Pranay Sharma spoke to a Baloch leader based in a western capital. He cannot be identified by name or with a picture, as he fears the safety of his family, who are still in Balochistan. He is also attached to the Baloch Human Rights Council, formed by the Baloch Diaspora in 2009 to highlight human rights situation in Iranian and Pakistani Balochistan. Excerpts:
Could you tell us about the current state of affairs in Balochistan? How bad is the human rights situation there?
It is getting worse by the day. It appears that Pakistan has decided to make its conflict with the Baloch as a fight to the finish. More than 24,000 Baloch activists are missing. Thousands have been extra-judicially killed. Balochistan has been converted to a military garrison. It is directly ruled by the army and security agencies. The puppet provincial government is a rubber stamp. For now, the main objective of the Pakistani military is to evacuate the surrounding areas for the proposed railway and highway from Gwadar, running along the length of Balochistan, and part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. People are being picked up by security agencies or its proxy death squads and religious outfits. They are being tortured and their mutilated bodies are dumped on roadsides, presented as encounter killings with security forces. Pakistan has abandoned taking Baloch prisoners.
Narendra Modi broke new ground by raising the human rights situation in Balochistan. Will this help the Baloch and if so, in what way?
It is a very welcome gesture. However, as the Baloch are being minced by the powerful jaws of the cruellest state establishment in the contemporary world, words would not be enough. Baloch resistance needs to be recognised as the national liberation struggle of a colonised nation from the civilised world. The Baloch are hopeful that assistance to the Baloch national struggle will be meaningful and will be a part of Indian policy objectives.
What are the Baloch people fighting for? Independence or more political autonomy?
Independence, of course. The Baloch national struggle has always been for national sovereignty and unification of their land. The slogans of autonomy or federal status or national rights, according to the 1940 Lahore resolutions of the Muslim League, have been among the strategies in the past. But now not a single Baloch is ready to be within the Pakistani state structure.
Do most Baloch consider themselves as Pakistanis?
Not at all. If someone asks this question to a Baloch and if no Pakistani agency is listening in, his answer may cross the limits of propriety. Even the Baloch who are part of the government in Balochistan or at the federal level would privately only curse the religious state. Pakistanis and Balochis can’t trust each other now for obvious reasons.
How is India seen by most people in Balochistan? As a much better place than Pakistan or no better?
The Baloch think India is a wonderful place. Although they are aware of the blood relations between Punjabis of the two sides; they believe that as the Indians have experienced colonialism and slavery for a thousand years, they may be in a better position to realise Baloch suffering.
Pakistan claims India is talking of Balochistan to divert attention from its own human rights violations in Kashmir. Do you agree?
For whatever reason, Indians are showing concern for Baloch plight, and it is welcome. They are also aware that it is people, money and propaganda from Pakistan which is creating disturbances in Kashmir and other parts of India.
How do you view the current unrest in Kashmir?
The Baloch and others from the smaller nationalities in Pakistan see the unrest in Kashmir as a continuation of Pakistan’s policy from its very creation. Every Baloch is fully aware of the fact regarding Kashmir and its so-called issue. The Baloch are also aware that because Pakistan is a client state of the US and the UK, Indians cannot do anything to restrain the Pakistan state in what it is doing in Kashmir.