Apr 14, 2011

Balochistan: A Slow Motion Genocide

Despite its strategic importance and harrowing human rights scandals, however, the region and its problems go virtually unreported because Pakistani authorities rarely grant journalists permission to travel beyond the capital of Quetta and its intelligence agencies routinely monitor and mistreat those journalists who do enter the province. 


Below is an interview published by Daily Times:


When Pakistan was carved out in 1947, British drew lines through tribal lands regardless of the indigenous people who lived there, and the centuries-old Balochistan was tucked into Pakistan with the coerced signing of an accession agreement. The Baloch have been struggling for decades to gain back their independence — sometimes violently.


Deprived of education and their own country’s resources, Baloch resistance fighters are made up of youth, farmers, shepherds, traders, salesmen, doctors, and ordinary citizens. The Pakistani government often conflates them with the far more violent extremist Taliban, waging all-out war against the secular Baloch resistance, imprisoning dissidents, abducting not only suspected fighters or sympathisers, but uninvolved citizens and, often, killing them. In February 2011 Amnesty International wrote in a press release: “The Pakistan government must immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months.” In their effort to win independence, Baloch fighters have bombed gas pipelines, sabotaged railway lines and allegedly attacked persons regarded as collaborators, although in an area with limited freedom of the press, it is difficult to parse the truth of who did what.


In a rare glimpse into this conflict and into a region veiled by its near-blackout media status, Dr Allah Nazar, one of the best-known and revered Baloch resistance leaders with boots on the ground, agreed to an interview. The questions to Dr Nazar were delivered to him at an undisclosed location by an intermediary.


Q: What draws people to advocate on behalf of the Baloch?

A: Those who know the history of the Baloch, those who see that Balochistan is being used as a colony, support our struggle for freedom. Those who have a conscience and are men of reason understand that it is our right to live as an independent people on our homeland. Some are attracted by our bravery, some appreciate our traditions, such as “mehman nawazi” [translates as ‘hospitality’. Mehman is ‘guest’ and nawazi is ‘supporting’], some voice their concerns over the violation of human rights in Balochistan by the Pakistan army.


Q: You founded the student political group BSO (Azad) in 2002. What were your goals at the time?

A: We founded it on February 2nd 2002 to do two things. One was to announce that the Baloch want a free homeland and the other was to say no to the politics of vote and parliament, as it was one of the biggest hurdles between us and freedom. [By that I mean] the politics of the groups that were said to be nationalist parties were ambiguous at the time we founded the BSO. Most of them were demanding provincial autonomy and asking the people to vote [for them] in order [to] achieve their ideals. But what they actually did was to enjoy the luxuries of life in the Pakistani parliament. Plus, their ideals were not clear at all. They couldn’t say what exactly they wanted. This ambiguity had turned the students as well as the general public into a frustrated lot. We wanted to give the people a clear direction, and today I feel we succeeded in doing that.


To read the full interview, click here