By P. Chacko Joseph | November 23rd,
Balochistan is waging a lonely battle against Pakistan to get freedom. We had the opportunity of an email interview with Banok Karima Baloch, Central Vice chairman of Baloch Student Organization (Azad). Banok Karima Baloch has been in the forefront of the freedom struggle and has been featured by international news agencies.
Frontier India: We are surprised to see a lady is such a high position in an Islamic struggle. What is the role of Baloch women in the liberation of Balochistan?
Banok Karima Baloch: Firstly I would like to make this clear that our struggle is not a religious struggle; Balochistan does not have a religious movement. Our struggle is based on pure nationalism and the concepts of justice and equality. Our (Baloch nation’s) struggle neither is based on religious ideologies nor is a sectarian movement, and it is not meant to bring any change while being in Pakistan’s framework as Baloch nation was never a part of Pakistan and nor does Baloch wish to part Pakistan in future, we are struggling to regain our Independence from Pakistan, which seized our (Baloch nation’s) freedom on 27 march 1948 using military aggression. This forceful annexation or we may call it invasion was against the will of Baloch nation and the Baloch parliament present at that time. With the passage of time in order to conceal the invasion, Pakistan worked to eradicate our national history, our national identity, our culture, norms and values and presented us as Pakistanis, which is not what a Baloch is and neither wishes to be called so. Whereas, regarding the role of Baloch women in the movement, I believe their role to be enormously positive; they have memberships of the parties included in Baloch National Front (Alliance working on the mutual objective of gaining Balochistan’s liberation) and constitute an important part of the Baloch parties working for the liberation of Baloch nation. Baloch women are employing every possible political mean used in liberation movements, and the false cases upon them in the anti terrorist courts of Pakistan indicate the threat they pose on Pakistan’s occupation of Balochistan.
Frontier India: What are your personal experiences with the Pakistani judicial system?
Banok Karima Baloch: Pakistan’s courts are as corrupt and incompetent as the other institutions of Pakistan are, whereas when we discuss Baloch nation even the corrupted judicial system does not apply, and it is not surprising for us, as historically when a country has been invaded a different set of laws rule the invaded area, though the silence of International community do disturb us. We (Baloch nation) are rarely presented to courts, if any Baloch, whether he may be a political leader, a student, a social worker or a common Baloch is suspected to be a harm to Pakistan’s invasion, the person is abducted by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and then they treat the person the way they wish to, disregarding all the humanitarian laws and ethical boundaries. The abducted Balochs are kept in the secret torture cells for years, out of which some are released in such physical and mental conditions that very few survive to continue their normal lives, while others are tortured to death and their bodies are thrown in public places to create fear amongst other people. Presently more than ten thousand Balochs are kept in these torture cells and no one even knows in which conditions they are or are they alive or not.
Frontier India: We saw a YouTube video, you were addressing a huge gathering in open? Is not an example of freedom of self expression in Pakistani rule?
