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Does Pakistan’s fury in Balochistan show insurgents have started winning their guerilla war?

A suicide attack on Pakistani security forces in Bolan, Balochistan, earlier this year (Photo: Twitter)

Pakistani army officer, Major Abdullah Shah was killed in a military operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa this week. Pakistani military public relations agency, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said he died in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) on Thursday.

Separately, another Pakistani Army major died on Sunday in an ambush by nationalist rebels in Hoshab area of south-western Balochistan. Major Saqib Hussain was gunned down along with Naik Baqir Ali during a search for armed rebels in the area. The major was killed just a few hours after four other Pakistani Army soldiers were attacked in another incident.

With security forces coming under deadly fire, Pakistan has stepped up military action in Balochistan province with sophisticated weapons, where the rebels have been targeting mineral trucks, communications towers and even Chinese investment.

The Balochistan Post (TBP) says that in the first half of 2023, the Pakistan Army “conducted a total of 361 operations in Balochistan. These included 149 raids, 113 blockades, and 99 military operations. Some of these operations led to extended periods of military blockades in certain areas, including a 20-day-long blockade in parts of Bolan”.

It added that Pakistan pushed the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), intelligence agencies, police, and other military institutions to crush the Baloch rebels. It says that the Pakistani security forces launched their operations in 42 different areas in the province.

India Narrative spoke with a Baloch analyst who said: “The Pakistani Army is extremely disturbed with attacks by Baloch guerrillas. During the US presence in Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment would blame India and Afghanistan for the Baloch freedom movement but after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops and the closure of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, there is no Indian presence in the region. Yet, the intensity of attacks on the Pakistani Army and their installations has gone up”.

Recently, even the Pakistani Army gave an indication of how bad the situation was in Balochistan while the government recently acknowledged putting more boots for the first time in the province.

In a press conference on April 25, Director-General ISPR, Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry said Pakistani security forces conducted 8,269 security operations between January-April 2023, of which 4,040 were conducted in Balochistan and another 3,591 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The general also said that there were as many as 436 attacks on the security forces, in which 293 personnel were killed and another 521 were injured. Of these, Balochistan alone accounted for 206 attacks in which 80 security personnel lost their lives and 170 were injured.

Pakistani Army operations in Balochistan show a marked increase (Photo: ISPR)

The Baloch analyst said that the ISPR’s confession is a veracity of the large-scale military offensive in Balochistan where Pakistan is taking the help of China and Iran in the form of weapons and intelligence support to curb the Baloch struggle.

He added that the Baloch liberation movement is an indigenous resistance. “Baloch armed groups are fighting a guerrilla war and with the passage of time they try to obtain military hardware, improve training and strengthen military operations against Pakistani forces”.

Attacks on Pakistani army personnel (Photo: ISPR)

The Balochistan Post said in its report that raids by the Pakistani security forces violated the human rights of the common citizens as “residents reported late-night incursions, harassment of women and children, the detention of young men and elders… in addition, there were instances of populated areas being subjected to mortar attacks”.

It added that the Pakistani security forces also used women and children as human shields during military operations and indulged in extra-judicial killings of men.