Author: Miran Mazar – Chief Editor TBP
This is a story to find Majeed Brigade’s foundations, its history and the philosophy behind their staggering acts. We will meet BLA chief Bashir Zeb, Majeed Brigade’s commander Hammal Rehan and the Brigade’s logistic head Buzgar Khan during this journey.
Before The Beginning
On a hot and humid day in a July, a heated discussion was underway amongst four friends in a small house in Killi Ismaeel Quetta. Few days ago, the four friends had made an extraordinary decision to make their voices heard by the world. Inspired by nationalist and leftist ideologies the four young men believed that their mission, if successful, will have the potential to change Baloch nation’s history. Therefore, each of them wanted to be the one to carry out this mission and hence the heated discussion. Finally, they agreed to choose the person through a lucky draw. It was Majeed Langove’s name on the paper. His friends congratulated him.
Few days later on 2nd August 1974, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was in Quetta to deliver a speech at a public gathering. This was the period when Mr. Bhutto had dismissed the elected government of National Awami Party (NAP) in Balochistan. A military operation was underway in Balochistan, with the help of Iran’s king, in which large number of Baloch people had been killed. In response, Majeed Langove and his friends had decided to directly eliminate Mr. Bhutto. He only had an old Russian hand grenade to carry out his mission. He climbed on a tree and waited for Mr. Bhutto to arrive. But while approaching his target the grenade exploded in his hand and he lost his life.
It never came to light what happened to Majeed’s remaining three friends or who they were. It is not known whether they were killed, or they were the ones who later organized the extensive Baloch resistance movement. But the events of 1974 are immersed in the minds of Baloch political and armed activists to this date. Majeed Langove’s attack was not a failure instead its implications have been felt years later, and these have given birth to a deadly entity in Baloch resistance, which is today known as Majeed Brigade.
In Search For The Majeed
On 29 June 2020, four young Baloch men armed with sophisticated and modern weapons stopped their silver car in front of Pakistani stock exchange building. Soon after, they attacked the armed guards deployed at the entrance. All guards including two of the attackers were killed at this point. The remaining two attackers entered the building. Few moments later reports appeared that the remaining assailants had also been killed. The Pakistani authorities declared that they have foiled a major deadly attack. However, on the other hand pro-freedom Baloch armed organization BLA released a statement taking responsibility for the attack and confirmed the attack was carried out by its “Majeed Brigade” to target Pakistan’s economy. BLA claimed that they were successful in achieving the main aims of the mission.
The news created headlines across the world but at the same time it raised many questions and ensued a debate. The questions and the debate were not limited to the opponents of Baloch movement, in fact, even some Baloch nationalists also criticized the attack. What is the reason behind BLA Majeed Brigade’s unusual targets? Are Majeed Brigade’s attacks successful in achieving their goals? Why is there a sudden rise in, what the BLA calls, “self-sacrificing” attacks in Baloch movement? Are these attacks beneficial or causing harm to the Baloch movement? Several such questions have been under debate since Majeed Brigade carried out its first attack, but these criticisms gained further impetus after the recent attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi.
However, in response to these questions BLA and particularly the Majeed Brigade has so far remained silent and not presented its opinion in the media. The Balochistan Post (TBP) commenced a journey in a bid to find answers to these questions and understand Majeed Brigade’s history, its foundations and their philosophy. During this journey, we will meet BLA’s chief Basheer Zeb Baloch. For the very first time ever Majeed Brigade’s commander Hammal Rehan will speak to the media. We will be taken to Majeed Brigade’s training facilities and we will be shown the barracks and belongings of “fidayeen” (persons who sacrifice themselves), a term that BLA uses to describe its suicide attackers. The access to such places is a first for any media outlet.
During our visit we will also speak to the friends of fidayeen and those who aid them during the training. We will also speak to Majeed Brigade’s logistic unit’s head, Buzgar Khan, who will accompany us throughout the journey.
After long negotiations through multiple sources the TBP team was allowed this visit on the conditions that no mobiles, cameras or any other electronic items will be allowed. Our actual journey began from Sirlatt in Balochistan to the mountains of Kalat, whereas, our historical journey begins from 1995 to the prospects of the future.
The Old Messenger
The Baloch politics in 90 resembled the calm before the storm. Pakistani analysts believed that the Baloch were licking the wounds of their lost war and the 15-year long exile. Whereas, Baloch maintain that this was the period of transformation from ancient to modern.
In 1995, an old Baloch nationalist Marxist started giving lectures to the youth in his house. The lectures were on different topics ranging from political, philosophical to social affairs. These lectures were different than the conventional lectures given in educational institutions or usual political circle. The participants of these lectures were taught and encouraged to raise questions. Soon these lectures became widely known by the name of Haq Tawar (The voice of truth). And the old Baloch man earned the title of “the messenger of emancipation”. The world today knows this legendary figure as late Sardar Khairbaksh Marri.
These gatherings produced a group of politically enriched Baloch youth that were later to form Baloch Liberation Army and eventually completely transform the Baloch resistance movement. An energetic and enthusiastic young man known as Aslam Dehwar was also one of these young men. He had very soon come to the conclusion that the only solution of the Baloch problems is an armed struggle. Aslam then became the most active and focal person to organize BLA and its activities. Later on, he turned into the most effective, widely respected and daring personality in Baloch resistance movement. Rising the ranks, he became the chief of Baloch Liberation Army In 2017.
