CrisisBalochistan.com | March 18, 2013
Also see interview by Karlos Zurutuza below | October 30, 2012 | An interview with a Baloch guerrilla commander; A shorter version of the interview below was published at IPSNEWS.net on October 26, 2012 | Q&A: ‘Baloch Groups to Unite Against Pakistan’
Translated from the Urdu by Archen Baloch
Dear Hamid Mir,
I'm writing you this letter with the hope that perhaps the historians of the next century – standing in the witness box of history – will reveal the truth about the oppressed Baloch nation, hold the colonial powers and occupying rulers of the day accountable and examine the role and discourse of its advocates and intelligentsia. It should not be the case that today's columnists and intellectuals are restrained by the fear of the ruler or its lust for conquest.
A century ago, British Lord B. Fell said, "We know and understand the history of Egypt far better than the Egyptians do." Even one hundred and 25 years later these contemptuous words remain on the pages of history. Similarly, the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Bhutto, when in Gadhi Khuda Baksh said, "Baloch should learn politics from us." His implication was that the Baloch are ignorant, illiterate and unfamiliar with statecraft--born to be slaves. There is only the gap of a century between the words of B. Fell and Zardari Bhutto, but the subject and message is the same: the lesson of slavery.
Mr. Hamid Mir, you hold the leading position among contemporary intellectuals belonging to the colonial state's electronic and print media. Many of the policies of the state are devised and executed with the counsel of your community. But knowledge and consciousness demand to be on the side of truth. Jean-Paul Sartre, who despite being French, supported the Algerian freedom movement against the colonial system with his pen and wrote a golden chapter of history. Like Sartre, Mr. Hamid Mir, you are an intellectual. Yet you not only support the inhumane, immoral and terrorizing conduct of the occupying state in Balochistan, you have also actively advised the state regarding how to eliminate the Baloch freedom fighters and how to perpetuate its occupation over Baloch land. With the intimidation of the younger brother of Shaheed Assad Baloch, Akhtar Mengal, you would enable the state to conquer the strong fortress of Baloch by building a Trojan horse out of him. If Akhtar Mengal is intimidated and taken in by you, it would be a master stroke of your molding hand. With the threat of state terrorism, not only have you tried to intimidate him into submission, but you have become a bridge to encourage him to cut a deal with the secret agencies of the state.
You have never regarded the Baloch as a nation and freedom a right of every nation. Is it just to deprive a nation of its freedom through the use of intellectual ploys? Five hundred years ago Nicholas Machiavelli advised a prince that kings and rulers are not bound by any values and permanent morals. If that is just, then why is Machiavelli under critique? Kings and rulers are never incriminated because all court intellectuals are subservient to their respective masters. In order to maintain their stranglehold, they advise their masters and propagate their policies. The struggle of the oppressed is portrayed as wrong and the result of ignorance. Sometimes religion is also utilized to subdue the oppressed. At present the intelligentsia of the Pakistani occupier is doing the same to the Baloch and you are a participant in this oppression.
Mr. Mir Sahib, you claim to be the banner bearer of human rights. When Malala Yousufzai was attacked you were among the first to condemn this inhumane act. Although it is commendable, on December 25, 2012, when Pakistani occupying forces were showering fire and iron from their helicopter gunships at Tank of the Mashkay area, in which 18 innocent women, children and elderly men were killed--among them Bahti was 2 years old and Bibi Mahnaz, 70--all Pakistani intellectuals, including you, were silent.
Is this justice to a man of your intellect? Or is it beneficial to vicious rulers? You decide. Two years ago, Bibi Zamur Baloch and her daughter were martyred by Pakistani beasts in the streets of Karachi. Previously, Pakistani state agents abducted Zarina Marri, along with her infant child Murad, while she was on her way to school in Quetta. On January 21, 2013, in Besima of Kharan district, Pakistani forces, along with the local death squad, broke into a house and martyred a prominent Balochi and Brahvi poet, Qasim Baloch, along with his sister Rozina Baloch. Over such poignant, heart-rending incidents, not a single word comes out of the mouths of Pakistan intellectuals. Perhaps it is because these oppressed people are Baloch.
At present Baloch are fighting a war for their freedom and the blood of this freedom loving nation is cheap. The only way to do justice with their blood is to forget it altogether. Because forgetting is the only way to escape the wrath of the master.
Those are just a few examples among thousands of incidents, mutilated dead bodies of our martyrs and Baloch prisoners that I mentioned herein. Mir Sahib, nations never die. If it were so, then the Israeli nation would have not existed at all. Even after two thousand years of persecution they have their state, although their suppressive treatment of the Palestinians is condemnable. General Dyer is not alive anymore, but the British Prime Minister calls the Jalyanwala Bagh mishap shameful. And your Bangladeshi history is a recent example.
