Stock Exchange Attack: Who are BLA? Shafaqna Exclusive

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Shafaqna Pakistan: Gunmen attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi on Monday killing two guards and a policeman before security forces killed all four of the attackers, police said.

Pakistan’s separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) later claimed responsibility for the attack, although the claim was not confirmed by Pakistani authorities.

The group, which was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department in July 2019, also circulated a photograph of four men in body armor and camouflage, claiming that they were the militants who carried out the attack.

“The BLA is the oldest and the most dangerous among all Baloch groups operating in Balochistan. Most BLA members are drawn from the Marri or Bugti tribes. It is speculated that the BLA may also recruit political youth activists,” noted a study by Stanford University.

With a cadre of 6,000, the group has been spearheading the insurgency against Pakistan since 2000 and has conducted several violent attacks in the country. It is categorised as a terrorist group by Pakistan, UK and the US.

While the group reportedly began its operations in 2000, several accounts suggest that the group is a resurgence of past insurgent groups, specifically the “Independent Balochistan Movement” of 1973 to 1977.

In the past, the BLA was influenced by radical Marxist ideology and this led to the theory that initially, it was propped up by erstwhile Soviet Union’s intelligence agency KGB during the 1970s. Some of its leaders were also, allegedly, trained in Moscow.

In 2004, when the BLA conducted an attack against Chinese workers in Balochistan, the Pakistani Army responded by deploying 20,000 additional troops in the province.

However, despite the deployment, the violent attacks did not cease. In 2005, the BLA attacked a federal paramilitary camp in the Kohlu region, while the-then President Pervez Musharraf was visiting it. This attack prompted the Pakistani government to declare the BLA as a terrorist group.

Following the attack on Musharraf, the government doubled down its counterinsurgency efforts, and began targeting BLA’s leadership. Between 2006 and 2007, Pakistani security forces killed several BLA leaders. These targeted killings severely weakened the BLA, and it was forced to negotiate a settlement with the government, along with other insurgent groups.

According to the Stanford study, “In September of 2008, the BLA, the Balochistan Liberation Front, the Baloch Republican Army, and the government of Pakistan declared a ceasefire”.

“However, the BLA withdrew from the ceasefire in January 2009 because it was upset that the Pakistani government had made no meaningful attempts to begin negotiations,” it added.

or a long time, the Pakistani political leadership has claimed that the BLA is propped up and supported by the Indian government.

According to reports, there is evidence to suggest that in the past, BLA leadership had visited and stayed in India to seek medical treatment, often with a fake identity.

“It is known that the Baloch sardars like the late Akbar Bugti and Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo maintained warm personal ties with various Indian political figures.

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