On February 23, Spokesperson of Baloch Republican Army (BRA) released a policy statement stating that his group, along with United Baloch Army and Lashkar-e-Balochistan, have decided to form an alliance. The statement stated that the decision of forming the alliance was the outcome of several meetings between the leadership of the three Baloch sub-nationalist groups (BSNGs). The purpose of the alliance, as stated in the statement, is to support each other in carrying out terror activities. The BRA Spokesperson also remained optimistic about including other BSNGs in the alliance.
The differences among BSNGs have forced more than 2,800 separatists to renounce terrorism and join national mainstream through the ‘Balochistan Peace Program’.
The news of this new alliance comes at a time when the on-going insurgency is going through a difficult phase. It has been weakened and factionalized due to the internal differences among BSNGs and the success of security forces in countering the separatist outfits. The differences among BSNGs have forced more than 2,800 separatists to renounce terrorism and join national mainstream through the ‘Balochistan Peace Program’.
In past, BRA was allied with Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Republican Front (BLF). Differences between BRA and BLA emerged after the killing of Balaach Marri in November 2007. Some BLA cadre, without any proof, believed that Brahamdagh Bugti was behind the killing of then BLA Chief.
The differences between BLF and BRA can be traced back to 2015 when BRA entered Makran division. Prior to the arrival of BRA, BLF was the main group operating in the division. BRA came with more funds and attracted BLF cadre to join it. Consequently, some BLF cadre joined BRA. However, the infighting between the two groups first reportedly came to the spotlight in December 2016 when BLF cadre were killed by BRA in Gomazi area of Turbat. The infighting incident was a reaction to the arrest of BRA’s Dada Commander by BLF.
In January this year, both groups engaged in a dispute over the killing of Muhammad Baksh alias Jago, who had been associated with three BSNGs – BLF, BRA and Balochistan National Liberation Front (BNLF) – at different times. Both BLF and BRA claimed responsibility for killing him. BRA claimed that its cadre killed Jago and instructed BLF not to discredit BNLF, a BSNG that was formed by former BLF Commander Salim Baloch, by calling it a paper organization. It also instructed BLF to avoid character assassination of BNLF’s founder. BLF responded by saying that BRA should revisit its internal policies and should refrain from commenting on petty issues which are not related to the latter.
It is under this historical backdrop that BRA has now decided to create an alliance with UBA and LeB, which are considered less lethal than BLA and BLF.
It is under this historical backdrop that BRA has now decided to create an alliance with UBA and LeB, which are considered less lethal than BLA and BLF. From 2013-2016, combined terror attacks by BRA, UBA and LeB in any year could not match the terror attacks conducted by BLA in that same year, except 2014 (See Table 1). In other words, the new alliance will not have an impact on the ground that could result in creating instability in the province.
Apart from having less impact, the longevity of the alliance will be interesting to observe. BRA is more active and lethal than the other two members of the alliance. Therefore, it will have the opportunity to influence the alliance. Considering the importance of BRA in the alliance, both UBA and LeB will try to take advantage of manpower and financial resources of BRA to increase their effectiveness.
The alliance members will need to work on a mutually agreed mechanism to include other BSNGs. Presently, the prospects of major BSNGs joining this newly created alliance in near future look slim. BRA does not have good relations with BLA and BLF. UBA has good relations with BLF but not with BLA. LeB also does not enjoy good relations with BLA. Less prominent groups like BNLF and Baloch Liberation Tigers can become part of this alliance in the future.
Table 1 Terror attacks carried out by Top Five BSNGs (Source – PIPS)
To conclude, the newly created alliance does not have the capacity to strengthen the already weakened insurgency. The factionalized nature of the insurgency will also not change because the alliance members have good relations with only some BSNGs. With the creation of the alliance, both BLA and BLF will not have the support of some prominent BSNGs. BLA, which has already been weakened by internal divisions, will be the most isolated BSNG as no major BSNG enjoys good relations with it.