Mir Sahib, it may come to pass that the words of Zardari and Lord B. Fell and your silence will be deemed Machiavellian. Perhaps our great grandchildren, while reading the bitter facts of history after a century, will conclude that today's enlightenment was not directed against oppression, but utilized to maintain oppression. In any case, it is now a chapter of history that Pakistan's intellectuals have encouraged the occupying army to control Makuran and Bolan in order to successfully control Balochistan.
Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch
March 15, 2013
Dr. Allah Nazar. Source: Asadullah Raisani, 2012
Interview by Karlos Zurutuza
"Pakistan is an irresponsible state that is putting the civilized world in danger" — Commander Allah NazarAmid a spike in sectarian violence in Pakistan controlled Balochistan, IPS speaks with Dr. Allah Nazar, one of the most prominent Baloch resistance leaders on the ground. Over the phone, the senior commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front speaks of the role the Baloch armed movements are playing in the ongoing war against Islamabad while he categorically denies his men have ever targeted civilians.
Divided by the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Baloch have their own language, Balochi, and live in a land the size of France they call Balochistan. That rugged terrain under their feet boasts enormous reserves of gas, gold and copper, untapped sources of oil and uranium as well as a thousand kilometers coast at the doors of the Strait of Hormuz. "Our children walk barefoot on a golden soil," says accurately an eloquent Baloch proverb. In fact, the Baloch happen to live in the three most underdeveloped regions in their respective countries, Afghanistan included.
Foreign correspondents are not allowed to travel to the "forbidden” Baloch regions in Iran and Pakistan. The few who have ever dared break this rule have paid the consequences. In December 2006, New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall was badly beaten in Quetta—southwest Pakistan—by men who identified themselves as members of a special branch of the Pakistan police, and who accused her of "being in Quetta without permission".
In 2009, I managed to visit Iran and Pakistan controlled Baloch areas where I interviewed several tribal and political leaders, intellectuals and even guerrilla commanders fighting for independence.
The Baloch insurgents in Pakistan are fragmented into several groups the main ones being the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan (Balochistan's Army). Several analysts say this fragmentation reflects the tribal element among the Baloch. Despite the apparent fracture, all these groups are markedly secular movements—at odds with the Taliban—who share a common agenda focusing on the independence of Balochistan.
In 2010 I confirmed for myself that the most accessible Baloch region for a foreign journalist today is the one that lies within the borders of Afghanistan. I faced no obstacles nor any kind of threat from the Afghan government over traveling to the southern provinces of Helmand and Nimroz, which host a significant Baloch population. Unlike Tehran and Islamabad, Kabul did not threaten to deport me or prevent me from visiting Afghanistan again in the future in case I attempted to report on the situation of the Baloch in that country. And what's more important, none of the people I met will face any problem for speaking with a foreign reporter, at least not from Kabul.
Being one of the very few reporters to visit the three parts of Balochistan has granted me access to prominent leaders like Dr. Allah Nazar, a senior commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). Allah Nazar, now a guerrilla fighter, spoke on the phone about a conflict deeply rooted in yet another failed decolonization process—that of the partition of India in 1947.
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You are a senior Commander of the Baloch Liberation Front. How would you describe the group you lead?
In the BLF there are Balochs from all walks of life, from peasants to doctors. There are more than 6,000 fighters in our ranks and the number is growing by the day. We operate in full coordination with all Baloch resistance movements and we are soon to form a united command. The BLF is waging a guerrilla war inside East Balochistan, which is under Pakistani control. Attacks are continuously conducted by our freedom fighters and early this month the Baloch Liberation Front killed twelve army men and eight proxies in Gidar, district Kalat.
Do you also coordinate yourselves with Jundullah – "the army of God" – the Baloch insurgent movement from neighbouring Iran?
We know that the people fighting in Jundullah are also Baloch but we have no relation with them. We don’t believe in religious extremism. Ours is a pure nationalist war, miles away from Jundullah's religious extremism.
Islamabad has always claimed that the Baloch resistance has been backed by India, its archenemy. Is any foreign body helping you at some point?
That's just fake propaganda from the Pakistani state media in order to show the world that the Baloch are proxies. India is not supporting us.
Pakistan controlled Balochistan has a provincial government. Why have you taken up the armed struggle and not parliamentary politics?
We had already been declared an independent state from Pakistan in August 1947, even before Pakistan started to exist. Seven months later, Pakistan occupied our land by force, marking the beginning of a colonial policies imposed by Islamabad. From the first day Baloch have not accepted the occupation of Pakistan so our struggle is a continuation of our forefathers. Why are we not supporting parliamentary politics? The Parliament plays a key role, it enacts laws that brutally suppress the Baloch national identity, our culture and language and our existence as a whole. Besides, the Supreme Court is legitimizing the brutality of the State so we do not believe in the Pakistani Supreme Court and we don't have any hope that the Pakistani Supreme Court can deliver justice to the Baloch people.
Some Baloch leaders say self-determination should be the main goal whereas you’ve always been vowing for independence. Why is this?
