Kulbhushan to Shambay

The location of Balochistan is strategically important as it shares a 1268 kilometers border with Afghanistan and 909 kilometers with Iran. The province is also important because it lies close to the Strait of Hormuz, Gwadar port, its mineral/resources and CPEC.
The issue of Kalat state joining Pakistan gave rise to sub-nationalist under some sardars which led to the insurgency. Therefore the hostile agencies seized the opportunity to destabilize Balochistan. The Balochistan People’s Liberation Front (BPLF) was created with the active support of Afghanistan. In 1975 as a result of an army operation the BPLF was shifted to Kandahar. The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) was founded in 1964 in Syria and remained involved in insurgency in Balochistan from 1968 to 1980.
At present the group is headed by Dr. Allah Nazar and the focus of terrorist activities is the Makaran division. Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) was created in the early 80s with the support of the erstwhile Soviet Union to avenge Pakistan’s support to Afghan Mujahideen. BLA was also shifted to Kandahar from where it planned and executed terrorist attacks against security forces in Balochistan. BLA has two factions, one is led by Harbayr Marri and the other is known as the Majeed brigade under Bashir Zeb. India is not happy with CPEC and the Chinese presence in Gwadar is taken as a threat to its Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). After 9/11, the Indian RAW took full advantage of the Karzai and Ghani regimes and established its firm control in Afghanistan.
India used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan by financing, training and arming terrorists. India established 66 training camps in Afghanistan and 21 in Rajasthan (India) to train terrorists against Pakistan. On March 3, 2016, Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving Indian Navy commander working for RAW was captured from Mashkhel, Balochistan. The capture of Jadhav is considered a big success for the ISI which averted many planned terrorist operations. Jadhav confessed his involvement in spying, acts of terrorism and sabotage against the state of Pakistan. He confessed RAW’s involvement in exploiting the sectarian divide and killing of Shia Hazara population and also to disrupt the development of CPEC projects in Balochistan. The capture of Jadhav is living proof of the Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan. In 2018 in order to coordinate terrorist operations in Balochistan various Baloch militant groups were unified under the banner of Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS). In 2020, RAW created a consortium of terrorist groups by unifying BRAS and factions of TTP.
RAW used its consulates in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Zahedan (Iran) for funding and planning terrorist activities. In April 2022 a new dimension was added to Baloch militancy when Shari Baloch affiliated with the Majeed brigade became the first women suicide bomber. In 2022, RAW created a new militant group, Baloch National Army, (BNA) under Gulzar Imam Shambay after merging Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and United Baloch Army (UBA). The Baloch National Army came to the limelight when it claimed the Lahore Anarkali bomb blast in June 2022. BNA’s focus has been South Balochistan’s Makran division. In South Balochistan, BNA was involved in a number of terrorist attacks against security forces. Shambay, a high-value target, was captured after a months-long, meticulously planned intelligence-based operation.
The capture of Shambay is considered a classic intelligence operation similar to one carried out by Mossad operatives in 1960 to capture Adolf Eichmann for his involvement in the Holocaust. The Mossad operatives traveled to Argentina, captured Eichmann and smuggled him to Israel for trial. The Hollywood movie ‘Operation Finale’ released in 2018 is based on this operation. In a press conference, Shambay confessed his involvement in terrorist activities and sought an apology. He appealed to other terrorist groups to give up arms, surrender and follow the constitution and political system of the country for a peaceful struggle.
The nabbing of Shambay was a high-profile intelligence operation that was executed professionally by creating fictitious characters, involving various geographical locations. The credit goes to the country’s premier intelligence agency, ISI. In the past, ISI played a key role in capturing thousands of terrorists which included the most wanted Al-Qaeda, TTP, and DAESH terrorists. The ISI’s contribution to the war on terror has been unprecedented and phenomenal. The success of ISI is never reported in the media and hundreds of its achievements go unnoticed, but their accomplishments are remarkable.
The capture of Shambay will have a lasting impact on the militant landscape in Balochistan. The operation to capture Shambay has raised the morale of LEAs and intelligence agencies. The capture of Shambay is a serious blow to hostile intelligence agencies and their handlers. The Baloch youth is an important stakeholder as hostile agencies are investing in them.
A new package in consultation with Baloch youth and civil society similar to ‘Aghaz Haqooq Balochistan’ and ‘Khushal Balochistan’ needs to be introduced. The government of Balochistan in consultation with the federal government-initiated dialogue with all militant organizations to address deep-seated grievances and frustrations.
The important factor would be to remove mistrust and suspicion and introduce reforms to rehabilitate those surrendered including youth. The federal government must address the issues of unemployment, socio-economic development, missing persons, and human rights violations in the province.

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist. He tweets @MasudAKhan6.

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