Aslam Baloch, a person gifted with innate talents and charismatic personality, established his base camp in Bolan, only 50kms away from Quetta, the main city of Balochistan. His journey as a leader started from this camp. According to his close friends, Aslam Baloch did not want to limit the guerilla warfare to the tactics of 1970s. He was not in favor of fighting in the mountains only. Therefore, he trained Baloch youth for urban guerilla warfare and soon took the war to the streets of Balochisan’s main cities. This changed the very nature of Baloch resistance movement. it reached every nook and corner and droves of Baloch youth joined this movement.
However, the ambitious Aslam wanted to take this war even further. A point raised in one of Haq Tawar’s study circles always remained with him. He always used to recollect with his close friends that how in one of the study circles Sardar Khair Baksh Marri had asked that several independence struggles of the world had produced fidayeen, we have been able to produce warriors but what is the reason we never have any fidayeen in Baloch struggle?”
Years later in 2008, Aslam Baloch convenes a secret meeting of his close aides in Saaro camp Bolan and reveals his intentions of forming a new Brigade in Baloch Liberation Army, which will comprise of highly trained members that will only carry out “self-sacrificing” attacks. At that point there was no name for the Brigade, and nobody thought it will ever be a reality. It all seemed like a story out of the fantasy world.
From One Majeed To The Other
On 17 March 2010 at 2pm, Pakistan Army and secret services surrounded a house between Golimar Chowk and Wahdat Colony area of Quetta. When the residents of the house realized they are under siege, one of them took a gun and put up a resistance. He told his comrades to flee from the other direction as he will try to stop the enemies and join them later. Despite the disapproval by others, he forced them to leave. He had experienced similar circumstances only two years earlier in Hub, another city of Balochistan, when he not only saved his comrades but also managed to escape despite receiving multiple injuries. However, the Pakistani forces were in a large number this time. He only had two options either to save himself or his friends. He opted for the later and after putting an hour-long resistance he managed to save his friends but at the expense of his own life.
The news of this young man’s death spread across Balochistan as he was considered one of the most experienced and skillful urban guerilla of Baloch resistance movement. He was identified as Majeed Langove. Here only the names are not identical. When Majeed Langove Senior got killed on 2nd August 1974, few years later his younger brother was born. He was named after Majeed Langove. Today they are known as Majeed Langove Senior and Majeed Langove Junior in Balochistan. But they are not the only two brothers who played an important role in Baloch freedom struggle. Their third brother Ameer Baksh Langove was also part of BLA and was killed in February 2010. Ameer Baksh Langove was awarded the highest “gallantry award “by BLA called “Sagar-e-Baloch”, which means the sword of the Baloch.
On the day Majeed Langove Junior was killed, Aslam Baloch announced the formal formation of BLA’s self-sacrificing squad. He released a media statement and paid tribute to the sacrifices of Langove brothers. He named the self-sacrificing squad as Majeed Brigade after Majeed Langove Junior. That is how the most lethal, modern and elite unit of Baloch resistance movement came into being.
The Abrahamic Sacrifice
Aslam Baloch continued his search for the members of BLA Majeed Brigade. He would often give lectures to his comrades and emphasized on the need and importance of the self-sacrificing attacks. He would maintain that such attacks will transform the whole nature of Baloch movement. In late 2010 a member of BLA, Baaz Khan Marri, requested a meeting with Aslam Baloch. Baaz Khan Marri, a father of two, was a very simple and quiet person. Due to his introverted nature, his comrades called him Darvesh. The meeting held in Buzgar camp Bolan lasted for several hours. In years to come, Aslam Baloch would often refer to this meeting and used to say, “If there is a god, I would only have one prayer, let there be more Baaz Khans in Baloch mother wombs”.
On 30 December 2011, Shafeeq Mengal, son of a formal Pakistani federal minister for petroleum, was targeted in a suicide attack on Arbab Karam Khan road in Quetta. Shafeeq Mengal is accused of forming death squads under the supervision of Pakistani military, which are blamed for abducting and killing scores of Baloch political activists. He is also considered the culprit behind a mass grave in Tootak Balochistan. Shafeeq Mengal survived the suicide attack but nearly two dozen members of his alleged death squad were killed in the attack. The responsibility of the attack was claimed by BLA Majeed Brigade and a picture was released in the media of a person identified as “fidayee Baz Khan alias Darvesh”. This was the very first attack carried out by Majeed Brigade.
It then took Majed Brigade seven years to carry out its second attack. 11 August holds historical prominence amongst Baloch nationalists as on this day Kalat was declared an independent state by the British in 1947. Every year the Baloch commemorate a symbolic Independence Day on this day. In 2018, Majeed Brigade selected this symbolic day to carry out a VBIED attack in Dalbandin. The target of the attack was a bus carrying Chinese engineers working on Saindak Project. Several persons were killed and injured in this attack. The most distinctive feature of this attack was the suicide attacker. This soon transformed the basis of Balochistan’s resistance movement for freedom.
The attacker was identified as 22-year-old Rehan Aslam Baloch. He was the elder son of BLA’s chief Aslam Baloch. That day the phrase “the Abraham of today sacrificed his most precious thing for Balochistan’s freedom” was a common hearing.
The For-Sale Suicide Attackers
We were introduced to Buzgar Khan, who will accompany us throughout this journey and will take us to meet BLA’s present chief. Due to confidentiality, even the fighters of BLA’s other units are not allowed during this journey. The nearly forty-year-old Buzgar Khan is a senior warrior of BLA. He was one of Aslam Baloch’s trusted and close affiliates. He had aided Aslam Baloch during the formation of Majeed Brigade and currently heads Majeed Brigade’s Logistic unit.
