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Is Pakistan using fighter jets in Balochistan to rescue its kidnapped soldiers?

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

Reports say that Pakistan has mounted a large-scale military offensive using fighter jets and helicopter gunships to rescue its two soldiers abducted by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).

Sources from among Baloch rebel groups say the Pakistani Army is using jets in its latest offensive against Baloch nationalists in the hills of Bolan in Balochistan. The Baloch rebel groups are resisting the Pakistani military operations and have killed two Pakistani SSG commandos, Muhammad Qaiser Abbasi and Mohammed Shafiullah, though unverified reports say many more soldiers have been killed.

In the latest reports, The Balochistan Post reported that the military operation is going in the areas of Bolan, Kaman, Yakho, Uch-Kaman, Gumbadi, Darag Pirani, Saro, Buzgar, Sibi and Harnai. It added that “helicopters have been seen shelling in Uch-Kaman areas and massive explosions have also been heard”.

Baloch sources told India Narrative that more details regarding the intensity of the operation are not available due to a communications blackout in the region. They, however, added that the Pakistani military has used fighter jets against the community earlier also.

“From 2006 till 2011 Pakistan used fighter jets regularly against our people. After that it began using helicopters. The fighters are not very effective against our fighters but the Pakistani army’s main objective is collective punishment”, said one of the Baloch spokespersons, adding: “the Pakistani army’s doctrine is that this will create harassment and panic among common Baloch people so they will refrain from supporting Baloch guerrillas”.

Four rebels also have been killed in the operations. The Pakistani military’s public relations agency ISPR has claimed that it has recovered arms and ammunition including improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Pakistani forces launched the operations in strife-torn Balochistan after an ultimatum given by the BLA about a prisoner-swap did not materialise.

The BLA, which had abducted the two soldiers – JCO Kaleem Ullah and military intelligence officer Mohammad Faisal, from Harnai, Balochistan, on September 25 wanted the Pakistani government to exchange the soldiers in return for Baloch political prisoners. The offer did not elicit any reaction from the Pakistan government.

On October 28, the BLA finally gave the Pakistani army a one week deadline to swap the prisoners. In a statement BLA spokesperson Jeeyand Baloch said: “The Pakistani military has so far failed to agree to our demands regarding the prisoner swap”, adding that in the last three weeks of negotiations the military has “demonstrated delaying tactics”.

The BLA has also said that it is following international laws of war regarding the detained soldiers but would “deliver immediate sentence to the detainees” if the Pakistani army showed aggression.

Over the last two months the Baloch rebels have claimed to have shot down two helicopters of the Pakistani military.

The families of the two abducted soldiers have held protests asking the government to negotiate with the BLA for the safe release of the soldiers.

Also Read: Baloch rebels interrogating Pak soldiers captured before helicopter crash