Separatist leader in Pakistan appears before cameras and says he has surrendered with 70 followers – The Associated Press

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
This is a locator map for Pakistan with its capital, Islamabad, and the Kashmir region. (AP Photo)
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — The leader of the main insurgent group in southwestern Pakistan appeared before cameras on Wednesday to say he has surrendered to authorities with some 70 of his followers and is giving up his yearslong fight for independence.
Sarfraz Bungulzai, who was previously known by his nom de guerre as Mureed Baluch, told reporters in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, that he feels remorse for the deadly attacks he and his Baluch National Army carried out against Pakistani security forces.
The group, also known by its acronym as BNA, has been banned by the government in Islamabad.
The development is a significant boost for Pakistan’s government, which has battled militants and insurgents of various groups across the country. Earlier this year, Pakistan top intelligence agency arrested another prominent BNA member — Gulzar Imam, also known by the name Shambay, the group’s founder.
Speaking at a government-organized news conference, Bungulzai declared that he deeply regrets his role in abducting civilians for ransom and the killings of unarmed people. It was not clear if he spoke under duress, if he had been taken into custody or if he would face any charges.

The insurgent leader also said he decided to lay down his arms after talks with authorities — but he stopped short of saying whether he and those who surrendered with him had been promised amnesty.
Bungulzai further said he became motivated to give up the fight after learning that his group, the Baluch National Army, was foreign funded and had the backing of neighboring India. He did not offer any evidence to his claims or provide details.
There was no immediate comment from New Delhi.
Pakistan often blames India for fomenting dissent within Pakistan, including the rebellion in Baluchistan, where small separatist groups have for years waged a low-scale insurgency against the state, demanding a greater share of resources or full independence from Islamabad.
Baluch separatist groups have also targeted gas pipelines across the province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is rich in oil and gas. Bungalzai’s BNA has been behind the killing of hundreds of people there and has claimed responsibility for bombings and attacks in other parts of Pakistan as well.
During the televised news conference, Bungulzai also urged other separatists to lay down their arms and fight peacefully, through mainstream politics, for their rights. “The state is not our enemy, and we were misguided by foreign intelligence,” he said.
There was no immediate response from the BNA to the reported surrender of its leader and scores of its members.
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar welcomed Bungulzai’s surrender in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Baluchistan has been the scene of an insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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