenced by radical Marxist ideology and this led to the theory that initially, it was propped up by erstwhile Soviet Union’s intelligence agency KGB during the 1970s. Some of its leaders were also, allegedly, trained in Moscow.
Attacks in Balochistan
BLA’s primary focus groups for the attack has been the Pakistan Military and non-Baloch residents. It has been behind many bombings in the country and came into notice in early 2003 when is carried out a series of attacks that killed several citizens and soldiers.
Over a couple of years, the attacks momentously grew with largely the same target i.e. Pakistan Army. “These attacks targeted Pakistani army locations and personnel using mortar strikes. The BLA has regularly employed this tactic of small scale bombing throughout its lifetime,” notes a Stanford study.
BLA once again attacked the province however this time the target was the Chinese workers in Balochistan. The Pakistan army quickly responded to counter the insurgency and deployed 20,000 additional troops in the volatile region.
However, despite this, the BLA did not hesitate to attack a federal paramilitary camp in the Kohlu region, while the-then President Pervez Musharraf was visiting it. This attack resulted in declaration of BLA as a terrorist group by the Pakistani government.
Following the attack on the then Prime minister, the military doubled its counterinsurgency effort in the region and began to target BLA’s leadership. This severely weakened the BLA and was forced into negotiating for a settlement with the government.
According to the Stanford study, “In September of 2008, the BLA, the Balochistan Liberation Front, the Baloch Republican Army, and the government of Pakistan declared a ceasefire”. However, the BLA withdrew from the ceasefire in January 2009 because it was upset that the Pakistani government had made no meaningful attempts to begin negotiations,” it added.
After this, the BLA engaged in many attacks across the country. Now as the China – Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) passes through the Balochistan province, the BLA has started to target the infrastructure along with the workers.
The US declares the Balochistan Liberation Army a Terrorist Group
The US move to declare BLA as a terrorist organization was largely welcomed by Pakistan since it had long been calling for such a decision.
“We have taken note of the designation by the US Administration of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT),” said an official statement issued by the Foreign Office shortly after the US announcement.
It pointed out that the BLA has continued to be a banned group in Pakistan since 2006 and in recent times has carried out numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan. “It is hoped that this designation will ensure that BLA’s space to operate is minimized,” the statement said.
Is BLA Connected With India?
Pakistan’s political leadership has accused that the BLA is being supported by the Indian government. It is confirmed that BLA commanders, in the past, had sought medical treatment in India’s hospitals, often under disguise or with a fake identity.
In one such case, a militant commander in charge of Khuzdar city was based in Delhi for at least six months in 2017 when he underwent extensive treatment for kidney-related ailments. Pakistan has blamed India for supporting the Baloch rebels.
It is known that the Baloch leaders like the late Akbar Bugti and Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo shared warm relations with multiple Indian politicians. However, visits by Baloch rebels are often under assumed identities unlike those by prominent well-known leaders.
Another leader, who visited India was Mama Qadeer. He has become a popular face of civil society movement after he launched a long march seeking the truth about his missing son, a Baloch activist.