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After Pakistani military and Chinese nationals, Balochistan rebels target notorious ‘Death Squad’ leaders

Pakistani politician and alleged Death Squad leader, Noor Ahmed Bangulzai (Photo: Twitter)

The Baloch rebellion against the Pakistani military and intelligence forces has turned its attention to the notorious "Death Squad" leaders in Balochistan. Noor Ahmad Bangulzai—a Pakistani politician also known to be a Death Squad leader, was shot dead by the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) on Saturday.

In a media statement released in Urdu, the BLF said that Bangulzai was killed in front of the district Hospital in Mastung, Balochistan. The BLF is part of an umbrella organisation of Baloch rebel groups called the Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), which also has Sindhi nationalists.

This is the second killing of a Death Squad member by Baloch rebels in barely a week. The Death Squads of Pakistan are informal State-run operatives who carry out killings, illegal abductions, torture and kidnappings for ransom on behalf of the Pakistani State. They also indulge in illegal activities including drug dealing, smuggling of weapons, terror training camps and even run private jails under the eye of the Pakistani army.

The BLF said that Bangulzai was "active in the areas around Mastung, Bolan, and was involved in the kidnapping and martyrdom of Baloch militants as well as in social evils such as robbery, kidnapping for ransom and extortion". It also issued a warning to the local police and security forces "to refrain from harming those associated with the Baloch National Movement and their sympathizers".

People in Balochistan face severe human rights violations as well as Pakistani apathy due to which they are one of the poorest people in the country. Baloch groups now want independence from Pakistan.

The BLF said that Bangulzai was an important follower of Siraj Raisani–another well-known Death Squad leader who was killed in a massive suicide bombing in 2018 in Balochistan capital Quetta. After Raisani's death, his political responsibilities as the leader of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Death Squad activities passed on to Bangulzai.

Dwelling on the phenomenon of Death Squads, Pakistan analyst, Mark Kinra told India Narrative that Death Squads "as a practice was intensified in 2010 by the Pakistani Army after an increase in armed attacks following the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti by the army".

Kinra says that the Death Squads are local militia members, often criminals and smugglers, who target Baloch rebels as well as local citizens.

"Shafiq-ur-Rehman Mengal is credited with forming the first "Death Squad" called the Musallah Defah Tanzeem (MDT) in Balochistan in 2008. Mengal is also related to the mass graves discovered in 2014 in Khuzdar, where 169 bodies were recovered sending shock waves across the world. The Pakistani Army has employed the notorious Death Squads in Balochistan districts like Kech, Panjgur, Awaran, Khuzdar, Mastung and others", adds Kinra. 

Kinra said: "Within one week, two alleged Death Squad members have been killed. BLA (Bashir Zeb) group had targeted Ali Mohammad Ghulamani on May 15 at which time it said it will carry out further attacks on death squad members as they target Baloch nationalists at the behest of the Pakistani Army".

Last week, Ghulamani was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Khuzdar city of Balochistan. The BLA had said that it had carried out the attack with a magnetic bomb. The statement by Jeeyand Baloch of the BLA said: "He has been involved in the enforced disappearances and martyrdom of Baloch youth at the behest of the occupier, while the said person has also been involved in kidnapping of traders for ransom and robbery in the area by forming armed groups".

Death Squads—an original idea of the Pakistani government, has been researched upon in detail by Francesca Marino—an Italian journalist and South Asia expert. She has highlighted how the Death Squads are involved in extortion, land grabbing as well as targeted killings on behalf of the Pakistani army.

Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who lives in exile in France, too conducted an investigation into the activities of the Death Squads. His research documented how Pakistan has outsourced the killing of Baloch activists and “pro-independence” leaders to these private militias, which are at the forefront of carrying out human rights abuses in Balochistan.

As Baloch insurgency gains in experience and daring, it has put the Death Squads in its crosshairs as also the Pakistani military and Chinese nationals. 

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