An army statement identified the detainee as Gulzar Imam, also known as Shambay, saying he is the founder and leader of the so-called Baluch National Army or BNA.
The banned group has been blamed for dozens of terrorist attacks targeting Pakistani security forces and civilians.
The statement hailed Imam’s arrest as a “serious blow” to the BNA and other insurgents operating in the natural resources-rich province. It noted without elaborating that a months-long operation spanning “various geographical locations” had captured the “high-value target.”
Imam described as experienced insurgent
Friday’s announcement came several months after the BNA confirmed last November that its chief had been in the custody of Pakistani security forces.
Analysts studying the Baluch insurgency say Imam is an experienced insurgent commander and maintains close links to all groups fighting for an independent Baluchistan.
In early 2022, the rebel commander announced the merger of two militant groups to form the BNA in his bid to expand a violent campaign seeking Baluchistan’s independence from Pakistan.
The detained militant leader has issued media statements alleging extortion by Pakistan and its close ally China of the province’s natural resources and discrimination against its ethnic Baluch population.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars in Baluchistan and the rest of the country, helping Islamabad build roads, power plants and other infrastructure under China’s global Belt and Road Initiative.
Pakistani authorities reject the allegations and maintain the insurgent groups are waging violence to destabilize the country with the support of arch-rival India.
Imam’s “visits to Afghanistan and India are also on the record; his linkages with hostile intelligence agencies are being investigated,” said Friday’s military statement.
Indian authorities deny charges they are supporting insurgents.
Baluchistan occupies a significant chunk of Pakistan’s border with both Afghanistan and Iran.
Islamabad alleges that separatists also use Iranian soil to wage attacks in Baluchistan.
Last week, the Pakistani military said that four of its troops were killed in the region when a “group of terrorists” who crossed from the Iranian side of the border attacked a routine military patrol.
That attack was claimed by the Baluchistan Liberation Army, or BLA, which routinely takes credit for plotting raids on Pakistani security forces. Pakistan, the United States and Britain have designated the BLA as a global terrorist organization.
Tehran condemned the deadly April 1 cross-border raid, saying in a statement that terrorism “is a common pain” for the neighboring countries and stressed the need to jointly combat the threat.
Pakistani security forces have long been under fire for alleged human rights violations while trying to suppress the Baluch insurgency.
An independent rights defender on Friday released details of its “fact-finding” mission, saying it observed a “palpable sense of anger” among the population in Baluchistan.
“The mission is concerned at the state’s widespread use of enforced disappearances to muzzle dissent,” said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “This discontent has been compounded by the extensive presence of paramilitary check-posts, which, citizens say, has cultivated a climate of fear,” the watchdog said.
Voice of America
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