Banok Karima Baloch: The public gatherings we organize do not indicate freedom of speech in Pakistan rather it symbolizes the political strength we have, it shows the mass support for Balochistan’s liberation. Regarding Pakistan’s behavior on freedom of speech in Balochistan, I would like to mention that Pakistan army has opened fire upon peaceful protestors on different occasions and you may also view the video on youtube where a public gathering in Tump is being assaulted by Pakistan army where innocent people died on 6th of September 2009, other major incidents include the assault on a public gathering in Turbat on 25th of August 2006, a protest rally in Khuzdar on 15th January 2010 and another gathering in Panjgur on 16th of August 2010, which resulted in the martyrdom of Altaf Baloch, Mukhtar Baloch, Saddam Baloch, Hussain Baloch, Ateeq Baloch while hundreds of others have been injured during such incidents. This shows the desires of the people to regain Balochistan’s independence that they still attend the public gatherings and rallies even after such massacres being carried out by Pakistan. If there had been political freedom in Pakistani occupied Balochistan than our leaders and activists would not have been abducted and martyred by Pakistan; Ghulaam Muhammed, Lala Muneer, Rasool Baksh Mengal, Sher Muhammed are just a few names who have been martyred by Pakistan for the reason explicitly sharing the atrocities of Pakistan and for creating political awareness in the general public. Baloch Student Organization Azaad’s Central Senior Vice Chairman Zakir Majeed Baloch, Sami Baloch, Mustaq Baloch, Mujeeb Baloch, Imran Baloch, Zakir Baloch, Murtaza Baloch, Noman Baloch, Tariq Baloch, Asif Baloch, Irshad Baloch, Ali Ahmed Baloch, Yasir Baloch, Sameer Baloch, Yaseen Baloch and Naseer Baloch have been abducted by Pakistan which shows Pakistan’s way to deal with the voices of justice. In Balochistan who ever expresses the realities, create awareness regarding Pakistan’s occupation of our motherland, the person is either killed or disabled through torture, my own turn might come, and I’m just waiting for that. Secondly Pakistan’s media chooses to remain silent on the happenings in Balochistan to extend Pakistan’s occupation. We are raising our voice by our own limited resources.
Frontier India: What about Saeeda Baloch, Saima Baloch?* Are they with the struggle?
Banok Karima Baloch: In this movement of national liberation, not only Saeeda and Saima but a large number of Baloch women joined the ranks of political struggle. Now the daughters of the motherland are too aware of their nation’s colonization, they understand that their language, culture, identity, norms and values and history are at stake, they too are out on roads to safeguard their motherland and change the fate of their nation.
Frontier India: Do Baloch women train with arms and ammunition ?
Banok Karima Baloch: We are arming our nation’s daughters with ideology and a thinking pattern, that ideology leads them to face every odd in the struggle. I believe that self defense is a right which every human being has; this legitimate right can be exercised by Baloch women too. Though being a part of a student organization I’m not aware whether they are exercising this legitimate right or not, but they can do so in order to safeguard their national interests. The indiscriminate killings of Pakistan, its atrocities and the occupation of our motherland have given the right to defense to every Baloch, regardless of gender.
Frontier India: Wouldn’t your actions hurt other Baloch girls trying to pick up a degree in a Pakistani institution?
Banok Karima Baloch: A degree is attained with two basic objectives, which is to gain knowledge and to have a better future. My actions do not stop anyone from gaining knowledge; secondly my actions are to provide a better future not only for my Baloch sisters but for the upcoming generations. I believe that 99 percent of our people do not have access to proper education; they don’t even have the basic necessities of life such as water and food then education becomes a secondary thing. Education has been kept limited only to a small portion of the nation; only privileged people have access to proper education. My struggle is intended to secure the futures of the daughters and sons of the nation, and the upcoming generation, to provide every individual equal opportunity to gain knowledge in a free society. Historically the people of the invaded regions are kept backward by the invaders to strengthen their authority, innovation and discoveries are discouraged, the same is the attitude of Pakistan towards Balochistan. Our struggle is to change the fates of our nation and to brighten their futures in a free Balochistan.
Frontier India: What kind of discrimination is faced by Baloch students, especially women, in the entire education system – nursery to school to masters degree?
