On Saturday, June 24, 2023, an event of profound significance unfolded in the city of Turbat, Balochistan, sending ripples through the region. A convoy of high-ranked Pakistani military officials was targeted in a suicide bomb attack, executed by the 2nd female fidayee (self-sacrificer) of BLA’s Majeed Brigade.
The Baloch Liberation Army, an armed group fighting for the independence of Balochistan, swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying Sumaiya Qalandrani Baloch of the BLA’s Majeed Brigade as the attacker. The Majeed Brigade is BLA’s elite unit which specializes in carrying out such self-sacrificing attacks. The BLA spokesperson, Jeeyand Baloch, revealed that the attack targeted a convoy of Pakistan’s secretive agencies carrying high-ranking officials, traveling from Turbat Airport to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters.
The attack reportedly resulted in significant losses on the convoy. However, the total damage and fatalities could not be transparently assessed due to the area’s rapid cordon-off by Pakistani law-enforcement agencies including military forces. According to initial reports provided to the media by security officials, a female bomber targeted a Pakistani forces vehicle in Chakar-e-Azam Chowk Turbat on Saturday afternoon. Officials said that a police vehicle has also come under the attack and one policeman was killed and two others, including a lady constable, were injured. However, the media reported that more details are yet to come.
While on the other hand, contrary to initial reports, BLA’s Jeeyand Baloch clarified that neither the police vehicle in the vicinity nor its occupants were the intended targets. He blamed the Pakistani forces for the police vehicle’s assault, which was moving on the other side of the road at the time of the attack. A day later, a local police official also said that the police personnel were killed and injured due to the indiscriminate firing of the army personnel after the blast.
- A Glimpse into the Life of Sumaiya Baloch
Sumaiya Qalandrani Baloch, also known by her alias Sammo, was born into the Qalandrani tribe on August 17, 1997, in Tootak, a small town in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan.
Her family reportedly experienced firsthand the brutalities of the Pakistani state, with multiple male members forcibly disappearing during a military operation in Tootak in February 2011. However, it was not until she turned 18 that she decided to join the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).
According to the BLA statement, Sumaiya’s decision to join the BLA was not an impulsive response triggered by a single traumatic event. Rather, it was a conscious and deliberate choice, driven by a deep understanding of the stakes at hand. As a highly educated individual, she put her knowledge to use as a journalist, enhancing the effectiveness of the BLA’s media wing with her skills and intelligence.
Her personal life was also deeply intertwined with the Baloch resistance. She was the fiancée of Fidayee Rehan Baloch, who executed a self-sacrificing attack on Chinese engineers near Dalbandin in 2018, and the daughter-in-law of the BLA’s founding leader, General Aslam Baloch.
As per the BLA spokesperson, Sumaiya volunteered for the Majeed Brigade at 21 and remained committed to her decision, ultimately leading to her self-sacrificing attack last Saturday. Her actions immortalized her as a symbol of the Baloch resistance and marked a significant moment in Balochistan’s struggle for independence.
- The Evolving Role of Women in Balochistan’s Armed Struggle
The narrative of armed struggle in Balochistan is witnessing an unprecedented shift, with women stepping into roles traditionally filled by men. The self-sacrificing attack carried out by Sumaiya Baloch marks a crucial moment in the ongoing struggle for Balochistan’s independence, highlighting not only the escalating conflict but also the increasing role of women in the armed struggle.
Previously, Shari Baloch, another female member of the BLA’s Majeed Brigade, had undertaken a similar attack at the University of Karachi, targeting Chinese officials. At the time, many considered Shari’s act to be an anomaly, a one-off deviation from the liberation movement’s typical gender dynamics. However, Sumaiya Baloch’s recent act has emphatically proven otherwise.
BLA’s spokesperson Jeeyand Baloch confirmed in his recent statement that numerous women are now part of the Majeed Brigade, with hundreds of “fidayees,” including women, ready for self-sacrificing attacks. “Occupying state Pakistan and its crony China should immediately withdraw from Balochistan, or else they will have to face harsh attacks,” Jeeyand Baloch quoted.
BLA’s official media channel released a video where several female members of the Majeed brigade are shown in the brigade’s uniform and suicide wests. In this video, Sumaiya is delivering her last message in the Urdu language. She says that despite being owners of a rich land, the Baloch people are kept away from education and their youth languish in torture cells. She says her act is only the beginning of such sacrifices and she is sure that she’s on the right path, asking others to join the struggle.
Traditionally, women’s roles in Balochistan’s liberation movement have been supportive or symbolic, with active combat roles largely off-limits. However, the attacks by Sumaiya and Shari Baloch signify a notable departure from these norms, demonstrating that women are not just participants in this struggle, but key players in the armed resistance.
- Public Reaction
Following the attack, a surge of reactions swept across social media platforms, especially on Twitter, where #SumaiyaTheLegend began trending in the region within hours. The hashtag, predominantly used by the activists and supporters of the independence of Balochistan served as a tribute to Sumaiya Baloch. Importantly, the use of the hashtag extended beyond the supporters of armed struggle, attracting individuals with a wide array of ideological affiliations.
Expressions of admiration and solidarity dominated the discourse, as users praised Sumaiya’s bravery and sacrifice. The prevalent sentiment echoed across the digital landscape was a deep respect for her unwavering commitment to the struggle for Balochistan’s independence.
- Baloch Women Rise to the Frontlines
The dynamics of the Balochistan conflict are undergoing a significant transformation, highlighted by the daring attacks carried out by women like Shari and Sumaiya Baloch. Their involvement fundamentally challenges established norms, necessitating a re-evaluation of gender roles in this struggle.
This shift prompts intriguing questions regarding the future trajectory of the Baloch movement. The active participation of women in the armed struggle could indeed galvanize the independence movement, driving it forward with renewed vigor. On the other hand, it could further complicate the already intricate socio-political landscape.
The Turbat incident has indelibly marked a new chapter in the history of Balochistan’s independence struggle. The ramifications of this event are still unfolding, and the full impact may not be understood for some time.
However, one fact stands prominently clear: The era of women’s active involvement in the armed struggle has well and truly begun in this region. With Sumaiya Baloch’s self-sacrificing attack marking the second of its kind, the arrival of Baloch women on the frontline can no longer be overlooked or dismissed as a one-off incident.