Exploitation of resources of Balochistan can be compared with the East India Company: Khalil Baloch
The Baloch National Movement is a revolutionary political party of commoners, who have gained prominence in the Balochistan political landscape in less than two decades. The Party’s current Chairman Khalil Baloch is taking the movement for Balochistan freedom struggle forward based on socialist, nationalist principles which are based on the ideals of their founder Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, who believed mass political movement is the key to Balochistan’s Freedom. India Narrative speaks to Chairman Khalil in an online interview with Mark Kinra. Chairman Khalil speaks about his journey into the field of politics, non-parliamentary politics, Pakistan Army’s atrocities, their expectation from India and much more.
Excerpts from the interview: Q: A lot of people know about the BNM but very few have an idea about your life and background, would you please share something about your personal and political journey with us? Khalil Baloch: I believe living in an oppressed society makes you politically mature at an early age. In 1987-88, I started my political journey during school time. I joined the Baloch Student Organization (BSO) which was formed in 1968. The goal of the organization is to spread awareness about the colonization and atrocities of Pakistan toward the Baloch and almost every student in Balochistan is an active or passive member of the organization. I was part of BSO till 2006. Thereafter I joined the Baloch National Movement (BNM) in 2007. It was during 1999-2000 when one section of BSO under the leadership of Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch tried to re-invigorate the Baloch independence movement and the movement gathered pace on the basis of not being involved in parliamentary politics. This inspired many Baloch, including myself. That was the time when my actual political journey started and since then it has been 20-22 years. In 2008, I became the secretary-general of BNM. After the assassination of Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, the members of BNM elected me as the Organizer as the active President as Mr. Assa Zafar Baloch resigned from the post in 2010. In 2010 itself I became the chairman of the BNM and was re-elected again in 2014.
Q: BNM as a political party has vowed not to become part of any political, parliamentary, administrative and colonial set-ups of the state occupying Balochistan. What is your thought process behind this idea considering BNM has fought elections in the past? Khalil Baloch: Before our administration, the people who were leading BNM were part of parliamentary politics under the framework of the Pakistan Constitution but in 2003 when we changed the name from Balochistan National Movement to Baloch National Movement, we decided under the leadership of Ghulam Mohammad Baloch that we will indulge in politics but through non-parliamentary means and the same was added to our manifesto. The ideology behind this is that we cannot fight the colonial power while being part of their colonial setup, this is our narrative. Before us, BNM was part of Pakistan’s Parliamentary system, but nothing changed, Baloch genocide was happening and things were hidden by this same parliamentary system therefore we cannot guide our community in this framework as political power corrupts them to look after their interests. Moreover, we cannot talk about Baloch nationalism while still being part of Pakistan’s parliamentary framework. We want our people to believe us and accept that we are not a part of Pakistan and this can only happen when we sever all our relations with Pakistan. Our people are angry and they do not want to be a part of Pakistan and they desire to be free from this slavery. And it’s only because of our direction, that people are aware of the reality.
Q: With such a hostile environment, including enforced disappearances by the Pakistan Army against the Baloch, how does BNM carry out its political activities in Balochistan? Khalil Baloch: There is a media blackout in Balochistan and the real picture never comes out. It is friends and mates like you who convey to the world the true picture of what is happening inside Balochistan and to the Baloch people. For political activists, it is extremely difficult to function; every other day, we hear about enforced disappearances or killings. Since the martyrdom of Ghulam Mohammad sahab and his friends in 2009, this has become a common practice. Our activists have now adopted this kind of lifestyle, we have accepted that till we are under Pakistani influence, such things will happen to our people and communities and the situation is worsening every day. It has become impossible for us to carry out our meetings and gathering publicly. Our meetings and discussions are done privately in a discreet manner away from the eyes of the Pakistan government and army. Many Baloch leaders and activists are being banned by the government and our organization BNM is sanctioned in many ways by the government of Pakistan with no official ban on the organization. But we still work endlessly for our people’s rights and freedom.
Q: Do you think your non-violent struggle for an independent Balochistan has been effective? Can you state what kind of success the party has achieved? Khalil Baloch: There is no doubt that all the operations of BNM are peaceful and do not include any sort of violence in it, but the way Pakistan treats us is completely opposite to our way of working. It’s been 20-22 years since I’ve been a part of this righteous movement. Every day I talk to hundreds of Baloch people who share their experiences with me; I know how our people are kidnapped, tortured, abused, and killed by Pakistanis. Even in these extreme conditions, Pakistan has not been able to crush our freedom movement even with all its might and atomic power. We have engaged and continued to foster this movement and grow it further. Baloch people are united and committed towards their struggle for our freedom and this is our success that more people are joining the movement every day and we are bringing people together. BNM is the voice of the Baloch people and is leaving no stone unturned to highlight the issues of Baloch to the world. Pakistan is attacking supporters of our peaceful organization, this shows how perturbed and demoralized Pakistan is.
