Pakistan has not won any of its wars, but it’s been brutal to the people living under its boot

On the 63rd anniversary of Baluchistan’s declaration of independence, Hayrbyar Marri, a prominent leader of the Baluch cause, speaks in an exclusive interview about one of the world’s most forgotten conflicts. “There is only one point to negotiate with Pakistan—insists Marri—and that’s the unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces.”

Mr. Marri’s manner is slow and reserved and he stares directly into the eyes of his interviewer. One may feel somewhat uncomfortable initially, but soon realizes that his attitude is not defiant, rather it reflects the style of traditional Baluch leadership. In fact, we’ve seen him smile before the interview when he told us about his recent fatherhood, and again when he expressed regret over not having brought a certain copy of the New York Times along—the very one that announced Baluchistan’s declaration of independence 63 years ago today.

Today we meet 63 years after the Declaration of Independence of Balochistan (Pakistan-controlled). Is there anything to celebrate?

Our land was independent for seven months until it was occupied by Pakistan in March 1948. Since then we’ve been the victims of a genocide in slow motion, a process of extermination that has left our language, culture and identity in danger of extinction. If we add to this that we are divided by three countries (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan), then we’re speaking of a people struggling for their mere survival.

Both Islamabad and Tehran claim that the Baluch tribal leaders themselves are responsible for the underdevelopment in the region. What do you think of these statements?

It’s always the same old rhetoric: “the Baluch is a tribal society opposed to any kind of progress.” But which development are we talking about? At what cost? Is the constant bombing of Baluch villages, the thousands displaced, the missing…is that the way to bring progress to our region? Pakistan steals 90% of the wealth of our land while families still cook with firewood and dung beneath gas reservoirs that feed the kitchens of Punjab. That, and not the other claim, is the reality of our people.

Zardari, however, has recognized the neglect in Baluchistan and supported a series of packages to rectify this situation…

I will give two familiar examples: both Washington and London are investing huge sums of money in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. It is undeniable that both countries have been invaded, but at the same time, the occupying forces have set a deadline for their withdrawal. In our case, the occupation comes from Pakistan who, unfortunately, has no intention of withdrawing. Yes, Islamabad also tries to “buy” us with jobs in coal mines or gas plants. Unfortunately, people do not realize that all that gas, all those resources, belong to themselves.

Baluch coalitions such as the BNP favour the right to self-determination for their people, an option you’ve always firmly rejected. Why is that?

It is impossible to change anything through parliamentary politics as our representation in Islamabad is minimal and the country is controlled by the army and secret services. BNP’s parliamentary politics is just another form of collaboration with a state that oppresses us. The mere claim for self-determination simply justifies the illegal occupation of our people by Pakistan. Self-determination would only be a valid path if Balochistan had integrated voluntarily in Pakistan, but that is not the case.

Would you be ready to negotiate with Islamabad at a given moment?

If the Baluch people elected me as their legal representative, I’d only negotiate on a single point: the unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces in Balochistan. It would never be a political negotiation. Until then, our people have the right to defend themselves.

Open in new windowPakistan has 600,000 troops supported by a powerful war machine. What are your options?
When one Baluch dies in combat I feel the pain, but at the same time, I always think it wasn’t in vain. Thanks to them, our people are becoming aware of their own identity. The insurgency is gaining momentum, even in regions such as Makran (southern Baluchistan) and other areas that never rose up in past decades.

We have all witnessed how smaller nations than our own have achieved freedom in recent times. It’s not the enemy’s power but the legitimacy of our struggle that matters. We’ve been deprived of our rights for over 60 years within the boundaries of an artificial state. Can there possibly be something more absurd than a country “built for Muslims”? There are dozens of Muslim countries in the world. Why don´t they all integrate in Pakistan? Pakistan is a corrupt state that survives solely on international aid; it cannot sustain itself over time. Sooner or later it will crumble. Pakistan has not won even one of their wars, but it has been brutal to the people living under its boot. Nonetheless, I do not seek the disintegration of Pakistan, but the independence of my people.

The Baluchs have often denounced the so called “Talibanization” of Baluchistan in the hands of Islamabad. Do you agree with such statement?

This is yet another side of the process of assimilation to which we are subjected. The purpose of this is to dilute our national identity through the Deobandi doctrines sponsored by both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Fortunately, the Baluch are, and have always been, moderate Muslims or secular, far away from the fundamentalism that attempts to take root in Balochistan as it did in Afghanistan. But the danger is still there. Today it is almost impossible to control regions as small as Swat and Waziristan so imagine the scale of the disaster if the Taliban are ever able to expand into an area which occupies over 40% of Pakistan.

Now that you mention it, to what extent is the future of the Baluch linked to the war in Afghanistan?

The problem is that today the whole region is infested by jihadist groups controlled by Pakistan. If Islamabad manages to complete its agenda in Afghanistan, the consequences will be dire, and not only for the Baluch but for the West too. During the Cold War, Pakistan aligned with the West and played a crucial role in episodes like the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Nobody cared then about our suffering and, unfortunately, it seems that the trend remains very much the same. We´ve suffered this aggression for decades without anyone out there to listen. Musharraf and his generals should be tried for “crimes against humanity” by international courts. Moreover, the International Community should recognize our legitimate struggle against this illegal occupation and act accordingly, before it is too late.

Many Baluch believe that the UN can play a crucial role in the prosecution of the crimes that you’ve denounced. What do you think?

There´s no doubt about it but the UN also needs to be restructured. Stateless nations like the Tamils, the Kurds or the Basques have no voice in the UN. Pakistan-occupied Balochistan—our land—was determined to be a legal part of an internationally recognised country. It is unfair that the UN recognizes the legitimacy of a state which occupied our land six decades ago.

Story by Karlos Zurutuza and photos by Reposted from the Spanish original at
August 11, 2010

Karlos Zurutuza is a freelance correspondent and writes in Basque, Spanish and English. He´s been awarded with the Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Reporting Award 2009 for highlighting the Baloch struggle in different newspapers and magazines.

Baloch Warna


Filed under Interviews and Articles

2 responses to “Pakistan has not won any of its wars, but it’s been brutal to the people living under its boot

  1. Baloch Nation is with you….
    waja Hairbyar marry…

  2. Dr. Ahmed Makhdoom

    Happy Independence Day Balochistan! May your beautiful flag flutter and fly with honor for ever and forever! May the valiant people of Balochistan achieve their aspirations, dreams and goals of a FREE and INDEPENDENT Balochistan soon, very soon! We salute you brave brothers in Balochistan for your valor, vitality and vibrancy! Long Live Balochistan! Long Live Sindh!

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