In a significant policy shift, in his 2016 Independence Speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Balochistan freedom struggle.
Away from the glare of the world that often talks tall on Human Rights and the rights of the indigenous people, Balochistan bleeds at the hands of Pakistan. Balochistan Nationalists have demanded complete independence from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. One such freedom fighter who has been fighting in the trenches for the better part of his life is Dr Allah Nazar Baloch who is the founder and chief of Balochistan Liberation Front.
Allah Nazar Baloch was born on 2 October 1968 in Mashkai, Awaran District, Pakistan. He has a premedical degree and now heads BLF, which has been designated a terror organisation by Pakistan. Dr Allah Nazar Baloch is perhaps one of the most wanted men in Pakistan as he has been at the forefront of Balochistan’s struggle for independence.
OpIndia spoke to Dr Allah Nazar Baloch to understand BLF’s struggle, its relationship with Pakistan and the aspirations of Baluch people.
Why not join the democratic process of Pakistan?
“Balochistan has a different culture, language, psyche, history, and compact geography, albeit Pakistan occupied Balochistan by force”, he says when asked what Balochistan’s principle grouse with Pakistan is.
“They (Pakistan) have no interest in the welfare of Balochistan and the Baloch nation. They are only interested in our 750 miles long coast and minerals. So we Baloch have no way other than resistance, to divert the attention of the world towards oppressed Baloch”.
OpIndia asked Dr Allah Nazar why he had picked up arms against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and why he has not exploited democratic means to resolve the grievances that the Baluch people have against the state.
“There is no democracy in Pakistan”, he said. “The most important thing that compels the Baloch to rebel is oppression and slavery. When I see that my nation is deprived of all aspects of life and ignored in every field, even lacking in a drop of water what else am I supposed to do?”.
“Some federalist parties who are puppets of Islamabad, show them as representatives of Baloch but this is not reality. On the other hand, everyone knows that ISI and Pakistan military is the shadow government in Pakistan. The common Baloch people are supporting the Balochistan Liberation Front and other freedom-seeking organizations”.
The step-motherly treatment that Balochistan has got is evident from the social indicators and the extreme lack of basic development that the thin population of Balochistan has to deal with.
On all counts, from village electrification to access to safe drinking water is in serious disparity with Pakistan. The social indicators certainly support Dr Allah Nazar’s assertions that Pakistan has historically not bothered to develop Balochistan and has mostly used it for plundering its natural resources.
“Nothing is being invested in Balochistan. Punjabi establishment is plundering it with both hands and Baloch resources are booty of war for Pakistan”, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said.
Interestingly, recently, Pakistan was slapped with a $5.95 billion fine in a legal dispute over rights for a copper and gold mine in the country and is seriously considering taking China’s help in bailing them out. Tethyan Copper had filed a case against Pakistan with the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2012 for violating an agreement that the company signed with Pakistan for exploration and mining of the Reko Diq mine. The court announced that Pakistan, headed by Imran Khan must pay a total fine of $5.9 billion — a $4.08 billion penalty and $1.87 billion in interest. China could be considering buying complete stakes of the mind.
According to a report in Nikkei Asia Review, “Reko Diq sits in Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province, at the triangular border with Iran and Afghanistan. The mine has gold reserves with an estimated value of more than $100 billion”.
One mine is worth $100 Billion. In a province that is plundered and most underdeveloped. One can only imagine the level of plunder and loot of the Pakistani establishment.
Atrocities heaped by Pakistan establishment on Balochistan and Human Rights violations of its people
The atrocities heaped on the people of Balochistan by the Pakistani establishment has been often missed by the international media. In fact, the 5th phase of the Balochistan freedom struggle started with a ghastly and troubling incident of acute atrocity. Dr Shazia Khalid, married to Khalid Aman, a pipeline engineer was an employee of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), and working at the company’s Sui hospital for 18 months while living alone in accommodation provided by PPL in 2005.