Q: How many members does BNM have worldwide? Khalil Baloch: A lot of members are working with BNM, thousands are listed but as per our policy, we cannot appraise the exact information. Baloch from Europe, Gulf nations and Balochistan are engaged with BNM. According to me, BNM is the biggest political party working towards the freedom of the Baloch people.
Q: When it comes to peaceful movements in Asia, one name that strikes everybody’s mind is Mahatma Gandhi. Did his ideology influence your cause? Khalil Baloch: This is our own thought process. Our party does not involve violence but we do not believe in non-violence either. The Baloch struggle against Pakistan is being carried out through armed resistance. Moreover, I would say that Baloch take inspiration from the Great Indian leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. We fully support the armed struggle; it is part of our manifesto for the freedom of Balochistan.
Q: BNM has various chapters spread across the world like the UK, Germany, Australia, South Korea etc. Do you think BNM has been able to rally international support for its cause of highlighting Pakistani atrocities against Baloch? Khalil Baloch: Our diaspora of friends across the globe have spared their best efforts to help and support our movement wherever possible. They organize protests and meet parliamentarians of various nations regarding concerns of Baloch but there is particular political order of how the world works. We have made them aware of life-threatening scenarios and that their interests are aligned with our well- being. When Baloch will be empowered and sovereign only then the interests of Baloch and international players will be secured including peace for this region. Q: After the famous Red Fort speech by PM Narendra Modi in 2016, India has hardly spoken on the issue of Balochistan except in the UN in a few circumstances; do you still feel that India will support the Baloch cause? Khalil Baloch: We are very thankful to PM Narendra Modi for what he has done for us and we believe that it is the responsibility of India to support our cause. India is a powerful nation, our neighbour and also the largest democracy in the world; it has got all the authority needed to support us. The Indian concern towards Balochistan should not be viewed through the prism of the India-Pakistan relationship but rather the duty of India towards our people and community. India is a huge economy and powerful nation hence being a responsible nation, India should raise its voice against what is happening in their neighbourhood, how massacres are taking place and human rights are violated. We believe the common Indians will encourage the Indian government to support Balochistan and help in every way possible for the freedom of Balochistan. Not only the Baloch people but the Sindh community and the Pashtun community are being ill-treated by Pakistanis and India should support them as well. Everybody across the world knows the Pakistani agenda and their support to various terror organizations, the most theocratic organization in the world is the Pakistan Army. Q: After decades of neglect, Pakistan and China have finally agreed to raise the profit share of Balochistan in Saindak mines to a massive 30% with increased royalty of 6.5%. Do you feel Pakistan and China are correcting their past mistakes or do you think it's hogwash and they will continue to exploit resources from Balochistan? Khalil Baloch: The exploitation of resources from Balochistan can be compared with what the British East India Company did to India. The world is aware of how Pakistan is hollowing the land of Balochistan and I believe that Pakistan has turned into a Chinese colony now because of their dependence. All this share increase is to fool Baloch, it is Baloch only who are at a loss after all these years. Their goal is to loot all the natural resources of Balochistan. The Pakistani economy is failing so they are selling our natural resources to China but it is Balochistan and its people who are suffering the most from their selfish acts. People in Saindak are getting poorer every day and do not have basic necessities such as footwear and water to drink. This all is happening against our concerns and wishes what we are getting in return is slavery, missing persons, atrocities and exploitation of our land. Not just that they are using funds to from these resources to buy weapons and intimidate us. This is not limited to Saindak but Gwadar Deep Seaport, Reko Diq and many other projects. Q: What do you have to say about the rise in armed attacks by Baloch freedom fighters against Pakistan and China? Khalil Baloch: I believe that there is a generational shift in our freedom movement, kids who have seen us fighting for our rights have grown up. They are very firm and clear about their freedom, their struggles and are committed to their goal. It is not the same as in the 1940s, 1950s or even 1970s. Awareness has increased and their determination is at its peak now. This is a turning point in the Baloch freedom movement. We are very grateful that we have such strong youth comrades who are answering to Pakistan in their own language. We are extremely proud and indebted to Baloch mothers for giving birth to such tough and brave children, this is our good luck that they are ready to fight and martyr themselves for the freedom of Balochistan. They do not care about their lives. The most important thing for them is the land and the people. They have put all their efforts to safeguard their people, we salute these youngsters for taking the freedom struggle ahead.
Interview by Mark Kinra for India Narrative