The April 27 female suicide attack by Shari Baloch targeting Karachi University’s Confucius Institute underscored a turning point in the operational tactics of the Baluch insurgents from hit-and-run guerrilla operations to suicide attacks. The suicide attack was preceded by near-simultaneous gun-and-suicide assaults on the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) camps in March in Baluchistan’s Noshki and Panjgur districts (Dawn, February 2). The Baluch Liberation Army (BLA)’s suicide squad, the Majeed Brigade, claimed responsibility for these attacks (BBC Urdu, February 5). The Majeed Brigade’s newfound embrace of suicide terrorism will lead to more high-profile attacks and likely provoke stronger counter-terrorism reactions from the Pakistani state.
The Majeed Brigade’s Background
The Majeed Brigade is named after two brothers, Majeed Langove Senior and Majeed Langove Junior, who carried out suicide attacks in August 1974 and March 2010, respectively.  Majeed Senior tried to assassinate then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he was on an official visit to Quetta. He wanted to kill him for dismissing the National Awami Party’s government in Baluchistan, but Majeed Senior lost his life during the operation (BBC Urdu, February 3). Majeed Junior sacrificed himself to save his associates when Pakistani security forces raided the house where they were staying in Quetta’s Wahdat Colony. Majeed Junior held back the raid to give his associates time to escape.
Following Majeed Junior’s killing, BLA’s now late leader, Aslam Achu, established the insurgent group’s suicide squad, and labeled it as the Majeed Brigade. The Brigade carried out its first vehicle-borne suicide attack in December 2011 when Baaz Khan Marri targeted Shafeeq Mengal, the son of former Pakistani federal minister Naseer Mengal, on Quetta’s Arbab Road. Shafeeq, who had run a death squad targeting Baluch insurgents in different parts of the province, escaped unhurt, but 13 other people were killed in the attack (Express Tribune, December 13, 2011).
Subsequently, the Majeed Brigade went into dormancy due to lack of funds and recruits, and it took the group seven years to carry out its second suicide attack when a bus carrying Chinese engineers was targeted in Dalbadin in August 2018 (Dawn, August 12, 2018). Aslam’s son, 22-year-old son Rehan Aslam Baloch, perpetrated the attack. Majeed Brigade suicide bombers have also hit the Chinese Consulate in Karachi (Dawn, November 23, 2018); Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel (Express Tribune, May 11, 2019); and the Pakistan Stock Exchange (Dawn, June 29, 2020).
Leadership, Recruitment, and Financing
Basher Zeb, a close aide of Aslam Achu and a former Chairman of the Baluch Student Organization-Azad (BSO-Azad) faction, is BLA’s overall head, while Hammal Rehan Baloch is the Majeed Brigade’s operational chief. Rehan is well-educated and speaks multiple languages, including English, Urdu, Baluchi, and Persian. Gulzar Khan is the logistical head of the Majeed Brigade and Junaid Baloch is its spokesman. The overall strength of BLA is 1,000 to 1,500 fighters, while the Majeed Brigade has 100 to 150 members in its ranks, including women (Stanford University Database, 2019).The Majeed Brigade recruits and trains suicide bombers alongside plotting and executing such attacks (Express Tribune, July 27, 2019).
The Majeed Brigade has three units: logistics, which handles the transportation and deployment of suicide bombers before any attack, intelligence, which selects targets and conducts reconnaissance, and operations, which recruits and trains suicide bombers (The Baluchistan Post, July 20, 2020). Meanwhile, the Majeed Brigade collects finances from Baluch dissidents and diaspora living in Europe, North America and the Middle East through Hawala (an informal method of transferring money without the movement of cash) and Hundi (an informal written pay order made by a party directing another person to pay a certain amount to a party named in the order) networks. The Pakistani state maintains that BLA gets funding from the Indian intelligence agencies as well (The Nation, May 16; The News International, May 8, 2021).
