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Balochistan Liberation Front

Formed1964
DisbandedGroup is active.
First Attack1968: From 1968 to 1973, the BLF took part in the Iranian Balochi Revolt fighting against the Iranian government. (unknown killed, unknown wounded) [1]
Last AttackApril 11, 2015: The BLF attacked laborers working on the construction of a Pakistani government sponsored dam in Turbat, Balochistan. Nazar, BLF’s leader, claimed that the workers were members of the Frontier Workers Organization, which is affiliated with Pakistani security forces. (20 killed, unknown wounded) [2]
UpdatedAugust 11, 2015

Narrative Summary

The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), also known as the Baloch Liberation Front, is an ethnic-separatist political front and militant organization that is currently fighting against the Pakistani government for an independent Balochi state. [3] Juma Khan Marri founded the BLF in Damascus, Syria in 1964. Four years after the groups’s establishment, it joined the Iranian Balochi Revolt, an insurgency of Balochi groups fighting the Iranian government. [4][5]

During the Iranian Balochi Revolt, in an effort to destabilize and undermine Iran, the Iraqi government publically supplied the BLF with weapons and operational support. [6] [7] In 1973, the BLF and other Balochi insurgent groups, decimated from five years of fighting, negotiated an end to the fighting with the Shah of Iran. As a result of the agreement Iraq decided to stop openly supporting the BLF with arms support, but maintained its relationships with the organizations leadership.

Following the end of the conflict in Iran, the BLF and other Balochi groups turned their attention to inciting an insurgency against the Pakistani state, demanding independence for the Pakistani province of Balochistan. This insurgency is known as the Independent Movement of Balochistan of 1973 to 1977. At the start of the insurgency Iraq continued to covertly supply weapons to the BLF and other Balochi militant groups, and on February 10, 1973, the Pakistani government raided the Iraqi Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan and uncovered crates of small arms and explosives that were allegedly en route to the BLF and several other Balochi insurgent groups. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]. In response to the rebellion, the Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the Balochi provincial government, prompting the BLF and other Balochi insurgent groups to attack several Pakistani security forces convoys. [15] As the conflict escalated, the Pakistani government deployed 80,000 troops to Balochistan to fight an estimated 50,000 insurgents. [16] [17] Analysts believe that the government operation pushed the BLF out of Balochistan into Afghanistan by the end of 1974.  While the BLF was in exile in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union allegedly helped it regroup, allowing it to rejoin the Independent Balochistan Movement. [18] The insurgency came to an end in November 1977, after Pakistani security forces implemented martial law and the military established general amnesty for militants in the region. [19] [20]

From 1977 to 2004, the BLF’s activities are uncorroborated, however, reports seem to suggest that the group did not disband. In 2004, the group reemerged in the public eye when gunmen claiming to be BLF militants killed 3 Chinese foreign workers working on a Pakistani mega-development project in Balochistan. Shortly after, Dr. Allah Nazar publicly stated that the gunmen were part of the BLF and that as of 2003, he had taken command of the BLF. Prior to this statement, Nazar was known for being the leader of his own group, the Balochistan Student Organization – Azad (BSO-Azad), which is an organization that seeks to educate youth on political matters. [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] 

In 2005, the BLF carried out multiple attacks, targeting Pakistani security forces, pipelines, and foreign workers. [26] On March 25, 2005 the Pakistani government captured Nazar, which temporarily halted BLF activities. Nazar was released a year later on June 20, 2006, after members of his BSO-Azad group went on a hunger strike to demand his freedom. [27]

After his release in 2006, little was reported on the group until the BLF attacked the provincial minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri in October 2011. [28] [29] In 2012 the BLF killed a journalist, accusing him of not reporting on the BLF objectively. [30]. Since 2012, the BLF has continued its attacks on foreign workers, journalists, and Pakistani government affiliates, including a recent attack against 20 foreign workers on April 11, 2015. [31] [32] [33] Following the attack, Nazar publically claimed that the killed workers were members of the Frontier Works Organization, which is affiliated with the Pakistani military. [34]

Leadership

  1. Jumma Khan Marri (1964 to Unknown): Marri is the founder of the Balochistan Liberation Front. Marri controlled the BLF from its creation through the Independent Balochistan Movement (1977), but it is unknown when he stepped down as the leader of the group.[35]
  2. Dr. Allah Nazar (2003 to Present): Nazar is responsible for the resurgence of the BLF in 2004. He also founded the Baloch Student Organization – Azad (BSO – Azad) in 2002. He was captured on March 25, 2005 by the Pakistani government and was interrogated and tortured until his release on June 20, 2015. Nazar frequently utilizes press statements and interviews with the media to bolster the BLF agenda.[36]
  3. Brahamdagh Khan Bugti (2005 to Unknown): The Pakistani government has alleged that after leaving the Balochistan Liberation Front, which is an ethno-nationalist group fighting the Pakistani government for greater regional autonomy of Balochistan, Bugti helped bring back and lead the BLF in 2005.[37]

Ideology & Goals

The Balochistan Liberation Front is an ethno-nationalist separatist organization with the goal of creating an independent Balochi state. [38] [39] The current leader, Dr. Allah Nazar, has stated that he would like to see the BLF become a powerful and influential political party so that fighting and diplomacy can push Pakistan to recognize Balochistan as an independent state. 