On the night of 2nd January 2005, an army officer from Pakistan entered her home and raped her. She was threatened, beaten with a gun, strangled, blindfolded and pulled by her hair. All of this happened in a severely guarded government-owned natural gas plant. She was severely injured in the attack but managed to cut her hands free of the cord and sought help from a nurse, Sakina, at the nearby nursing hostel. Sakina then informed the administration of PPL and the DCMO; the medical staff on duty, Dr Mohammad Ali, Dr Irshad, Dr Saima Siddiqui, nurse Firdous and Salimullah visited Dr Shazia. Her pleas to contact her husband (who was working in Libya at the time) and her family were ignored. Instead of treating her medically, officials were said to have drugged her into unconsciousness with sedatives for three days to keep her quiet and then transferred her to a psychiatric hospital, Asghar Psychiatric Hospital, in Karachi. When her husband returned and she finally managed to lodge a criminal complaint, she was put under house arrest under the government’s “protection”.
“The Baloch nation stood with Dr Shazia Khalid. There are hundreds of cases of rape by the Pakistani army in their camps and torture cells. Believe me, countless villages are burnt, thousands of Baloch are killed, mass graves are discovered. Today the Baloch nation is victimized like Bosnian people”, said Dr Allah Nazar to OpIndia.
From 2000 to 2016 itself, the dead bodies of over a 1000 political activists of Balochistan were found. The relatives of most of these victims said that they were picked up by the Pakistani establishment, only to turn up dead.
A BBC report reads:
A military-led operation was launched in early 2005 aimed at wiping out the uprising by ethnic Baloch groups, who are fighting for a greater share of the province’s resources. According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies have been found in Balochistan since 2011. Most of them were dumped in the regions of Quetta, Qalat, Khuzdar and Makran – areas where the separatist insurgency has its roots.
A military operation was started by Pakistan in 2007 to arrest the headway being made by Balochistan nationalists and freedom fighters and yet, the Balochistan nationalists feel, and rightly so, that the atrocities committed against them are met with stony silence in the international media.
“The military operations are a routine in Balochistan, being conducted daily. Baloch people do not want to live with Pakistan; as our culture, language, history, and geography are far different from Pakistan. “Kill and Dump”, mass graves and the human right violation are common phenomenon practised by Pakistan. There is total media blackout in Balochistan. No impartial media person is allowed to visit Balochistan. Only the state narrative is run in print and electronic media”, said Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
“The Pakistani ISI is a rogue and terrorist organization of the world. The arrest and rape our women, they torture and kill our youths, even children and octogenarian are not spared from the brutality of Pakistan”, added Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
An article on a website that documents Human Rights Violations in Balochistan reads:
In December 2013, a mass grave was discovered from Tootak, Khuzdar. On the first day of digging, Naseer Qalandarani was identified by the National Identity Card placed in its pocket. He was abducted by forces from his home in Awaran. On February 20, 2017, another mass grave was discovered in Dera Bugti in which 4 people were buried including a woman.
“Pakistani army, intelligence (ISI) and death squads are behind the killings and torture of our comrades. But by the grace of Almighty Allah and by the help of Baloch people, their attempts are always spoiled”, says Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
Dr Allah Nazar Baloch has fought this battle at a personal cost. In 2015, in an attack by Pakistan establishment in his hometown, he had lost his brother Safar Khan and his nephew Shaek Baloch. He lost his relatives in a ‘search operation’ conducted by Pakistan army.
A tribune.com.pk report read:
“Acting on intelligence information about the presence of insurgents from the banned Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) in the volatile Mashkay area of Awaran, paramilitary troops, backed by air support, conducted the search operation, according to Frontier Corps spokesperson Khan Wasay”.
“Yes, they bombarded my hometown several times. In different incidents, 45 members of my family have been killed. They had kidnapped my wife when she was unwell and my 4 years old adopted daughter to mentally torture me. My two brothers including five nephews were killed. But I am not the only person, the same has happened with every Baloch”, said Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
OpIndia was told that only after 3 days of this incident, there was another massive bombardment in the same area where more of his relatives were killed.
The Balochistan freedom struggle is a military one where BLF and several other groups have taken responsibility for several attacks.
