Balochistan wants freedom from Pakistan and activists from Balochistan are trying to garner public support among the international community to help Balochistan in their freedom struggle. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Guardian, Naela Qadri Baloch, a prominent Baloch activist, talked about the struggle of the Baloch people and why India should support Balochistan. Naela Qadri currently lives in Canada with her family and is visiting India to gather recognition for the Baloch cause. Excerpts:
Q: What are the reasons that motivated Balochistan’s separatist movement?
A: Pakistan has been exploiting our land since the day they forcibly occupied our territory. The fight for a free Balochistan has been on since 27 March 1948 when the movement first began. For all these years, we have tried to fight our oppressor, but now their atrocities have reached a whole new level. Now the human rights violations have matured into forms of genocide. Nuclear testing conducted by Pakistan in Balochistan contaminated our water and made it radioactive. As a result, there was no rain in Balochistan for six years. Balochistan is an arid region, but we have still managed to live well all along. However, after the drought, people had no place left to go. Pakistan wants a Balochistan without Balochs. For them, Balochistan is just a resourceful piece of land that they want to exploit and get rid of the people. To make it very clear, we are not Pakistanis. We are Baloch. Before Pakistan occupied Balochistan, it was a free country. We hate our place of birth to be recognised as Pakistan. Along with Pakistan, China is also openly involved in hijacking the economy of Balochistan. Our struggle is a struggle for independence.
Q: What human rights violations are taking place in Balochistan and who is responsible for?
A: The Pakistan army is directly involved in Balochistan. Since 2000, we announced an insurgency on Pakistan. Many Baloch activists were captured after that. My husband, a filmmaker, was also among the captured activists. It was only after the intervention of Amnesty International that he could be rescued, but he hasn’t been the same ever since and is still haunted by the torture he underwent. The Pakistan army is practising a “kill and dump” strategy. Our people have discovered “mass graves” with hundreds of people “dumped” in huge pits. Investigation reports revealed that some of the people were dumped in the pits while they were alive. These mass graves were discovered when shepherds stumbled upon them. Now, these areas are heavily guarded by the Pakistan army and so we can’t access them. Since the insurgency started, 25,000 Balochs have gone missing and over 2 lakh have been killed. They are harassing our women, bombing our villages with jets and killing our civilians. Some of the worst affected regions are Dera Bugti, Kalat, Awaran, Makran, etc. This is genocide. Our people have been denied jobs and acid is thrown on our young girls when they go to colleges. Places where settlements for Chinese immigrants have been made are secured by the military. We are being discriminated against, tortured and killed in our own land.
Q: Have you been successful in garnering support from the international community? Has any country you have asked for help stepped forward?
A: We have been struggling for the past 67 years to get our voices heard. For the first time ever, we have managed to receive recognition from the international community. Our cause has been taken up by the United Nations. The Parliament of the United Kingdom gave recognition to the freedom struggle of Balochistan. In terms of awareness, we have fared well in educating people about the true circumstances in Balochistan.
Q: But has the recognition been converted into action?
A: Unfortunately, there has been none. No commitments or promises for help have been made to us, but we are hopeful. Right now, we have presented our case to the world. Now it is up to the world as to how fast they respond. We are positive that India will come to our help.
Q: What kind of help do you expect from India and why should India help Balochistan?
A: We think of India as our friend. We believe that it is not just a one way route; India and Balochistan can build a strong relationship with each other. Besides the moral responsibility of being our neighbour, India’s help to Balochistan can stop the terrorism that is perpetrated by Pakistan. A stronghold in Balochistan will help India secure the west as well the east and will provide an edge over China. A strategic trade route between Mumbai and Baloch ports can be established that will serve the interests of both the nations. India is a developing country and its demand for energy is increasing continuously. India will need safe energy imports that Balochistan would willingly provide. Much like India, Balochistan, too, is a pluralist society. We have Hindu Baloch, Christian Baloch and Muslim Baloch, who crave for a better life. Ties between India and Balochistan can result in a nuclear-free neighbourhood. Our hopes are high since we have seen that the current government is bolder than the previous one. We believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will extend support to us. We are not afraid of sharing a close relationship with India; why should India feel ashamed of being our friends? We want India to help liberate us from Pakistan. One can say Balochistan can be the relief that India needs from Pakistan.
Q: Pakistan has accused India of manufacturing insurgency in Balochistan. The recent arrest of Kulbushan Jadhav, a former Naval officer, has led Pakistan to declare Indian RAW presence in Balochistan. How do you respond to that?
A: I have said it before and I’ll say it again that these are all lies. Balochistan’s struggle is its people’s struggle. The common man of Balochistan is fighting to be freed from the oppressor. India, too, has denied any covert operations in Balochistan. Such accusations are meant to divert the focus from Balochistan’s struggles and must be condemned.