Thursday June 20, 2024

Complex ISI operation successfully disarms top Baloch separatist

Shambay says the struggle for Balochistan’s rights can only be pursued through constitutional, and political means

By Our special correspondent
May 24, 2023
Baloch National Armys ex-leader Gulzar Imam alias Shambay addressing a press conference alongside government officials (not pictured) in Quetta, on May 23, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/PTVNewsLive
Baloch National Army's ex-leader Gulzar Imam alias Shambay addressing a press conference alongside government officials (not pictured) in Quetta, on May 23, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/PTVNewsLive

QUETTA: Gulzar Imam alias Shambay, the founder of the banned Baloch National Army (BNA), on Tuesday, expressed remorse for taking up arms.

Addressing a press conference here, Shambay said the struggle for Balochistan’s rights could only be pursued through constitutional and political means.

Imam was apprehended by security forces last month. Born in Panjgur in 1978, he initially worked as a contractor and later became a correspondent for a local newspaper.

In 2009, Shambay joined a terrorist group and eventually became deputy to Brahamdagh Bugti in the Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) till 2018.

Later, he formed the Baloch National Army (BNA) as a new militant outfit. He played a pivotal role in steering militant activities in Balochistan, particularly in the southern region of the province.

Imam, who was earlier a staunch believer in an independent Balochistan, had maintained contact with external elements, including some hostile intelligence agencies. He visited India in December 2017, using fake documents. Through these connections and operational expertise, he emerged as an influential figure within the BRAS. He held the position of BRAS operational head before his arrest.

Imam’s arrest was announced in an ISPR press release on April 7. Security officials close to the developments told The News that the news of Imam’s arrest created significant panic among various Baloch terrorist organizations. They emphasized that Imam’s arrest was a major development in the fight against militancy in Balochistan.

“Successful intelligence-based operations leading to the arrest of Imam and Mahal Baloch show that the public does not have confidence in anti-state actors. The news of these arrests was sincerely appreciated by many people,” a security official said, adding that the morale of other militant groups, especially the BLA (Majeed Brigade and BLF), was at an all-time low. “This is because inter and intra-group rivalries have emerged,” he said.

“The arrest of Imam is a remarkable achievement by the ISI and a testament to the professionalism of Director General Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum who oversaw and coordinated the operation,” a senior official requesting anonymity said.

“The operation itself was the second of its kind in the world and the first in the history of Pakistan. In the field of intelligence, this operation stands out as a notable accomplishment. The ISI apprehended Shambay after an extremely complex and challenging operation. This operation, spanning months and multiple geographic areas, is unique and sets a precedent in the history of intelligence,” he said and noted that the success of these intelligence-based operations was due to the public support enjoyed by the security forces and intelligence agencies, the invaluable assistance provided by local individuals as well as the strong leadership provided by ISI DG Nadeem Anjum.

“Anjum has garnered widespread appreciation and recognition for his commendable leadership,” the security official said. “Under his guidance, the ISI has exhibited remarkable professionalism in carrying out its responsibilities. His deep understanding of intelligence operations and strategic analysis has been instrumental in effectively addressing security challenges and ensuring the safety of the nation,” he said, adding that Anjum promoted collaboration among stakeholders. “His inclusive approach has fostered stronger partnerships, intelligence sharing and joint operations, leading to enhanced security cooperation,” he said.

The importance of DG Anjum’s efforts in the operation to nab Imam was recognized by the National Security Council during its recent meeting. The NSC commended the ISI and Anjum for their efforts and commitment to national security. Congratulating the security forces for Shambay’s arrest, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the ISI DG was doing a remarkable job.