Gulzar Imam, the leader and founder of the Baloch National Army (B.N.A.), was arrested by the Pakistani Army on April 7th. The B.N.A is a rebel group that has supported the independence of the Balochistan province and has planned a number of terrorist attacks. If more members of the B.N.A. are arrested, it is possible there will be fewer attacks. However, Balochistan is one of the poorest provinces of Pakistan, and its government has done little to increase economic development in the region. In order to create peace, Pakistan will need to do more to help Balochistan, in addition to preventing terrorism.
Arab News reported that when Imam was arrested, the Pakistani Military said, “The arrest of Gulzar Imam is a serious blow to the B.N.A. as well as other militant groups, which have been attempting to destabilize the hard-earned peace in Balochistan.” Umair Jamal, a correspondent for The Diplomat, explained that the arrest of Imam and other rebels might not end the conflict in Balochistan because the “Baloch people have legitimate political and economic demands which need to be addressed by the province’s leadership and the state to achieve sustainable peace in the province.”
After Imam’s arrest, Radio Free Europe reported the National Security Committee of Pakistan announced it would work to arrest other members of the B.N.A. to “rid the country of the menace of terrorism with renewed vigor and determination.” In the past, most of the attacks planned by Baloch rebel groups occurred in Balochistan. However, the National Security Committee’s plan to prevent terrorism throughout Pakistan is important because the B.N.A. has worked with other terrorist groups outside of Balochistan, including the Pakistani Taliban. The International Crisis Group reported most strikes by the Pakistani Taliban have occurred in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the taliban has wanted the Pakistani Army to withdraw from the province so it can impose Islamic law.
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (C.P.E.C.) to improve Pakistan’s transportation and infrastructure by building railways and coal and hydroelectric power plants. C.P.E.C. was supposed to create jobs in Balochistan; however, many of the jobs created were given to people from China or other regions of Pakistan. This caused the B.N.A. to attack Chinese workers, as the group believes the C.P.E.C. has done more to help China than Balochistan.
Additionally, Balochistan has large reserves of natural gas. However, the authorities have given Balochistan a small amount of money made from natural gas produced in the region, causing the province to continue to be undeveloped. The government of Pakistan should make sure the C.P.E.C. creates jobs in Balochistan, allowing the province to receive more money from natural gas. If this occurs, there would likely be less support for the province’s independence, and the B.N.A. might not plan more terrorist attacks.
Although conflicts between Balochistan and Pakistan have existed for a long time, there have been more terrorist attacks in Balochistan in recent years. One reason for this is because the B.N.A. is a new rebel group created in January 2022 by the merge of the Baloch Republican Army and United Baloch Army. Since the two groups decided to work together, they have been able to plan more attacks than working alone. Also, the Afghan Taliban has supported the B.N.A. and Pakistani Taliban by giving the groups weapons after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021. It is likely members of the Pakistani Taliban have gone to Afghanistan after attacking the Pakistani Army, making it difficult for this army to arrest more terrorists.
The arrest of Gulzar Imam might cause less strikes in Pakistan. However, there will be conflicts in Balochistan if the region continues to be less developed than the rest of the nation. If there is an increase in economic development in this region, it is less likely the B.N.A. would work with the Pakistani Taliban, making peace in the province possible.