Pakistan has lost its second military helicopter in Balochistan in two months, with the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claiming that it had shot down the chopper, killing six people on board.
In an emailed statement sent to India Narrative, the BLA said that it had first arrested two Pakistani military personnel near Zardaalo, an area in Harnai Balochistan, following which Pakistani helicopters arrived in the area. The BLA said it then shot down at least one chopper near Khost, Harnai. It added that the helicopter was downed in an area which was five kilometres from where the two Pakistanis had been detained.
Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that a helicopter had "crashed" in Balochistan, but did not say the chopper had been shot down. The ISPR statement said that two Majors, Muhammad Muneed Afzal and Khurram Shyahzad who were both pilots were among the six personnel who were killed.
This the second Pakistani military helicopter that has crashed in Balochistan in the last two months. The casualties in the first chopper crash were even bigger as it had killed Quetta corps commander Lt. Gen .Sarfraz Ali and five others, most of whom were senior military officers.
In case the BLA claim is confirmed, it would suggest a quantum jump in the group's ability, which was not only capable of launching strikes on the ground, but also equipped to reliably defend against aerial attacks. The two strikes are expected to deter the Pakistanis from launching low-flying helicopter gunship attacks against Baloch insurgents on the ground.
The two helicopter downings add to the BLA's heft on the ground. At the beginning of the year, BLA's Majeed Brigade had claimed responsibility for deadly strikes against Pakistan's Frontier Corps contingents camped in Panjgur and Noshki.
The BLA has also made it a point that it would target Chinese presence, including the Gwadar port, and other nodes inside Pakistan.
Unsurprisingly, the group had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November 2018.
In June 2020, the BLA has also claimed responsibility for the strike on the Karachi stock exchange, in which the Chinese are believed to have made significant investments. Three security guards and a police sub-inspector were killed in the strike.
In April, Shari Baloch, said to belong to the BLA's Majeed Brigade blew herself up and killed three Chinese nationals involved in running the Confucius institute in the Karachi university.
Analysts say that despite the potent strikes and impressive growth in capability, the Baloch insurgency has much work to do to acquire the critical mass to change the balance of power against Pakistan in Balochistan.