Why Ban on BLA?

There appears no end in sight to atrocities being committed by Pakistan Army in Balochistan. In Balochistan province, insurgeny by Baloch nationalists have been fought since 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973–77, with an ongoing and reportedly stronger, broader insurgency beginning in 2003

Balochistan's provincial capital and largest city is Quetta and shares borders with Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the Northeast, Sindh to the East and Southeast, the Arabian Sea to the south, Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north and northwest.


The main ethnic groups in the province are the Baloch people and the Pashtuns, who constitute 52% and 36% of the population respectively (according to the preliminary 2011 census). The remaining 12% comprises smaller communities of Brahuis, Hazaras along with other settlers such as Sindhis, Punjabis, Uzbeks and Turkmens.

Baloch separatists argue they have been economically marginalised as compared to the rest of Pakistan. Being crucial for Pakistan's economic future, as China has invested $46 billion in the region. The Balochistan Liberation Army, designated as a terrorist organisation by Pakistan and Britain, is the most widely known Baloch separatist group. Since 2000 it has conducted numerous deadly attacks on Pakistani troops, police, and civilians. Other separatist groups include Lashkar-e-Balochistan and the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF).

Though the U.S. on July 2, 2019 designated the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a terror organisation. but Baloch movement got further flip by inviting international attention on their demands . Immediate after the US ban on BLA ,in Germany the Baloch Republican Party's (BRP) unit organised a demonstration to highlight the incidents of enforced disappearances and human rights violations against Baloch people in Balochistan .

The activists said that the Pakistani military establishment has been abducting and killing Baloch people who attempt to raise their voice against enforced disappearances and worsening human rights violations.

They exposed CPEC project aimed at destruction not development for Baloch people' . They also exposed Pakistan army gimmickry of releasing abducted persons, According to Atta Baloch, social media manager, BRP Germany chapter the Pakistan Army has started releasing some abducted Baloch persons and abducting more people. They continue their military operations in different ports of Balochistan as well . Human rights activists from various Baloch organisations have been continuing their campaigns around the world to highlight the worsening human rights situation in Pakistan.

Pakistan's establishment has been since criticised over its practice of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by International bodies . Independent local and international human rights organisations put the numbers much higher. Around 20,000 have reportedly been abducted only from Balochistan, out of which more than 2,500 have turned up dead as bullet-riddled dead bodies, bearing signs of extreme torture.

Before being elected as Prime Minister, Imran Khan had admitted in series of interviews about the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and vowed to resign if he was unable to put an end to the practice, holding those involved responsible.

Back to BLA. It has about 6,000 cadre spread across the Balochistan Province and in the bordering areas of Afghanistan. In the seven decades of the Baloch movement, the BLA has survived the longest. It is borne out of the tradition of armed militants who were earlier indirectly supported by the Marri, Bugti, Mengal and other clans or sardars. The Baloch movement was influenced by the Soviet Union and radical Marxist ideology in the past and some of their leaders were trained by Moscow. The BLA continues to draw from the same revolutionary spirit but has added that to the younger generation of fighters.

While it is well-known fact that several over ground Baloch leaders are sympathetic to the organisation, the over ground tribal leaders do not flaunt ties with the organisation as it has been banned by Pakistan since 2006.

Apart from BLA, the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), the other recognised armed militant organisation was founded by Jumma Khan in 1964, to fight for the cause of Baloch freedom. The BLF used to be popular once, but it is believed that most of the BLF fighters have merged with the BLA

The Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) is the student wing of the BLA and was once led by the popular Dr. Allah Nazar. Almost all the leading figures of the militant Baloch leadership either live out of Pakistan or are in exile abroad. There are continuous reports of military crackdown against them.

BLA claims that Pakistan has been exploiting the resources of the Province without giving the due share to the locals and the indigenous Baloch tribes. In recent years, the BLA has emerged as a movement with a network of supporters in both urban and rural areas of Balochistan, and has created a space for itself away from the traditional hold of the sardars of tribes. BLA rebels have claimed that they are aiming for both freedom from Pakistan and internal reform of the Baloch society. They are opposed to the traditional sardar or Kawailey system at home.

As a result of its non-traditional approach, BLA has become more popular among young and educated Balochis. In comparison with the BLA, which is amorphous and led by local commanders in charge of city and regions of Balochistan, the Free Balochistan Movement and the Baloch Republican Party are led by scions of the Marri and Bugti clans. Both the Marris and the Bugtis have suffered in the hands of the Pakistan military but do not espouse a direct military confrontation with the Pakistani state. Observers say that the BLA has jolted not just the grip of Pakistan over Balochistan but also undermined the hold of the traditional tribal chiefs over the Baloch society.

All said and done. Question is raised why did US suddenly took drastic action of putting ban on BLA.The decision of US administration is of quite significance, targeted at mutual apprehensions on the Afghan problem. The withdrawal of American troops could lead to massive unrest that could spill over to Pakistan, the Foreign Terrorist Organization ( FTO) listing comes as the US offered an olive branch to Pakistan.

The BLA having support from Afghanistan and many other places where their pleas are finding a voice. Their efforts are not only exclusive to shake up the Balochistan region but also to undermine the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that is funded by China in Pakistan.

The BLA has created havoc in Balochistan with back-to-back terror attacks and suicide bombings with Pakistan Army having no answers to their belligerence. The recent attack that killed 14 security personnel in Gwadar has brought global attention to the looming threat of the BLA. Clearly, Pakistan sees the issue of Baloch separatists finding support in Afghanistan and elsewhere an effort aimed at not only destabilizing Baluchistan but also an attempt to undermine the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a China funded development and infrastructure project in Pakistan. Due to political and financial investment Pakistan can’t afford to see CPEC fail. The designation will give the Pakistani government has given unconditional authority to seriously clamp down on the BLA. Pakistan on the brink of balkanization would be difficult for it to borrow money from international institutions . The pressure on Pakistan to genuinely move against all terror outfits further increased when China finally relented and agreed to put Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in Kashmir in February, on the UN’s list of terrorist entities in May

In Afghanistan, one group which stands to gain by working with the BLA is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).TTP is a militant organization group which remains held up in Afghanistan after Pakistan’s recent counterterrorism efforts. Therefore, a potential collaboration between the TTP and BLA against Pakistan cannot be ignored

The BLA is said to be collaborating with other terrorist organisations in the region and has found sanctuaries within their ranks. The potential collaboration between BLA and the resurgent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) could create more unrest in the Afghan-Pakistan belt. This could be seen as a major reason why the Pakistani administration called upon the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) listing of BLA at the earliest discussions with the US.


More by :  R C Ganjoo

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