He agreed to tell us more about the Majeed Brigade. Naturally, our very first question was why Aslam Baloch sent his own son for a “self-sacrificing” attack? After a brief pause, he said when the decision of Rehan’s operation was made and all the preparations were finalized, a concerned friend advised Aslam not to send his own son. He stressed to Aslam on the fact that tomorrow Rehan can follow his path. If a suicide attack is really necessary, then this can be managed through a religious seminary by only paying few thousand dollars. Aslam strongly opposed his idea and said: “if we hesitate from sacrificing our own children than how can we expect the Baloch mothers to do the same? Freedom is only the right of those who fight their own cause rather than relying on mercenaries. Today if Rehan leads this path then tomorrow thousands of others will follow. The objective is not to carry out a suicide attack but to show a path and devise a future strategy for this war. I will not be without a successor; the children of my nation will continue my legacy.
Aslam Baloch’s calculations were accurate. After the attack in Dalbandin, Majeed Brigade became active again at an amplified pace and a significant increase was witnessed in number of volunteers joining this unit. Only three months later on 23 November 2018, three members of Majeed Brigade targeted Chinese consulate in Karachi, and the significant attack created waves in national and international media.
Few moments before reaching our final destination, Buzgar Khan, after a long silence, said “Aslam was a brave person, but his enemies are not. Aslam harshly rejected the idea of using for-sale suicide attackers but his enemy, instead of fighting direct battles, bought suicide attackers for few thousand dollars to martyr him.”
Baloch Liberation Army’s chief and the founder of Majeed Brigade, Aslam Baloch, was killed in a suicide attack on 25 December 2018. BLA posthumously awarded him the title of “General”.
Old War, New Blood
25th December 2018 was not the first instance when the news of Baloch resistance movement’s mysterious and mythological character’s death was spreading. He had survived many previous attempts on his life, including in a close battle in Bolan where he received multiple bullet injuries. The state authorities continued to claim for a year that he was “eliminated” in that battle in Bolan. However, on this instance in December 2018 BLA also confirmed that Aslam Baloch has been killed. After BLA’s confirmation many analysts declared it the death of the deadly Majeed Brigade too.
However, contrary to all analysis and claims, the Majeed Brigade struck again on 11 May 2019, only four months after Aslam Baloch’s death. This attack is regarded as the biggest ever attack by Majeed Brigade. This time in the coastal city of Gwadar, a luxurious hotel was attacked in a highly militarized and secure zone. The hotel was frequented by Chinese engineers working on China Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC). BLA occupied the hotel for more than 24 hours. BLA later claimed that it had killed several Chinese nationals and Pakistani military personnel before destroying the hotel. After 24 hours and running out of bullets all the assailants had killed themselves. Similarly, the recent attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange on 29 June 2020 by four attackers of Majeed Brigade continues to affirm that despite its founder’s death the BLA’s unit is getting stronger and deadlier despite. What are the reasons behind it?
In early 2000s, when Aslam Baloch was busy in organizing BLA, the most modern armed organization of Baloch resistance, a student activist in Balochistan University was also gaining fame due to his political activities. After Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s martyrdom sudden intensity was observed in Balochistan’s resistance. During the same period, this Baloch student was elected as the Chairman of the largest student body of Balochistan, the Baloch Students Organisation – Azad (BSO-Azad). Later when a historical grand procession (Jirga) of all Baloch sardars against martyrdom of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was held in Kalat city, the same Baloch student leader was seen delivering a speech and later on raising slogans not only against Pakistani state but against the Baloch tribal chiefs too. This student leader was Bashir Zeb, he became a common name in Baloch politics and the BSO-Azad reached its strongest and largest level during his leadership.
After 2008, the Pakistani state carried out a widespread crackdown against BSO-Azad. Hundreds of its leaders and activists were either disappeared never to be seen again or were target killed. BSO-A, being an unarmed organization, became a very easy target for the state authorities. By 2011 half of its strength was eliminated. It is believed during this crackdown Bashir Zeb met Aslam Baloch. Mr Zeb came to the conclusion that a peaceful struggle for independence in Balochistan is almost impossible. After remaining BSO-Azad’s chairman for five years, Bashir Zeb quit student politics and joined Baloch Liberation Army.
In the next 10 years he rose from the ranks of a solider to the position of commander and then became a member of BLA’s highest body, the Senior Command Council. When Aslam Baloch was killed no dispute for the organisation’s leadership was observed. Due to his vast political and military experience and being one of the closest aides of Aslam Baloch, Basheer Zeb was elected as the new chief without any dispute. This is considered one of the most important factors of Majeed Brigade’s continuous revival despite Aslam Baloch’s death. The chain of leadership never broke, in fact, the fresh blood boosted Majeed Brigade’s activities even further.
Our Opposition is Our Representation
When we met BLA’s chief Bashir Zeb Baloch it was dinner time. No doubt that BLA is a key player in Balochistan’s politics or its future and lots of questions can be asked from Mr. Zeb but our questions at this time will revolve around Majeed Brigade. We will try to find out his views and BLA’s stance about Majeed Brigade’s attacks and the current debates surrounding it.
TBP: What is Majeed Brigade, and what are the objectives behind its formation?
