Balochistan Now a Nightmare for Pakistani Security Forces

by Manish Rai

The recent attack on Pakistan’s second-largest naval base has put the spotlight on the simmering separatism in the country’s largest but yet most restive province, Balochistan.

PNS Siddique, situated in Turbat city of Balochistan, previously known as Naval Air Station Turbat was attacked. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several nationalist armed groups in Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Just a week before this attack, Baloch insurgents attacked Pakistan’s China-financed Gwadar port, which is the flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). These attacks didn’t surprise the analysts who closely watch the Baloch armed struggle.

For quite some time now, Pakistan’s security forces have been facing more bold and ferocious attacks from Baloch armed groups. For decades, the Pakistani establishment has termed the Baloch insurgency as a low-intensity conflict. But that seems to have changed, as the spate of attacks that are taking place very frequently now clearly demonstrates that the insurgency has entered into a crucial new phase.

The insurgency’s lethality has increased many fold in recent times. As a result, more fierce attacks, such as suicide bombings, high-profile targeted attacks, and full-fledged assaults on army camps are now shaping the course of Pakistan’s oldest separatist insurgency.

The latest string of organized attacks has undoubtedly rocked not only Balochistan but the whole country.

In addition to carrying out bold and daring attacks, Baloch insurgents are also using more modern weaponry than Pakistani security forces.

After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, large quantities of highly sophisticated weapons that were used by Afghan security forces have made their way to the region’s black markets.

Many of these US-made weapons have ended up in the hands of Baloch armed groups as well, like- M16A2 and M16A4 assault rifles, Trijicon ACOG optics, and M203 under-barrel grenade launchers.

In addition to small firearms and RPG-7 pattern rocket launchers, Baloch insurgents are using various machine guns like PK(M) and MG3 variants.

Sometimes, insurgents have also been spotted using heavy machine guns (HMG). Baloch armed groups have gradually moved towards consolidation of what was previously a fragmented insurgency.

Over the last few years, insurgent groups have either merged or established tactical alliances to put up a united fight against the Pakistani state. By doing this, they were able to have a better pool of resources and better coordination to carry out complex operations.

Also, the leadership of the armed groups has shifted from tribal chiefs to the well-educated and highly motivated Baloch middle class. And these new ranks of Baloch insurgents are transforming the insurgency into guerrilla warfare.

Pakistan’s military establishment is trying to deal with it through a very heavy hand. But despite the massive crackdown by the Pak Army on Baloch insurgents and their sympathizers. This struggle seems to have spread deeper into Baloch society than ever before, and it is fueling an insurgency.

There is no clear evidence that shows any support from the Afghan Taliban currently in charge in Afghanistan for the Baloch insurgency. But because of the loose control of the Af-Pak border, the Baloch insurgents are taking advantage not only in Balochistan but in the northwestern tribal region as well. They enjoy the freedom of movement of men and equipment across this largely unmonitored border.

In addition to this, Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan Taliban have deteriorated recently over the issue of fencing the ‘Durand Line’ and Pakistan’s airstrikes inside Afghanistan. Islamabad now lacks the influence to pressure the Taliban to eliminate Baloch separatists based in Afghanistan. But the most important reason fueling the insurgency is the Pakistani state’s repressive and discriminatory policies towards Balochistan.

Despite having a vast natural wealth, much of the population of the province lives below the poverty line. With limited or no access to education, jobs, electricity, roads, and clean water.

A common Baloch fails to understand why he is forced to live in abject poverty. While other provinces of Pakistan are benefitting from the natural resources of their homeland.

It was the state’s brutal response that radicalized most elements of the Baloch nationalist movement, which now considers armed struggle the only way rather than any dialogue.

The conflict now demonstrates the absurdity of repression that is reinforcing the very threat it is intended to eliminate.

Pakistan’s political and military leadership has to understand that there is no military solution to the Baloch issue. Military responses have been previously tried many times, like in 1958, another one in 1973, and yet another one in 2006. These military operations only slow down the insurgency in the short term, but can’t assure that it won’t resurface with more intensity.

Balochistan requires a political solution that has a multidimensional approach. There is an immediate need to establish confidence and mutual trust among Baloch people to resolve the issues of insecurity, antagonism, and anger among them.

Failure to have a prudent approach to the Balochistan reconciliation process in a fair and just manner would only alienate the Baloch people from the Pakistani state and, as a result, more and more people will find armed struggle as the only option left for them.

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2 comments

Destin April 2, 2024 - 10:52 am

It’s about time the Pak Military has been brought to their knees by Baloch forces. The genocide they’ve committed on the innocent Baloch people for years, causing many to flee their motherland seeking asylum in other countries, leaving their land and sometimes extended family behind. For years people have spoken out at the UN conferences in Geneva, asking for them to send someone on the ground in Balochistan to investigate the genocide, to no avail. What choices have they left the Baloch people, but to fight back, or to give in to forced abductions, torture, imprisonment, leaving the Baloch women widows raising children alone.
As if that weren’t bad enough they started raping, abducting and even murdering the Baloch women and children.
What can Pakistan, or the rest of the world expect for Balochistan to do? If your country was invaded by another military and the same done to you, as what’s becen done to Balochistan, surely you would fight back too.
I’d rather die standing, than a coward on my knees.

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Geometry Dash Subzero April 11, 2024 - 3:41 am

Many have voiced their concerns about the genocide in Balochistan at UN conferences in Geneva for years, but to little effect. They have asked that someone be sent there to look into the matter. With no other option except to fight back, the Baloch people have been left with forced kidnappings, torture, and incarceration, leaving the widows of the Baloch women to raise their children on their own.

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