Who Was Mullah Umar Baloch? – Feature Report

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TBP Feature report

A controversial character in both Eastern and Western parts of Balochistan, Mullah Umar, was killed on the night of 17th November in mysterious circumstances. As per the official account, it was an exchange of fire with the Police. But people on the ground narrate a different story. It was forces, affiliated with Pakistani military, that were calling the shots.

Satellite town in Turbat city of Kech district is relatively a posh area to live in. It is situated near the so-called International Airport and a heavy presence of Pakistani security forces is a common sight. Mullah Umar’s residence was in this locality. It was not difficult to assume who was hosting Mr Umar for many years despite being a number one enemy of neighbouring Iran.

Although Umar had the prefix Mullah (Cleric) in his name, he in his lifetime always denied being a religious extremist and claimed a nationalist who was struggling against the Shia Iran for the rights of his people, Sunni Balochs, and for the freedom of Balochistan (Western part). His claims were heavily disputed.

On the 17th November there was considerable increase in movement of state forces in and around Turbat town. Sources close to Umar told TBP that Mullah had already sniffed something had changed. Recently, he refused to meet Pakistani security officials when he was invited. Later in the night, appraised of security tightening up around his residence, he decided to leave the town in time but it was already too late. Umar was chased and gunned down along with his two sons, Hassan and Hussain.

Who was Mullah Umar?

In his late 40s at the time of his death, the grey-bearded Mullah Umar came to limelight when in 2013 Iranian drones entered Eastern Balochistan’s Kulaho town of Kech district and dropped several bombs at a compound which was later reported as a training camp-cum-house of Jaish al Adl’s commander Mullah Umar. His daughter was killed in the attack. Jaish al Adl, the group Mullah Umar was affiliated was, is engaged in its own kind of Religio-Nationalistic insurgency in Western Balochistan.

Eastern Balochistan has always been considered a safe haven for the Baloch insurgents who are engaged against the Iranian government. The alleged drone attack brought enough attention to the hosts of Umar who started valuing him as an asset and provided him with a house in Satellite Town, the posh area of Turbat city where he lived his life before being assassinated by his hosts.

In return of the favours granted to him, Umar did the dirty job for his powerful hosts, he often clashed with Baloch insurgents who are engaged against the Pakistani government in what they call a “war of freedom”. He was reinforced with other local death squad men, especially Yasir Behram group. On one occasion they had an hours-long battle with Baloch separatists in an area known as Kahiran Nigor, it was Pakistani forces who later came to their rescue.

Where did Mullah come from?

Mullah Umar was an ethnic Baloch hailing from Sistan va Balochistan in Iran. He joined the militant group of Maula Bux Darakhshan alias Mauluk after his brother was killed by the Iranian government. Mauluk had waged war against Iran since 1990s under the group named Sipah-e-Rasoolallah. It was Mauluk who initially set up the camp at Kulaho Turbat but after his death in 2006 Mullah Umar became the leader of the group before another group ‘Jundullah’ emerged as a power in the area.

Jundullah too was disintegrated when its leader Abdul Malik Rigi was apprehended and hanged by the Iranian government. Baloch insurgents in Iran were dismantled for a few years but finally found a new home under the title of Jaish al Adl under the leadership of Salahuddin Farooqi. Mullah Umar was a key commander of Farooqi’s Jaish and remained engaged in a war against Iran and alongside that kept completing tasks given to him by his powerful Pakistani hosts.

How Important was Mullah Umar?

Mullah Umar’s importance can be perceived by the fact that he was killed after the visit of Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif’s to Pakistan and deals made for opening multiple trade routes along the border of Iranian and Pakistani side of Balochistan.

Mullah was considered to be the boss of Haji Hassan Irani who is accused of being the key facilitator of Mumbai attacks in 2008. Aditya Raj Kaul, a prominent Indian journalist has called Mullah Umar to be the person who had kidnapped an Indian national Kulbhushan Jadav and handed him over to Pakistan army. Pakistan maintains that Kulbushan was an agent of Indian’s intelligence agency, RAW, supporting Baloch fighters against Pakistan.

It is believed the shady but important man Mullah Umar’s life was cut-short under Pakistani deals with Iranian officials that the “wanted criminals” of each state will be exchanged. Mullah had indeed sniffed the changes coming and tried to sneak out before it was too late, but it was already too late.

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