Interview / Khalil Baloch, chairman of Baloch National Movement
By Namrata Biji Ahuja - Namrata Biji Ahuja, a senior special correspondent , covers the home ministry , internal security and Everything possible under the beat. Likes to dig deep into issues and finds policy making exciting because that's from where the news begins.
The Baloch struggle for independence and Pakistan's deployment of thousands of military personnel in the region is bringing out many voices from within Balochistan, who are raising human rights issues on various platforms including the United Nations. The Baloch are also looking towards India for moral support. Prominent among them is Khalil Baloch, chairman of the Baloch National Movement, a prominent mainstream Baloch movement. Khalil says Pakistan's attempt to compare Kashmir and Balochistan struggles is incorrect, and Islamabad is using Kashmir's name to justify its own atrocities and human rights abuses against the Baloch people. ''Kashmir groups use religion as a rallying point for their cause. Religion cannot and should not be a basis for any modern political movement,'' he said. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Why is the Baloch struggle not gathering enough international attention?
Pakistan is using military force to suppress the Baloch struggle for an independent state. This struggle has always been there since Balochistan’s forced merger with Pakistan in 1948. However, in the early 2000, the struggle got fresh impetus and became widespread in entire Balochistan. In reaction, Pakistan deployed thousands of its military personnel in the region to stifle this renewed wave of struggle through sheer force. It has become almost impossible to raise a voice against Pakistani atrocities from inside Balochistan. Media houses are prohibited from covering human rights abuses. Journalists and human rights activists have been abducted and killed by the military in dozens. So Balochistan has become an information blackhole.
What is the present condition of the people living in Balochistan?
There are all kinds of human rights violations being committed by the military in Balochistan. Enforced disappearances and the so-called kill-and-dump are the most known to the outside world. What we mean by these highly ambiguous terms is that the military would whisk away Baloch people, keep them in secret detention for months and years, torture them to death and dump their bodies in Balochistan’s wilderness. However, apart from forced disappearances and kill-and-dump, Pakistan military has been involved in burning entire Baloch villages, forcing entire populations to migrate and resettle in other areas. There are now hundreds of ghost villages in Balochistan where remains of burnt huts bear witness to Pakistan’s atrocities. Dozens of schools and colleges have been turned into makeshift military camps depriving the Baloch youth of their basic right to education.
Why do Baloch people feel their interests align with India?
Not only I, every sensible person and every peaceful country in the world is concerned about Pakistan’s sponsorship of religious terrorism in the region, especially in Kashmir, the rest of India, Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan has used religious proxies for the last thirty years to not only destabilize its neighbors but also turn the liberal Baloch society into a radical one. The Baloch fear religious proxies as much as India does. These militant Islamic organizations which are disturbing peace in India are also collaborating with the Pakistani army in committing enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing of the Baloch people.
What is the role of the civilian government in Pakistan in addressing these issues?
It is the military that runs the affairs of Pakistan, especially its foreign policy. The civilian government – whether it’s being headed by Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif or any other – has no say whatsoever in such matters. The global community should intervene . I expect that the Indian government, being the largest democracy in the world, will help the Baloch in their just struggle for an independent Balochistan. I expect that the Indian support will not be based on short-term political interests. It should be based on humanitarian grounds to bring peace and stability in the region and put an end to atrocities against an entire population.
Has anything progressed since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reference to Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan occupied Kashmir in his Independence Day speech in 2015 ?
No. Mr Modi’s statement has remained just a statement. As I said, occasional statements won’t serve any purpose, neither for India nor for the Baloch. I wish Mr Modi would soon realize that he needs to do a lot more if he wants to help the Baloch cause. We worry that the Baloch will remain deprived of all their basic rights despite the fact that their land is rich in resources. We are concerned that the Baloch are being converted into a minority in their own homeland.
What are your concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?
The CPEC is an imperialistic project. For Balochistan, China is like what East India Company was to India. The entire coastal belt of Balochistan has been handed over to China and it is being converted into an autonomous zone ruled by the Chinese authorities. There is ongoing influx of hundreds and thousands of Chinese and people from other parts of Pakistan into this coastal region. It will convert the Baloch into a minority in the next five to ten years. We are not willing to allow that.
Pakistan has claimed Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav was spy. Your comments.
Kulbhushan Jadhav was not arrested from Balochistan, that I can claim for sure.
Pakistan is accused of state sponsored terrorism. What are your views?
Pakistan has refused time and again to take action against the JeM which has carried terrorist attacks in India. In such a situation, India has been left with no other option but to conduct targeted air strikes to dismantle JeM training camps. Because of this lack of will to take action against terror outfits, the US has also been forced to carry out drone strikes inside Pakistan.
How true are Pakistan's allegations of human rights abuses in Kashmir?
I don’t think it is correct to compare Kashmir with Balochistan. There is this problem that whenever India talks of atrocities in Balochistan, Pakistan government uses Kashmir’s name to justify its own atrocities against the Baloch people. Kashmir shouldn’t be used as a justification for human rights abuses in Balochistan. Kashmir groups uses religion as a rallying point for their cause. The Baloch movement is based on our cultural identity. Religion cannot and should not be a basis for any modern political movement. I want the Indian people to know that if they ignore this problem, it will keep biting them. They should help the Baloch to bring everlasting peace to the region.
This interview was published in theweek.in on December 10, 2019. You can reach the origin of interview by clicking the link given below: