Tuesday’s suicide attack in Karachi University targeting Chinese nationals, carried out by a female suicide bomber, a first by the Majeed Brigade of Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), has raised serious concerns over the use of women to carry out terror strikes.
Three Chinese nationals and a Pakistani citizen were killed after what appeared to be a targeted suicide bombing outside the University of Karachi’s Confucius Institute on Tuesday afternoon.
Many believe that such female suicide bombers, who have been previously used for carrying out ‘fidayeen’ attacks by other terrorist organisations, come from a oppressed background with lesser exposure, making them vulnerable to the motivational sermons of terror groups.
While it may be true to some extent, BLA’s first suicide bomber changed the overall outlook to the theory as Shari Baloch, who carried out the attack on Tuesday, was neither illiterate, nor did she come from a family background having connections with separatist groups.
Shari Baloch was a secondary school teacher in her native Kech district. She completed Bachelors in Education (B.Ed) in 2014 and Masters in Education (M.Ed) in 2018. She also did her Masters in Zoology from the University of Balochistan and Masters in Philosophy (MPhil) from the Allama Iqbal Open University, Turbat campus, in Balochistan.
Shari was married and had two young children. Her husband is a dentist while her father served as the director in a government agency and was on government Grade 21 before his retirement.
Her father also became a member of the District Council for at least three years.
Shari’s family is well-established and highly-educated with no past connection to any separatist group. In fact, the family was more inclined towards being known as a peaceful unit in comparison to many others with strong views about Baloch liberation movement. Shari has three brothers and four sisters.
One brother is a tehsildar – a grade 16 officer. Another brother works at the district court. One of her uncles is a retired professor, an author and a rights activist. Two of her cousins are doctors.
Shari’s father was a registrar at the University of Turbat most recently and remained part of the district ombudsman’s team for at least three years. He has also served as Director to the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA).
During her university times, Sharri remained a member of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO-Azad) but was never booked or found guilty of promoting any anti-state activity through protests and rallies and maintained a low profile.
Also none of the family members were among the missing persons or subjected to enforced disappearances, except of one cousin who was killed during a military operation in 2018 in Kech.
Sharri joined BLA’s Majeed Brigade two years ago and voluntarily signed up for the self-sacrificing mission.
“Following Brigade’s establishment procedures, she was given time to revisit her decision. During these two years, Sharri rendered her services in different units of Majeed Brigade. However, six months ago, she confirmed that she continues to stand by her decision of carrying out a self-sacrificing attack. After that, she was actively involved in her mission,” BLA said in a statement.
Sharri was brought to Karachi about six months back without any information about her relocation to her workplace, where she was a teacher.
The District Education Officer, Kech, had sent served her a show-cause notice for being absent from the school for the past six months. But she did not respond to any of them.
It is still unclear of what prompted Sharri to become a suicide bomber and give her life for BLA’s cause. But it is believed that Sharri had joined the BLA Majeed Brigade with the idea of becoming a suicide bomber and persisted with the same, even after two years of her affiliation with the separatist group.
She is being hailed by BLA as the first female suicide bomber, which has given a new and a much more dangerous outlook to the group and its insurgency in Pakistan.