The Majeed Brigade is well-armed and possesses high-grade weapons, including improvised explosive devices (IED), anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and various automatic weapons like M4 rifles as well as BM-12, 107MM, 109MM type rockets (\Terrorism Monitor\, January 25, 2019). The Majeed Brigade militants have access to sophisticated explosives like C4 for making suicide vests. Although the Majeed Brigade is fast becoming a more lethal arm of the BLA, being a BLA member is not a prerequisite to join the Majeed Brigade. Insurgents from other Baluch separatist organizations who volunteer for suicide terrorism can join the Majeed Brigade (The Baluchistan Post, July 20, 2020). As per Majeed Brigade recruitment policy, the minimum age of the suicide bomber is 18 years old.
Unlike jihadist organizations, the Majeed Brigade’s bombers are not kept in isolation before their attacks. In contrast, they have the freedom to meet their families and friends. Furthermore, the suicide bombers also take part in the selection of their targets and planning their attacks (YouTube/The Baluchistan Post, May 13). If a would-be-bomber is not satisfied with the political logic of selecting a particular target, he or she has the freedom to choose a different target. Likewise, at any stage, a volunteer has the full freedom to withdraw from the suicide mission.
The Majeed Brigade’s targeting strategy revolves around hitting the conventionally superior adversary’s interests and installations where orthodox guerrilla tactics are ineffective, such as in the main cities. Targets are selected for their political, military, economic and symbolic significance as well as their ability to generate publicity for the group at the international level. For instance, the FC camps in Noshki and Panjgur districts were chosen for their military significance. This enabled the suicide bombers to carry out gun-and-bomb attacks and storm the FC camp to create a 72-hour standoff, and gain maximum publicity (Express Tribune, February 6). On the other hand, the attacks on the Pakistan Stock Exchange attack in Karachi or at various CPEC projects in Baluchistan were targeted for their economic significance.
For the Majeed Brigade, each suicide attack has three stages and goals. When a suicide bomber blows him or herself up, the political objective is achieved, as it earns publicity for the group by highlighting the Baluch insurgent movement. When the video statement of the suicide bomber is released during the second stage, it attracts interest from potential new suicide bombers.  When the bomber detonates, whether the target is hit or not, it is a win-win for the Majeed Brigade because the bomber becomes a martyr figurehead and an icon, such as the Majeed Brothers, Rehan Aslam Baloch, and the April 27 Karachi female suicide bomber Shari Baloch. The third and final stage revolves around the military goal: if the target is destroyed, the military goals are also achieved (The Baluchistan Post, July 20, 2020). Indeed, all goals were achieved in Shari Baloch’s suicide attack where the target was destroyed, maximum media publicity was achieved to attract new recruits, and the political goal of targeting the Confucius Center was highlighted, the latter being a target that Baluch separatists consider a symbol of Chinese state imperialism.
For the Majeed Brigade, the decision to shift from hit-and-run guerrilla tactics to suicide bombing was a difficult strategic choice (Independent Urdu, February 14). The group risked being bracketed alongside the jihadist groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or “Pakistani Taliban”) and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP). BLA also risked losing external donors like India, which supported it for its secular leanings. The switch to more extreme tactics could deprive the Baluch separatists of the support and sympathy it enjoyed within the international community.  At the same time, however, embracing suicide terrorism also highlights their devotion to reviving a separate and independent homeland for their people.
The decision to engage in suicide attacks has also generated heated debates within Baluch separatist organizations. Some Baluch separatists believe it will hurt the cause of Baluch nationalism by providing the Pakistani state with the pretext it needs to crack down on them. Concurrently, these dissenters theorize that suicide attacks may alienate the Baluch masses, who might not take kindly to such extreme tactics. The other school of thought believes that suicide terrorism will earn the Baluch separatists a reputation of being wedded to the cause for a separate homeland and force the Pakistani state to rethink its tactics. Although the Majeed Brigade has grabbed headlines with its audacious suicide attacks, especially Shari Baloch’s, only time will tell if suicide terrorism can propel Baluch separatism forward or undermine it.
 The Majeed brothers’ third sibling Ameer Bukhs was also affiliated with BLA and was killed in a security forces’ operation in February 2010.
 Author’s interview with Zia ur Rehman, a Karachi-based Pakistani journalist and researcher, June 6, 2022.
 Authors’ discussion with Malik Siraj Akbar, a Baluch journalist based in Washington D.C., May 25, 2022.