11:49 pm - Tuesday July 29, 2014

Balochistan Liberation Army

Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army

Flag of the Balochistan Liberation Army

The Balochistan Liberation Army (also Baloch Liberation Army or Boluchistan Liberation Army) (BLA) is a militant group based in Balochistan, a mountainous region within southern Iran and Pakistan. The organization is a participant in the Balochistan conflict and strives to establish an independent state of Balochistan, free of Pakistani and Iranian rule. The Baloch Liberation Army became publicly known during the summer of 2000, after it claimed credit for a series of bombings of markets and railways lines. In 2006 the BLA was declared a proscribed group by Pakistani and the British government.

Leadership

It has been alleged that Mir Balach Marri, son of the Baloch tribal leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, was the head of the BLA. However Balach has denied this claim, stating that while he was aware of the BLA and supports them, but he is not the group’s leader. On 26 August 2006, Balach Marri survived an unsuccessful attack by Pakistani law enforcement agencies. In addition to Balach Marri, the grandsons of Akbar Khan Bugti, Brahamdagh Khan Bugti and Mir Aley also survived the attack. However, Balach Marri was killed in an attack on November 21, 2007.[3] His death incited a wave of violence in Balochistan[4] and lead to broad condemnation. Benazir Bhutto said the killing was “a bad omen for the integrity of the Federation”,[5] whilst the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said “the incident was likely to increase the anger of the people of Balochistan against the Pakistan Government”.[6][7][8] The cause and location of Balach’s death are unknown. At least three different locations have been claimed as the site of the attack, ranging from the Helmand province in Afghanistan in a mistaken NATO air strike to the Pakistani-Afghan border in the Nushki area to the Kahan area in the Kohlu district in the Marri tribal area. At the latter two possible attack locations, Balach’s death has been asserted to be the result of a Pakistani security forces attack. Balach’s death incited a wave of violence in Quetta and several people were killed.[9][10] Although a BLA spokesman confirmed the death of the BLA commander, the spokesman was reluctant to provide any further information as to location or possible collateral damage of the attack, for fear of compromising the safety of other BLA fighters.[11] Most of the BLA’s leadership is currently situated in Afghani provinces adjacent to the Pakistani border.

Proscribed status

On 17 July 2006, the government of the United Kingdom listed the BLA as a proscribed group and banned their members from the UK.[12] As a result of this designation any person associated with the organization is barred from entering the United Kingdom.[13] The group’s actions have also been described as terrorism by the United States Department of State[14]

Allegations of support from India

Pakistan has accused India of involvement in the Balochistan conflict.[15][16][17][18] Pakistan claims to have uncovered evidence indicating India as the cause of the conflict.[19][20][21] Pakistani officials have often asserted that there is “an Indian hand behind the insurgency in Balochistan.” It has also been asserted that “India has been known to supply arms and ammunition through Afghanistan,” while Balochi leaders have turned towards India.[22] The Dawn recently[vague] reported that a dossier detailing evidence of “involvement in terror financing in Pakistan” has been compiled and that the BLA operatives are also being trained in camps being run by RAW and that BLA Leadership currently[when?] operates from safe houses run by RAW.[23] Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, however, denied that Pakistan had handed any such dossier to India.[24] India categorically denied such allegations.[25] United States envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke also stated that Pakistan had provided no evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan and that Washington attaches no credibility to Islamabad’s charges in to that effect.[26] However the Council on Foreign Relations states that some ‘experts’ believe there is in fact Indian involvement behind the insurgency.[27]

