Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
On October 22, 2022, six Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and another four were injured when the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) targeted an Army convoy at the Zarghoon Ghat area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.
While claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch stated that an SF convoy consisting of 10 military vehicles was targeted by the group’s Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS), adding that at least two enemy vehicles were destroyed.
He warned that BLA would continue to target ‘occupying forces’ until their full withdrawal and the ‘liberation of the Baloch motherland’.
On October 21, 2022, four SF personnel were killed and another two injured, when BLA cadres targeted an Army vehicle with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Izbotki area of Johan tehsil (revenue unit) in the Kalat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.
On October 21, 2022, Hafeezullah, a local agent of the Pakistani military intelligence, was killed by BLA cadres in the Zehri area of Khuzdar District. While claiming responsibility, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed that Hafeezullah was involved in the forcible disappearances of Baloch youth in Zehri and adjoining areas. He added that the BLA would ‘bring to justice’ all other local collaborators of ‘enemy forces’ as well.
On October 19, 2022, a soldier was killed and several were injured when BLA targeted an Army outpost in the Tigran area of Zamuran tehsil in Kech District. While claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch reiterated the attacks against the occupying forces would continue.
On October 7, 2022, one Army soldier was killed and two were injured when BLA cadres targeted an Army post with hand grenade near the Degree College in the Sariab Road area of Quetta. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.
On October 7, 2022, one Army soldier was killed and several were injured when BLA cadres attacked an Army outpost in the Sheh Mardan area of Kalat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), BLA-initiated attacks have led to 37 SF deaths in the current year (data till October 23, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, BLA had killed 11 SF personnel. The whole of 2021 recorded 20 SF deaths in BLA attacks.
Since August 1, 2004, when the first BLA attack recorded by SATP, five soldiers and a civilian were killed when BLA cadres targeted SF vehicles in the Khuzdar District, at least 171 SF personnel have been killed by the BLA (data till October 23, 2022). On year-on-year basis, fatalities recorded in 2022, with still over two months to go, is the highest in a year since then. The previous high of 31 was recorded way back in 2011. Significantly, BLA claimed that SF fatalities were on a steep and continuous rise since 2019. While no BLA-claimed SF fatality was reported in 2018, there was one such fatality in 2019, increasing to eight in 2020 and spiking to 20 in 2021.
Since August 1, 2004, BLA-linked violence has also led to 146 civilian deaths, including eight in the current year. The BLA claims that those killed were ‘state agents’.
Between August 1, 2004, and October 23, 2022, 147 BLA cadres have also been killed.
Meanwhile, BLA’s growing strength is reflected in the February 2, 2022, simultaneous attacks by BLA cadres on the Panjgur and Nuskhi Army camps in Balochistan. Though Pakistan Government sources claimed only four SF fatalities, Radio Zrumbesh, quoting BLA ‘spokesman’ Jeeyand Baloch, claimed that 45 SF personnel were killed when a ‘martyred’ fidayeen (suicide attacker) rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the main gate of the Frontier Corps headquarters at Nushki, clearing the way for other fidayeen to enter.
More recently, on September 25, 2022, six Pakistan Army officials, including two majors, were killed after a helicopter ‘crashed’ during a rescue mission near Khost in the Harnai District of Balochistan. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility, asserting that the helicopter had been shot down by rocket launchers.
Moreover, BLA carried out an audacious attack on April 26, 2022, in which at least five persons, including three Chinese nationals, their Pakistani driver and a security guard, were killed when a women suicide bomber blew herself up near a van, transporting Chinese nationals from the Karachi University Hostel to the Confucius Institute in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. A Karachi University spokesperson confirmed that three of the deceased were Chinese nationals. BLA claimed responsibility for the attack. The female suicide bomber, Shaari Baloch alias Bramsh, who belonged to BLA’s Majeed Brigade, was the first Baloch woman suicide bomber.
Indeed, among the major Baloch insurgent groups, such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA), BLA has been leading from the front in recent times. Since January 2022, different Baloch groups have carried out at least 68 attacks, out of which BLA alone was responsible for 36.
Comprised mostly of Marri and Bugti tribe members, BLA was formed in response to the growing resentment in Balochistan over the continuous Government exploitation of the province’s natural resources and the neglect of development and welfare. The group has about 6,000 cadre spread across Balochistan and in the bordering areas of Afghanistan. It is currently led by Hyrbyair Marri who is in exile in London. Bashir Zeb Baloch is the ‘commander-in-chief’ of the outfit.
BLA is the only Baloch groups with a dedicated suicide squad, the Majeed Brigade. The Majeed Brigade is named after two brothers, Majeed Langove Senior and Majeed Langove Junior, who carried out suicide attacks in August 1974 and March 2010, respectively.
Majeed Senior tried to assassinate then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he was on an official visit to Quetta.
He wanted to the Prime Minister for his dismissal of the National Awami Party’s government in Balochistan, but Majeed Senior lost his life during the operation. Majeed Junior ‘sacrificed’ himself to save his associates when SFs raided the house where they were staying in Quetta’s Wahdat Colony.
Majeed Junior held back the SF raiders to give his associates time to escape. Following Majeed Junior’s death, a BLA leader, Aslam Achu, established the insurgent group’s suicide squad, and named it the Majeed Brigade, currently led by Hammal Rehan Baloch.
The Brigade carried out its first vehicle-borne suicide attack on December 30, 2011, when Baaz Khan Marri targeted tribal elder Shafiq Mengal, son of former acting Chief Minister and Federal Minister Naseer Mengal, on the Arbab Karam Khan Road in Quetta.
Shafeeq, who had run a ‘death squad’ targeting Baloch insurgents in different parts of the province, escaped unhurt, but 14 persons, including women and children, were killed, and 35 others were injuries.
Subsequently, the Majeed Brigade went into dormancy due to lack of funds and recruits, and it took the group seven years to carry out its second suicide attack, when a bus carrying Chinese engineers was targeted in Dalbadin in August 11, 2018. Aslam Achu’s 22-year-old son, Rehan Aslam Baloch, executed the attack. Majeed Brigade suicide bombers also hit the Chinese Consulate in Karachi (November 23, 2018); Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel (May 11, 2019); and the Pakistan Stock Exchange (June 29, 2020).
Apart from Majeed Brigade, BLA has a formed STOS, which works directly under Bashir Zeb Baloch. and is tasked to monitor and eliminate Army officers and their local collaborators.
Recently, on July 13, 2022, STOS abducted Lieutenant Colonel Laiq Baig Mirza along with his cousin Umer Javed, near the Warchoom area of Ziarat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed that Mirza was ‘arrested’ in an ‘intelligence-based operation’ for his direct involvement in the Baloch genocide, and grave human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of women and children, among other crimes.
Mirza was later killed when an Army Quick Reaction Forces team tried to rescue him. Two days later, his cousin Umer Javed’s body was recovered.
One of the longest surviving Baloch insurgent groups, BLA has increased its operations against SFs and ‘state agents’. The outfit is likely to intensify its operations in days to come, justifying the escalation on the grounds that the Pakistani state has failed to meet the genuine demands of the Baloch people.