On 11th August, a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying the team working on the Saindak Copper-Gold Mine project near Dalbandin bypass in Balochistan. The attack caused injuries to at least six people, including two Chinese nationals. Baloch Liberation Army (Aslam Baloch faction) claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the details shared on the group’s Twitter handle, the suicide attack was carried out by Aslam Baloch’s elder son Rehan Baloch of Majeed Brigade. The attack has created a furore as to whether the Baloch sub-nationalist groups (BSNGs) have decided to use suicide bombing as a last resort or was it a one-off attack.
The decision to conduct a suicide bombing can be seen as an attempt to revive the weakened and factionalized Balochistan insurgency. There can be some credence to this argument. Despite waging an insurgency for more than a decade, the BSNGs have not been able to achieve a substantial progress in materializing their objectives. More than 3,000 Baloch sub-nationalists have surrendered since August 2015 as part of ‘Balochistan Peace Program’. The main reasons identified for such a massive figure of surrenders are as follow:
- The realization that the goal of creating an independent Balochistan state is unachievable.
- The infighting among BSNGs.
- The foot soldiers wage the insurgency under the pathetic socio-economic conditions whereas the chiefs of almost all BSNGs are living lavishly in foreign countries.
In backdrop of such critical condition of the insurgency, it might seem to be understandable as to why the Baloch Liberation Army (Aslam Baloch faction) opted for suicide bombing option. Contrary to the popular claim, the suicide attack in Dalbandin is not the first suicide attack by a Baloch sub-nationalist group. Infact, it was at least third such attack since 2011.
The first use of suicide bombing in the on-going insurgency was done on 30th December 2011 when a car bomb attack exploded near the house of former state minister Mir Naseer Mengal in Quetta. In this attack, 13 people were killed and 30 others were injured. Baloch Liberation Army (then under Hyrbyair Marri) claimed the responsibility for the attack. The suicide attack was carried out by Darwaish Baloch, who was also associated with the Majeed Brigade.
In February 2016, security forces were able to foil a massive terror attack by intercepting an explosive-laden vehicle in Giddir area of Kalat district, forcing the suicide bomber to detonate the explosives killing himself and his two accomplices in the process. Consequently, three security personnel were injured.
Apart from these attacks, there is also a conflicted suicide attack claim by Balochistan Waja Liberation Army for a suicide attack which targeted the vehicle of Sindh Rangers’ Brigadier Basit in February 2014. Four people, which include a Rangers personnel, were injured in the attack. Tehrik-e-Khilafat was the other group which claimed responsibility for this attack.
However, it will be important to observe as to how other BSNGs will react to the use of suicide bombing. Till the submission of this analysis, only United Baloch Army appreciated the ‘sacrifice’ of suicide bomber. Balochistan Liberation Front chief Allah Nazar also tweeted to pay homage to Rehan Baloch, but later deleted the tweet; most likely to avoid being banned by Twitter for supporting violence. The change of heart exhibited by Allah Nazar might indicate the challenges which BSNGs and their chiefs can face if they opt for the suicide bombing option.
The increased use of suicide bombing can threaten the stay of Brahamdagh Bugti, Hyrbyair Marri and Mehran Marri in European countries. Mehran Marri is already facing a lifetime ban from entering into Switzerland for his association with United Baloch Army. Similarly, Switzerland also refused to grant political asylum to Brahamdagh Bugti because of his association to the Baloch Republican Army. Hyrbyair Marri is also maintaining a low profile for quite some time.
Baloch Liberation Army, whose various factions are responsible for all the suicide bombings conducted by BNSGs till date, is already a designated terror outfit under UK law. If other BSNGs decide to opt for suicide bombing option, they are likely to be designated as a terrorist outfit by other countries.
However, Dalbandin suicide attack can also be a one-off attack. It is important to know that the suicide attack was conducted on 11th August, which is celebrated as ‘Balochistan Independence Day’ by Baloch sub-nationalists by referring to the distorted declaration of Standstill Agreement signed by Pakistan and Kalat (not whole Balochistan) in which Pakistan recognized the independence of Kalat state with certain understandings. However, the extensive details are beyond the scope of this analysis.
The decision to use his own son as a suicide bomber can result in more support for Aslam Baloch in days to come among Baloch sub-nationalists. Under his command, his faction has emerged as the most lethal group after Balochistan Liberation Front. Since August 2017, his faction has claimed at least nine terror attacks which resulted in the killings of 15 people and injuring nearly 50 others. Therefore, his faction is likely to receive more support in the form of personnel and popularity among Baloch sub-nationalists.
To conclude, it is still too early to claim as to whether we will see enhanced use of suicide bombing by Aslam Baloch’s faction in near future. The decision to pursue suicide bombing option will be a hotly debated topic among other BSNGs. It will also be interesting to see as to how many sub-nationalists will volunteer themselves to become suicide bombers in the future. Considering the factionalized nature of the insurgency, the other BSNGs will come to a decision very soon if they don’t want to lose popularity and support to Aslam Baloch’s faction. On the other hand, they can also launch a massive campaign condemning the use of suicide bombing by demonizing Aslam Baloch’s group, if they decide that it is not a viable option.
Fahad Nabeel is currently pursuing M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University. He has graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Virtual University of Pakistan. Fahad has considerably researched on regional geo-political issues and militancy trends. Currently, he is working as a Senior Research Associate at CSCR.