BLA Chief: Majeed Brigade is the evolved and modern form of Baloch resistance movement. It has to be further strengthened and advanced. The main objective of its formation was to reach targets that are otherwise impossible through the conventional guerilla warfare tactics. With the advancement and prolongment in Baloch resistance movement, complications area natural thing. But amid all these complications the basic philosophy of freedom movement should not be ignored that the military domination by an occupying state can only be countered through an armed and military response. All aspects of struggle carry significance, but the most important factor is betterment, advancement and effectiveness of military capabilities. If we are inert and fail to introduce intensity and advancement in our struggle, then we will be a very easy target to be eliminated. It is obvious that we do not have same resources as our enemy, and we cannot fight with fighter jets. But the most important factor is our will to sacrifice and the established legitimacy of retaliatory violence through guerilla warfare. Therefore, we have to improve our capabilities and military power through self-sacrificing attacks and that is the main aim of Majeed Brigade.
When an activist armed with ideologies comes to the realization that when, where and how they have to sacrifice themselves then they become deadlier than enemy’s most advanced weaponry. When the nations choose to respond with such sacrifices then it becomes impossible for any power in the world to stop them. Therefore, we can see that the beaten enemy is now trying its utmost to target the basic fabric of this ideology and concept. They are trying their best to make the ideology of fidayeen disputed before it takes strong roots.
TBP: What is the reason that even some groups within the Baloch nationalists are criticizing these attacks and maintain that these attacks are tarnishing the Baloch struggle, particularly the campaign for the recovery of Baloch missing persons is being affected?
BLA Chief: We have clarified it before that the current phase of Baloch struggle is the lengthiest and, despite enormous brutalities, the enemy has failed to quash it. The main reason behind enemy’s failure lies in the strong ideological foundations of this struggle. Therefore, the state is now making futile attempts through indirect tactics to diverge the direction of Baloch struggle. Few friends, willingly or not, are unfortunately becoming part of these designs.
It is very important to understand that the exploitation, poverty and the slavery stem from the occupation of our motherland, whereas, the brutalities, genocide and human rights violations by the enemy are the response of Baloch’s resistance against this occupation. Both these established facts should not be muddled. The Baloch nation started this war for independence and in order to counter it the Pakistani state has been committing human rights violations. If we abandon the resistance and subdue ourselves to slavery, then these brutalities and human rights violations will automatically stop. It can be observed that, intentionally or not, attempts are being made to diverge the movement of liberation into a struggle against Pakistani retaliatory acts. This is tantamount to bending a straight line into a circle and revolving around it. The most unfortunate aspect is lowering the demands to such petty levels that the earnest sacrifices of thousands are being reduced to nothing. It seems all these few elements want is just to survive rather than to struggle for a life of a free and dignified human being.
These trends are not limited to few political activists in the diaspora, but efforts have even been made to undermine and destabilize the Baloch armed organizations. And these were the main reasons, that BLA had to make massive operational and organizational changes in 2017 under the leadership of Aslam Baloch. Majeed Brigade carried out its first operational activity in 2011, but then stagnation was witnessed not only in the activities of Majeed Brigade but of the whole BLA.
We experienced two changes after 2011. Initially the administrative affairs of the organization were made sluggish and overly complicated, which ultimately impacted the military capabilities of BLA. Secondly, attempts were made to change the basic ideology and narrative of BLA. Due to organizational inefficiency the armed activists were made idle and later they were pushed into a very unnecessary so-called debate. On the other side, the basic ideology of BLA, that our power stems from our people and the organization will strive for independence by improving its own capabilities, was changed into the narrative that it is not possible to achieve independence without any foreign aid. Therefore, further sacrifices are foolishness and activists should go to foreign countries to do politics and seek support. So, after sacrifices of thousands of Baloch they come to the realization that the war is not important, and activists should go to foreign countries instead? Obviously, this philosophy was appreciated by comfort-loving people and we will always see a similar lobby around this viewpoint.
All the senior commanders of the organization felt this artificial stagnation, and this resulted in debates and ultimately disputes. General Aslam Baloch raised concerns regarding the whole system of the organization and demanded reformation in the organizational structure from the scratch. But, instead futile attempts were made to sideline an important commander like Aslam Baloch from the organization.
In 2017, almost all commanders of BLA agreed on restructuring the organization and formed organizational institutions and guidelines. These institutions officially and formally elected Aslam Baloch as the new head of the organization. On 17 August 2018, BLA’s Senior Command Council and Operational Core Committee expelled and cancelled the basic membership of a person living in Europe and announced that BLA does not have any representatives in foreign countries anymore.
I narrated all this to make you understand how attempts are being made to change the direction of the liberation struggle. These attempts are not only verbal but real. However, after positive changes in 2017, BLA’s activities saw enormous advancement and intensity. The stagnation was abolished and Majeed Brigade which was inactive all these years was quickly revived. There will always be a question that what would have been the organization’s position if there was no stagnation for 7 years. And now look at the activities of the other lobby who wanted to limit BLA to social media and protests in foreign countries, what are they doing today? They are narrowed to few protests and indulged in unnecessary debates and mudslinging on social media.
Our opponents allege that we are taking the liberation struggle to the extremes, and we are changing the direction of Baloch liberation struggle through self-sacrificing attacks. We are asked to respond to these allegations. Actually, we do not feel it necessary to respond to this as we accept these allegations. They are saying the same things, which we intend to do. Absolutely, we want to concentrate on the armed struggle, in fact, our aim is to introduce even further intensity in this war.