Banok Karima Baloch: There is no such thing as an educational system which exists in Balochistan. Firstly the education which is being provided belongs to the 16th century’s colonization educating pattern, where the syllabus is prepared is such a way which discourages creativity, this is then further backed by turning the single university of Balochistan into a military garrison by Pakistan army, where the students are educated in an highly oppressive environment, secondly the Baloch students which succeed to get admissions in the institutions other than that of Balochistan are treated as inferior creatures, who do not have the mental capabilities to compete with other students, Baloch students are mentally tortured through continuously giving them sense of inferiority, as they are considered to be from the dark ages by Pakistan. This however has been the psychology of the colonizer to consider the colonized people to be inferior to provide legitimacy to their occupation, but this has now developed further as now these students are being physically assaulted as well. In this year only Baloch students have been physically assaulted by Pakistani students in Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Sahewal resulting serious injuries to 103 Baloch students, these assaults are not only limited to Baloch students rather have been extended to Baloch professors as well, the major incident in this regard was of Professor Mukhtar Baloch in Lahore who barely survived the injuries. Due to such conditions parents restrain their daughters from going to the institutions other than that of Balochistan, still a small number of Baloch female students are studying in these institutions and they have been continuously reporting humiliation from the Pakistani students, they are told that Balochs belong to the stone ages and that they are mentally inferior, their cultural Balochi dresses are spitted upon by the Pakistani students. The most recent assault on Baloch students was in Islamia University Bahawalpur where 18 Baloch students were seriously injured. In many cases the hospitals did not even provided basic aid to the students for the sole reason that the students were Balochs. The attitude of the administration on these incidents can be understood by the case of Noora Baloch, who is a member of B.S.O. Azaad, he was abducted by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies from Lahore, and was severely tortured and when he was released he intended to continue his studies, but when he approached the administrator of the institution he came to know that his records have been eradicated by the institution! He had completed three years of his education from that institution and now he has no place to compensate his 3 years of education.
Frontier India: How do you all manage to evade Pakistani arrests in the view of the current Pakistani offensive against your organization?
Banok Karima Baloch: We rarely are formally arrested, we are abducted by the intelligence agencies and then we face torture in their torture cells which ends with our death or with our physical or mental disability. These abductions are something which a student can hardly avoid as we have to attend our classes to continue our education, therefore these abductions which are against the international humanitarian laws are an almost every day happening in Balochistan. For the greater national benefits we have surrendered our individual fears and await our turns. The rapid increase of Pakistan’s atrocities is bringing an end to the surface politics in Balochistan. I sometimes wonder that maybe Balochs do not fall under the definition of a human being which the international community has that might be the reason that they are still silent on the atrocities against our Nation, which are far greater than that of Tibet, Darfur or Palestine. Through this interview I would mention that we do expect moral support from the civilized and humanitarian countries, and unbiased journalists and people like Arundhati Roy should highlight the atrocities being committed by Pakistan against Baloch nation and its occupation of our motherland in order to bring peace and stability in the region.
Frontier India: We are very curious to know your daily schedule? How does a “Islamic lady Freedom fighter” spends her day? We are very very curious!
Banok Karima Baloch: As I have already cleared that myself or any other pro independence Baloch political activist are not working for religious ideologies, rather we are all working to liberate our nation Baloch and our motherland Balochistan in compliance with the principles of the justice, equality and liberty. I spend my day just as another Baloch political activist would do, delivering study circles, communicating with the people, visiting areas to create political awareness regarding the colonization of our people and liberty and highlighting the roles a women can play to liberate our nation and motherland.
Frontier India: Do you think you can put a time frame to end of the struggle?
Banok Karima Baloch: Giving a time frame would be pre mature as the struggle of national liberation is a long term process; it requires continuous struggle and its results come gradually. Though I would like to add that Baloch is a secular nation, we consider every religion to be equally respectful. We are struggling for a free, modern and democratic Balochistan, where every human life has equal rights, where people having different religious believes have equal respect, with a system of justice and equality and the laws to secure human freedom. We wish that people belonging to every religion and nationality throughout the world have equal rights. And we hope that justice loving people of the world, humanitarian organizations, civil society and journalists would come forward to support us in our legitimate struggle to regain Balochistan’s independence.
(*On March 16, 2010, Saeeda Baloch, Saima Baloch and Banok Karima Baloch have been awarded 5 years in prison by the Pakistani court. On 21 August 2009 they were booked under public disorder act. They were accused of arranging a protest rally on 14 August ‘Pakistan’s Independence’ day. They were found not guilty in the case due to the lack of evidence but the court has punished them for not attending the hearings.)