Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baloch sardars are stooges of establishment

By Murtaza Ali Shah

Mehran Baloch is the youngest of six sons of veteran Balochistan nationalist leader Nawabzada Khair Bukhsh Marri. Educated in Oxford, he is an international voice, and arguably the most articulate and passionate one, of the Balochistan case, especially at the United Nations and western think-tanks where his voice is considered critical.

Living in Britain for over 20 years now, Mehran was thrown into spotlight in March 2007 when it emerged that the Pervez Musharraf-led government of Pakistan wanted to trade Mehran against Rashid Rauf, a British terrorist suspect from Birmingham, who was in the custody of Pakistan at the time and wanted in Britain on a number of terrorism charges.

When the details were published, it became known that the Pakistani establishment was attaching a huge price tag to the extradition of the young Marri.

He fled from London, awakened to the rude reality that British intelligence was monitoring him round-the-clock on Pervez Musharraf’s personal request.

Mehran, who has shunned Pakistani media for over three years despite repeated requests for interviews, spoke to TNS in London in an exclusive interview and emphasised uncompromisingly that too much blood had been shed of the Baloch to negotiate with the incumbent setup. But, he also singled out the redundant Baloch sardari system for being in a criminal pact with the federal government in order to hold back the progress of poor Baloch masses. He minces no words in his harsh criticism of Baloch sardars, including Aali Shahzain Bugti and the current Khan of Qalat Mir Suleiman Daud Khan, whom he calls “a directionless stuntman”.

The News on Sunday (TNS): What is Baloch movement for you? How do you define it?

Mehran Baloch: It’s a retrospective movement. The new generation has revived the origins of the Balochistan movement. There was a time when the occupation and forceful assimilation of Balochistan by Pakistan was accepted by many, but my generation with the guidance of leaders like my father, have been successful in reviving the cause with the aim of achieving a permanent long-term solution. This generation cannot be misled by packages and privileges such as the one recently announced by the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. I have full faith in the new generation and I believe the new generation is more aware of their rights and are firmly committed to achieve the goals set by our great leaders. Speculating on day-to-day political matters is not an option for us.

TNS: You are active at the international level to raise awareness about the Balochistan issue. What successes have you achieved?

MB: I was the only Baloch to address the human rights violations committed in Balochistan by Pakistan in 2001 before the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Things have considerably changed since then. I had an uphill task. People used to think Balochistan was one of the states of former USSR or just a small and poor province of Pakistan. I am proud to say I have worked hard on my own, and without a team, and today the world knows about our issue. Now people know who we are. There are more people working on highlighting the plight of the Baloch nation internationally, including non-Balochs such as Peter Tatchell, Selig Harrisson, Wendelin Johnson and Charles Graves, to name a few.

TNS: Is it correct that the biggest antagonist you face at the world stage is the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)?

MB: That is absolutely correct. Pakistan has a lot of power in the Islamic world as it provides its services to a number of Islamic states in legal and illegal, moral and immoral ways. The Islamic states return the favour by supporting Pakistan at international forums and turning a blind eye towards Balochistan. The OIC has become an organised Islamist mafia, hijacked by Pakistan.

The western countries, on the other hand, operate differently; they listen to your point of view and grievances as long as you are not working under the influence of some sinister agenda. Though our movement is based on secularism, patriotism and human rights, unfortunately due to the vested interests of western superpowers in this region, they need to oblige Pakistan.

TNS: Does the current regional geo-political situation favour your belligerent position?

MB: The current situation is favourable to us because the United States, Nato and ISAF forces are operating in Afghanistan and along the border. They are in a better position to see things for themselves, whereas before they totally relied on Pakistan for all kinds of information, which Pakistan conveniently manipulated for its benefit. Now the international ground forces as well as American drones, which operate in Pakistan, clearly see the ground realities for themselves and no longer have to rely on the Pakistan army for intelligence. These powerful countries now have a better insight into the situation and they know very well about the atrocities taking place in Balochistan at the hands of the Pakistani army.

TNS: General (rtd) Pervez Musharraf wanted you extradited from the UK and you topped his most wanted list? Are you still being hounded?

MB: There is no doubt that my life is under persistent threat and intelligence agencies are after me.

Musharraf and his incompetent Inter-Services Intelligence were so unintelligent that they didn’t even check the basic fact that I am a British national and have never held a Pakistani passport. I was not even born in Pakistan. Pakistan spent vast resources and used state influence to get me, my brother Hyrbyair Marri, Faiz Baloch and numerous other advocates of Baloch human rights victimised by foreign governments. Due to the extraordinary situation in Britain, I was forced to live abroad fearing that UK authorities would arrest me on false allegations as they did with my brother, Hyrbyair, and swap me with its home-grown Islamic extremists in Pakistan to please dictator Musharraf and the ISI.

