Kashmir India's part, not us ... Pak will collapse minus us ... Balochs appeal to Modi
Naela Quadri Baloch is an activist and women's leader campaigning against Pakistan's presence in Baluchistan. Speaking with Aarti Tikoo Singh, Baloch discussed how Pakistan seized Baluchistan, genocide, terrorism, rape, Kashmir - and expectations from PM Modi:
Why are you here?
I am here because it is a call of conscience, for both the people of India and the government of India. For the last 15 years, we are facing war imposed on us by Pakistan, human rights violations and their kill-and-dump policy. 25,000 people including women and children are missing. They are abducted by Pakistan Army and abducted in front of people. There are testimonies and witnesses to these abductions. But it is not simple human rights violations or missing person's issue. It has reached the level of genocide. There are a hundred mass graves in Baluchistan. It is a war situation; they are combing our villages. They fire indiscriminately, they kill anything-one-year-old babies, girls, women, anything living, even our cattle. They abduct women, they take women with them, they have rape cells. There are official torture cells. A journalist was abducted, he was tortured and he witnessed a 25-year-old Baloch schoolteacher Zarina Marri in a rape cell. When he was released, he gave his report and testimony to Asian Human Rights Watch. They have abducted thousands of women; no one knows their whereabouts. They are using rape and dishonour as an instrument to crush a nation.
Aren't these human rights violations being committed because Pakistan is fighting an insurgency in Balochistan?
It is freedom struggle; we were occupied by Pakistan on March 27, 1948 and ever since we have been fighting against Pakistan to free ourselves. The British divided Balochistan into three parts. We are in a struggle to free and reunify our land and people from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has created local al-Qaida and ISIS groups in Balochistan-Lashkar-e-Khorasan, Jundallah, Tehreek-e-Islam, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad are very active. Pakistan created these groups the way it created al-Shams and al-Badr in Bangladesh to massacre Bangladeshi nationalists. These groups are mostly non-Baloch and after killing Baloch people, they go back to Pakistani barracks.
How is Balochistan's freedom struggle different from the separatist movement in Kashmir?
Kashmir was never a country; it was a princely state under a Maharaja. Kashmir was always a part of greater India. Pakistan is interested in Kashmir only for its water and not Islam. Pakistan sold parts of Kashmir to China. If Pakistan were sympathetic towards Muslims, Pakistan wouldn't have killed three million Bengalis.
Balochistan was never a part of India or Iran or Afghanistan or any other country. Balochistan was always independent. So an independent country was occupied.
But the entire subcontinent before 1947 was under colonial rule or regional autocrats. There was no independence for anyone. How do you claim that Balochistan was a free nation-state when the very idea of a nation-state is relatively new?
Balochistan as a nation-state was formed in 1410. It is the fourth Kurdish state; the first was Mesopotamia. When Pakistan attacked Balochistan, we already had a parliament. It was not a kingdom or monarchy. We had a House of Commons and a House of Lords. We had our boundaries, our constitution and rule of law. Our constitution was written way before Pakistan's constitution came into existence and our country came into being hundreds of years before. Pakistan is an artificial state created by the British. It is a test-tube country.
People talk about Westphalian nation states. What about our nation state? Why was it occupied? Why did no one raise any objection? Because it was an imperialist plan to divide India, to leave India weak, to create problems for India all around its borders. The British left the Indian subcontinent physically but they ensured that the people in subcontinent continue fighting with each other and not become a strong power in the world. Look at the defence budget of India, look at the amount of fear of terrorism India faces.
Where is this terror coming from?
Pakistan. It is the nursery and hatchery of terrorism and it is getting billions of dollars from America and arms and ammunition from China. This is a cancer that is given artificial life from the forces that need to keep this region unstable. Pakistan is doing all the proxy work for them. It is not only Pakistan that is responsible. Anyone who supports Pakistan is responsible for all the insurgencies, terrorism and the problems that people of Afghanistan and India are facing. Look at the life of Afghans; everyday they are facing killings of their people.
