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BNA's Internal Rifts, Surrenders Signal a Turning Point in Insurgency Dynamics

Published | December 26,2023

By | Imtiaz Baloch

BNA's Internal Rifts, Surrenders Signal a Turning Point in Insurgency Dynamicsimage

Following the arrest of Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) founder Gulzar Imam alias Shamby in 2023, the militant group fractured into two factions, one led by Sarafaraz Bungulzai alias Mureed Baloch and another under Anwar alias Chakar.

Divisions in Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) quickly surfaced after Imam's arrest, prompting Bungulzai to issue a detailed statement declaring his separation from the group.

Founded in 2018, BRAS emerged as a potent alliance of Baloch armed groups, solidifying its position with the inclusion of prominent players like BLA-Jeeyand-Faction and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF).

Poster released by BAASK (Official Media wing of BNA) on August 9, 2022

In January 2022, BRAS's structure became more complicated when a faction of the Baloch Republican Army, led by Gulzar Imam, formed a separate group within the alliance, backed by a disgruntled UBA (United Baloch Army) commander. 

The collective statements from BRAS and different leaders within the Baloch armed factions signaled an alliance geared towards securing the eventual merger of these groups. 

The alliance suffered a significant blow as Sarfraz, leading BNA, issued a statement to explicitly distance the group from BRAS. Sarfraz criticized the alliance's leader, citing a lack of accountability regarding the individuals involved in coordinating Imam's arrest in April this year.

In that statement, Bungulzai also criticized other groups in the alliance for their lack of cooperation in pursuing those responsible for Imam’s arrest.

Former BNA commander Gulzar Imam, and his brother Nasir Imam one of the suicide bombers of BLA’s Majeed Brigade involved in the attack on Panjgur Security Forces Headquarters dated August 9,2022.

After that, there was a long exchange of statements between Bungalzai’s faction and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF). Both accused each other of not taking the matter of Imam’s arrest seriously.

In 2009, Bungulzai departed from his government position and entered BNA, founding his camp, al-Seeshar, in Balochistan. Prior to joining BNA, he served as the commander of the UBA.

During his tenure as a government official, he held the role of president in the Balochistan Clerks Association of Quetta Division in 2007 and later became the Chairman of the Balochistan Clerks Association in 2008.

Following Imam's arrest, he assumed control of BNA. The group itself was established in January 2022. During this time, the initial major terrorist incident occurred on January 20, 2022, involving an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at Anarkali Bazar in Lahore. The attack resulted in the death of two people, while 26 individuals sustained injuries.

Other attacks that Bungalzai planned and executed included the ambush on an Frontier Corps (FC) convoy at Kolwah, Turbat, in January 2022, an IED blast on a police car near Wali Jet area, Saryab Road Quetta, a fire raid on FC post in Zamran area of Turbat in March 2022, the target killing of a civilian in Panjgur in April 2022, a fire raid on an FC post in the Baloor area of Kolwah, Turbat, in May 2022, and a hand grenade attack on an FC post near Chamrook hotel, Khuzdar, in June 2022.

On the other hand, the newly formed BNA started facing financial difficulties and a shortage of equipment, leading to growing distrust within the organization. Sources indicated that Bungulzai was engaging in discussions with other entities, exploring the possibility of a larger merger among various Baloch armed groups.

On December 20, 2023, expressing evident discontent with the militant organization, Bungalzai surrendered along with 70 other members.

Internal divisions within the BNA escalated, with the group leveling serious accusations against other armed factions. What’s more, there has been a decrease in the frequency of attacks following Imam's arrest. 

Over 30 fighters were reported killed in various regions of Balochistan, dealing a significant blow to the group's efforts to resume widespread armed activities in the province.

BNA’s members with two of its fighters Sana Bahar and Master Asif. Released by BAASK August 9, 2022

Bungulzai's surrender likely acted as a catalyst for the Baloch armed groups to seriously consider a significant merger. Before that, Doctor Allah Nazar and Basheer Zaib, two main commanders, had begun discussing the possibility of merging forces. Bungulzai's decision to surrender may have accelerated this process. 

It is possible that his surrender influenced others to follow suit and consider surrendering to the authorities. Bungulzai's personal relationships within the Baloch armed groups might have played a persuasive role in convincing others to lay down their arms.

Several leaders, such as Dr. Allah Nazar, Basheer Zaib, and Gulzar, were perceived as hardcore insurgents, unlike Bungulzai. In the current Baloch insurgency, many members have undergone an extensive process of ideological radicalization before being armed, a long and scrutinizing procedure conducted by Baloch insurgents.