Pakistani Security Expert Muhammad Amir Rana Examines Ties Between Sindhi And Baluchi Militant Organizations: 'Sindhi Militants Have Succeeded In Denting The Trust That The Chinese Companies Had Reposed In The Security Institutions Of Pakistan'

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December 2, 2022

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In a recent article, a leading Pakistani newspaper examined growing links between Sindhi and Baluchi secessionist organizations fighting for independence from Pakistan of the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, respectively. The article comes following a number of attacks on Chinese interests in Karachi.

On May 12, 2022, Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) – a little-known terror group fighting for the independence of Sindh from Pakistan – took responsibility for an attack on a vehicle of Pakistan's Coast Guard in Karachi, a coastal city and provincial capital of Sindh province. At least 12 people were wounded in the attack.[1]

In a statement posted on Telegram, SRA also observed: "Pakistani forces and China are occupying the lands, seaports, and islands, along the entire coastal strip of Sindhi Ocean. The state [security] forces are forcibly making the Sindhi activists disappear. Punjab [the influential province that rules Pakistan] is destroying Sindh by shutting down [diverting] the water of the Indus River, and is settling outsiders in large numbers, thereby turning Sindhis into a minority on their own lands."[2]

A low-intensity secessionist militancy has been underway in Sindh province for decades. It has not posed a serious threat to the integrity of Pakistan. However, Sindhi secessionist groups, frequently re-emerging under new names, have been worried about increasing Chinese investment in Pakistan, especially as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 3,000-km Chinese infrastructure network project.

In September 2022, a Sindhi militant group attacked a dental clinic in the Sadar area of Karachi, killing Ronald Raymond Chou, a Chinese-origin Pakistani, and wounding two other members of his family. Once again, Soreh Sindhi, spokesman of the little-known secessionist group, Sindhudesh People's Army (SPA), claimed responsibility for the attack.[3]

Earlier in April 2022, perhaps the biggest attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan took place.  In the afternoon of April 26, 2022, a burqa-clad woman exploded herself near a van close to the Confucius Institute, a Chinese-language teaching center at Karachi University, killing three Chinese nationals. Shari Baloch, the suicide bomber, was a member of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an up-to-now ideologically secular group seeking the independence of Baluchistan province.[4]


Shari Baloch, a female suicide bomber, attacked the Confucius Institute in Karachi.

Subsequently, it emerged that some cooperation between the BLA and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the context of Baluchistan, has now emerged. Like in Sindh, secessionist groups in Baluchistan too resent China's growing investment, which they think is reducing them to a minority in their lands.

The liberal newspaper Dawn, in an article titled "Militancy In Sindh" written by noted security expert Muhammad Amir Rana, examined the recent attacks in Sindh as well as their links to Baluchi secessionist organizations.

Following are excerpts from the article:[5]

"A New Sindhi Militant Group, The Sindhudesh People's Army, Has Recently Appeared On The Scene By Claiming A Heinous Attack On A Dental Clinic Run By A Chinese-Pakistani Couple In Karachi"

"A collection of small nationalist insurgent groups has been making its presence felt in Sindh for the last several years. However, the government and security institutions appear to be less concerned about these groups and the security threat they pose.

"A new Sindhi militant group, the Sindhudesh People's Army [SPA], has recently appeared on the scene by claiming a heinous attack on a dental clinic run by a Chinese-Pakistani couple in Karachi. The group's purported spokesman, Soreh Sindhi, released a statement claiming that the SPA fighters had targeted the clinic, killing one Chinese man and injuring three others.

"He stated that his group claimed responsibility for the attack and warned the Chinese government against cooperating with Pakistan, which it said was an occupier of 'Sindhudesh.' The statement also demanded that China should end its projects in the province.

"No doubt, this sounds very familiar as most Baluchi insurgent groups issue similar statements to the media after accepting responsibility for terrorist attacks. The resemblance in their narratives strengthens the view that the Baluchi and Sindhi militant groups might have developed synergy in their political and terrorist strategy, as Baluchi militants are targeting Chinese nationals working on CPEC and other development projects in the country."