Activities of the Balochistan Liberation Army

The BLA has claimed responsibility for attacks on Pakistani security forces. In an interview to private TV channel [AAJ TV's exclusive interview on 'Live with Talat'] in Pakistan on 15 April 2009 Brahamdagh Khan Bugti, a BLA leader who has since formed a splinter militant organisation called Balochistan Liberation Front, urged Baloch people to kill any non-Balochi residing in Balochistan, whether civilian or military personnel, to prove themselves as Balochi. The interview was conducted over a telephonic-link as Brahamdagh Khan Bugti was in hiding in Afghanistan. The BLA also claimed responsibility for conducting systematic ethnic genocide against unarmed Punjabi civilians and people with Punjabi blood, most of whom are fourth or fifth generation inhabitants of Balochistan. These Punjabi are claimed to be spies by the BLA. Most of the victims are educators, lecturers, barbers, and doctors. The latest in the series of victims was an aged female lecturer at the Balochistan University who had taught at the institution since its inception; she was shot due to ancestral connections to Punjab. The ethnic genocide against Punjabis has claimed almost 500 victims.[citation needed]

  • June 2000: A number of bombs were detonated by BLA activists in the commercial district of Quetta, the provincial capital of Pakistani Balochistan, an area often frequented by the Pakistani military personnel. The explosions resulted in the deaths of 26 soldiers and 5 civilians, and the wounding of many others.[citation needed]
  • July 2000: Fifteen 82-mm mortar shells of Russian-manufacture were fired from the Koh-i-Murdar mountain range near Quetta, targeting the city’s military garrison. No official casualty report was issued by the Pakistani military to the press in Balochistan.
  • 03 May, 2004: Three Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project, enabling irrigation of Balochi-occupied farmerland as part of a Pakistani government initiative to develop Baloch agricultural capacity, were killed while another eleven were injured in a car bomb attack by the BLA.[28] In June and July 2004, another five attacks followed utilizing IEDs.
  • Apirl 2006: Numerous deaths of Pakistani soldiers have resulted from landmines planted by Balochistan Liberation Army.[29]
  • 17 August 2006: The Asaap media-outlet [30] reported on that the Pakistan Army was conducting a search operation against BLA fighters 12 km away from Karmo Wadh, near Sibi, when during the ongoing operation, the Pakistani forces came under heavy barrage of rocket fire from Baloch fighters. The attack claimed three Pakistani soldiers while wounding another seven. (Names of soldiers K.I.A are: NCO Amjad Ali, NCO Tasawer Hussen and NCO Matloob Hussen. Names of the critically wounded soldiers: Major Qaiser, Hawaldar Anser, Corporal Mudser Hussen, NCO Majid Hussen, NCO Ishfaq Ahmed, NCO Janzeb and NCO Ashraf.) All the wounded were moved to Combined Military Hospital Hospital Sibi. In another such incident, 40 km from Sangsila in the Dera Bugti area, Pakistani soldiers were caught in a BLA landmine explosion while digging trenches on Bambore-Top (Bambore is a mountain located in the east of Sibi and north of Dera Bugti). Soldiers K.I.A included: Naib Subedar Kashmir Afridi and NCO Abdul Khaliq Afridi; while five soldiers were critically wounded. The rockets, as well as heavy weaponry used by BLA fighters, have been confirmed to be of Indian/Russian-origin after equipment and ammunition was captured by Pakistan Army troops in a separate search and destroy operations.
  • 25 August 2006: Four tribal militants were killed as Pakistani security forces used helicopter gunships in an operation in parts of Kohlu district. Two members of the security forces were killed while an officer was injured. Reports from Kohlu said the security forces moved in to Karmo Wadh and Tartani areas near Kahan using air support to attack militant hideouts.

To offset military reverses and failures against Pakistan Army, the BLA has sought to utilize propaganda to avert a complete public-relations disaster. Azad Baloch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army, told reporters at the Quetta Press Club on the telephone from an unknown place that armed militants were resisting the attacks. He went on to claim that over a dozen security personnel had been killed and many others had been injured. He also claimed killing FC men in a landmine explosion in Kamo Wadh area. However, official Pakistani sources did not confirm any casualties suffered by the security forces.[31]

  • 29 May 2007: Dozens of blasts in Balochistan disabled railway links with the rest of the country were claimed by the BLA,.[32]

Bungal Bugti, a former ally of Nawab Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti was reportedly killed on May 9, 2008 in a car-bomb attack. It has been reported that the militants of Balochistan Liberation Army carried out the attack.