Now they realise that they have wasted their taxpayers’ money on victimising us and understand that we are not Islamic fundamentalists planning to “blow up Britain”. Even though now they realise that we have our own national issue, I am still stopped at airports, whisked and quizzed on petty matters.

Only in September this year, the Swiss police questioned two Pakistani spies that were sent from the Pakistani embassy to harass me at a hotel in Geneva, where I was residing. They always tried to bar my entry and have pressed foreign governments and institutions to criminalise, defame and undermine my credibility by saying I was a terrorist and should not be allowed to speak on international forums regarding Balochistan. They have gone so far as to fabricate Interpol red notices on false names and presented it to the head of my NGO Dr. Charles Graves and threatened him with serious consequences if he did not revoke my accreditation with the organisation.

TNS: Your father Nawab Marri stood for autonomy but you have abandoned his idea?

MB: He has always advocated the restoration of a sovereign and independent Balochistan and we are pursuing exactly his path and vision.

TNS: You too are a product of the sardari system, its beneficiary and sitting abroad while the ordinary people suffer?

MB: Yes I hail from a sardari system but that should not be held against me. I am proud to be the son of a renowned Baloch patriot, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, who has sacrificed his life and confronted consecutive military dictators for the betterment of the Baloch nation and never bowed before the enemy to gain personal privileges and wealth. We should indeed be acknowledged for remaining committed to our nation and determined to ensure their welfare and dignity. In my view, a genuine sardar should be a representative of his people, not the Punjabi-Pakistani establishment.

TNS: What are your views on the armed insurgency mainly around Bugti and Marri areas?

MB: I differ with you. I call it a self-defence movement. Sixty two years of occupation and constant disrespect and systematic genocide of our people have driven them to resist and defy the dictates of the occupying army and its cahoots. The people are not willing to suffer in silence anymore. Those who have taken to the mountains are heroes and they are defending their land and its honour.

The independence movement is widespread. It’s all over Balochistan. Since Marri and Bugti areas are resource rich, the army is targeting these areas because Pakistan’s viability depends on the oil and gas reserves present there. We are struggling for the rights and sovereignty of Balochistan, not only for the Marri and Bugti areas.

TNS: But majority Baloch leadership opinion doesn’t match yours?

MB: I would ideally like the tribal leaders to sit back and think hard over what’s going on in their country rather than being carried away and enthusiastic about the ministries, packages and petty benefits thrown to them by their masters. They have responsibilities but they have been corrupted. They are not sincere to their people. These people are rogue traders and merchants of their motherland. The Baloch nation recognises them.

TNS: Insurgents have killed Punjabis and other non-Balochs. Do you condemn such acts?

MB: It’s a one-sided view to ask this question. Before I condemn such acts, I should explain why such incidents are taking place. The establishment, mainly comprising Punjabis, has targeted Baloch youth and leadership for a long time. This is just a reaction to the Pakistani actions. They (Punjabi settlers) are facilitating the establishment’s desire to ethnically flood Balochistan and are seen as being sympathetic to the Punjabi occupiers rather than their host Baloch nation. The settlement of Punjabis in Balochistan was a conspiracy from the start by the establishment. Therefore, they are always viewed with suspicion because it is believed that many were stationed in Balochistan under different guises for the purpose of espionage.

TNS: Isn’t it unfair and unjust to blame all Punjabis?

MB: It might be unfair and unjust to blame all Punjabis, but it is up to the Punjabi people to take a stand against their representatives whose hegemony remains over Pakistan, the military and the predominantly Punjabi bureaucracy. Therefore, the burden lies upon them. The resources of Balochistan are usurped for the betterment, development and prosperity of Punjab. The survival and prosperity of Pakistan is dependent upon the occupation of Baloch resources. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out whom to blame. They can hold long march for the restoration of a judge, but they choose not to raise their voice when their army is committing genocide in Balochistan.

TNS: What about the Baloch sardari system that has held people back?

MB: This is a misconception propagated by the Pakistani establishment in order to undermine the Baloch system, which is in theory democratic, just, principled and merit-based. But, due to the interference by the occupying Pakistani forces, the system has been undermined and the sardars’ loyalty bought. If the sardars were the only element holding back prosperity and development, then Makran, where there is no sardari system, should have prospered remarkably.