"Sindhi Militant Groups Have Developed A Nexus With BRAS, An Alliance Of Baloch Insurgent Groups, Which Is Providing Training To Sindhi Insurgents"

"Many security experts strongly believe that the Sindhi militant groups have developed a nexus with BRAS, an alliance of Baluchi insurgent groups, which is providing training to Sindhi insurgents in return for logistical support for its operations in Karachi and other places in Sindh.

"Others assert that there is very little space for an insurgent movement to be nurtured in the province because of a growing middle class and the stakes that educated youths have in the system. Right now, the political landscape is not very fertile for any popular separatist movement either. Security experts believe that Sindhi militant groups have developed a nexus with Baluchi insurgents.

"However, since the rumours erupted about the growing ties between Sindhi and Baluchi insurgent groups, the former have become more assertive. The operational strength and threat of the Sindhi insurgents is low to moderate. But the emergence of new groups such as the SPA is a clear warning, especially for Pakistan's bilateral and multilateral economic and trade engagements in the province and the rest of the country.

"Though little information is available about the group, experts argue that it could be a faction of either the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army or the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz [the traditionally known secessionist organizations]. Others hold the view that using a new name could be just an operational tactic employed by some old group to get recognition and attention."

"The Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army And The Sindhudesh Liberation Army Have Been Involved In Terrorist Activities Since 2007 In The Interior Of Sindh And Karachi"

"The Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army and the Sindhudesh Liberation Army have been involved in terrorist activities since 2007 in the interior of Sindh and Karachi; initially, their attacks were confined to damaging ATM machines, power transmission lines and railway tracks, but gradually, they started attacking the security apparatus, mainly the police and paramilitary forces deployed in the province.

"After a surge in attacks, the federal interior ministry decided to include these two Sindhi groups, along with the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, on its list of banned organizations under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

"State institutions in the country believe that they can deal with the issue through hard security approaches; even the weak reconciliatory processes of the past took place under the influence of this perception.

"While the nationalist insurgency in Sindh is not even considered a threat to national security, there are few prospects that these movements will disappear anytime soon. Constant security engagement, however, has its own financial and political costs; and it also builds up anger in communities, especially among the youths."

"The Sindhi Groups Face Two Disadvantages; First, They Don't Have An Extensive Support Base, Which Is Essential For Any Insurgent Movement..."

"It is also believed that the situation in Baluchistan is entirely different as the people's grievances are deep-rooted, and the province has a history of nationalist insurgency and armed conflict. The Sindhi militant groups have the potential to remain potent as long as their external support mechanism or nexus with Baluchi insurgent groups remains intact."

"However, the Sindhi groups face two disadvantages; first, they do not have an extensive support base, which is essential for any insurgent movement to move towards a logical conclusion. Insurgent movements have political objectives and adopt terrorist tactics to become politically relevant and force the power institutions to initiate a political process to address their grievances.

"The Sindhi militants do not have any political outlook, and nor does any major political or nationalist party in Sindh province subscribe to their ideology or action. Second, Sindhi militant groups do not have a face, like the Baloch insurgents who have a visible leadership. Though the Baloch insurgents have almost abandoned the leadership belonging to tribal elites, they have leaders hailing from the lower middle classes.

"The new leadership transformed the Baloch insurgency, making the old leadership irrelevant, and pushing the latter toward the establishment. There are rumours swirling around that the establishment and exiled Bugti and Marri leaders are in contact, and that they may reconcile soon.

 
A dental clinic was attacked in Karachi in September 2022

"It was the argument of the new Baluchi insurgents that tribal leaders compromise when the insurgent movement picks up momentum. However, the Sindhi militant groups do not have the luxury of being 'deceived.'

"At the same time, the Sindhi militants have succeeded in denting the trust that the Chinese companies had reposed in the security institutions of Pakistan. China and Pakistan are both investing a lot to protect Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects, but the militants have succeeded in finding soft targets such as Chinese teachers and doctors, which has caused Beijing to panic and put pressure on Pakistan.

"The security institutions have limited options to deal with a faceless militant group, but they can focus more on breaking the nexuses with external factors, including like-minded militant movements in Baluchistan. At the moment, the tactics of the Sindhi militants are not sophisticated, and vigilant policing can help minimise their terrorist potential."

 

[3] SamaaEnglish.TV (Pakistan), September 29, 2022.

[5] Dawn (Pakistan), October 16, 2022. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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