Organizational History

Former leader, and grandfather of current BLA leader Brahamdagh Bugti, Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Former leader, and grandfather of current BLA leader Brahamdagh Bugti, Nawab Akbar Bugti.

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is fighting for an independent Balochistan.  The group claims a long line of grievances, including the lack of economic development in the province despite the relative wealth of its gas fields, the continuing failure of the Pakistan government to give royalties to the Baloch tribal administration for using the province’s resources, the employment of non-Balochis in the province as opposed to native inhabitants for large-scale projects, and the construction of military training facilities in the region which upsets tribal life and freedom of movement.

Balochi Nationalism is nothing new in Pakistan despite the recent emergence of violence in opposition to the Pakistani government. Though over a century old, the current crisis can be traced back to 1973, when an ethnic insurgency erupted in Balochistan that lasted over four years. [1] The Independent Balochistan Movement was aimed at establishing an independent state of Balochistan comprising all the Balochi areas of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The Balochi Nationalists were vastly outnumbered by the Pakistani military in a conflict that claimed the lives of 5,300 Balochi guerrillas and 3,300 soldiers. The conflict only came to a tentative truce after the fall of the Bhutto government in 1977; the truce eventually turned into a lasting peace for more than two decades, but many of the problems causing Balochi Nationalism to ignite in the first place, were never fixed. The military coup of 1999 stirred extreme nationalist tendencies once again. Pushed by a poor economy and increasing antagonism with neighboring countries, the Pakistani government believed that Balochistan’s vast natural resources held some hope of restoring the country’s economy. [2] These desperate moves were a catalyst for one of Pakistan’s most serious terrorist threats, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which began actively attacking police personnel and some civilians, namely journalists, in 2003. Pakistan officially declared the BLA a terrorist organization in April 2006, and they became the chief insurgent organization fighting for an independent Balochistan.  According to the Frontier Corps’ Major Gen. Saleem Nawaz, the current leader of the BLA is also controlling the insurgent group, Baloch Republican Army (BRA) from Afghanistan.

Structure

Like many guerrilla and terrorist groups, the BLA has a structure comprised of both paramilitary and cellular components. The majority of the organization is composed of various units assigned to different training camps under various leaders, but some are assigned to urban cells and are responsible for the planting of explosives and reconnoitering targets. Some of the cells are ad hoc and once a BLA member has completed a mission, he may return to his paramilitary unit.

Arsenal

There is no shortage of weapons in Balochistan available to the militants; many are left over from previous conflicts in Afghanistan.  Common weapons in the region include Russian Kalashnikovs, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), and various types of land mines.

Funding

There is wide approval for Baloch autonomy or independence in the region and it is estimated that a large part of the BLA’s finances come from donations.  It has also been widely asserted that an “outside hand” is playing a role in the Baloch insurgency, though conclusive determinations are difficult to come by. One of the most widely cited examples of outside aid occurred in 1973 when Pakistan authorities entered the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad and uncovered a small arsenal of weapons, including 300 submachine guns and 48,000 rounds of ammunition. The government claimed that the arms were destined for Balochistan; these accusations were never proven. [3]

Recruitment

The BLA is not believed to have an organized recruitment effort in place; rather, the group is capitalizing on popular sentiment in the province and giving Balochis with nationalist tendencies a way to fight back at the government. The chief means of attracting poor, uneducated Balochi youths are the dozens of training camps believed to be in operation in the province.

Tactics

The group’s targeting and tactics are designed to reduce the economic incentive for the central government’s presence in the province.  Accordingly, sites where natural resources are harvested by the government are the most common target; these include natural gas pipelines and oil fields.  Soldiers and civilians working in government capacities in Quetta are also prominent targets, in addition to journalists.  The BLA has shown equal proficiency with both bombings and armed assault, though it appears that members prefer the use of RPGs as opposed to planted explosives, some of which appear to have been planted by younger members with little or no insurgency experience.

Filed in: Uncategorized