Collateral Damage magazine had the honour of interviewing Khalil Baloch, the Chairman of the Baloch National Movement, Balochistan’s largest nationalist party. The interview was conducted by Jahanzeb Hussain, the editor of Collateral Damage
Why is there widespread resentment in Balochistan against the mega projects such as the Gawadar port project?
First of all, I would like to clarify that Balochistan is a colony of Pakistan. Our exploitation began the day when our land was conquered and turned into a colony. From plundering our resources to denying us our cultural rights, the colonial state posses all the tools of exploitation. The mega projects that you have mentioned are also part of the colonial exploitation. On one hand, the Pakistani state wants to capture rent by letting China access global markets through the warm-water port of Gawadar and, on the other hand, the state wants to alter the demographic balance of Balochistan in order to turn us into strangers in our own lands.
The master plan for the Gawadar port, revealed at the beginning of the decade, made it clear that, after its construction, around 10 million people would be required to run the port, ranging from management, engineers and labourers. Moreover, the influx of workers also means that their families would migrate with them. Traders and small-scale businessmen would also be attracted to Gawadar. Compared to the 8 million indigenous Baloch, the entry of 13 million people from the Punjab and other regions would, in a matter of few years, turn us into a minority. These mega projects are catastrophic for us and that is why the Baloch people have unanimously rejected them. Since China is involved in this exploitation as well, there is a lot of resentment against that country amongst the Baloch people.
What has been the response of progressive and provincial nationalist movements in other provinces of Pakistan to the Baloch struggle?
Pakistan is a military state and the army administers the country. In Pakistan, genuine democratic and progressive movements do not exist. There are various religious fundamentalist parties who are given birth to by the Pakistani secret services for its own uses. Federalists parties also work as tools for the army. The democratic slogans that come from these parties are self-serving. We would be happy to have progressive parties from other regions of Pakistan support our independence movement and fight on our side, but unfortunately that is not the case. However, we have relations with Sindhi nationalists and we are trying to strengthen our association with them.
Do the tribal solidarities help or hamper the nationalist politics?
The tribal system is present in Balochistan but that does not mean that the Baloch national movement is under the influence of the tribal system. There are many tribal leaders who are playing a role in the movement but their political involvement is not based on tribal interests. In fact, their role is nationalist in character. They are part of the movement because of ideology. The people have accepted them as national leaders. It is the state propaganda that says that the Baloch national movement is hostage to and manipulated by tribal leaders. With this propaganda – that the Baloch movement is devoid of progressive ideas, is unaware of the principles of nationalism, and is simply tribal nationalism – the state seeks to misinform the world.
Actually, the reality is that Balochistan’s tribal system is completely under the control of the state. 90% of the tribal chiefs are instruments of the state. From the Pakistani parliament to the death squads, the tribal lords are in cahoots with the state machinery. Apart from that, the state is cunningly trying to push its favourite tribal lords into the national movement so that the tribal influence grows. Holding a jirga in 2007 on behalf of the Khan of Kalat, populating the jirgawith all the pro-state tribal lords and making them express support for the nationalist movement, as well as sending certain tribal chiefs abroad as the supposed representatives of the movement, is all part of the ruse of the state.
What is the nature of relations between the tribal structure and the nationalist youth in Balochistan?
In the national movement, there are activists who belong to both tribal and non-tribal areas. One thing that needs to be made clear is that we should not equate a tribal leader to his entire tribe. It is the Baloch people, within these tribes, who are the real force behind the movement. Thousands of Baloch martyrs and those who face torture in state prisons are testament to the fact that people in every region, every village and every tribe of Balochistan are part of the struggle and that they are engaged in an ideological and intellectual effort as well.
In the past, efforts were made to develop the Balochi language. Are there any efforts being made in this direction presently?
Language is a sign of our identity. Due to the colonial rule and state of warfare, we are unable to focus that much on language but, still, through our magazines and organization journals, there is a serious effort to promote the Balochi language. A camaraderie has developed as a result of the freedom struggle, thanks to which there is an increasing interest in Balochi language, art, and literature on the part of the youth. The development and promotion of our language is one of our main priorities. We are trying to create a strategy to protect and preserve the Balochi language, culture, heritage, and archaeological vestiges.
What in your view is the future of the Baloch national movement, considering that the mainstream political parties in Pakistan hardly express solidarity with it?
Never in history have the rulers supported the oppressed. Yes, from time to time, some unusual people, in the shape of Sartre and Franz Fanon, are born in the ruling classes and support the oppressed but it has never happened that the people from the ruling elite lead a movement to liberate the oppressed. With the participation of 90% of the Baloch population already, we do not need any support from mainstream parities for our movement anyway. We have confidence in the support we receive from our own people. Every house, every youth and elder is part of our caravan today. The flags of independent Balochistan on every house and school is a sign of our freedom and a better future.
What role have the youth in Balochistan played in promoting a nationalist agenda in the province?
I think that the role of the Baloch youth has solidified the ideological foundations of our movement. By creating the Baloch Student Organization, making personal sacrifices and playing a prime role in every important aspect, the youth have made the movement more prominent. Today, there is no single house in Balochistan where the youth are not cognizant of the movement. In fact, the participation of the youth in the movement has now become a permanent feature.
Courtesy: Collateral Damage