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Desperate Pakistan launches air strikes in Noshki, Kalat areas of Balochistan

File photos of a Pakistani security forces vehicle attacked by Baloch rebels (Photo: World Baloch Network/Twitter)

The social media in Balochistan is buzzing with activity about a renewed military operation by the Pakistani military in the mountain areas of Noshki and Kalat. This follows the deaths of a number of Pakistani soldiers in two major attacks by Baloch rebel groups in the past few days.

Pakistani military helicopters were seen hovering over Noshki and Kalat all through the day on Monday. Social media reports said the activity was intense though there were no casualties. Due to a strict media blackout in Balochistan, information is trickling only through locals. Also, the Pakistani military has not shared any information on the operation.

Baloch journalists said Pakistan could be retaliating over the large number of casualties of soldiers in attacks by different rebel groups—the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) on June 2 and the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) on May 31. Helicopter gunships too were spotted by locals.

Eight Pakistani army soldiers were killed and many injured after BLF rebels blew up a military truck with a remote-controlled device in Kech district of Balochistan on June 2. BLF spokesman Major Gwahram Baloch said they completely destroyed a Mazda truck of the Army.

In another big incident a couple of days earlier, rebels from another outfit, the BLA, launched an attack on an Army camp in Bilor area of Kolwah in Awaran District on May 31. A press release by Jeeyand Baloch, spokesperson for the BLA said: "In the heavy attack that continued for more than 30 minutes, Pakistani military suffered heavy losses. The defeated enemy indiscriminately fired mortars at civilian houses. However, BLA fighters safely withdrew from the area after the successful operation".

Besides these two attacks there have been a series of almost daily attacks on Pakistani security forces. Another Twitter account put the number of Pakistani casualties at 14. The Baloch armed groups have blown up a number of communication towers in the past week as they believe that Pakistani forces spy on the Baloch people and the nationalist outfits.

The latest attacks are a throwback to the deadly January-February attacks by Baloch groups on the Frontier Corps (FC) camps in Panjgur and Noshki districts by the BLA’s Majeed Brigade. The Baloch fighters occupied the camps, inflicting severe casualties on the troops.

Before these two audacious attacks, the rebels had also led a fire raid at a check post in Kech, killing all security personnel including reinforcements. An embarrassed Pakistani establishment had tried to hush up the matter. However, with information shared by the rebel outfit and then amplified by Baloch social media organisations, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement days after the attack.

In an unprecedented move, the seriousness of the Kech attack forced Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to visit the site of the attack and speak with the troops to boost their falling morale.

Bajwa’s visit was followed by then Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Naushki district of Balochistan—the site where the rebels had occupied the camp belonging to the Frontier Corps. Khan’s visit assumed importance as Pakistan has been under pressure from China to curb the activities of Baloch nationalists who regard both the countries as oppressors.

Baloch nationalists have even forced a global power like China to stall or slow down its work on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through a string of continuous assaults. Many Chinese nationals have been targeted in such campaigns forcing them to leave Pakistan for China.

Unleashing helicopter gunships on Baloch rebels as well as civilians has been one of the strategies adopted by Pakistan to quell the insurgency.