Gulzar Imam: One Year On

Author: Umme Haniya

Last year, Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) Commander Gulzar Imam, also known as Shambay, sat before a room filled with media persons in Quetta and admitted that he had, indeed, been among the misguided ones. If Shambay’s meteoric rise from a foot soldier to one of the most dreaded enemies of the state was nothing short of a thriller novel, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies played their part extremely well through a meticulous line of action that saw him advise other Baloch separatists to give up arms and come into the mainstream. Because he was hiding in a neighbouring country, the Markhors made special use of their spies stationed in 11 countries to weave a net he could never free himself from.

As expected, the apprehension of Gulzar Imam stirred up a wave of conversation about the divisive forces at play in Balochistan. It opened the avenues of reconciliation for the disgruntled elements, inviting them to consider a path towards national integration. The case of surrender of Sarfaraz Bangulzai and his men showcases the State of Pakistan’s willingness to embrace those who seek peace and unity.

Another notable outcome was the death of Nawaz Ali Rind, a commander of the outlawed Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), due to infighting within the group. Shambay’s phenomenal success lay in the fact that he had played a pivotal role in uniting various militant groups under one umbrella organization. The minute he stepped out of the picture, others started falling like dominoes.

If Shambay’s meteoric rise from a foot soldier to one of the most dreaded enemies of the state was nothing short of a thriller novel, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies played their part extremely well through a meticulous line of action.

Enthused by this development as the curtains were drawn and the facade was finally losing its grip, many in Balochistan began to relive a sense of shared identity and belonging. The next few months highlighted that they too believed that we were all a single nation that valued inclusivity and continued to work together towards a peaceful and brighter future. The people of Balochistan are the true owners of the land, and they are determined not to let anarchists supported by foreign agencies distort the narrative of Baloch nationalism.

The State of Pakistan seems to have recognized the challenges faced by locals in Balochistan and the harm inflicted by misguided dissidents. Through various initiatives, the government is offering opportunities for success, such as access to education, employment, and the exploration of mineral resources. These measures aim to bring prosperity to Balochistan and uplift its residents.

Law enforcement actions and border fencing have significantly improved the security situation in Balochistan, making it harder for militants and miscreants to cross the border. With Gulzar Imam’s arrest and the State’s call for reconciliation, it is now time for dissidents to return to the mainstream and contribute to a peaceful environment.

Patriotic Baloch individuals are standing united against anarchists by being agile, festive, and collective, and coordinating effectively with security forces and intelligence agencies. This unity aims to deny space to those who seek to disrupt the peace and stability of Balochistan.

Of course, old habits die hard. Imam’s capture may have slowed the engines but anti-state actors refuse to sit still. They have now employed a three-faceted approach to exploit various issues in Balochistan, tarnishing Pakistan’s image locally and internationally. They target crucial infrastructure projects like dams, mineral refineries, communication facilities, and roads, causing losses to the people of Balochistan. The State is actively countering these actions and striving to promote development through projects like CPEC and Gwadar Port.

The most disastrous and unforgivable agenda pertains to how they attempt to lure Baloch youth away from education towards militancy, following the nefarious agenda. Certain so-called human rights activists, who are always up in arms on superficial, misreported issues, remain silent on this violation of the right to education. It is essential to protect the youth from falling into extremist ideologies.

Recent terrorist attacks in Balochistan have highlighted the manipulation of Baloch youth by terrorist groups, resulting in tragic events like the Mach and Gwadar Port attacks. Families of these youths are often misled by propaganda campaigns led by individuals like Mahrang Baloch, which aim to undermine the stability of the region.

The arrest of Gulzar Imam could have been an excellent conclusion to the first act but a lot still needs to be done. It is high time that the state sits with the locals and carves out a fool-proof plan to materialise reconciliation, national integration, and any and all challenges faced by the region. All stakeholders must work together towards a peaceful and prosperous future for Balochistan, embracing diversity and inclusivity along the way.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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