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BNA’s Lynchpin: Shambay Arrested in Intelligence Based Operation – The most high profile arrest in decades

Published | April 07,2023

By | Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud , Imtiaz Baloch

BNA’s Lynchpin: Shambay Arrested in Intelligence Based Operation – The most high profile arrest in decadesimage

Commanders and founding members of Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) Gulzar Imam and Sarfraz Banugulazi.

Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, a “high-value target”, “hardcore”, leader and founder of a key Baloch insurgent group, Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), responsible for dozens of violent attacks in Pakistan, was arrested in a successful high-profile intelligence-based operation by the security forces, said Pakistan’s military official media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a statement on Friday.

“He was apprehended after an innovatively conceived, carefully planned, and meticulously executed operation, spanned over months over various geographical locations,” the ISPR statement reads.

BNA subsequently issued a formal statement acknowledging once again Gulzar Imam’s apprehension by Pakistani authorities on May 3, 2022, in Turkey, and accused other Baloch militant organisations of their alleged involvement in his capture.

BNA argues that the  group asked its allied Baloch armed outfits to set up a joint commission to investigate the incident. However, BNA laments that other organisations refused to collaborate; on the contrary, they started recruiting BNA members and cadres, further weakening the group’s assets. The group also promised to release more details on such events in the future.

News about Imam’s arrest surfaced publicly back in September last year amid his disappearance for weeks. For months, Pakistanis authorities remained tight-lipped about his arrest. “He was captured instantly upon his arrival from Iran at Istanbul airport. He was shifted from one plane to a Pakistani one which was waiting for him at the airport.

Thus shifted to Pakistan. The operation to capture him took months-long planning,” a well-placed Pakistani security source told The Khorasan Diary in September last year.

The Khorasan Diary brings you a brief profile of Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, who is a resident of the Jaean area of Paroom (Parome) tehsil in the bordering district of Panjgur. He started his political career with Baloch Students Organization Azad (BSO) as its district president. Gulzar after student life joined Brahamdagh Bugti-led Baloch Republican Party (BRP), a political organization, to start a practical struggle for the “independence” of the province. Gulzar, later, joined Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and became its Regional Commander. He also played a vital role in extending the organization from Koh-e-Suleman and Naseerabad to the nontribal region of Makran and Rakhshan.

But the rifts emerged within the group in 2017 when a less-known spokesperson for the group namely Beebarg Baloch started claiming attacks in the Makran and Rukshan regions of Balochistan. However, an old spokesperson for the group, Sarbaz Baloch, disowned Gulzar Iman as part of BRA in 2018, accusing him of corruption and overstepping organizational policies.

Gulzar didn’t stop his activities and struggled to unite the Baloch insurgent groups and also succeeded in bringing some of the major insurgent leaders to one table in November 2018. The insurgent leadership of BRA, BLF, BLA, and BRG joined hands to form Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), which later expanded, and a Sindh-based insurgent group Sindhudesh Army (SRA) also pledged allegiance to BRAS in July 2020.

Similarly, on October 2021, United Baloch Army (UBA) spokesperson Mazar Baloch, in a statement, disowned Sarfraz Banugulzai, a key commander of UBA. However, Mureed Baloch rejected the statement, calling it a foolhardy act. Soon after that splitter group of BRA, headed by Gulzar Imam, and UBA, headed by Sarfraz Banugulzai, formed another organization namely Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) in January 2022, which claimed a bomb attack in January 2022 in Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore. The newly-formed group soon became popular and gained recognition among the insurgents’ ranks and claimed several attacks as part of the BRAS collation and also separately.

Pakistani security forces achieved a major victory against the Baloch insurgents after two decades of violence in the province when multiple sources suggested that a key commander was apprehended with the help of a friendly Muslim country intelligence service.

In November 2022, BNA in a statement confirmed that Gulzar Imam was arrested by Pakistani security agencies. BNA has been suffering casualties in intelligence-based operations (IBO) for the past months. Recently, another rift has become the limelight when a statement associated with Mureed Baloch disclaimed BNA’s head Sarfraz Banugulzai.

However, the central media of the group rejected it, calling it a rumour and propaganda against the BNA head.

Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) in a statement on November 21, 2022 confirmed the arrest of its founder member and commander Gulzar Imam alias Shambay.

A group of BNA issued a statement and disowned its founding member Surfarz Banugulzai.

A splinter group of BNA claimed an attack on security forces in the Pasni area of Gwadar.

Furthermore, in March 2023, the splinter group also claimed an attack against the Coastguard in the Pasni area of Gwadar.