A significant and unprecedented incident unfolded on the 24th of June, 2023, in the city of Turbat, Balochistan, creating widespread unrest in the region. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) targeted the Pakistani military in a ‘Fidayee'(self-sacrificing) attack.
Jeeyand Baloch, the spokesperson for the Baloch Liberation Army, issued a statement to the media, revealing that the ‘Majeed Brigade,’ a self-sacrificing squad affiliated with the organization, targeted a “High-Value” convoy of the “enemy” forces in Turbat city during the afternoon. The attack resulted in severe casualties and financial losses to the adversary.
The suicide attack was carried out by the BLA’s female fidayee, Sumayia Qalandrani, who was a member of BLA’s Majid Brigade. The BLA spokesperson informed that Sumayia Qalandrani, with a background in journalism, served for five years in the media wing (Hakkal) of the Baloch Liberation Army. During this period, she played a crucial role in strengthening and making the BLA media wing influential.
Sumayia Qalandrani was the second female fidayee of the group to carry out an operation successfully. Previously, Shari Baloch targeted Chinese members of the Confucius Institute in a fidayee attack in Karachi. The explosion resulted in casualties among Chinese civilians and Pakistani forces.
Following the Turbat attack, another significant event occurred on August 13, 2023, in the crucial coastal city of Gwadar, Balochistan. Armed individuals targeted a convoy consisting of Chinese civilians and Pakistani military personnel around 9:18 am. The attackers successfully halted the convoy for over two hours and inflicted casualties on Chinese civilians and Pakistani military personnel.
The Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for both attacks. Jiyand Baloch, the BLA spokesperson, stated that these actions were part of the BLA’s Operation Zerpahazag, with Majeed Brigade’s fidayeen Naveed Baloch alias Islam Baloch and Maqbool Baloch being involved.
The choice of targets in both Turbat and Gwadar attacks holds strategic importance. In Turbat, the BLA targeted the high-profile officers of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI initially, and the Pakistan Army later denounced the attack, attributing it to an assault on the police. However, later verified sources and CCTV footage clarified that the attack was directed at a military vehicle carrying high-ranking officers.
During the past five years, security measures in Gwadar were intensified after two suicide attacks on Chinese engineers and investors. Despite these efforts, the attackers managed to target a convoy carrying Chinese engineers near Gwadar port. According to the BLA spokesperson, the BLA’s intelligence wing and tactical wing were also involved in this operation.
Analysis of Attacks:
In the previous year, Baloch freedom fighters altogether conducted a total of 612 attacks. These attacks targeted the Pakistani military, oil and gas companies, minerals transporting convoys, communication towers, trains, and railway tracks, as well as foreign investors and local spies.
According to the annual report of the BLA, the group carried out a total of 247 attacks. Simultaneously, the Balochistan Liberation Front’s (BLF) annual report indicated that the organization executed 284 attacks. Other organizations such as the BRG, BNA, BLT, and UBA claimed responsibility for approximately 81 attacks collectively.
Besides the Gwadar and Turbat attacks, BLA’s Fatah Squad raided the freshly established Pakistani military posts on September 14, 2023, at Wali Tangi, approximately 20 kilometers from Quetta city, seizing them and capturing weaponry and ammunition.
The Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS) of the Baloch Liberation Army carried out an intelligence-based operation in the Margat area of Bolan on October 11, 2023, capturing two officers of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, namely Subedar Muhammad Khan and Sepoy Abdul Rashid.
According to the annual publication “Dak,” encompassing the organization’s activities, the BLA conducted nine special operations last year. These included five actions by the STOS, two by the Fatah Squad, and two by the Majeed Brigade.
On July 3, 2023, the Balochistan Liberation Front targeted a convoy of the Pakistani military’s motorcycle convoy in Kolwah, Balochistan. The attack resulted in the death of six personnel, including Major Saqib. The armed factions formed by the Pakistani military are known as Death Squads, operating under the approval of the military and intelligence agencies. These groups engage in activities such as looting, kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking, and more, to fulfill their financial needs.
On August 7, 2023, the BLF fighters targeted a vehicle of the Death Squad in Nalli area of Balgatar in an IED attack, killing six individuals, including the head of the Death Squad, Muhammad Ishaq, and his associates.
On November 3, the BLF launched a lethal attack on a Pakistani military convoy on the coastal highway in Pasni, Gwadar district. The group targeted two vehicles, resulting in the death of all 14 occupants, while the attackers seized their weapons.
