Pakistan has been undertaking a strong diplomatic mission to counter the Balochistan freedom struggle led by separatist leaders living in exile in various parts of the world. Recent developments hint at the separatists taking a few hits from Pakistan’s diplomacy on the international scale. However, leaders living in exile have said that as the separatists have gathered more following on a global scale, Pakistan feels threatened.

Among a string of recent developments that hint at Pakistan working full-time to dilute the Baloch freedom struggle, is the return of two key Baloch separatist leaders from self-exile. 

Dr Jumma Khan Marri, self-exiled Baloch sub-nationalist leader and son of famous Baloch guerilla fighter Mir Hazar Khan Marri (chief of Bajrani Marri tribe) had announced his separation from the Baloch uprising earlier in February. At the celebration of “Pakistan Unity Day” in Moscow, Dr Marri had revealed that he is launching a new organisation called “Overseas Pakistani Baloch Community” to counter Baloch separatist movement abroad. Dr Marri had expressed his intention to “bring back to Pakistan all misguided Baloch youth living abroad on political asylum, resolving the problems of Baloch through peaceful means and dialogues”. It should be noted that Dr Marri had designed the national flag of the Baloch uprising.

Another key face of the Balochistan freedom movement that ended his 18 years of self-exile and returned to Pakistan is Nawabzada Gazain Marri. While quitting the separatist movement earlier this month, Marri had said that he will now join mainstream politics, which “is the only way to serve the people of Balochistan and Pakistan”. Speaking during a gathering in Golarchi, the Baloch leader said he will first meet his supporters living in various parts of the country before deciding about the future political course.

In a response to The Sunday Guardian’s query over Baloch separatist leaders ending their self-exile, Khalil Baloch, chairman, Baloch National Movement (BNM), said, “We do not have time to talk about Dr Marri and Gazain. There are more urgent issues at hand.” Another popular face of the Baloch movement, Brahumdagh Bugti, too, has maintained silence over the issue. 

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, general secretary, Baloch National Movement (BNM)-North America, said, “Pakistan has always tried to paint Baloch nationalist politics as tribal. Our struggle is not tribal. It does not rely upon the allegiance of any particular tribe or tribal leader. Therefore, it does not really count if a certain person joins the ranks of the government or not.”

However, sources within the Baloch diaspora blame Pakistan for luring its leaders away from the movement. A Baloch living in exile, requesting anonymity, said, “Obviously, we are not happy about these people abandoning the movement, but their loss will not have impact on us. We expected Pakistan to react. We do not know what triggered their return.”

Last week, a peace jirga (community council meeting) attended by tribal elders and political experts in Mastung district, Balochistan, concluded that “they won’t let self-exiled Baloch leaders misguide the Baloch youth just to serve their own interests”. The jirga was organised by the “Muhibban Tehreek Nazarya-i-Pakistan”, and was addressed by members of the provincial government and tribal leaders. The jirga has recently augmented its sting towards separatists hitting at their luxurious lifestyles abroad. The provincial government is appointed by the Pakistan government and thus is seen as toothless tiger by the separatists.

Other attacks on Baloch movement include last month’s reports in Pakistan media that claimed at least 200 Baloch separatist militants had laid down their arms and had chosen to become a part of the national mainstream, in Turbat. Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Commander Southern Command Lt. General Asim Saleem Bajwa were chief guests at the ceremony. 

All this had followed after Brahumdagh Bugti, chairperson of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), the main face of Balochistan freedom struggle, had to go through the humiliation of being denied political asylum by the Swiss authorities. Taken by shock himself, Bugti had said that he did not expect his application to be rejected and further blamed Pakistan and China’s diplomacy for the failed attempt. 

It should be noted here that the diaspora in America and Europe had launched international campaigns of “Free Balochistan” with posters on public transport and billboards to create awareness among the international community over alleged human rights violations being carried out in several districts of Balochistan by the Pakistan army. The campaigns started late last year in December and continued till January. The Pakistan government had expressed its anger over the campaigns that made it look bad in the international community.

Nabi Bakhsh said, “We rely on the support of the common Baloch. Over 40,000 Baloch have been forcibly disappeared by the Pakistan military in the last one-and-a-half decade. Even during the Musharraf era, it was claimed that the Baloch national struggle is near its death after the assassination of Akbar Khan Bugti. Then the Pakistan military assassinated Balach Marri and Ghulam Mohammad Baloch. These assassinations only served to boost the Baloch movement. So the current claims of Baloch national struggle losing its charm are not based on any truth. Such claims are only meant to misguide the world.”