Pakistan celebrates the arrest of a Baloch separatist leader as a turning point


By Dr Sahibzada Muhammad Usman

The arrest of Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, the founder of the outlawed Baloch National Army (BNA), on April 7 of this year was a major blow for the terrorist organizations and those in charge of them in the Balochistan region. The capture of Imam, a key terrorist hiding out under the protection of adversarial foreign intelligence agencies, is also a major accomplishment for Pakistani law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

The Balochistan Republican Army (BRA) and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) have been conducting terrorist attacks and fraud in Quetta, the provincial capital, and surrounding areas. The creation of BNA touched Noshki and Kech. North East Balochistan and Quetta have seen limited success from the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) dispersed pockets and sleeper cells. BNA was a significant contributor to the establishment of the Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) on November 10, 2018. One of the key operation leaders for terrorist actions in Balochistan was Gulzar Imam, alias Shambay, chief of the BNA. Until 2018, Gulzar served as Brahamdagh Bugti’s deputy in the BRA. Later, upon founding BRAS, he founded the BNA, a new militant group.

However, he was in touch with the Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs) and strongly believed in an independent Balochistan. In December 2017, using forged passports, he traveled to India.

Gulzar Imam became a significant figure in BRAS when militant leadership shifted from conflicts to commoners as a result of his connections to HIAs. Before his arrest, he was still in charge of running BRAS.

Highly skilled intelligence operatives were hired at different geographical places to check the digital information on Gulzar’s arrest. After receiving positive confirmation, he was contacted by what seemed to be HIA operatives. He had to establish the required connection before being progressively persuaded by promises of technical and financial support.

Due to various geographic proximity, this intricate case of intelligence history was accomplished via the development of fictional characters and the gathering of necessary supporting materials, which finally enabled participation and grew the link with Gulzar.

The procedure took place over many months. Thoughtfully and well executed, its climax/execution sketched a complicated network of Balochistan’s terrorist factions and established their connections to HIAs.

In this regard, ISI, which played the lead role, effectively penetrated the network of terrorist organizations. In eradicating such militancy, the capture of Gulzar Imam alias Shambay shows that the state, LEAs, and intelligence services (particularly ISI) have complete control over the environment.

In this regard, his arrest will weaken the foundation of BNA and greatly impact what his organization does. Additionally, this high-profile arrest will impact other banned outfits, notably the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and Majeed Brigade (BLA). It will hurt other violent groups’ morale.

It is important to remember that the agreements between Pakistan and China about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or BRI initiative, had just been signed when the Indian secret service RAW stepped up its support for the Baloch insurgency. Terror attacks in Pakistan’s different provinces, especially Balochistan, were concurrent with malicious advertising against the CPEC.

In addition to energy projects, CPEC will open new doors for development in a number of other areas as the nation’s economy expands quickly, creating new job opportunities, reducing poverty, and developing the transportation sector while fostering industrial and agricultural growth, including exports.

By resolving their problems, which the hostile groups sponsored by India do not want, the Gwadar Ports Project, which is the foundation of the CPEC, would elevate the poor people of Balochistan and spur development in other backward regions of the province.

Under the guidance of the former army commander, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistan Army started constructing the fence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which also covers Balochistan. Along with providing youngsters with military training, the Army also significantly contributed to Balochistan’s socioeconomic growth while safeguarding megaprojects and CPEC workers.

Additionally, the nation’s military forces and ISI have effectively dismantled the terrorists’ support network from outside. Along with other susceptible provinces, Balochistan, in particular, has seen a return to tranquility. However, recent terrorist incidents, particularly in Balochistan, demonstrate that these foreign intelligence services are trying to undermine the CPEC and destabilize Pakistan.

It’s worth noticing that RAW is also using terrorist organizations like the BNA, the BLA, and ISIS, and its affiliated organizations like the Majeed Brigade, which took responsibility for several terrorist attacks against those working on the construction of the CPEC in Balochistan. Numerous Chinese citizens were kidnapped and slain by these terror organizations.

In this regard, the military’s media branch, ISPR, stated in a statement on April 7, 2023, that Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, the leader and founder of the outlawed Baloch National Army, had been detained in a prominent intelligence-based operation by the security forces, which had been formed following the union of the Baloch Republican Army and United Baloch Army.

According to the ISPR statement, the BNA has carried out scores of violent terrorist acts throughout Pakistan, including assaults on law enforcement organizations. His travels to India and Afghanistan are also public knowledge, and his connections to hostile intelligence services that attempted to use Gulzar Imam against Pakistan and its interests are being looked into. A militant leader of this stature being apprehended shows the ability and resolve of LEAs to uproot the threat of terrorism and communicates about the successes attained through the supreme sacrifices of unsung heroes, according to ISPR, which also noted that the operation that resulted in his capture was creatively conceived, meticulously planned, and meticulously executed. However, the arrest of Balochistan’s main separatist figurehead would boost the confidence of LEAs and intelligence services.

Now, Baloch people must believe that the so-called militant or sub-national leaders go overseas and have opulent lives while common Balochs struggle in the mountains and engage in fruitless conflict with the state.

Therefore, in order to be fully assimilated into society and contribute to the growth of Balochistan and Pakistan, the BNA and other separatist parties must come to an understanding and give up their demands. Peace would thus provide Balochistan with improved socioeconomic (health, education, and social) chances.

About Author:

Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman

Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals.