Breaking The Resistance: Battlefield Capture Of Baloch Insurgent Leader Gulzar Imam – OpEd


The Balochistan region of Pakistan has been the site of a long-standing insurgency, with several militant groups are at logger heads with Pakistani authorities. Pakistan Army has been actively involved in counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan for many years.

While the insurgency is still ongoing, Pakistan Army has achieved success in combating the Balochistan militant groups. In a recent development the army and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have been applauded by the National Security Committee (NSC) for the inextricable capture of BNA (Baloch National Army) leader. This has been glorified by Pakistan’s Prime Minister as a significant operational accomplishment. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have taken a pragmatic upturn in countering militancy in Balochistan. Baloch militant commander Gulzar Imam who was like an elusive grail for many years, has been apprehended alive, as the arrest of such a high-value target of the leader of BNA was the result of successful intelligence gathering and a well-executed operation, the deep penetration of intelligence operatives into the Baloch Insurgent echelons, is to be considered a strategic breakthrough for the Pakistan counter terrorism efforts and a significant intelligence operational victory. Given just how central Gulzar Imam was to the insurgent operations, the fact that he was taken alive makes his loss all the more troubling for the group. He is an example of how ‘capture’ can be more effective than ‘kill.’

The capture of this high value target is very decisive, as it ought to send panic all across the separatist ranks and file, setting off paralysis. This is going to cause a breakdown of command and control among the insurgents, as the success of this operation has threatened the command and control nodes like leadership and financing, compounding the panic and paralysis. A staunch terrorist such as Gulzar willing to abide by strict security protocols and supported by a network of trusted couriers could potentially have massive amount of intel from which the authorities can benefit from. The capture of this separatist leader could lead to intelligence bonanza. The authorities would focus on trying to break down the anatomy of the separatist group, what are their facilitation routes into Pakistan, how the terrorists avoid surveillance; how many interlocking cells of terrorists are there and what logistic networks are in place to support these terrorists. 

Gulzar Imam a leading Baloch separatist leader a strategist/ mastermind in the Baloch national Army BNA, he had been a deputy commander under Brahumdagh Bugti in Baloch Republican Army. He was an effective commander directly involved in supervising operations and the myriad logistics and organizational activities required to keep a clandestine insurgency underway. He was captured in a sting operation carried out by Pakistan Intelligence agencies. The arrest of a Baloch separatist leader is a turning point, as he was the first senior Baloch terrorist to be captured alive. Gulzar Imam, was in command of insurgent activities in Balochistan and overseas financial operations. For Pakistan there would be a positive fallout of his arrest as through his interrogation further terrorist outfits, and organizational links which supported him would unravel, links with external agencies and information about abettors with in the state will be uncovered. Likewise, the weapons cache suppliers trail will be exposed. This has massive positive outcomes as this incident would further help prevent the actions of the affiliated separatist groups. The maximum number of militants in BNA are two-three hundred but since they get external financial and weapons support so it emboldens their resolve. 

An umbrella group for Baloch rebels, the BNA was formed after main groups merged: under its tutelage are; The Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and United Baloch Army (UBA), the Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB), the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). These ethno-nationalist separatist terrorist groups are battling the Pakistani government for an independent Balochi state. Gulzar Imam, established the BNA by uniting all these groups. Gulzar Imam was a senior commander and the leader of the BNA, which is one of several separatist groups fighting for independence for the Balochistan region. The BNA has been involved in a long-running insurgency against the Pakistani government, which it accuses of exploiting the resources of the Balochistan province while neglecting the development of the region. Imam has been believed to the founder of the BNA, he was known for his fiery speeches and was considered a prominent figure in the Baloch nationalist movement. Imam was reportedly injured in a gun battle with Pakistani security forces in the Balochistan province, but he survived the attack.

Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), consists of four Baloch separatist groups. The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) of Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, Baloch Republican Army’s (BRA) Gulzar Imam faction, the Baloch Liberation Army’s (BRA) Bashir Zeb faction and the Baloch Republican Guard (BRG) of Bakhtiar Domki merged to form the BRAS.  Gulzar Imam assisted these Baloch separatist factions in uniting them, with Imam as its operational chief. He was in charge of the group’s financial management as well as dealing with the sponsors of the worldwide insurgency in this capacity. The insurgent actions in the south of Balochistan are claimed to have been directed by Imam for years. The insurgency is expected to take a big hit as a result of his capture. considered a significant counterterrorism victory, his capture. Gulzar Imam’s arrest is a severe setback for the BNA and other terrorist organizations, who have been working to undermine the hard-won calm in Balochistan. The National Security Committee (NSC) examined the development, which appears to be so significant that the NSC also resolved to conduct a “all-out comprehensive operation” against extremists across the nation.

The Baloch insurgency has targeted Chinese workers and infrastructure in Balochistan. For instance, in 2018, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) targeted a bus carrying Chinese engineers in Dalbandin, killing three Chinese workers and two Pakistani soldiers. In 2019, the BLA targeted the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, which was hosting Chinese guests, killing five people. These attacks have raised concerns about the security of Chinese investments in Pakistan. China has invested billions of dollars in various infrastructure projects in Pakistan, including the development of the port of Gwadar and the construction of highways and power plants. Disruption caused to these projects by these rebel groups hampering security has damaged China-Pakistan relations.

The apprehension of Imam is also significant because it will aid Pakistan in earning back China’s confidence in its capacity to solve that country’s security issues in Balochistan, notably the safety of Chinese nationals engaged in local and international initiatives. The Makran region of the province, which contains the port city of Gwadar and is strategically significant for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saw the most activity from Imam’s outfit. BNA leader Imam’s arrest is also important as it will help Pakistan rebuild China’s trust in its ability to address its security concerns in Balochistan, particularly the protection of Chinese assets and projects in the province and beyond. 

In response to the security challenges, Pakistan has taken steps to enhance the security of Chinese workers and infrastructure, including the establishment of a special security force to protect CPEC projects. Nevertheless, the Baloch insurgency remains a persistent challenge, and any escalation of violence could further damage China-Pakistan relations.

The military’s media wing said Gulzar Imam’s visits to Iran and Afghanistan were on record and his suspected links with other hostile intelligence agencies. To further sensitize the world about the insurgency in Balochistan a dossier on Imam’s arrest and his links with external agents should be brought forth to the Ambassadors of different countries to let them know how external intelligence agencies are instigating this insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan. Not only this, but this should be proliferated to Organization of Islamic conference (OIC) United Nations Organization (UNO), Human Rights Organizations, and Amnesty International etc. 

Every military operation is, in one way or another, organized chaos. In the past, military operations resulted in Baloch militant leaders and commanders dying in clashes with security agencies. There are not many cases when law enforcement agencies were able to successfully carry out an intelligence operation in multiple geographical locations or countries to detain a leader who is at the center of Baloch militant networks and attacks across the country. 

Asma Khan Durrani Is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

Asma Khan Durrani

Asma Khan Durrani is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

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