Balochistan and Kashmir are not the same. India's weak diplomacy has made it look like the same.
Didn't Balochistan become a part of Pakistan through an instrument of accession?
Instrument of accession was offered to princely states. Balochistan was not a princely state; it was an independent country. The parts of Balochistan under the British were given to them on a lease, a contract. British Balochistan was a separate entity from British India and had nothing to do with India. When British decided to quit after creating two nations, they declared on August 11, 1947 through All India Radio and newspapers that parts of Balochistan under the British are free.
Jinnah was a big traitor. When the British were still here, Jinnah offered his services as a lawyer to represent Balochistan. He promised the people of Baloch that Balochistan would not be coerced to join either India or Pakistan. The Simon Commission recorded this. It is Jinnah's statement that Balochistan was never a part of India or Pakistan and it has always been an independent country. However Jinnah knew that Balochistan was divided into several parts, and its people were not in a position to consolidate to fight the Pakistan Army. So Pakistan invaded us. It was Jinnah's conspiracy that he had worked on for years. After Pakistan came into being, it sent messages to the government of Balochistan asking us to join them. Why? Their response was-‘because we are Muslims'. So the bill was presented in our Parliament. Both the houses rejected it and said that 'we don't understand how a country can be created in the name of religion. Instead of asking us to join them, Pakistan should join Saudi Arabia or any other Muslim country. Where is the need for the state of Pakistan?'
In the whole world, there is no country, which has been created in the name of religion. Even Israel is not created in the name of religion. It was Jewish land. Jews went back to their homeland.
When you say independence for Balochistan, are you alternatively suggesting disintegration of Pakistan?
Don't you think disintegration of Pakistan will open floodgates of violent conflicts and separatist movements in the subcontinent?
It is a valid question. That is why we demand from the United Nations to intervene through its 2012 declaration against genocide. It is the duty of the UN to solve this issue peacefully. For that too, we need support of India and the entire international community.
But this problem is like cancer, it is creating lot of toxins, and we are afraid to operate it because we know it will create a lot of mess. There are laser and other technologies one can use, with least dirt on our hands. But to remove cancer from a living body, one has to take a decision, one has to cut and go for an operation. You have to take blood on your hands. The world is not letting anyone to do it, neither India nor Afghanistan. Terror continues to emanate from Pakistan and it strikes in Germany, France and everywhere else. Wherever there is terror and whenever it is investigated, the roots are found in Pakistan. So what we are saying-let us join hands, let us do a surgery, remove this cancer and let the world stay in peace. We are seeking support from the whole world but the biggest responsibility is India's. Pakistan is part and problem of India. Why has India thrown this cancer on us?
It was Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Nehru's responsibility not to divide India. I am sorry; Partition was not a fair decision. You threw it on us, now take it back.
Balochistan's independence will not trigger separatist movements in India. Because Indian identity is all-inclusive; it allows every ethnic or religious group to flourish. There may be some amount of discrimination or discontent because of flaws in the system, but what I saw here in the last couple of weeks, Indian Muslim communities are completely assimilated and at peace with other communities.
But not all Baloch people are with your freedom struggle. Some support the democratic electoral politics of Pakistan.
100% Baloch are against Pakistan. The Baloch people sitting in Pakistani parliament received only 3 to 4% vote. The majority did not cast their votes. These people are not representative of Balochistan. In every nation, there are traitors who can compromise on their conscience. In Balochistan we have a few too; they are mostly tribal chiefs who were on the payrolls of the British. Now they are on the payrolls of Pakistan. Majority has been with the freedom struggle for the last 68 years. We fought against the British for 150 years; our first war was War of Nafask, in Marri area. This is our nineteenth freedom struggle and it is going on because of the support of Baloch people. It cannot go without the support of masses. Our mothers and grandmothers are participating in it. Our bedtime stories, our songs are of freedom. Our criterion for honor is who fights for freedom. A Baloch freedom fighter is the most honourable person in our society.