In July 2013, gunmen had attacked a coastguard check-post in Suntsar, Gwadar District. The provincial home secretary said that seven coastguard officials were killed and seven wounded, other intelligence sources had claimed that the number of deaths was ten. BLF, headed by Dr Allah Nazar Baloch had claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that 25 coastguards were killed, and 2 kidnapped, while 2 of their militants were also killed in the gunfire. In April 2015, 20 construction workers from Punjab and Sindh were killed in Turbat by armed gunmen, which the BLF later claimed responsibility for. BLF claimed that the workers were members of Frontier Works Organization, which is a body linked to the Pakistani Army. In November 2017, the bodies of 15 Punjabi migrants were discovered in the city of Turbat. The BLF claimed responsibility for the murder of the 15 migrants.
However, The BLF itself has been accused of committing Human Rights violations as well. In the ‘raid’ where Dr Allah Nazar’s brother and nephew were killed, the Pakistan establishment had accused BLF of abducting 17 women and 30 children. The raids, the Pakistan establishment said, was also a result of it.
BLF and several other organisations fighting for the freedom of Balochistan vehemently deny any sort of Human Rights Violations on their part.
“It is ridiculous. I categorically reject it. It is war propaganda against freedom fighters. The Pakistani media portrays just one side of the picture”, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch told OpIndia.
The Beijing conundrum
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a multibillion-dollar project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which would form part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and would revolve around the development of a huge port in the city of Gwadar.
Balochistan nationalists have opposed the CPEC since the beginning. With the announcement of the huge port in Gwadar, the opposition only grew louder. The main grouse of the Baluch people was that it would turn the native Baluch a minority in their own country. The demographic change that being a ‘colony of China’ would have on the province would be devastating. The Baluch nationalists also believe that China is merely interested in plundering their resources without giving the province anything back.
“Balochistan has more than 100 minerals. Pakistan has exploited and now is plundering gold, copper, uranium, copper, silver and other resources with the help of China. As the demographic change is concerned, thousands of Baloch are shifted by force along the CPEC route to other places, and initially 0.5 million Chinese are being settled in Gwadar and three thousands acres of land is legislated and allocated to them. Now we are a double colony as China has officially joined Pakistan to continue the occupation of Balochistan”, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch told OpIndia.
While Balochistan has a steep opposition to CPEC itself, the significance of Gwadar and the proposed port there cannot be ignored. Talking about the significance of Gwadar in the stand-off between Balochistan and Pakistan, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said:
“China wants to build and raise its empire in Gwadar. At first, China is building a naval base in Jewani near Strait of Hormuz. This colonial act not only effects Baloch but also whole the world will suffer from its subsequent consequences. China is settling more than half a million of people in Gwadar. In the same fashion, Punjabis will bring their five million people here, which is bound to cause a major demographic change in the area. China has already seized Saindak’s gold and copper project in Balochistan. Now the whole Balochistan is opened for China to explore oil, gold, and copper, etc”.
While BLA has been far more active in targeting Chinese officials and establishments in Gwadar, BLF has also participated in the struggle against Balochistan becoming a colony of China and Pakistan.
The BLA has been at the forefront of carrying out attacks against China and its activities in Balochistan. Recently, there was a suicide attack on engineers working on Balochistan on CPEC. The suicide attacker in his letter had reportedly written, “Through this act, I want to make China and its people realise (that) whosoever will try to meddle in Baloch issues without Baloch nation’s consent, will face the wrath of the Baloch nation.”
In order to safeguard its investment in Balochistan and specifically Gwadar, there has been news recently that China has been trying to woo separatist leaders and politicians from Balochistan.
When asked, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch told OpIndia, “Yes, we have heard this news from the media. Maybe someone is talking but as a whole, no insurgent organization has talked to China”.
Dr Allah Nazar Baloch on the USA designating BLA as a terror organisation and its effect on Balochistan freedom struggle
Recently, in a greatly surprising move, the United States of America designated BLA as a terrorist organisation.
“The Department of State has designated the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Hizballah operative Husain Ali Hazzima as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224,” read a notification.
The USA alleged, “BLA is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan. BLA has carried out several terrorist attacks in the past year, including a suicide attack in August 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and a May 2019 attack against a luxury hotel in Gwadar, Balochistan”.
