Balochistan’s key militant Commander’s apology for terror attacks

Shambay’s arrest may be a game-changer

Addressing the media along with Home Minister Ziaullah Langove on May 13, this year, the key militant commander and the chief of the banned militant organisation Baloch National Army (BNA), Gulzar Imam alias Shambay urged all insurgents operating in the Balochistan province to surrender and adopt a peaceful life, saying that rights could only be achieved through political and constitutional struggle, which offer solutions to issues related to Balochistan.

The repentant militant commander said: “I seek apology from the family members of all those who were martyred during my tenure as an active (BNA) commander”.

Shambay rejected all sorts of armed struggles, including foreign support to the insurgents.

However, Balochistan’s top separatist leader Gulzar Imam, who was also the founder of the banned outfit BNA, was arrested on April 7, which is a big setback to the terrorist groups and their handlers in Balochistan. His arrest is also a big success for Pakistani intelligence agencies— Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs)— and a sequel to an excellent intelligence operation by the country’s primary intelligence agency ISI which captured this key terrorist who was living under the wings of hostile foreign intelligence agencies.

The Balochistan terrorism landscape is diverse— a number of Baloch anti-state anarchist groups, sponsored by hostile intelligence agencies (HIAs), are involved in militants’ terrorist activities. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has an inconsequential presence in Northern Balochistan whereas Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Republican Army (BRA) have been carrying out terror attacks and extortion in Quetta-capital of the province, and surrounding areas, while Gulzar Imam had remained very active in Southern Balochistan and executed terrorist acts against the LEAs. After the formation of the BNA, Kech and Noshki were impacted. Scattered pockets and sleeper cells of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) have been also effective in Quetta and North East Balochistan, but with very limited potency. BNA was one of the major contributing organisations in Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) which was formed on 10 November 2018. Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, head of BNA, was one of the major operation commanders for terrorist activities in Balochistan. Gulzar remained deputy to Brahamdagh Bugti in BRA till 2018. Later, after creation of BRAS, he formed a new militant outfit BNA.

Nevertheless, he was an ideologue, who was a staunch believer in independent Balochistan, and was in contact with the HIAs. He visited India on fake documents in December 2017.

Upon shifting of militancy leadership from feudals to commoners, Shambay emerged as an influential character in BRAS due to links with HIAs. He also remained operational head of BRAS prior to his arrest.

As regards the arrest of Gulzar, highly trained intelligence operators were employed at various geographic locations to verify the digital information. Upon his positive confirmation, he was approached under the guise of agents from HIAs. After necessary rapport building, he was gradually lured in through offers for financial and technical assistance.

Owing to different geographic contiguities, this complex case of intelligence history was undertaken through creation of fictitious characters and preparation of required supporting documents, which ultimately facilitated in engagement and strengthening bond with Gulzar.

The arrest of the top separatist leader of Balochistan will result in a positive impact on the morale of LEAs and intelligence agencies. Now, the Baloch people must think that the so-called militant or sub-national leaders are living abroad, enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, whereas ordinary Baloch are facing hardships in mountains and fighting a futile battle against the state. Hence, the BNA and other separatist groups must reconcile and surrender for ultimate integration into the society, which can lead to development of Balochistan and Pakistan. So, peace will afford better socio-economic (health, education, societal) opportunities for Balochistan.

The operation was spread over months. However, its climax/execution was carried out in a professional and calculated manner, sketching a complex web of militant outfits of Balochistan and establishing their links with HIAs.

In this respect, playing the main role, ISI successfully broke into the web of terrorist outfits. Arrest of Gulzar Imam alias Shambay indicates that the state, LEAs and intelligence agencies (especially ISI) are in full grip of the landscape for |suppression of such militancy.

In this connection, his arrest and admission, including apology for terrorism-related attacks will break the backbone of BNA and will have significant effects on the actions of his outfit. Besides, other sub-national groups, particularly BLA (Majeed Brigade) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) will also be affected. It will adversely impact the morale of all militant groups.

It is mentionable that the ink on Pak-China agreements related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative or BRI was barely dry when HIAs, especially American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad had accelerated playing up the Baloch insurgency. Malicious propaganda against the CPEC coincided with the terror attacks in Pakistan’s various regions, particularly in Balochistan.

Particularly, India was openly opposing the CPEC and China’s OBOR or BRI; the USA also joined New Delhi.

Besides energy projects, CPEC will open new doors of development relating to various fields, as the national economy of the country will grow fast, leading to creation of new job opportunities, poverty reduction, and development of the transportation sector— boost agricultural and industrial growth, including exports.

The Gwadar seaport projec,t which is the backbone of the CPEC, will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan, including developments in other backward areas of the province by redressing their grievances which the hostile elements, supported by the USA, India and Israel do not want.

Under the former COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s command, the fencing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which also entails Pak-Afghan border of Balochistan was started in June 2017 by the Pakistan Army to improve the security situation and has been almost completed.

The Army also contributed a lot in socio-economic development of Balochistan besides giving military training to the youth, while protecting mega-projects and the CPEC staff.

The country’s armed forces and ISI have successfully broken the spine of the foreign-backed terrorists. Besides other vulnerable provinces, peace has been restored particularly in Balochistan.

But, in the recent past, terrorist attacks especially in Balochistan show that these external intelligence agencies are destabilizing Pakistan and want to damage the CPEC.

It is mentionable that RAW is also using some terrorist outfits such as ISIS, BLA, BNA and -their linked groups like Majeed Brigade, which claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist assaults on workers and labourers, working for the CPEC projects in Balochistan. These terror entities also abducted and killed many Chinese nationals.

Notably, the military’s media wing ISPR in a statement on April 7, said: “The leader and founder of the banned Baloch National Army, Gulzar Imam alias Shambay was arrested in a high-profile intelligence-based operation by the security forces….[BNA] which came into being after the amalgamation of Baloch Republican Army and United Baloch Army.”

The ISPR statement elaborated: “The BNA has been responsible for dozens of violent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including attacks on law enforcement agencies…His visits to Afghanistan and India are also on record; his linkages with Hostile Intelligence Agencies are being investigated…which tried to exploit Gulzar Imam to work against Pakistan and its national interests”.

Nonetheless, arrest of the top separatist leader of Balochistan will result in a positive impact on the morale of LEAs and intelligence agencies.

Now, the Baloch people must think that the so-called militant or sub-national leaders are living abroad, enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, whereas ordinary Baloch are facing hardships in mountains and fighting a futile battle against the state.

Hence, the BNA and other separatist groups must reconcile and surrender for ultimate integration into the society, which can lead to development of Balochistan and Pakistan. So, peace will afford better socio-economic (health, education, societal) opportunities for Balochistan.

Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at [email protected]

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