We utterly believe that Baloch nation’s human, civic and political rights are linked to independence and this independence can only be achieved through a strong and powerful resistance against the enemy. We firmly believe that we will break the backbone of the enemy through such self-sacrificing attacks. Our opponents are disseminating our objectives and beliefs here. We will be delighted no matter how much opposition we face on this point, because we really want the opponents of armed struggle to completely reveal themselves so that boundaries are established between us. This will also help clarify it to the youth and the Baloch nation which path to choose if they want to take the Baloch liberation struggle forward. This is a purification process, and everything is being filtered, the boundaries are being established and we are very strong proponents of this process. The members of BLA are the spearheads and patrons of the war of independence. We will never compromise on the direction of this struggle and will always resist intentions of transforming it into an NGO for human rights. We cannot tolerate the repetition of mistakes of past.
In 80s, more than fifty thousand Baloch freedom fighters were prepared to fight but they were all told to wait for Russia so that we can sit on Russian tanks and conquer Balochistan. Russia retreated and our massive power depleted and returned to Balochistan and got wasted. Some joined the paramilitary forces of the enemy and others became daily wagers. If this enormous power was trusted upon and they were organized for the war, then Pakistani state would have been taught a lesson that they could never forget. Sardar Khair Baksh Marri realized these mistakes and till his last always emphasized on reliance on Baloch’s own power rather than waiting for foreign aids. Today once again few quarters want to deprioritize the war and are discouraging it. They are openly insulting the fidayeen so that the youth are not attracted towards this concept and the national war.
TBP: Are you against the principle of foreign aid?
BLA Chief: We are a nation that has been occupied and to get rid of this occupation and achieve emancipation we have all the rights to ask for support form friendly nations. In exact same way as when nations occupied by Nazi Germany had to ask for the support of allied forces during the Second World War. However, we will only accept any kind of aid on conditions that are not contrary to our national interests. This is Baloch’s own war, if we are capable of fighting a strong war then any friendly nation will consider supporting us on our own conditions. But if we will not fight our war and wait for someone to serve us independence on the plate then we are living in a fool’s paradise.
TBP: The group that you are pointing towards also allege that you are an Iranian proxy?
BLA Chief: Is it not funny that an individual sitting in London who begs India on Twitter for Jinnah’s old house in Delhi terms those youth as proxies who willfully take bullets on their heads? A small group who abandoned the war of liberation on the pretext of absence of foreign aid are terming those activists as proxies who continue to fight the war of liberation and are sacrificing themselves. The simple answer to this allegation is a stern no, BLA is not a proxy of Iran or any other country. But is this answer acceptable to them? Absolutely not, because they are not after an answer but instead want to create confusion. They have nothing to do with any answer. They want to create a storm of confusion so that they can hide their weaknesses behind the chaos. They are intellectual dwarfs who think they will be able to increase their footing with such allegations.
Baloch Liberation Army’s struggle is for the historical and ideological boundaries of the Baloch nation. BLA does not accept the division of Baloch land, which resulted through demarcations of Durand Line, Goldsmid Line or the boundaries of so-called Pakistani provinces. Our struggle is to restore the Baloch state with boundaries demarcated by Noori Naseer Khan. BLA will not compromise for even a second on these historical and ideological boundaries.
TBP: There are also allegations that BLA’s attacks on public places are a violation of international laws. They say this will harm the Baloch struggle on international arena, and it was the reason behind US State department’s ban on BLA.
BLA Chief: How and when has BLA violated any international laws? Our motherland is under occupation and we are fighting against this occupation. This resistance against the tyranny is our legal, moral and natural right. We are the weaker party in this conflict, we cannot fight a conventional war therefore we are fighting using conventional guerilla warfare tactics. The basic crux of guerilla warfare is to attack enemy interests and installations while remaining hidden in the public. There is a huge difference between targeting the public and attacking the enemy while remaining in the public. Due to their ill-intentions our opponents are trying to muddle this concrete and well-defined difference.
Analyze all the self-sacrificing attacks by BLA and find out how many civilians were killed in these attacks? Our 13 fidayeen have embraced martyrdom so far but not a single civilian has been killed by them. But imagine what have been the scale of destruction if even one of them had carried out an attack like the religious extremists? Study all the wars and conflicts of the history and you will not find an armed organization that cares for the civilians like Majeed Brigade does. In fact, if you examine BLA’s two decades of the struggle the losses suffered by innocent civilians has been the lowest compared to any guerilla struggle of the world. The mistakes on part of BLA are almost zero.
The allegations that international laws are being violated does not have a shred of truth. These allegations are unsuccessful attempts to create confusion and make Majeed Brigade controversial. These are futile attempts to weaken the basic ideology of self-sacrifice. If you just scrutinize the series of these allegations you will come to realize their fakeness yourself. The Chinese engineers were attacked on 11 August 2018 in Dalbandin, away from any public place, and the target was clearly the enemy then why was that attack opposed? At the time fake propaganda was spread that BLA is using underage members to carry out attacks because they did not know the real age of Rehan Baloch. When it surfaced that Rehan’s age was 22 then they tried to come with a different excuse and said in a statement that General Aslam Baloch sacrificed his son to promote himself. Can you believe that a father will ask his son to carry out a self-sacrificing attack for self-promotion? Is this not a profanity against the intellect and consciousness of a self-sacrificing youth? Similarly, different excuses were made to oppose other attacks of Majeed Brigade and these excuses were solely for the sake of opposition. When US state department proscribed BLA then they found a new reason to oppose Majeed Brigade and they started using the violation of international laws as an excuse.
