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Baloch insurgency and continued tale of apathy and violence

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The province of Balochistan is once again in the vortex of turmoil and violence. On February 5, 2022, Pakistani military said it has killed at least 20 rebels in Balochistan after two army posts were attacked within hours of each other on February 2.[1] The attacks targeted paramilitary post in the town of Panjgur, about 450km (280 miles) south of the provincial capital, Quetta, and another one in Noshki, about 330km (205 miles) north of the first attack spot. Following the twin attacks, in a statement emailed to the media, the ethnic Baloch separatist group Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks. Jeayand Baloch, the BLA’s spokesman, said the raids were carried out by attackers who were prepared to “self-sacrifice”.[2]

Interestingly, earlier, in yet another violent attack, three civilians were killed and more than 30 others were wounded[3] in Pan Mandi area of Lahore’s famous Anarkali Market on January 20. The preliminary investigations showed that the blast was caused by a time-controlled device rigged to a motorcycle, Police spokesman Arif Rana said.[4]

A couple of hours after the blast, a Twitter handle supposedly from one Mureed Baloch said that Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) has claimed responsibility for the blast. He stated, “We accept responsibility for targeting the Habib Bank in Anar Kali Bazaar, Lahore with explosives. This attack targeted the Bank employees…” A detailed statement claims how this attack is a protest against the violence and killing of women and children by Pakistani troops in Balochistan.[5] Interestingly, Baloch groups have been attacking state installations outside Balochistan. In one such incident, in June, 2020, insurgents of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) attacked Pakistani stock exchange in Karachi, the financial hub of Pakistan. Earlier, in 2018 BLA insurgents also tried to storm the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, killing at least four people.[6]

Interestingly, the BNA is a new Baloch insurgent group that has been formed by a merger of two banned Baloch insurgent groups: Baloch Republican Army-BRA (banned in 2010) and United Baloch Army-UBA (banned in 2013). The announcement came from BRA spokesman Beebagr Baloch and UBA spokesman Mureed Baloch, who stated that the councils of both the former organizations met in an attempt to decide how best to combine and carry forward the resistance against Pakistani forces. They also took stock of the political situation in Balochistan, in this meeting. Reportedly, BNA is part of the larger Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS). Their official channel is ‘Baask’. This outfit’s central command council is tasked with organizing and planning resistance against Pakistani forces.[7]

The Chief of Transnational Terrorists Intelligence Group (TTIG) of Sindh Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Raja Umar Khattab said that the merger or alliance happened on January 11, 2022, when the group was formed. Most of the information about the group was gathered after the blast. Khattab also said the Lahore blast was the second terrorist attack claimed by this new group in two days. It claimed to have carried out an attack on a security convoy in Balochistan’s Kech district on January 19.[8]

Over a period of time, ethnic Baloch groups have fought a long-running insurgency for a separate homeland and a greater share of resources in Balochistan province.[9] Accordingly, various Baloch insurgent groups have emerged in Pakistan, as a direct response to various deceitful actions taken by the Federal Government. The tale of Balochistan since 1948 (when it merged with Pakistan, under duress) is that of ceaseless tyranny and revolt. The Pakistan government has waged military campaigns against the Baloch people in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77. Five rebellions since 1947. The first wave of rebellion occurred in 1948, followed by the second in 1955 after the imposition of the ‘One-Unit’ Plan of Ayub Khan. The third rebellion caused due to the declaration of Martial Law in 1958. The fourth wave came in the year 1973 when the then Balochistan Chief Minister Sardar Attaullah Mengal was fired by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The fifth and the continuing wave of conflict began when strain mounted between the Bugti tribe under the leadership of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti and the Provincial and Federal authorities.[10]

The resource-rich, but often neglected province of Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has not only been plagued by separatist insurgency, but also sectarian violence, and attacks by Islamist militants that has led to thousands of casualties. The story of Balochistan is that of persistent human spirit facing worse possible state-sponsored massacre and viciousness. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) 2019, Balochistan’s people are amongst the worst affected under the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Many areas in Balochistan still lack basic amenities such as roads, schools, hospitals, etc. Shockingly, Pakistan’s ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan has resulted in regular occurrences of mutilated dead bodies of Baloch people, in various stages of decomposition and beyond recognition, dotting the roads of Balochistan. These killing result out of enforced disappearances engineered by the Army, the intelligence agencies and their Islamist proxies.[11]

The Baloch rebels have been fighting the government for decades, demanding a separate state and stating the central government unethically exploits Balochistan’s rich gas and mineral resources. The latest unification of BRA and UBA in the form of BNA, indicates a calculated and cautious step towards intensifying the national base of Baloch insurgency and trying to unite previously scattered Baloch forces against the Pakistani military, intelligence forces and para-military. This gives the groups a larger prospect to share weapons, ammunitions, intelligence, and safe havens, allowing operations to be conducted more efficiently. The series of fresh attacks by Baloch groups towards the military installations is a clear indication that the voices of the oppressed shall not be silenced.


[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/5/pakistan-says-it-has-killed-20-rebels-in-three-days-of-clashes

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/3/pakistani-forces-battle-gunmen-after-balochistan-checkpost-raids

[3] https://www.dawn.com/news/1670672

[4] https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/pakistan-lahore-market-bomb-blast/31663203.html

[5] https://opoyi.com/lahore-bomb-blast-who-are-baloch-nationalist-army-group-claiming-responsibility

[6] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53217227

[7] https://opoyi.com/lahore-bomb-blast-who-are-baloch-nationalist-army-group-claiming-responsibility

[8] https://www.samaa.tv/news/2022/01/who-formed-the-terror-group-behind-lahore-bombing/

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53217227

[10]http://www.pildat.org/publications/publication/balochistanconflict/IssuePaperBalochistanConflictCMR.pdf

[11] https://www.newageislam.com/islam-sectarianism/sanchita-bhattacharya/balochistan-highlights-brazen-approach-pakistan-government-dealing-with-genuine-concerns-balochs/d/124049

Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya, is Research Fellow in New Delhi based Institute for Conflict Management. Her core area of research is Madrasa Education in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. She works on terrorism and socio-political issues of Pakistan. She also has an avid interest in the Af-Pak region. Her articles and commentaries have been published in East Asia Forum, The Kabul Times, The Outlook, The Pioneer, South Asia Monitor etc. She has written research papers in national and international journals and also contributed chapters in various edited volumes. She can be reached at sanchita.bhat83[at]gmail.com

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“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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