Size Estimates

There are no stated size estimates of the Balochistan Liberation Front.

Resources

The Balochistan Liberation Front received support and arms from Iraq from 1964 through 1977. [40] [41] The Pakistani government has alleged that the Soviet Union supported the BLF in 1974 when the BLF was in Afghanistan. [42]

Since the groups reemergence in 2003, the sources of the BLF’s funding and weapons are unknown. Analysts hypothesize that the BLF benefits from leftover weapons from prior conflicts in the region, including conflicts in Pakistan Afghanistan, and Iran. [43] Experts have also speculated that since Balochistan is a key smuggling route for many products, with a very large portion of the world’s opium passing through its borders, smuggling could be a large source of income for the BLF. [44]

External Influences

During the Balochi Revolt of 1968-1973 in Iran, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) received support and arms from the Iraqi government. [45] On February 10, 1973, the Pakistani government raided the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad and found a crate filled with small arms and explosives that were allegedly going to the BLF and other Balochi insurgent groups in Balochistan. [46] [47] Iraq continued to support the BLF until the end of the Independent Balochistan Movement in 1977.

The Pakistani government claims that in 1974, when the BLF had been pushed into Afghanistan by Pakistani security forces, the Soviet Union helped reorganize the group increasing their capacity, ultimately allowing the group to return to fight in Balochistan. [48]

Geographical Locations

The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) was founded in Damascus, Syria. [49] [50] The organization expanded to Iran during the Balochi Revolt of 1968 to 1973. [51] [52] In 1973, the BLF moved to the Pakistani Province of Balochistan to take part in the Independent Balochistan Movement of 1973-1977. [53] [54]

Currently the BLF is based in Makran, Balochistan and operates throughout the province of Balochistan. [55]

Targets & Tactics

The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) uses rocket strikes, IED’s, small-arms attacks, social media and nationalist press statements to strive for its goal of an independent Balochi state. Since the group’s resurgence in 2003 the organization has targeted foreign workers, aid workers, Pakistani security forces, Pakistani political figures, and journalists. [56] [57]

Political Activities

The current leader of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Nazar regularly cooperates with nationalist parties within the province of Balochistan to influence political negotiations with the central government over resources. [58] In 2011, the BLF attacked provincial minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri in an attempt to force the Pakistani government to negotiate. [59]

Major Attacks

  1. 1968: From 1968 to 1973, the BLF participated in the Iranian Balochi Revolt that ended when the BLF and Shah came to a negotiated settlement. (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[60]
  2. 1973: From 1973 to 1977, the BLF fought in the Independent Balochistan Movement that took place in Balochistan, Pakistan. (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[61]
  3. May 2, 2004: The BLF attacked Chinese foreign workers working on the Gwadar port in Balochistan, a project seen by the BLF to be an attempt by the Pakistani government to colonize Balochistan. (3 killed, 0 wounded).[62]
  4. January 11, 2005: The BLF attacked a Pakistani government-controlled pipeline located in Balochistan. (6 killed, unknown wounded).[63]
  5. October 11, 2011: The BLF unsuccessfully attempted to kill provincial minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri with a bomb. (0 killed, 0 wounded).[64]
  6. October 11, 2011: The BLF unsuccessfully attempted to kill provincial minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri with a bomb. (0 killed, 0 wounded).[65]
  7. May 28, 2012: The BLF killed WASH TV journalist Qadir Hajizai in Quetta for allegedly being an “informer”. (1 killed, unknown wounded).[66]
  8. July 27, 2013: The BLF attacked a Pakistani Coast Guard check post near Gwadar. (7 killed, unknown wounded).[67]
  9. April 11, 2015: The BLF attacked 20 laborers working on Pakistani government sponsored dam construction. Nazar claims that the workers were members of the Frontier Works Organization, which is a Pakistani security forces affiliate. (20 killed, unknown wounded).[68]

Relationships with Other Groups

The BLF is one of multiple insurgent groups fighting for increased sovereignty for the Balochistan province. In addition to the BLF, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB), and the Jhalawan Baloch Tiger are also active in the region. The BLF and BLA are the strongest and most influential militant groups of Balochistan. [69] There has been no confirmed coordination between the BLF and other Balochi and non-Balochi groups, and some groups’ leaders have claimed that although the different militant organizations have almost identical goals, they operate independently of one another. [70]

The Balochistan Liberation front allegedly received support from the Baloch Student Organization during the Independent Balochistan Movement of 1973-1977. [71]

More recently, since Nazar was the founder of the Baloch Student Organization – Azad (BSO – Azad) prior to the BLF’s resurgence in 2004, the BLF has had a strong relationship with the BSO – Azad. When Nazar was captured by the Pakistani government in 2005, BSO-Azad group members went on a hunger strike to pressure the Pakistani government to release him, which resulted in Nazar's release on June 20, 2006. [72] [73]

Community Relationships

It is unknown how the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) recruited members at its creation in 1964 to 1977. However, beginning in 2003, Nazar, as leader of the Bloch Student Organization – Azad that he founded in 2002, has focused on recruiting college students. [74] [75] The group has used propaganda through press statements and the social media to attract local tribesmen, youth, and students to join the organization. [76] Nazar has invested in media relations in an attempt to prevent the press from portraying the BLF as a radical terrorist organization. [77] [78]


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