As far as US department’s decision is concerned, Pakistan had been trying since long to get a symbolic restriction from US against the Baloch struggle, but they remained unsuccessful. When US needed the help of Pakistan and its ISI to bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table then Pakistan forwarded its own conditions. One of these Pakistani demands was a ban on BLA, which is the oldest and relatively more known Baloch organization on the international arena. This decision is more to do with international diplomacy than with the attacks of BLA. And it is a truth that we are a weak player on international diplomatic platforms. That is because our military power is weak and international powers believe Pakistan is currently a better option than us. However, this is just a symbolic ban, and this cannot affect our operational capabilities. Similarly, in past Pakistan used Rashid Rauf, the terrorist behind transatlantic aircraft plot, as a bargaining chip to get BLA proscribed in UK. BLA Majeed Brigade was not even formed at that point.
TBP: There are few claims that attackers of Pakistan Stock Exchange were not actual members of BLA, is there any truth in these claims?
BLA Chief: Just imagine the moral depletion and intellectual level of people behind such claims. The Baloch youth have reached a level of consciousness where they smilingly, for their righteous objectives, decide the venue of their own death. They sacrifice themselves without any hesitation. And these people with the mentality of usurers are concerned which organisation has more right on the blood of these Baloch youth that flowed for their motherland? The fidayeen are the brave sons of Baloch nation and sacrifice themselves not for any organisation but for their motherly homeland. And these profiteers want to stamp their dead bodies with names of organisations? You can imagine how alienated this lobby is from the ground realities of Balochistan and how aloof they are form the intellect and sacrifices of the Baloch youth?
Baloch youth join armed organizations to become part of the liberation struggle. With time they switch organizations based on which one’s objectives are more aligned to their principles. The fidayeen of Pakistan stock exchange attack joined BLA Majeed Brigade because they felt more understanding and closeness with the principles of this platform.
I also want to clarify that Majeed Brigade has introduced a new method of struggle in Baloch resistance movement. It has given an option to the Baloch youth of a very effective measure against the enemy. Though Majeed Brigade is a wing of BLA, but it is no more limited to BLA only. It is a national platform. Any Baloch, irrespective of affiliation with any organization or even if they are not a member of any organisation, can provide their services to this platform. To become a member of Majeed Brigade the membership of BLA is not a requisite. The only requirement is the complete understanding of the ideas behind this most noble form of sacrifice.
We Will Return
There were detailed discussions with BLA chief Bashir Zeb regarding Majeed Brigade and the debate surrounding its activities, however, the main aim of this journey was to understand the foundations of Majeed Brigade. Therefore, after agreeing that we will separately publish the remaining parts of this discussion we resumed our journey to the next destination.
After a tiring journey when we stopped our guide Buzgar Khan did not have to tell us which place this was. We knew where we are after seeing the familiar grounds. This was the same ground that can be seen in many videos of BLA Majeed Brigade.
Buzgar Khan took us to some makeshift buildings and told us these are used by fighters of Majeed Brigade during training. The PSX attackers had also used these facilities. Few of their belongings were still there. There was not much stuff, on one side there were uniforms of BLA Majeed Brigade stacked properly, whereas, in another corner there were few Urdu and Balochi books. Out of curiosity we checked some of the books, which also had bookmarks at various places. These books included Franz Fanon’s The wretched of the earth, a book about the life of the Bissau-Guinean leader Amílcar Cabral’s and a book about the teachings of Mao Zedong. We could not help being amused by the irony of the fact that the opponents of Chinese interests in Balochistan take their teachings from Chinese leader Chairman Mao.
Buzgar showed us a notebook and pointed that this belonged to Salman Hammal, one of the attackers of Pakistan Stock Exchange. On the very first page of the notebook was a Balochi poetry, which read “Haak e washbo a hawaren padha wathar kayen, jang e ma Qisahan Karen Padha wathar Kayen (we will return immersed in the fragrance of this land, we will return bringing the stories of the war).
The Guardians of the Paradise
From the announcement of Majeed Brigade’s formation on 17 March 2010 till its founder Aslam Baloch’s death on 25 December 2018 the command of the Brigade remained with him. However, after Aslam Baloch’s death in 2018 while Bashir Zeb Baloch became the new leader of the BLA, an influential but mysterious character became the new commander of Majeed Brigade. This person had remained a close lieutenant of Aslam Baloch for more than 12 years.
Majeed Brigade’s chief “Commander Hammal Rehan Baloch” is considered the second most influential person in BLA, who is directly accountable to the BLA chief only. It is the first time Commander Hammal Rehan has agreed to meet any media outlet. This will be his very first interview to the media.
Commander Hammal Rehan, a person with a gigantic stature, had his face covered with a black mask. He was accompanied with two armed guards. We were told Commander Hammal is highly educated and can fluently speak English, Urdu, Baloch and Brahui languages. After a brief chat it was decided the interview will be conducted in Balochi and the questions will only be related to Majeed Brigade. We were only given an hour’s time with him, therefore, without wasting time we started the interview.
TBP: How Majeed Brigade chooses its targets and what does it take into account while choosing these targets?
