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Baloch insurgents seize initiative, demand prisoner exchange deal with Pakistan 

Pakistani army and intelligence personnel under "custody" of the Baloch Liberation Army (Photo: BLA Press Release)

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) wants to swap two captured Pakistani army personnel—JCO Kaleem Ullah and military intelligence officer Mohammad Faisal, with Baloch political prisoners. The BLA had captured the two army men in Harnai, Balochistan, on September 25, following which the army sent helicopter gunships, one of which was “shot down” during the operation.

Last week, India Narrative mentioned that the two army men were being “interrogated” by the separatist group. The BLA has said that the interrogation has revealed important information about the operations of the Pakistani army in Balochistan. The BLA further said, “After voluntary confessions, both detainees have been formally charged for their crimes by Baloch national court”.

The news of the two captured soldiers drowned out in the din of the helicopter crash, which the BLA claimed was shot down by a projectile.

Pakistan Army JCO Kaleem Ullah (Photo: BLA Press Release)

Experts say that the BLA is becoming lethal in its actions and cheeky in its press statements as it seeks “parity” with the Pakistani establishment. The BLA considers Balochistan province as a Baloch nation and Pakistan as a colonial power, therefore seeking the status of an equal with the Pakistani army.

The BLA has also spotlighted the highly disturbing trend of Pakistan abducting Baloch political people, intellectuals, women and students, tens of thousands of who lie in Pakistani prisons and torture cells. At least eight of such people were recently shot dead in Ziarat by the Pakistani army.

In a press statement on Wednesday night, the BLA said: “The Baloch Liberation Army’s Senior Command Council has approved that in abidance with international conventions and established norms of the war, a process of prisoner swap can be initiated with Pakistani military”.

“BLA is willing to release both detainees, in exchange of release of Baloch prisoners. However, if Pakistani forces showed any aggression in this regard then BLA will deliver immediate sentence to both detainees awarded by the Baloch national court”, said Jeeyand Baloch, Spokesperson for the Baloch Liberation Army, through a press statement sent over email.

Giving details of the modus operandi, the statement says that the BLA’s intelligence wing had received information that two personnel of the Pakistani forces were travelling in civilian clothes to spy on Baloch rebels. “BLA mobilised its special force Special Tactical Operations Squad, which successfully intercepted the vehicle the two enemy personnel were travelling in… STOS had correctly anticipated that Pakistani military will send its helicopters and special forces to rescue its personnel”, says the BLA statement.

It adds: “Around 11pm the Pakistani helicopters arrived in the area and SSG commandos were rappelled from helicopters. BLA’s STOS engaged with these enemy troops near Khost Harnai, and their advance was completely halted. During the hour-long battle, the brave BLA warriors also targeted Pakistani military helicopters. At least one helicopter was successfully hit with a projectile and gunfire around 11:45pm. Few seconds later the enemy copter blew up in the air, killing all six onboard. These included pilots Major Khurram Shahzad, Major Muhammad Muneeb Afzal, gunner Naik Jalil and SSG commandos Abdul Wahid, Muhammad Imran and Shoaib”.

Baloch individuals embedded in the Pakistani army seem to be helping separatists mount attacks on Pakistani security forces. This was noticed when Baloch separatists had attacked and occupied the camps of the Frontier Corps (FC) in Panjgur and Noshki in February this year, causing major embarrassment to the powerful Pakistani army. Information gathered by India Narrative from various sources had pointed out that Baloch infiltrators in the Pakistani forces had helped the rebels take over the two well-fortified camps, killing scores of Pakistani personnel and lowering army morale.

Over this year the Baloch conflict is not only taking a serious dimension in Pakistan but also in Iran, where fighting in the Baluchistan-Sistan province led to the death of the intelligence chief of the province.

Also Read: Baloch fighters embarrass Pakistan military—continue to engage troops in Panjgur camp after 36 hours