TNS: What is your view on the Khan of Kalat Suleiman Ahmedzai’s vow to take the Baloch case for autonomy or independence to the International Court of Justice at The Hague?

MB: I have respect for the Khan of Kalat. I hope the Khan is sincere in his intentions and I wish him good luck. I appreciate each and every individual’s effort to safeguard the national interest of the Baloch nation and highlight the sufferings of the Baloch people. However, I feel that the Khan is capable of far greater tasks because of his noble position. But, unfortunately he has compromised his status and undermined his credibility in the Baloch nationalist society in Balochistan and among the diaspora by only assuming the role of a publicity stuntman for the past three years.

TNS: How can you survive independently as a clear majority in Balochistan wants to stay with Pakistan?

MB: I am confident that we will be a key player in the region due to Balochistan’s geo-strategic importance. We have natural resources in abundance and a coastline that will serve as a gateway to Central Asia. We will probably even have a higher per capita income than Brunei.

I am sorry that I disagree with your point that a clear majority in Balochistan wants to stay with Pakistan; on the contrary, a clear majority wants to break free from Pakistan’s slavery. It’s only a handful of traitors who are always part of the government including the present, who accepted being slaves of Punjab and have no sympathy with Balochistan.

TNS: What kind of support are you offering from abroad?

MB: I am trying to highlight and inform the world in my capacity as to what is going on in Balochistan and expose Pakistan’s repressive conduct in Balochistan internationally. My aim is to internationalise Pakistan’s role in international terrorism as well as to expose its champion status as a state that sponsors and commits terrorism for its survival. Pakistan benefits from destabilising its neighbouring countries.

TNS: Who in your opinion is leading the current struggle against military?

MB: It’s a phantom leading the struggle. The entire Balochistan is a war zone. The occupying Pakistani army is carrying out military offensives unabatedly, thus the Baloch nation has no option but to defend itself. Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri were the torch-bearers of the struggle against Pakistan’s genocide of the Baloch. The Pakistani army was hopeful that the struggle would end once they murder Nawab and Balach but what they failed to understand was that the Baloch struggle was a national struggle for the Baloch nation and led by the Baloch nation. The martyrdom of our national leaders enraged the Baloch nation, and as a result the resolve of the Baloch for liberation has been further strengthened.

TNS: What will be your conditions for negotiations with the government of Pakistan?

MB: Politics is the science of possibilities, but Pakistani politics defies all logic. The government of Pakistan has always been a puppet and subservient to the military establishment, therefore it lacks authority to even determine its own petty administrative affairs. I don’t think they are in any position to initiate negotiations on serious matters such as Balochistan. We need a credible third party as a guarantor before any negotiations can take place.

Maybe there comes a point when there will be a different scenario and we will see when it comes to that. If our occupiers change the reality and become sincere in dealing, we will be ready for an amicable solution like withdrawal of Indonesian forces from East Timor.

The people of Balochistan do not trust Pakistan and are strongly convinced that Pakistan is insincere with the people of Balochistan. Mir Aali Bugti and Shahzain Bugti don’t endorse an armed confrontation and are negotiating with the government. Mir Aali and Shahzain are toeing a line that is completely acceptable to the Punjabi-dominated civil-military bureaucracy. The Pakistani military-nominated leader of the Bugti tribe, Mir Aali, doesn’t have any authority to carry out any meaningful negotiations with the government and it’s ironic that they have the military to protect him from his own tribesmen.

According to the Baloch patriots, the true successor of Nawab Akbar Bugti is none other than his grandson Brahamdagh Bugti. He is continuing on the footsteps of his grandfather and is defending the rights of the Baloch nation and its resources from being looted and plundered by Pakistan at the cost of his own comfort and security. Being the youngest leader, he has proved that he has the vision and endurance required for attaining a nation’s independence.

TNS: There is a lot of speculation about the sources/funding behind BLA and BRA?

MB: I don’t want to be one of the speculators. I suggest you ask somebody linked to these organisations about their funding. However, throughout the Baloch struggle, the Baloch nation has been constantly accused of being foreign agents. The establishment has to misinform the international community and keep the Islamist Punjabi-Pakistani masses, media and opinion makers on their side by levelling such absurd allegations. The best cohesive strategy is to say a non-Islamic country India, Israel or America is behind the struggle. If a credible nation such as the ones mentioned were behind the Baloch freedom fighters (homeland defenders), Balochistan would have surely regained its independence by now.

The writer is an assistant editor at The News-UK edition. Email: ams0409@gmail.com

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