Dedicated activists, disheartened by disunity, are withdrawing into themselves while some are forming factions as if there were not enough already
Early in November last year, when the United Baloch Army (UBA) reported that it had been attacked by members of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), one of its commanders had been killed and four of its fighters captured, there was speculation that this spelt the end of the insurgency in Balochistan. There was undisguised jubilation in some quarters at this sad development. The question is: does this signal the end of the headache for Pakistan as many want to believe and would love to see happen? Let us examine.
Historically, the Baloch resistance was never a monolithic entity. In the past, pockets of resistance were too far away from each other and communications through couriers took weeks if not months so there has always been a very loose arrangement and unity with the singular aim being to resist the denial of rights and oppression by the Pakistani state. The lack of modern means of communication kept unity limited and therefore differences too.
The latest round of resistance restarted around the year 2002 and, like in the past, began in the Marri area where the kernel of resistance had been preserved. After Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s confrontation with the state and his consequent martyrdom in August 2006, resistance groups strove to preserve the Baloch identity and resist aggression. The BLA was there, Dr Allah Nazar’s Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) was active too and the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) was formed. There was cooperation among the three and this had the establishment worried no end but, unfortunately, with the martyrdom of Balach Marri in November 2008, this cooperation ebbed.
The increasing cooperation between the resistance groups needled the establishment as they knew this cooperation would endanger their already tenuous hold. It was in 2007-2008 that Pakistan started a four-pronged attack on the Baloch resistance. The first was to physically eliminate actual or suspected Baloch activists; even a whiff of suspicion carried a death warrant and with it began the institutionalised and systematic ‘dirty war’ against the Baloch. The second was to create fissures within the existing groups, which was quite easy due to infiltration and plants because these groups were led by relatively new leaders and their recruits’ vetting was inadequate. Anybody loudly denouncing oppression qualified. The third was the organising and funding of death squads like those of Shafiq Mengal to counter the nationalists. Last but not the least was the state sponsorship of madrassas (seminaries) to bring about a change in the social ethos of traditionally secular Baloch society.
The extravagant use of brute force and money started to have an effect and this was reinforced by the easy accessibility of social media where anybody with a fake identity said whatever he/she wanted with impunity. Social media, due to its novelty, easy access and apparent credibility, was effectively used to create confusion and disenchantment through spreading misinformation. The accusations, slander and untruths against the Baloch resistance on the cyber waves are mindboggling and this has done more damage than anything else by demoralising the cadre who do not have access to information that can help put their doubts to rest. No one can control social media; the slander and accusations continue to putrefy the atmosphere as anyone posing as anyone else can continue it. The Pakistani establishment is deeply involved in this as it has seen this bear fruit. This is compounded by a blanket ban on Baloch websites by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Acceptance of all that is put on social media as truth undermines the resistance and unfortunately this will continue unless there is serious literature around to debunk the distortions but that will only happen when the cadre re-learn to read books instead of spending all their time on social media.
There indeed are deep differences between the BLF, UBA and BRA on one side and the BLA on the other. Then there were other issues of cooperation that demanded flexibility but rigidness prevailed and, eventually, cyber-warriors and loose cannons muddied the environment to the extent that the BLF in retaliation came out with a statement terming the BLA as an obstacle to the resistance and vice versa. These exchanges have become more marked since the death of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Khan Marri. It seems attempts to reconcile them have not borne fruit. These differences have seeped into student organisations too and this does not auger well for the resistance. Efforts for reconciliation are not being responded to so only a drawing back by the opposing sides themselves can lead to reconciliation.
The differences and disunity among the leaders is confounding the people and activists are giving up in despondency and frustration. Dedicated activists, disheartened by disunity, are withdrawing into themselves while some are forming factions as if there were not enough already. Those who sympathise with the Baloch resistance are worried by the frequent outbursts against each other and these differences undermine international sympathy as well. No one sympathises with bickering organisations; those who cannot put their house in order cannot hope that others will support them. Supporters have a very short tolerance capacity. They do not like to suffer fools. This rift is taking its toll in Balochistan as well as outside it. The consequences of the rift and fracture are dire. Moreover, Pakistan has stepped up persecution.
In a previous piece I wrote, “If the leaders want to become more than a footnote of ‘had fought’ in Balochistan’s history, they will have to change their ways and change them soon. Only those who love themselves and their self-interest more than Balochistan will find it hard to unite. Egos and differences need to be put aside. All organisations have a responsibility towards the Baloch people to serve them and the motherland selflessly and if they fail in their task of serving and leading the people, history will not forgive them.”
All said, will all these differences and problems mean the end? I do not think so because, as I said, the movement is not monolithic and, moreover, the struggle is larger than any organisation or individual and has found a place in the hearts and minds of the Baloch people because they have come to realise that their salvation lies in the struggle’s success. Any organisation or individual that goes against the people’s wishes is sooner rather than later bound to be rejected and the present crisis on which some have shown jubilation are in for a huge disappointment.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy: Daily Times