Author: Bahot Baloch
On October 11, in the Margat area of Bolan, two Frontier Corps officials, Subedar Mohammad Khan, and Sepoy Abdul Rasheed, were arrested by unidentified armed fighters. Their bus was halted on the highway, after which the officials were identified, and subsequently taken to an undisclosed location by armed fighters.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) later claimed responsibility for the incident. Jeeyand Baloch, the BLA spokesperson, stated that the Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS) of the BLA executed this operation based on intel from BLA’s Intelligence Wing.
Prior to this incident, on September 14, 2023, about 20 kilometers from Quetta, the BLA attacked and captured the freshly established military posts of the Pakistani army at Wali Thangi. A video detailing the operation appeared on the BLA’s official media channel, Hakkal, titled ‘Fourteen Minutes and Fourteen Warriors’. Notably, the start of the video highlighted the involvement of BLA’s elite unit, the ‘Fateh Squad’, in the operation.
Over the years, various specialized units within the Baloch Liberation Army structure have been established and the BLA has consistently spotlighted their operations and actions through media releases, video broadcasts, and photographic content.
•STOS: Deep Dive into BLA’s Elite Unit
Recent operations by the BLA showcase the crucial roles played by their elite units, including the Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS).
The first formal acknowledgment of STOS surfaced on October 21, 2018. This was after a prominent BLA commander, Fateh Qambrani, who also went by the pseudonym ‘Chairman’, lost his life during a skirmish with the Pakistani security forces in the Mach area of the Bolan district. The BLA spokesperson, Jeeyand Baloch, revealed in a subsequent statement that Qambrani had been operating as the commander of this elite STOS unit.
The BLA’s official literature provides insights into STOS. It describes STOS as “an elite unit of the Baloch Liberation Army, specifically trained to execute special operations in both urban settings and mountainous terrains.”
The ‘Dhak’ annual activity report, an official publication of the BLA, devotes a section to STOS. It not only tracks their missions but also pays respect to members who’ve made the “ultimate sacrifice”. As per the 2022 edition, STOS had carried out nine operations across Balochistan the preceding year.
Noteworthy operations included the abduction of Colonel Laiq Beg Mirza from Ziarat, a serving member of the Pakistani army, and the capture of two officials from the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies in Harnai. The ‘Dhak’ report also mentioned an operation that led to the downing of a helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of six military officials, including high-ranking officers.
The STOS’s audacity was particularly evident on December 25th, the death anniversary of a former BLA leader, General Aslam Baloch. The squad executed several attacks including two high-profile attacks in Turbat and Kahan, resulting in the death of a captain, a commissioned officer, and 15 other Pakistani soldiers.
Additionally, Urban areas have also witnessed the STOS’s modus operandi, with a spate of armed assaults and bombings. They introduced the use of “magnetic bombs” in Balochistan’s cities.
Key figures within the STOS have been killed in confrontations, underscoring the high-risk nature of their operations. For instance, Tariq Marri, alias Nasir, was killed in a confrontation with the Pakistani security forces at the Jantro location in the Harnai-Bolan Mountain range in October 2021. The BLA identified him as the STOS commander of the Bolan Region. Similarly, in July 2021, Tabish Inayat, alias Rehan, from Khudabadan, Panjgur, was killed in Panjgur during a skirmish with the Pakistani forces.
Recent video messages of BLA leader, Bashir Zeb Baloch, also showcased STOS members. In these visuals, they stand out due to their distinct uniforms and advanced weaponry, marking their distinct identity within the BLA’s ranks.
•BLA’s Fateh Squad
Parallel to STOS, BLA’s ‘Fateh Squad’ has its roots intertwined with Fateh Qambrani’s legacy. According to the BLA records, the ‘Fateh Squad’ stands distinguished as an “elite unit” and the fifth wing within the BLA structure.
Up until October 2018, this squad functioned as a part of BLA’s fourth wing, “STOS.” However, after the demise of Fateh Qambrani, alias Chairman, on October 20, 2018, the BLA chose to honor his bravery. In doing so, they elevated the “Fateh Squad” as an independent wing, bearing his name.
This specialized wing comprises highly skilled Sarmachars (freedom fighters) who, as the front-line unit, have successfully captured multiple camps of the Pakistan Military forces. A prominent operation took place on May 31, 2021, in the Bolan’s Marwaar. The BLA targeted the Pakistani Army’s 129th Scout Wing’s Owais Camp. Here, 24 Pakistani soldiers were reportedly killed, and another was captured.
During this operation, the BLA also faced casualties, including the loss of Hingal Marri, Aftab Jattak, and Shahwez Zehri. All three were recognized as being part of the BLA’s front-line unit the ‘Fateh Squad’ by the BLA spokesperson.
BLA spokesperson further said that the Fateh Squad enlists Sarmachars (freedom fighters) who exhibit exceptional martial prowess, trained specifically for direct confrontations and to penetrate enemy lines.
The BLA has set 17 core principles for the Fateh Squad, ensuring their discipline, communication efficiency, and operational integrity. A few worth noting include the mandate for members to adhere strictly to central decisions, severe consequences for desertion, specific tech-based communication protocols, directives on the disclosure of fallen squad members’ identities, and non-disclosure of ranks.
•BLA’s Evolving Strategies
The past half-decade has witnessed a significant evolution in the BLA’s tactical and strategic approaches. The intensified attacks by the Majeed Brigade and the organization’s proficiency in conducting operations across diverse terrains—be it urban or mountainous—stand testament to their growing capabilities.
This prowess is further bolstered by the successes of the BLA’s intelligence wing, which has excelled in intelligence gathering, as evidenced by the successful monitoring and gathering of intel on high-ranking officials of the Pakistani military’s secret agencies in Turbat, as well as tracking Chinese company employees in the strategically significant Gwadar region.
Moreover, the BLA’s capability to capture military outposts in locations like Wali Thangi, Marwaar, and Kahan, and establishing checkpoints to intercept military personnel underscores the strength of their tactical units.
However, as the BLA refines its strategies and intensifies its operations, the retaliatory measures by the Pakistani army, particularly the extra-judicial killings of those previously detained, underscore their strategic and tactical failure. The evolving scenario suggests the potential for the BLA units to further strengthen their position in the coming years.
Echoing the BLA’s evolving tactics, BLA leader Bashir Zeb Baloch stated, “Our goal is to intensify the conflict to such an extent that residents of Islamabad, Punjab, Pindi, Lahore, and Gujranwala implore Pakistan to cease its hostilities in Balochistan.”