Collateral Damage had the privilege of interviewing Lateef Johar, a 22 year-old Baloch student who has been on a hunger-strike since April 22, 2014 as a protest against the kidnapping of Zahid Baloch, the Chairman of the Balochistan Students Organization Azad. Zahid Baloch is one of nearly 20,000 people who have been kidnapped by the Pakistani state in the past 10 years. Lateef Johar will only relent from his protest if the government releases Zahid Baloch.
Why is the Pakistan Army continuing its “Kill and Dump” policy in Baluchistan despite the many agreements that the Nawaz Sharif government has concluded with Baloch nationalists?
Nobody knows with which nationalists Nawaz Sharif has concluded agreements. Maybe you know more about the nationalism of those Baloch, including Dr. Malik, who are sitting in the parliament. If you ask about them in the Baloch society, you will know whether they are nationalists or are selling the nation. The fact of the matter is that the state, with the help of its secret agencies, has brought them into the parliament to counter the Baloch freedom movement and justify its occupation and plunder of Balochistan, as well as to deceive the world opinion.
The purpose of the show which was staged in Gawadar recently was to present Dr. Malik as the representative of Balochistan for selling its coast and resources to China. But the world knows how the Baloch people boycotted the last parliamentary elections. The best example of this is in my region Awaran whose population is about 200,000. There, Qudoos Bizenjo won the elections by getting cast only 400 votes through his hired gun-totting men. Now, he is the Deputy Speaker of the so-called Pakistan Assembly. Can we call such people nationalists? All the agreements that Nawaz Sharif is making are for enslaving Balochistan further. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army is kidnapping political activists and dumping their mutilated corpses. The true nationalists talk of their rights, freedom and humanity. For the army, the greatest danger comes from the struggle of the Baloch Students Organization Azad (BSO-Azad). That is why accusations are being levelled against it. It is subjected to ferocious repression so that there may be no one in Balochistan to raise voice against despotism and oppression. It is this policy of the army which is behind the kidnapping of Zahid Baloch. It is an attempt to silence a voice against the barbarism of the Pakistani state. Zakir Majeed has been kept in solitary confinement since the last 5 years. Books are being confiscated in Balochistan and libraries raided. All this is aimed at muzzling the voices against the occupation of Balochistan and the inhuman acts committed against its people.
What are the objectives of the Pakistan Army in Balochistan?
Their objectives are those of any occupying and expansionist force. The general practice of all the occupiers is to appropriate the land and resources of others for fulfilling their own needs. The objective of the Pakistani state is also the same. That is why it is resorting to military action. They are killing the ordinary people of Balochistan as well as its intellectuals and students. They are carrying out genocide in Balochistan. They are strengthening the extremist religious forces in Balochistan for countering the secular forces who are behind the freedom struggle. They want to make the young generation into extremists by depriving them of the study of science, philosophy and creative research. For this purpose, madrassas are being set up in Balochistan. Heavy finances are being provided to these madrassas. The Baloch people are being pushed into destitution. Then, their poverty-stricken children are being enrolled into madrassas. The secular schools set up by the Baloch youth are being forcibly closed and their teachers are being kidnapped. This was the case of the Delta Center in Turbat and its teacher Rasool Jan who has gone missing since January. The usual accusations of training terrorists were levelled against him. The present Chief Minister of Balochistan, Dr. Malik, got Rasool Jan kidnapped after accusing Jan of attacking him. Women are being kept away from education and they are being threatened. BSO-Azad is the only organization which considers women equals. Our present chairperson, Karima Baloch, is a woman – she is our leader. We are proud of her. It is the first time in the history of Balochistan that a revolutionary organization is being led by a woman. BSO-Azad is against the segregation and separate wings for women. We are creating awareness in this regard. Karima Baloch has brought a big change in the Baloch society. The aim of the Pakistani state and its army is to keep the Baloch people backward and uneducated. The state is doing the same in Balochistan as it did in Bangladesh, as France in Algeria, Japan in China, and the British in India.
What is the future of Balochistan in the present conditions? Is there still possibility of a peaceful solution?
The Baloch nation is waging a struggle and is making sacrifices. If it goes on like this then one day the sun of freedom will rise. Regarding your question about a peaceful solution, let me tell you that since the very beginning we are waging a peaceful struggle and we still believe in it. My hunger strike here is also peaceful. BSO-Azad is a democratic organization. It creates awareness among the Baloch youth about their culture, world history, history of the colonization, history of oppressed people, and the life of great men. It trains Baloch youth and politicizes them. When a human being is politically conscious and he has leaned the lesson of humanity and equality then nobody can bend him. I say that this peaceful struggle will always be successful. With a peaceful organization like BSO-Azad, everything is possible.
How useful was the long march of Mama Qadeer in creating awareness outside Balochistan?
I have great respect for Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed. I salute them for this historical achievement. Their long march has created great awareness in Sindh and in Balochistan. Due to this march, lots of people are coming to our camp for expressing solidarity with us. We want to inform all nationalities about what the Pakistani state is doing in Balochistan. They should also know what is being done to the oppressed people of Sindh and Punjab and to our Pashtun brothers. We want to tell them how dangerous is the present situation and how necessary it is to defeat the forces of exploitation. If every nation gets its rights then it will better understand others and we will come closer to each other.
Did the inspiration for your hunger-strike come from the long march of Mama Qadeer?
I may not be able to do what Mama has done. People like him provide courage to everybody. As far as the hunger-strike is concerned, it is a decision of our organization and it was according to my desire. The long march of Mama Qadeer was a historical march. The token hunger-strike of Mama was also historical. Our decision for this hunger-strike till death has been taken on the basis of Mama Qadeer’s long march and all other protests staged previously.
What message do you want to convey to people and the government of Pakistan?
As far as the government of Pakistan is concerned, it fully shares the responsibility for the forced disappearances and the mutilation and dumping of corpses. They do not have any humanity. I appeal to my Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashtun and Urdu-speaking brothers to side with the truth and not to participate in the oppression of poor people. They should tell their children not to participate in the exploitation of the Baloch people. Everyone should get their rights. We respect everyone and others should also respect us and not support our oppressors. Those whose sons are in the Pakistani armed forces and are taking part in oppressing the Baloch people, they should tell them not to kill our people for earning their livelihood. They should teach humanity to their children. I appeal to students not to study how to plunder others but to make this world a better place to live. If there is oppression in the world today it is due to those who are selfish.
Courtesy: Collateral Damage