It is deep-rooted. Even our school going children are part of the struggle. There are very few Pakistani schools in Balochistan; there are no schools for girls. Pakistani groups throw acid on our girls if they go to school.
Are Baloch insurgents not Islamist extremists?
No, religion is a very personal affair for Baloch people. Our freedom fighters of Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Army are not religious fundamentalists. Baloch freedom struggle is completely secular and we want to be an independent secular democratic republic.
Why are Baloch people opposed to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to bring enormous economic opportunities and extensive development not only to the rest of Pakistan but Balochistan as well?
We are facing genocide. As Pakistan and China signed the agreement, human rights violations turned into ethnic cleansing and now genocide. They just want Baloch soil, they don't want Baloch people. The word ‘corridor' hurts because to them our country is just a corridor. That is how they look at us-to snatch our resources.
You are up against major powers of the world in this fight. Pakistan has strong allies like the US and China. Who will support your struggle?
The governments are not with us but we have support from people all around the world. Because people believe that we have a just cause. States have their own interests but people support us because of morality. If people stand up, governments will eventually have to take a decision. We are not making secret deals. We already have support from people like US Congress person Dana Rohrabacher. European Union Parliament is talking about us. At the UN, Baloch representatives have made presentations too. We have always been in and out of freedom movements. This is the brightest movement in the entire history of our struggle.
An independent Balochistan has a lot to offer to states. We offer sustainable peace in the region. Nuclear free, terror-free, secular, democratic, pluralistic, gender-balanced Balochistan. It will help the world contain terror.
If India, a secular democratic republic country couldn't help the world to contain terror, how can Balochistan?
Pakistan's existence depends on Balochistan and not on India or Bangladesh or anything else. Pakistan's economy is based on loans from IMF, World Bank and Western countries and Pakistan has no resources to show other than the mineral resources of Balochistan, to get loans. Their strategic importance is due to Balochistan coast. Without Balochistan, they are landlocked. When Balochistan becomes free, Pakistan will not survive even for a single day.
All the countries supporting Pakistan support it not because they like Pakistan. They are their allies because they don't have any other option. All the routes to go to Afghanistan and Central Asia are through occupied Balochistan. So they end up talking to Pakistani terrorist state. It is better to talk to an independent Balochistan.
Is violence a solution to a political end?
Till now Baloch people have not attacked Pakistan. We only defend ourselves against Pakistani attacks. But how long shall we wait? If the UN and the international community are not going to intervene and our genocidal situation continues, I can foresee that attacks will happen in Pakistan. We are very few, they will finish us and we won't even have anyone left among us to be displayed in a museum. So far the battleground is only Balochistan. They come, they kill and they get killed. If they don't come, nobody will get killed. But I can foresee the battlefield will shift to Pakistan.
Who arms Baloch freedom fighters?
We are a martial people, historically. We have always been armed. We make our own arms because we live in a region that served as a spice route and Silk route. We didn't know that we were rich in gold, minerals and gas. From that time we faced attacks. Vasco de Gama, Alexander, Mongols were defeated. Our land is unkind to invaders. The wisdom to fight and defend ourselves is coded on our genes.
What took Baloch people so long to come and speak in India?
It is the mandate of Indian people that Modi and BJP have received. Modi is a bold and strong leader. None of his predecessors had this kind of mandate with a flourishing economy and enormous international support. Indira Gandhi had internal problems and despite that she stood up for Bangladesh. So why can't Modi? If Modi takes a bold step, he will get support from the whole world. India has earned respect in the world while Pakistan has earned only hatred. This is the strength of India's secular democracy. But so far Modi has only talked and not done anything. It takes time. We are not in hurry; we are not going to impose our agenda on India because India has to first look after its own interests.