Leaders such as Akhtar Mengal—leader of the Baloch National Movement (BNP)—are calling for "national self-determination", but it's a vague term. Although the UN charter accepts the principle of self-determination, we are fighting for independence. Self-determination has a broad meaning and it can imply that we will remain inside the state. We have our own history, our own language, our own geography and we have our own, you can say, national identity, so we want our freedom. According to Pakistani media and according to Akhtar Mengal's close fellows and colleagues, they have planned to participate in the forthcoming elections [the date of which has not been officially announced]. So he is back just to clear the path towards them.
What do you think, on the other hand, about the Freedom Charter—a road map for Balochistan's independence—supported by leaders like Hyrbyair Marri, London based tribal and political leader?
The Freedom Charter is a very good step as taken by Hyrbyair Marri. We support the liberation charter but it is important to take into account the views of all Baloch friends and the nation. We have given our proposals. After national liberation every Baloch wishes to have a peaceful and prosperous life.
Islamabad claims that projects such as Gwadar's deep water harbour would boost the economy of Balochistan but you are is against it. Why is that?Gwadar is a project that has been planned in the interest of Punjabi and colonial powers and not for the welfare of Baloch people. It´s meant to bring demographic change in Balochistan, they want to change our majority into a minority by bringing the Muhajirs—immigrants—and other people to Balochistan in order to unbalance the demography in the region. Gwadar is a death warrant for Baloch people.
Prominent Baloch leaders have often expressed their concern over the so called "settlers", something that has reportedly led to the killing of civilians from other regions in your area. On September the 13th, ten laborers were shot in Mastung and the group that claimed responsibility was called Baloch United Liberation Army, BULA. Is that an offshoot of the BLF?
I know they are Baloch and I have seen in the newspapers that they are also fighting for freedom. Nonetheless, I want to make clear that the said laborers were not but agents in disguise working for the Frontier Work Organization [FWO], a section of the army that is constructing the roads throughout Pakistan and particularly in Balochistan to deploy their army. According to my knowledge, Baloch militants had warned them twice because they were constructing this road leading to mountainous areas where the freedom fighters take shelter.
But the BLF also claimed responsibility for the deaths of three journalists, didn't you?
That's also false. The BLF has not killed any journalist. The Baloch Liberation Front has always honored journalism and respected the freedom of speech. It is an expression of honor that I am talking with you. We believe in freedom of speech, the freedom to write and the freedom of journalism. Unfortunately, there is a media blackout throughout Balochistan while the free media is not allowed to come to Balochistan to see and observe things. So mostly the state sponsored media is not publishing or telecasting the real situation in Balochistan.
Last August, BBC correspondent in Quetta, Ayub Tarim, was threatened by the BLF. Can you confirm this?
Absolutely not. I know Ayub Tarim from since I was a student in Bolan Medical College and I was chairman of the Baloch Student Organization. We know each other personally. The Balochistan Liberation Front did not threaten Ayub Tarim, we just complained about the insufficient and often biased coverage of the BBC in Balochistan. The BBC is not double-checking the situation from impartial sources as it mostly relies on government sources. Balochistan is a vast area. Why does the BBC have only one representative in Quetta? The BBC should have two or three correspondents in Balochistan.
Baloch have continuously denounced that Islamabad is trying to Talibanize Balochistan in order to quell the Baloch nationalist movement. What do you think?
That's true. Balochs are basically secular, by their culture, by their tradition, by their historical background so the Pakistani regime is trying to Talibanize the Baloch society. Just where I am right now, the ISI—Pakistani secret services—have set up two religious militant groups against the Baloch national struggle: one is Ansar-al-Islam and the other is Tahafuz-e-Hadoodullah (Protectors of God's Rule). The man who is the head of the Pakistani death squads here in Balochistan is Shafiq Mengal—the son of former federal minister Naseer Mengal. Another one is Siraj Raisani, the brother of Aslam Raisani—current Chief Minister of Balochistan region—while the third man is Zaib, the nephew of Balochistan provincial minister Sanaullah Zehri. They have formed these groups in the name of Islam but their real aim is to crush the Baloch freedom movement. Pakistan is the cradle of the Taliban and the breeding ground of the Taliban. Pakistan is nourishing and funneling the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists into Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Yemen... Pakistan is an irresponsible state that is putting the civilized world in danger. A free Baloch state would therefore be in the interest of the whole civilized world.
Washington is recently reconsidering their pull out from Afghanistan in due for 2014. How will this affect the whole Af-Pak region?
If America and NATO pull out from Afghanistan that will cause a big turbulence and bigger destabilization in the region. A weak Afghanistan will destabilize not only the region but it will be harmful for the whole civilized world.
Under the scenario you've depicted, do you hope that you will go back to medicine one day?
It depends on our struggle. If we ever get a free Balochistan I'd like to be a medical teacher.
Karlos Zurutuza is a regular contributor to IPS. He was awarded the Nawab Bugti Reporting Award 2009 for his reporting on the Baloch areas in Pakistan and Iran.