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Balochistan Liberation Army

The Balochistan Liberation Army (Balochi: بلۏچستان آجوییء لشکر‎; abbreviated BLA), also known as the Baloch Liberation Army is a militant organization[16] based in Afghanistan.[11][10][17] The BLA is listed as a terrorist organization by Pakistan,[18] United Kingdom[19] and the United States.[12][13] Since 2004 the BLA has waged a violent armed struggle against Pakistan for what it claims as self-determination for the Baloch people and separation of Balochistan from Pakistan and has been involved in ethnic-cleansing of non-Baloch minorities in Balochistan.[20][21][9] The BLA is operating mainly in Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan where it carries out attacks against the Pakistan Armed Forces, civilians and foreign nationals.[22][23] The Baloch Liberation Army became publicly known during the summer of 2000, after it claimed credit for a series of bombing attacks on Pakistani authorities.[24]

Baloch Liberation Army
بلۏچستان آجوییء لشکر
Leader(s)
Active region(s)Balochistan, Pakistan
Afghanistan[6]
IdeologyBaloch Nationalism
Major actionsAssassination, Suicide bombing,[7] attacks against civilians and paramilitary forces,[8] Kidnapping and Ethnic Cleansing[9][10][11]
StatusActive. Designated as terrorist organisation by:
United Kingdom United Kingdom
United States United States[12][13]
Pakistan Pakistan
Size500[14]
HeadquartersKandahar, Afghanistan[2][15]

History

Although the Balochistan Liberation Army was officially founded in 2000, the media along with some analysts speculate that the group is a resurgence of prior Baloch ethnonationalist insurgencies, and more specifically the Independent Balochistan Movement of 1973 to 1977.[25]

According to some sources, 'Misha' and 'Sasha' (two former KGB agents) were among the architects of the original BLA. 'Misha' and 'Sasha' were the code names given to the two agents by KGB. According to the two KGB agents, the original BLA was built around the core of Baloch Student Organization (BSO). Following the withdrawal of Soviet Union from Afghanistan, BLA disappeared from the surface as its main source of funding Soviet Union had withdrawn from Afghanistan.[26][27][28]

On 10 February 1973, Pakistani police and paramilitary raided the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad without prior permission of the Iraqi government, during which a large cache of small arms, ammunition, grenades and other supplies were found in crates marked 'Foreign Ministry, Baghdad'. The ammunition and weaponry was believed to be destined for Baloch rebels. Pakistan responded by expelling and declaring persona non grata the Iraqi Ambassador Hikmat Sulaiman and other consular staff. In a letter to President Nixon on February 14, Bhutto blamed India and Afghanistan, besides Iraq and the Soviet Union, for involvement in a "conspiracy ... [with] subversive and irredentist elements which seek to disrupt Pakistan's integrity"[29][30]

Wright-Neville wrote that besides Pakistan, some Western observers also believe that India secretly funds the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).[31] However, in August 2013 US Special Representative James Dobbins said "The dominant infiltration of militants is from Pakistan into Afghanistan, but we recognise that there is some infiltration of hostile militants from the other direction as well."So Pakistan's concerns aren't groundless. They are simply, in our judgement, somewhat exaggerated."[32]

Some have claimed that Hyrbyair Marri[33] has been the group's leader since 2007, but in an interview in 2015 he denied having any contact with the group.[34] Hyrbyair's brother Balach had led the group from 2000 until he was killed in 2007.[35]

Foreign involvement

India

Indian newspaper, The Hindu, reported that the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) commanders, in the past, had sought medical treatment in India's hospitals, often under disguise or with fake identity. In one such case, a militant commander in charge of Khuzdar city was based in Delhi for at least six months in 2017 when he underwent extensive treatment for kidney-related ailments.[36] Baloch militants visits to India were often under assumed identities.[36] Similarly, another Baloch Liberation Army commander, Aslam Baloch alias Achu, was also alleged to have visited India in the past where he met people who were sympathetic to his cause.[36] Aslam Baloch was also alleged to have been treated at a hospital in New Delhi.[37]

Pakistan has also accused the BLA of being an Indian proxy, and Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, Afghanistan, for providing arms, training and financial aid to the BLA in an attempt to destabilize Pakistan.[38][39] However, Hyrbyair Marri, has denied the group has any links with India.[34] Similarly, India has also denied helping Baloch Liberation Army.[40]

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has acknowledged that they have been providing covert support to Baloch liberation army (BLA). After the death of Aslam Baloch alias Achu in Kandahar, Afghan officials claimed that the Afghan police chief Abdul Raziq Achakzai has housed Aslam Baloch and other separatist in Kandahar for years.[15] Similarly, Afghan media outlet, Tolo News also claimed that Aslam Baloch has been residing in Afghanistan since 2005.[41]

Previously, Baloch Liberation Army leader, Balach Marri, was also killed in Afghanistan.[42]