Commander Majeed Brigade: Before choosing any target, its political, symbolic importance and the effectiveness on international levels is considered. Every target has two aspects – military and political. A military target might look important at the time but could lack long-term effectiveness. However, targets which carry political weightage might come across as non-important currently but attacks on these targets continue to have long-term impacts. Therefore, the political importance of a target plays an important role while choosing it.
Another important factor of any target is consideration of economic implications that the enemy will suffer. As mentioned earlier, we choose targets that have the potential to hurt enemy state for years, and we all know for Pakistan its economy is the most sensitive point. Take the PSX attack for an example, this attack will have consequences for Pakistan for years to come. This will be the very first point for any foreign investor to consider before they make any investments in Pakistan as they will have to consider whether their investments will have any security in Pakistan.
Other than that enormous consideration is given to the possibility of collateral damage and only those targets are chosen where the risk of civilian causalities is at lowest.
TBP: What is the difference between the suicide attackers of extremist religious organisations and those of Majeed Brigade?
Commander Majeed Brigade: The same difference that is between killing individuals for the sake of an unjustified act or killing your enemy in self-defense in accordance with international laws. Prima facie the similarities in the activity might show resemblance but the reasoning and objective behind these attacks are completely different and there is no justification to even compare the both. Religious extremists in order to impose their dogma and way of life on others carry out such attacks, whereas, we maintain that Balochistan is our land and our home and we should be left to live a free life on it. Our violence is only in reaction and for our self-defense. The main difference is the difference in philosophy.
Secondly, if you analyze how Baloch fidayeen come to the conclusion of carrying out self-sacrificing attacks then you will find out there is a very clear and well-defined difference between the two. The religious extremists prepare suicide attackers in religious seminaries where from very young age children are brainwashed. Whereas, in Majeed Brigade the fidayeen are not prepared instead the Baloch youth after going through a political process themselves come to this realization. They themselves decide to become volunteers of Majeed Brigade.
We all know about the nurseries of religious extremists where the suicide attackers are made. They are not allowed to connect to the outer world under the fear that they might change their decisions. Majority of these attackers are young children. They on daily basis are taught that they are going to attack non-believers and they until the end do not even know their target. Only after reaching their targets they realize what they are going to attack.
Whereas, in Majeed Brigade the very first rule is that a fidayee must not be under the age of 18 years at any cost, as this is an internationally accepted international age for any soldier. The mental capacity and ideological maturity of a fidayee are thoroughly examined. These fidayeen continue to remain free and their connections and relations are never cut from anyone. You can see they continue to publish articles in different media outlets and use social media. They also continue to remain in contact with their friends and families. The only restriction is that they are asked not to provide even a clue to anyone about their decision and mission.
Every fidayee of Majeed Brigade is clearly given the option until the very end to take back their decision of carrying out a self-sacrificing attack. In fact, as part of Majeed Brigade’s rules, the question is asked multiple times during the process from fidayeen that whether they want to reconsider their decision.
Another major difference is that the fidayeen of Majeed Brigade play an important part in choosing their targets. They have a major role during the planning process. They have the full rights to change the target if they do not agree with the political goals of it. They have full knowledge of what their target is and why this has been chosen, they know what the consequences will be whether the attack is successful or not. They are perfectly aware that when they reach their target and fire their first bullet the political goals of their attack have been achieved. After that the military aspects of the mission begin and even if they fail to accomplish this stage of the attack their mission is already a success. They in their own lives see the success of their mission and they fully know what this means because during the training they comprehensively study the political aspects and implications of their mission and target.
Another main and clear difference between these attacks is the expectation of personal benefits. Contrary to religious suicide attackers, the Baloch fidayeen do not carry out these attacks to go to a paradise. In fact, the majority of the Baloch fidayeen that I know do not even believe in any kind of religion, and those who believe in religion have very secular views. Their paradise is their homeland Balochistan. They choose their death for the independence of their motherland and to get their voices heard by the world. They do not die for any promised paradise; in fact, they are the guardians of their own paradise.
TBP: After every attack of Majeed Brigade, Pakistani authorities have claimed that these attacks have been foiled, how do you measure success and failure?
Commander Majeed Brigade: A self-sacrificing mission begins when a fidayee completes his training and leaves for his target. After that we divide the mission in different stages. The first stage is to successfully reach the city where the target is located, the second stage is to reach the target itself and the third stage is to carry out the attack on the target. As soon as the third stage begins all the political goals of our attack are accomplished as at that point, we manage to get our voice heard by the international community. At that stage we consider our attack to be a success. If the fidayeen are caught or killed before the third stage then our mission is a failure, and so far, none of Majeed Brigade’s attacks have been failed. After this the fourth and final stage begins which only carries military importance. This stage is regarding conquering or destroying the target and this depends on the nature of target.
TBP: Few circles within the Baloch nationalists oppose the attacks of Majeed Brigade and have declared this as terrorism, how do you respond to this?
Commander Majeed Brigade: In the very early days of this resistance, cracker blasts were carried out at empty places. Even at that time there was a lobby who used to term these blasts as terrorism and extremism. With time this lobby died its death. The Baloch nation accepted the Baloch resistance and the resistance continued to evolve and became more advanced and stronger. This progress has to continue if we really want to achieve success. Majeed Brigade is the advanced and intense form of this struggle and for some groups it is not very easy to accept this intensity and progression. With time some of them might understand that changes and advancements are necessary. It is possible our future generations might fight such an intense war that we are not even able to anticipate today. It does not mean we should oppose that because we are not able to fight similarly.