In response to USA’s move, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch had written a letter to the President of the United States of America where had said that if George Washington was not a terrorist, neither are the Baloch.
“Imagine what would have become of what is now the United States if in 1776
France and other European powers had designated George Washington and others as terrorists and joined the United Kingdom to suppress the settlers. The United States would have remained a colony rather than becoming the beacon of democracy and progress”, he wrote.
“The fighter jets and other weaponry which Pakistan is using against the Baloch civilians have been provided by your predecessors. But you’ve outdone even them. Your administration branded us as terrorists. Because we are not ready to let Pakistan and China plunder our resources? Well, we won’t. Even if your administration branded every single Baloch as a terrorist, we would keep fighting with our knives and Kalashnikovs.
It’s a shame that the champions of a secular and liberal world have failed to extend a helping hand to the Baloch, the only people in the region successfully resisting religious extremism”, Dr Allah Nazar had added.
Speaking to OpIndia, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said:
“I think there will be no impact on the whole Baloch movement because the Baloch movement is purely indigenous and conducting armed struggle within the parameter of international laws. As far as the ban on BLA is concerned, it was the deduction of the US to bring the Taliban on negotiation. Here the Americans did an enormous mistake, and Pakistan with its hypocrisy did her dual role. But one day the world will realize that they have ignored their natural ally, the Baloch”.
With BLA designated a terror organisation, BLF and other armed groups fighting for the freedom of Balochistan do face an imminent threat of being used in the tango that seems to be playing out between Pakistan and the USA.
When asked if BLF was next, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said, “No never. BLF is struggling for the defence of Baloch land, Baloch coast and culture according to Geneva convention”.
Iran and Afghanistan
While Balochistan’s main struggle is with Pakistan, there are parts of the Balochistan province that extends into Iran and Afghanistan as well.
Iran and Afghanistan have never endorsed the Balochistan freedom struggle explicitly. Since Balochistan itself is divided into three between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, OpIndia asked Dr Allah Nazar Baloch whether the armed fighters in Balochistan, especially in the BLF, have any channel of communication with Iran or Afghanistan.
“It is the fitting question since Balochistan is divided into three parts, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. But for now, our centre of the struggle is Pakistani occupied Balochistan. We have no secret channels with others”, he said.
What Dr Allah Nazar Baloch expects from India and PM Modi
In a significant policy shift, in his 2016 Independence Speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Balochistan freedom struggle. He said that the people in the conflicted Pakistani state of Balochistan, as also in Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, had reached out to him.
PM Modi said, “Today from the ramparts of Red Fort, I want to greet and express my thanks to some people. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me, have expressed gratitude and expressed good wishes for me. The people who are living far away, whom I have never seen, never met — such people have expressed appreciation for Prime Minister of India, for 125 crore countrymen,”
At the time, Baloch leaders in exile and otherwise had expressed gratitude and enthusiasm at PM Modi taking up the cause of Balochistan openly. The Indian State has been historically circumspect in taking up the cause of Balochistan. In fact, many historians believe that it was India that had rejected Balochistan’s insistence for accession to India post-partition. Since then, the Indian State has mostly closed its eyes to the plight of Balochistan and PM Modi broke that cycle with his speech.
However, after PM Modi’s mention of Balochistan in 2016, little has been said by the Indian State and the media has relegated Balochistan to a memory long gone. When asked for his comments, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said:
“There is total media blackout in Balochistan. As yesterday you saw the statement of Pakistan Prime Minister who stated if anyone criticizes, would be treated as a traitor. As far as Indian media is concerned, has failed to play its due role, as Baloch nation genuinely deserves. International media has closed his eyes from Balochistan. We appeal to the Indian government and PM Narendra Modi as the prime minister of the largest democracy of the world to support Baloch movement morally, diplomatically and financially”.
The end objective of the struggle
The one question that has always plagued the mind of observers is whether the armed struggle of groups like BLF is for independence or to force Pakistan’s hand to come to the table for an amicable solution.
Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said that bringing Pakistan to the table was out of the question. He said, “Not only me but my nation wants an independent Balochistan and will use all means of struggle. There no choice left to be part of Pakistan”, he said.
