Civilized world knows, Pakistan is breeding fundamentalists
Interview by Wendy Johnson
Contrary to how the media describes the region, Balochistan is not restive. And it is not troubled. Rather, it is at war. And all the players–political and armed–are battling for its soul. CrisisBalochistan first interviewed Baloch rebel leader Dr. Allah Nazar in 2011. Following a recent battle in the town of Dasht, in which the ISIS was first mentioned in relation to Balochistan, we reached out to Dr. Nazar for his comments. It was Dr. Nazar’s group, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), that engaged the Lashkar-e-Khurasan, a group headed by Iranian national Mullah Omar and recently linked to the ISIS in Dasht.
In our 2011 interview, Dr. Nazar raised the issue of intelligence agency-sponsored radicalization efforts in Balochistan, but he is not the only one with early warnings of worse things to come…. Over the years journalist Malik Siraj Akbar and others have written of well-financed programs that are now fostering head-spinning violence in Pakistan. Of this violence, Jan Mohammad Buledi, spokesperson for the chief minister of Balochistan, says with great understatement, “To some extent, the situation is very confusing.”
And the situation in Balochistan is very confusing, but only because Pakistan refuses to grant permission to foreign investigative journalists to travel there. Intrepid local reporters with few resources who attempt to report on the myriad issues risk attacks from several sides: the intelligence agencies, extremist groups and even, reporters allege, the rebel groups who claim the media won’t cover their side of the story. As one who has traveled in Balochistan, I know the threats to one’s safety are real, but in my personal experience those threats were not posed by gracious Baloch hosts.
The ISIS is on the world stage now. Below are the observations of one who is witnessing its eastward spread and to whom the situation in Balochistan is not confusing.
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We recently learned of the battle in Dasht, Balochistan, between the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the Lashkar-e-Khurasan led by Mullah Omar. This is the first time the name ISIS has been mentioned in relation to Pakistan. Is the ISIS in Pakistan or does it have an alliance with Lashkar-e-Khurasan?
Dr. Nazar: As you know, as the civilized world knows, Pakistan is breeding fundamentalists. And it is doing their utmost to counter the Baloch nationalist movement for freedom, trying their best to counter the freedom movement through its death squads, through its kill and dump policy, through torture cells and other means, but the Pakistani establishment has entirely failed. So now they are trying to use the instrument of religion in order to distract attention from the Baloch freedom movement, but instead they show the world the ugly picture of fundamentalism.
Regarding the situation in Dasht, Mullah Omar is leading a fundamentalist group that is sponsored by Pakistan’s notorious ISI, Inter-Services Intelligence. They are creating trouble in order to counter the Balochistan freedom movement. There are many Arabs, Pashtuns and other ethnic groups with Mullah Omar in Dasht. In the name of Islam, they are trying to create sectarian problems in order to stop or create a hurdle for the Baloch movement. And allow me to clarify further, it’s not only Mullah Omar, there are other groups: Lashkar-e-Islam, Tahafuz-e-Hudood-ullah and others.
Is the ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a threat to Balochistan?
Dr. Nazar: Yes, madam, I can say that there are more than four camps allied with ISIS in Balochistan. One is in Makran, one is in Wadh, District Khuzdar. The third is in the Mishk area of Zehri. There are more than 100 armed men there–Arabs, Pashtuns, Punjabis and others. With the help of Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, they are living there. The fourth camp is near Chiltan, the capital of Balochistan, Quetta. There are four camps and also there are similar groups. And now the Pakistani ISI is activating them. Their activities are patronized by the ISI.
As you heard in the news, and the Pakistani Interior Minister, Nisar Ali Khan, also declared in the Parliament, that in the naval base’s own backyard in Karachi there is support for the activities of radical religious groups. Now you can imagine–the Pakistan Army also has sympathy—and the senior ranks of the Pakistani army—are involved with these outfits and with these people. And now the Pakistani Taliban have linked themselves with ISIS. The Pakistani Taliban are already doing work on behalf of the ISI in Balochistan.
The ISIS is present. Absolutely present. Last week they killed more than seven Baloch in the Teertej area of Awaran, in a mosque, a Zikr-Khana, of the Zikri sect of Muslims. And they also threw pamphlets in the streets to advocate their version of Islam. These are the activities of the Tahafuz-e-Hudood-ullah, the Al-Jihad, Lashkar-e-Islam, Al-Furqan, Ansar-ul-Islam. These groups are active in Balochistan and they are part of ISIS.
But I think the radicalization will fail because the Baloch nation is a very secular nation. They believe in freedom of religion. For centuries Hindus are living in Balochistan, the Sikhs, other communities, the Ismailis in Gwadar…and Baloch have not harmed any of them. Baloch accept Hindus and others. Baloch have matrimonial ties with the Zikris. Baloch never discriminate in the name of religion. But now the Pakistani state—along with some Pakistani intellectuals and the army—use the name of Islam to support this radicalization effort. I think its main, main motive is to counter the Baloch national liberation movement and also expand the terror of this uncivilized and cruel ideology of the ISIS and Taliban.
If the civilized world helps the Baloch liberation movement and helps Balochistan as a free state, the growing extremism will fail. It will fail. Otherwise, it will be a problem for Balochistan, but it will also be a headache for the rest of the world: Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia and the Americans.
Can you talk about your relationship with the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) or the United Baloch Army (UBA)?
Dr. Nazar: The BLA has its own method of fighting. The BLF has its own. I am not feeling there are any ideological differences between the BLA and BLF.
As a liberation movement we are trying our best to create good relations, not only with the UBA and the BLA, but all those groups, all those organizations who believe in the freedom of Balochistan.
What is the source of divisions within the Baloch resistance? Is it over resources or the type of government the different groups would like to see in a free Balochistan? Is it about borders? Do tribal chiefs in less progressive areas have different goals?