On the face these elements show they are well-wishers but their beliefs instead of being based on the ground realities are heavily influenced by the so-called “politically correct culture”. This does not match with the conditions of Balochistan, Baloch war and the requirements of this war. This is also a lot to do with Pakistan’s strong propaganda and many in such lobbies unintentionally have been influenced by this propaganda. For example, Pakistan in order to regain the trust of foreign investors heavily propagated that the Pakistan stock exchange attack was foiled. And then some of our “well-wishers” also repeated the same Pakistani narrative. Whereas, everyone knows this was a very successful attack.
As far as allegations of terrorism are concerned, the terrorism has always been defined by the interests of the world. Until a weaker party does not win the war for its self-defense, they, though being right, will always be termed as terrorists. When US had its interests attached to Turkey it declared PKK a terrorist group. But when US needed Kurds against ISIS they wasted no time in making alliance with PKK’s affiliated force YPG. The rebels of Syria and Libya are involved in all sorts of human rights violations but are still allies of US. When you are weak even a firecracker exploded by you will be condemned as terrorism but when you gain power everyone will see their interests aligned with yours. If we really want to win our war of emancipation, then all our concentration should be on increasing our national power. In any war between two nations one’s hero is other’s terrorist, but if you begin to think that your hero is a terrorist like your enemy does than you should self-analyze yourself and understand what have you become and which side do you belong to.
TBP: In last two and half years a dramatic increase has been observed in the “self-sacrificing” attacks of Majeed Brigade. What is the reason behind youth being attracted to this phenomenon and why for seven years no one was attracted to this?
Commander Majeed Brigade: The notion that no one joined Majeed Brigade after 2011 is untrue. Majeed Brigade continued its activities and many fidayeen were ready to carry out attacks but due to some self-made artificial hurdles such attacks were stopped. During this time some fidayeen of Majeed Brigade also embraced martyrdom while serving for BLA. These fidayeens include Haq Nawaz Badini, Saddam Baloch, Janan Baloch, Chairman Fateh and Babar Majeed who got killed along with General Aslam Baloch. They were all members of Majeed Brigade. I should clarify one thing here that when a Baloch activist contacts Majeed Brigade and expresses their decision and until and unless they do not change their decision, they continue to remain a member of the Brigade. If such activists embrace martyrdom or even die a natural death before their mission, we still consider them a fidayee. And the Baloch history and Majeed Brigade will remember them as a fidayee.
It is a fact that after 2018 the attacks of Majeed Brigade have increased. This is due to General Aslam Baloch becoming the chief of the organization and removing all these hurdles and the credit also goes to his son Rehan Baloch’s self-sacrificing attack, which increased the confidence of Baloch youth manifolds.
TBP: What is the strength of Majeed Brigade?
Commander Majeed Brigade: Due to organizational confidentiality, it is not allowed to reveal the numbers of not only Majeed Brigade but also of BLA. But I can confirm that Majeed Brigade has several fidayeen who are ready to render their services. It is also to be noted that Majeed Brigade is not only limited to those who carry out self-sacrificing attacks, but it comprises of three units.
1: Operational Unit – these are the fidayeen who carry out self-sacrificing attacks on the targets
2: Logistic Unit – This unit comprises of those who perform the logistical activities including transporting ammunition and the fidayeen to their targets.
3: Intelligence Unit: This is the intelligence wing and is solely responsible for intelligence gathering.
End Of The Journey
We wanted to ask Commander Hammal Rehan several more questions, but he told us that he is running out of time and has to leave. This meant our journey was also coming to an end but we had got the answers, the reasons and the philosophy for which we had commenced this journey.
The concept of Baloch fidayeen might be new for the world but this has always been a strong part of Baloch nation’s collective resistance approach and this was always expected. The roots of self-sacrificing attacks can be found much before 2 August 1974 when on 13 November 1839 only 40 Baloch put an exemplary resistance in front of a large number of British Army personnel who were armed with modern weapons. It will not be wrong to say that it was the biggest self-sacrificing attack of Baloch history. This self-sacrificing concept embodies the Baloch beliefs of attachment to this land and history more than anyone else in the region. The Baloch always consider them as debtors of this land and in order to payback the concept of sacrifice has always been a strong trait of their collective life.
During our journey we met with several Baloch fighters who call themselves as “Sarmachar”, the literal meaning of the word is one who is ready to sacrifice himself. The difference that we observed between an ordinary Baloch fighter and a member of Majeed Brigade was very thin. An ordinary fighter has also accepted death and waits for its arrival, whereas, a fidayee himself choses the time and venue of his death. We were told that the number of ordinary Baloch fighters killed in last two and half years is three times more than the suicide attackers of Majeed Brigade during the same period. After knowing this, one will not be surprised if there is further intensity in number of self-sacrificing attacks.
When we were leaving from our meeting with BLA chief Bashir Zeb we asked one last question that from Majeed Senior to the self-sacrificing attack of Pakistan stock exchange these attacks might have achieved their political and ideological goals but what is the reason that unlike suicide attacks of extremist organizations, the Baloch attackers do not achieve same level of success on the military front? Is this due to the Baloch psychology or are there any other reasons? He responded, “Baloch fidayeen are not professional killers but human loving political activists, their main aim is to make their voices heard and to take their political demands to the world. The Baloch do not carry out attacks to kill but to die. We should be afraid of the day when Baloch will venture out to kill.”