Terrorist designation

Pakistan designated the Balochistan Liberation Army as a terrorist organisation on 7 April 2006 after the group conducted a series of attacks targeting security personnel.[43] On 17 July 2006, the British government followed suit, listing the BLA as a "proscribed group" based on the Terrorism Act 2000,[44] although the U.K. has harboured Hyrbyair Marri, leader of the BLA, as a refugee, something which Pakistan has protested against.[45] The group's actions have been described as terrorism by the United States Department of State.[46]

The group was designated as global terrorist organization by United States on 2 July 2019. The United States also froze assets belonging to the BLA.[16][12][12][13][47][48] Similarly, European Union has also designated Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a terrorist organization.[49][50]

War Crimes

Human right organization have accused Balochistan Liberation Army of Ethnic Cleansing as Brahamdagh Bugti (alleged leader of BLA), during a TV interview on 15 April 2009, urged separatists to kill non-Baloch residing in Balochistan. His actions allegedly lead to the death of 500 non-Baloch citizens in the province.[9] BLA started targeting people from various ethnic backgrounds like Pashtuns, Sindhis and Punjabis whom the BLA considered to be outsider in the province.[51][52][53][54][55]

Human right groups have also accused Baloch insurgent groups of being involved in grave human right violations. Insurgent groups such as Baloch liberation army (BLA) have been involved in attack on schools, teachers and students in the province.[56]

Attacks

On 14 December 2005, BLA militants launched six rockets at a paramilitary camp in Balochistan's Kohlu district that then-President Pervez Musharraf was visiting. Though Musharraf's life was never in any real danger, the Pakistani government labeled the attack an attempt on his life and initiated a sweeping army operation in Kohlu.[57]

On 14 June 2009, masked gunmen shot dead Anwar Baig, a school teacher in Kalat. Baig had opposed recitation of the Baloch anthem in schools. The killing was part of a larger campaign against educators who were seen to be sympathetic to the Pakistani state.[58]

On 30 July 2009, BLA militants kidnapped 19 Pakistani police in Sui, killed one and injured 16. Over the course of 3 weeks all but one of the kidnapped police were killed by their captors.[59]

On 14 August 2010, BLA militants killed 6 laborers and wounded 3 others while they were on their way home from work.[60]

On 21 November 2011, BLA insurgents attacked government security personnel who were guarding a private coal mine in the northern Musakhel district, killing 14 and wounding 10 more. The BLA claimed to have killed 40.[61]

On 31 December 31, 2011, BLA militants placed a car bomb outside the house of Mir Naseer Mengal, a former minister of state, killing 13 and wounding 30 more.[62]

On 12 July 2012, Baloch liberation army took responsibility for abducting and killing 7 coal miners and 1 doctor. The miners were abducted in Soorang area on 7 July 2012. The miners were later killed and their bullet ridden bodies were found.[63][64] All of the victims were Pashtuns. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and coal miner labour union staged protest outside Balochistan High Court (BHC).[65]

On 6 August 2013, Baloch liberation army (BLA) took responsibility for abducting and killing 11 passengers from a bus near Machh Town. The militants were disguised as security personnel.[66]

On 16 August 2013, Baloch liberation army claimed responsibility for conducting an attack on Jaffar Express near Machh. The attack claimed lives of two people and wounded ten others.[66]

On 3 November 2014, Baloch liberation army (BLA) attacked United Baloch army (UBA). Commander Ali Sher of UBA was killed in the attack. Four other members of the UBA were also captured by BLA.[67]

On 30 June 2015, Baloch liberation army (BLA) clashed with United Baloch Army (UBA) in Dera Bugti. The attack resulted in death of 20 militants on both sides.[68]

On 7 October 2016, Baloch liberation army claimed responsibility for twin blast targeting Jaffar Express. The attack claimed lives of six people and wounded eighteen other.[69][70]

10 laborers are killed by two gunmen on motorbikes in Gwadar, Pakistani officials stated on 13 May 2017. BLA claimed the attack as a response to the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor.[71] Victims of the attack were native of Sindh province.[53]

On 14 August 2017, BLA claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb blast that killed 8 FC troops in Harnai.[72]

On 23 November 2018, BLA claimed responsibility for an attack, killing four, on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi in a tweet that included a photo of three men[73][74] identified as Azal Khan Baloch, Razik Baloch and Rais Baloch. All of them were killed by police during the attack.[75] Later on, the mastermind of the attack, Aslam Baloch Achu, was also killed along with five other commanders in Kandahar, Afghanistan.[3]

On 11 May 2019, the BLA claimed responsibility for an attack on the Zaver Pearl-Continental Hotel in the port city of Gwadar.[76]

Quaid-e-Azam Residency

The Quaid-e-Azam Residency, a historical residence in Balochistan where Muhammad Ali Jinnah spent the last days of his life, was attacked by rockets on 15 June 2013. The building was nearly demolished as a result of the attack. Militants belonging to the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility. The militants also removed the flag of Pakistan from the monument site, replacing it with a BLA flag.[77] The reconstruction work was completed and the rehabilitated Ziarat Residency opened on August 14, 2014 by Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif.[78]

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