Dr. Nazar: Basically, madam, we all believe in a free Balochistan. A free Balochistan would be a welfare state. We want a free judiciary. We want education for all Baloch people. We believe in peaceful co-existence and are entirely opposed to the possession of chemical, biological and other weapons which threaten humanity. But as you know, in various parts of Balochistan there are tribal areas and pockets of tribal areas. There is the problem of tribal chiefs. Sometimes their egos emerge…sometimes they create hurdles as they are in the pockets of the establishment. But the common Baloch, not only in Makran, but in all of Balochistan, believes in a Baloch welfare state. The Baloch political activists who are pro-freedom and those who are fighting militancy in Balochistan for freedom, we freedom fighters, we progressive people, all over Balochistan, are trying our best to educate our people…to bring them on one platform. We’ve received a very positive response.
Baloch common people have a sense of nationalism. Our common Baloch love freedom, they love their culture, they love their code of honor, so I think…it is my opinion as a freedom fighter—a soldier of freedom on the ground—that it will not be a hurdle for us. In the future, you will see, inshaallah, within a decade of Baloch independence, people will witness that these tribal chiefs won’t be a hurdle standing in the way of the progress of Balochistan as a free state. The tribal chiefs will not be a hurdle in front of the social development of Balochistan.
There is not any sense of tribalism now. Nationalism has overcome the sense of tribalism. So in the rest of Balochistan, as you are indicating, in those areas where tribal people are living…I see it clearly that the tribal chiefs have no influence without the help of the state and without the help of the I.S.I.
Now what are they doing with the help of ISI? I will give you this simple example. The Chief of Jalawan, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, he’s living in Anjeera, that’s his hometown. But the whole town is pro-freedom and has freedom fighters. So with the help of the state, for the last three years, Sanaullah Zehri has demolished more than 100 houses—bulldozed them. But the people have not migrated. The people have not surrendered in front of the power of the state and Sanaullah Zehri. Now more and more Baloch are joining the ranks of the liberation movement. It is a clear example that powerful tribal chiefs like Sanaullah Zehri, the Chief of Jalawan, and Aslam Raisani, the Chief of Sarawan, are losing influence.
I understand that some Baloch tribal leaders benefit from the extraction of resources, like coal in Bolan, for example. Do they share any of the revenue with the liberation movement? Or is the liberation movement financed primarily from abroad? Is the revenue from resources, in general, extracted for the use of the wealthy?
Dr. Nazar: No, no. As you heard, the coal mines in Bolan–the Pakistani state is plundering them. And yes we have heard that some tribal chiefs are getting money through extortion, but that is not going to be used in the interest of the liberation movement. Mostly the money goes into the personal pockets of those who receive the money
What about the Pashtun? What, if any, discussions are being held with the Pashtun who would be impacted by a free Balochistan, for example, border issues?
Dr. Nazar: There is a problem, not only for Pashtuns, but also Baloch. In 1893 the imperialist powers demarcated a line called the Durand Line. The line has divided the Pashtun and the Baloch. A part of the population of Balochistan is also lying in Afghanistan and a huge population of Pashtuns is living on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. So the Durand Line is not acceptable for us, nor for Pashtuns, and world powers should consider re-demarcating the lines in the natural shape of the states of Balochistan and Pashtunistan. I think it is the solution to the problem which is facing the world now. The world, the civilized world, should support a free Balochistan—-Balochistan as a buffer state between two theocratic states; one is Iran on this side of Balochistan and Pakistan on the eastern side. They both have been created in the name of religion. Balochistan as a buffer state would not only solve many issues but it would also help the rest of the world. I think a buffer Baloch state is the only solution. It will have positive impacts on Afghanistan, on Central Asia and also Southeast Asia. I think the West will get positive benefits.
Do you have any relationship with the Kurds?
Dr. Nazar: No, unfortunately, we don’t have any communications with the Kurds, but historically we and the Kurds are from the same race. Kurds and Baloch are cousins, you could say. So unfortunately, we both have a nation without a state. I think the world should realize that in the Middle East the Kurds must be a state as they have been struggling for a long time, and the Baloch also.
Anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Nazar: It is a very alarming situation here in Balochistan. You people are living very far away, but here in Balochistan it’s a totally difficult situation and story, but the news never reaches outside of Balochistan.
Religious fundamentalism is growing, and supported by Pakistan’s ISI and its ex-agents like Hamid Gul, like Mirza Aslam Beg, General Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister of Frontiers, and ex-Colonel Imam-—they are all involved with the growth of the fundamentalists. I would like to send a message to the civilized world and democratic and secular enlightened nations that if they do not look at the situation in Balochistan, which is growing worse day by day, it will be a problem not only for the Baloch nation, for the Baloch liberation movement, but also for India, Saudi Arabia, for Central Asia, for the Middle East, for America, even the West, Britain and Europe. The Europeans, the USA and other democratic and civilized people should help the Baloch liberation movement. A free Baloch state is in the interest of the whole world. That’s my message.
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Links to reports related to ISIS in Pakistan:
September 12, 2014: Pakistan denies presence of ISIS supporters in the country;
September 3, 2014: Spillover effect: ISIS makes inroads into Pakistan;
August 26, 2014: Hard-Line Splinter Group, Galvanized by ISIS, Emerges From Pakistani Taliban;
July 28, 2014: Will the Islamic State Spread Its Tentacles to Pakistan?;
July 13, 2014: ISIS inspiring Pakistani militants, says expert;
July 9, 2014: Pakistani terror group becomes ‘first jihadi group to defect to ISIS outside of Middle East’ as leader al-Baghdadi’s influence grows
Courtesy: Crisis Baluchistan