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Pakistan: Why Suicide Bombing By a Woman Marks a New Chapter in Baloch Crisis

A violent Baloch movement can backfire, or worse, make it easier for Pakistan to justify its actions.

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The Baloch Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade targeted Chinese officials in a successful self-sacrificing attack on Tuesday in Karachi. Three Chinese officials Huang Guiping, Ding Mufang, and Chen Sai were killed in the attack, whereas Wang Yuqing and their security guards were injured. Today’s mission was successfully carried out by Majeed Brigade’s fidayee Shaari Baloch alias Bramsh, resident of Niazar Abad Turbat. The mother of two children – eight-year-old Mahrosh and four-year-old Meer Hassan – sacrificed herself for a better future for the Baloch nation. She added a new chapter to the Baloch resistance history by becoming the first female fidayee of the Baloch nation”.

This is how the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) spokesperson claimed responsibility for the attack at the Confucius Institute at Karachi University. He added: “The Baloch Liberation Army once again warns China to immediately halt its exploitation projects and refrain from aiding the occupying Pakistani state. Otherwise, our future attacks will be even harsher. Hundreds of highly trained male and female members of Baloch Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade are ready to carry out deadly attacks in any part of Balochistan and Pakistan. We want to tell Pakistan to immediately stop Baloch genocide, peacefully withdraw from Balochistan and recognise Baloch motherland’s independence, or else be ready for further attacks”.

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'We are Justified to Intensify Our Attacks': BLA

This is the third attack carried out by the BLA in Karachi. The first was in 2018 at the local Chinese Consulate and the second in 2020 at the Pakistan Stock Exchange, where the Chinese have major investments. Chinese nationals were also the target of the attack in 2019 at the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, and they were killed in 2021 in another attack in Gwadar.

BLA chief Baloch Zeb has frequently stated the reason behind these attacks:

“China is involved in mass plundering of our natural resources. To further its economic and military expansionist designs, it has occupied our ports and is present on our land without our consent. Moreover, it is actively aiding Pakistan financially as well as militarily in attempts to quash our freedom struggle … Recently, China has increased its projects manifold and is directly involved alongside Pakistan in the Baloch genocide, therefore, in order to halt Chinese advancements, we are justified to intensify our attacks”.
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When a War Is Fought on Women's Bodies

But the latest attack marks a clear shift in strategy and raises a couple of issues. This is the first time that a woman has been used as a suicide bomber, and the first time that the BLA has openly declared that the Majeed Brigade also includes women. The war in Balochistan, like many wars, is fast becoming a war fought, in many ways, on the body of women. Every day, more and more women in Balochistan are being disappeared, raped, tortured and killed in cold blood by the Pakistani Army and intelligence. It was just a matter of time before women stopped being only just victims and started using their bodies as weapons.

This is not the first time this has happened in history, and it won’t be the last. But the latest events, and, above all, the increasingly definitive shift towards the so-called ‘soft targets’ of the armed resistance, along with the use of women as suicide bombers, have raised many concerns and have, in some way, divided the public opinion in Balochistan, too.

For sure, operations like the Karachi attack or the attack in Lahore last January can put the Baloch struggle in the international limelight. After all, as Albert Camus wrote many years ago, to end up in newspapers and have your hour of celebrity you just need to kill your concierge.

But the BRAS, the movement uniting all the Baloch guerrilla movements, might want to give a thought to some other kind of considerations. The BLA might be considered a terrorist organisation by Pakistan and has been put on the UN terror list under Chinese pressure, but the wide majority of people know the truth – they are fighting an ongoing genocide and the exploitation of their land.

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Only Pakistan Benefits From Violence

The point is that adopting the same strategies as used in the past by Tamil Tigers, or, more recently, by notorious Islamic terrorist groups, will not be of any long-term benefit.

In fact, there’s just one player that will benefit from further attacks on civilians and from this change of strategy: Pakistan. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will be too glad to have a ground for labelling the Baloch as plain, ordinary terrorists, thus undermining the problem of enforced disappearances, mass graves, extrajudicial killings, the systematic rape and killing of women and children. The ISI will thus find it easier to cover up or even justify violations of human and civil rights under the ‘national security threat’ excuse.

The Chinese are already threatening retaliation and direct airstrikes against the groups. Supporters of the official narrative in Pakistan are more than happy at the moment to label the Baloch as ordinary terrorists, invoke a crackdown and point out the umpteenth possible crack in the Baloch movement and between Baloch leaders.

Attacks on civilians are difficult to justify even when you are on the right side, or, when you say, like the Red Brigades did in Italy many years ago, you shoot the symbol and not the men.

Bramsh sacrificed her life for a better future, but the world’s attention has not been focused on the actual issue – the debate and the headlines have all been about Bramsh, the Chinese targets and the separatist groups. Zero or little attention has been given to the real problem and its root causes. Pakistan should be held responsible for the illegal occupation of land and for selling it to the Chinese; Pakistan should be held responsible for exploiting the Baloch in every possible way; Pakistan should be held responsible for the crimes committed against those they call ‘citizens’.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)

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Topics:  Pakistan   Karachi   Baloch 

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