Similarly, on April 1, 2023, BLA fighters ambushed a Pakistani military vehicle in Sah Dem, Zamuran, killing four personnel and capturing their weapons.
Last year marked a crucial milestone in the struggle of the armed groups when their leaders expressed their will to form the Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), the alliance of the Baloch armed groups, into a single army.
BRAS emerged as a formidable alliance of Baloch armed groups. Its activities have targeted the Pakistani military in high-intensity attacks, resulting in significant casualties and financial losses since its formation. These operations include seizing military camps, eliminating identified navy officials, and targeting Pakistan army personnel the personnel of the oil and gas companies.
Though no direct attacks from BRAS were reported last year, this alliance of various armed groups and their approach of forming BRAS into a single army in the future is considered an important development for the independence movement.
As the changes have been observed in the militant activities of the Baloch pro-independence organizations in the past few years, as well these groups are paying attention to publishing more literature, which had been lacking in the past.
Last year, around 25 educational videos and books were disseminated on various channels, including the media channel ‘Hakkal’ of the Baloch Liberation Army. These materials covered the use of new weapons, a book on urban guerrilla snipers, a booklet on digital security, and a booklet about the first Baloch female fidaee, Shari Baloch. Notably, the training videos on weapons are prominently published in the two most spoken languages in Balochistan, Balochi and Brahui.
These armed organizations have also published monthly and annual magazines covering their activities.
Similarly, video messages from the leaders of the Baloch armed groups are also regularly published. Last year, two videos of the head of the Baloch Liberation Army, Basher Zeb Baloch, were released. In one message, he discussed details about the Baloch movement, while in the second video, released a few days after the attack on Chinese engineers in Gwadar by the BLA’s Majeed Brigade, he addressed the world, including China and Arab countries.
In the mentioned message, he stated that China, along with Arab countries, Europe, Canada, and our neighboring countries, should be aware that the Baloch will not tolerate the deprivation of their national resources under any circumstances. We do not harbor enmity towards any other nation. If anyone commits looting of Baloch national resources, participates in genocide, supports Punjabis, and collaborates with Pakistan, then the Baloch will show how much power and strength they possess.
Last year, a total of 49 Baloch freedom fighters were killed in various regions of Balochistan, including 14 members of the Baloch Liberation Army, including three Fidayeen, and 35 members of the Balochistan Liberation Front.
The Baloch pro-independence forces faced a notable loss when at the end of the last year, Sarfraz Bangulzai of the Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) surrendered to the Pakistani military, along with his comrades. He made this announcement at a press conference in Quetta, accompanied by the Interim Information Minister of Balochistan, Jan Achakzai.
The authorities claimed in the press conference that Sarfraz Bangulzai had laid down weapons along with 70 individuals. However, in the mentioned press conference, only 18 individuals were visible, and according to some sources, the authorities exaggerated the numbers.
Sarfraz Bangulzai’s surrender may be considered a success for the Pakistani military authorities, but it cannot leave a significant impact on the ongoing Baloch independence movement in Balochistan. After the arrest of Gulzar Imam, several of BNA’s fighters joined various other Baloch armed groups, while Bangulzai was left with a few individuals, and practically, the BNA had already ended.
Furthermore, a large group comprising youths involved in the ongoing movement in Balochistan has been already prepared, and as a result, the deaths or arrests of the group commanders can only leave very little impact on the movement.
Due to the advanced tactics of armed Baloch freedom fighters, their attacks are becoming more intense. The severe nature of their attacks over the past year indicates that whether it is a city like Turbat, a highly alerted coastal city of Gwadar, a remote area like Kolwa, or the environs of Quetta Cantonment, Baloch armed groups are active and have the capability for intense attacks.
The Pakistani military is using full force and resources against Baloch freedom fighters, including drone attacks; however, it’s not achieving the desired results. Considering the attacks by Baloch groups, Pakistan’s military interests as well as external investments may face even more challenging situations in the future, while the suicide attacks by Shari Baloch and Sumayia Baloch reveal the evolving nature of this movement.
In a conversation with BBC Urdu, Basher Zeb, the head of the BLA, stated that the Baloch fidayeen are the great national heroes and assets of the Baloch nation. The Baloch nation considers them saviors and hopes, which is why a large number of Baloch men and women have actively become part of the Majeed Brigade, and fidayee attacks will continue with more intensity until the complete independence of Balochistan.