Dr Allah Nazar has a vision of absolute freedom for Balochistan.
He told OpIndia, “The end objective of arm struggle is a free Balochistan. Baloch wants a free secular, democratic and modern Balochistan which beliefs in peace and co-existence”.
While Dr Allah Nazar has been fighting the oppressive Pakistan regime, one had to wonder if the youth of Balochistan, the next generation is with the armed struggle for freedom, or wish to perhaps speak to Pakistan and reach an amicable solution.
Dr Allah Nazar said, “Maximum Baloch youth is directly or indirectly involved in the freedom struggle and they aspire to be the owner of free Balochistan and decide their fate on their own. The new generation is suffering from the brutalities and torment, and their aspiration is a free Balochistan to get the honour, save their culture and breathe in an independent country that is Balochistan
Dr Nazar says that the several armed groups are united in their mission of the free and independent Balochistan. There is a united forum called BRAS (Baloch Raji Ajoi Sangar). BLF, BLA, BRA, and BRG are the member of this alliance.
What does BLF do for the people? What has it achieved?
“BLF has succeeded to halt the plundering of the resources to some extent, new literature has been created and has saved the Baloch culture due to armed resistance. Today every Baloch knows that we are being treated as a slave and colony by Pakistan. Our people understand that we don’t have a state of own to improve our standards of living. But, once BLF gets freedom, then can facilitate its nation”, said Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
The world community
Dr Allah Nazar was asked if the Balochistan freedom fighters have the mettle to take on the mighty Pakistan establishment. The Balochistan freedom struggle has come in waves and has eventually died down only to be revived again after a trigger, like that of the rape of Dr Shazia.
“Yes. The whole Baloch nation is with freedom fighters. I firmly believe that sooner or later we will get our freedom from Islamabad”, said Dr Allah Nazar Baloch.
And even if the Balochistan freedom fighters think they have the might to take on Pakistani establishment, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch was asked if he believes that the world community would let the dismemberment of Pakistan. “We hope so, one day the civilized world will realize and will help Baloch freedom struggle”, he said.
The Balochistan struggle and the media
The contact between Balochistan freedom fighters and the outside world has been minimum. From the international media to Indian media and even social media.
“There is no internet facility in Balochistan, apart from Quetta and some other cities, which is also monitored by ISI. Any Baloch creates an account, even in social media, at once Pakistan complains, and which causes the suspension of the account”, said Dr Nazar when probed about why that is.
When asked about the popular opinion that most Baloch accounts on social media are fake, he dismissed the allegation as “another propaganda by Pakistan to hide its crimes being highlighted in social media”.
The stories of how Balochistan’s woes started are aplenty. Before the partition of India, Balochistan consisted of 4 Princely states, Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan and Makran. The three other princely states were beholden to Kalat in one manner or the other.
After the partition, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had negotiated the independence of Balochistan with the Britishers and a declaration, after several meetings had read:
The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British Government with a status different from that of Indian States.
Jinnah then had a ‘change of heart’ and decided to annex Balochistan. The Balochistan Assembly had categorically rejected even the suggestion to join the Pakistan state. However, Jinnah had other plans. A report reads:
On March 26, 1948, the Pakistan Army was ordered to move into the Baloch coastal region of Pasni, Jiwani and Turbat. This was the first act of aggression prior to the march on Kalat by a Pakistani military detachment on April 1, 1948. Kalat capitulated on March 27 after the army moved into the coastal region and it was announced in Karachi that the Khan of Kalat has agreed to merge his state with Pakistan.
The political history of how Pakistan annexed Balochistan and the treacherous games it played is not the subject of this feature. However, it bodes well to remember that essentially, Balochistan was an independent and sovereign state that was forcefully annexed by Pakistan by the barrel of the gun.
Since then, the saga of torture, state atrocities, forced disappearances, murders and rapes perpetrated by the Pakistan establishment has not changed.
The interviewer would like to thank Mr Tarek Fatah for facilitating the interview and Mr Rohit Vats for giving invaluable inputs before the interview was conducted