Pakistan has hailed a decision by the United States to designate Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), an armed separatist militant group that primarily carries out attack against Pakistani security forces in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan, as ‘global terrorists’.
BLA was on Tuesday listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S. State Department, which also imposed economic sanctions on the group and anyone affiliated with it.
“BLA is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan,” the State Department said in a statement, citing a number of attacks, including against Chinese engineers in August 2018 and the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November 2018. In May, the BLA claimed an attack on the only five-star hotel in Gwadar that killed five people, including a soldier.
BLA is also listed as a terrorist group in the UK.
BLA, which claims to be fighting for the independence of Balochistan, has been fighting a guerrilla war against Pakistani security forces. The group was banned in Pakistan in 2006.
BLA’s headquarters are based in Kandahar, Balochistan and according to reports in India’s own press, BLA’s commanders have sought medical treatment in India, often under false identity. BLA’s popular commander Aslam Baloch, who once traveled to India to sought support for his group’s cause, was killed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar in a suicide bombing in 2018, for which no group claimed responsibility but many point towards Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as being the party likely responsible. A unit of BLA is also believed to be based in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.
“BLA remains a proscribed entity in Pakistan since 2006 and in recent times has carried out several terrorist attacks in the country,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday following the announcement.
“It is important that the perpetrators, organisers, financers [financiers] and external sponsors including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan are held accountable and brought to justice.”
Meanwhile, BLA accuses Pakistan of rights abuses in Balochistan and of extracting the province’s wealth without providing basic services to its people. These accusations are however rejected by Pakistani officials.
“We are fighting to defend our land and people and to restore the lost independence of our nation state. This is a right enshrined in international laws and principles,” Bashir Zeb Baloch, head of BLA, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Pakistani officials have in the past openly accused India of supporting BLA.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Pakistani media reported that a key suspect of the 2018 attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi has been arrested from a Gulf state and shifted to Pakistan.
The suspect, identified as Rashid Brohi, was shifted to Pakistan with the help of Interpol, according to Pakistani officials.
Brohi is accused of providing facilities to the attackers. He was also monitoring the terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate last year.
Pakistani security sources said the suspect, associated with BLA, had received Rs.900,000 from the terrorist outfit before the attack. He had fled the country after the attack but was later identified by the suspects arrested by law enforcement agencies during the course of investigation.
The sources said that the investigators received significant information from Rashid Brohi during interrogation.
Pakistan has been pushing for U.S. designation of BLA for a long time. Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan peace talks as well as a broader understanding between U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan are seen as main reasons why the U.S. has finally designated BLA as a terrorist group.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan is set to visit Washington DC to meet President Trump later this month.