A Baloch Militant in Delhi

Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan, has been ravaged by militancy for more than six decades.  Even as the sec

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A Baloch Militant in Delhi

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The Question of Balochistan
About the Author

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Published by Westland Publications Private Limited 61, 2nd Floor, Silverline Building, Alapakkam Maduravoyal, Chennai 600095



Westland and the Westland logo are the trademarks of Westland Publications Private Limited, or its affiliates. Copyright © Kallol Bhattacherjee, 2018 The views and opinions expressed in this work are the author’s own and the facts are as reported by her/him, and the publisher is in no way liable for the same. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

For Amita Chakraborty & Keshab Bhattacharya, my parents who introduced me to the global map...

Contents The Question of Balochistan Notes About the Author

The Question of Balochistan The unending strife between India and Pakistan entered a kind of recess in December 2017. As a special gesture, coinciding with the festive season around Xmas, Islamabad granted India’s request for the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet him. In March 2016, Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian Navy official, and now a death row prisoner, was ‘arrested’ for planning attacks in the province of Balochistan, a mountainous desert administered by Pakistan. India had vociferously protested against what it termed a case of unlawful detention, and alleged that he was ‘kidnapped’ from the Iranian side of ‘Balochistan’, where he ran a business at the port of Chabahar, located on the Gulf of Oman. As was widely reported in the press, despite the so-called special gesture, the meeting between Jadhav, his mother, and wife did not go well—Pakistan showed discourtesy to the two women, and something which more than diplomatic impropriety, was viewed as a cultural affront. In the backdrop of the unfolding case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, and his alleged activities in Balochistan, I had an opportunity which comes but rarely to a foreign affairs reporter. I met a man from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an outfit that was branded as a terrorist organisation by Pakistan after its cadre had carried out attacks against its former president, General Pervez Musharraf in 2005.i Even as I was planning to meet the mysterious Baloch rebel, Indo-Pak ties were at their worst. Allegations and rebuttals were flying thick and fast — Pakistan used Jadhav’s video confession to prove that India was fomenting terrorism in Balochistan, a claim

which was strongly rubbished in India. Amongst several other reasons, argued experts, how difficult was it for Pakistan to make a hapless Indian sing in custody? Given the circumstances, my meeting with the Baloch man gained more significance, for I wanted to know first-hand what he thought of India’s ‘alleged’ role in Balochistan, and Indians, in general. However, not for a second did the thrill of meeting him make me forget that it was the first time when an active insurgent from Balochistan, a man who had fought the Pakistan Army in the mountains, had agreed to speak about his life and mission to an Indian journalist in New Delhi. Finally, I met him — he asked me to call him Qazi, just that, no surname, which was odd for a fugitive, considering he was a marked man and I’d presumed, must have had several aliases! I was readying myself for the dialogue and imagined all kinds of things, but as it turned out, he appeared, for the lack of any other word, ‘normal’. Qazi left me little scope to initiate the conversation; he wove a compelling narrative, and laid out the background of his armed struggle. The hot Uzbeki naan was perfect for the early winter Delhi dinner on 26 November 2017. There were just two guests at this special dinner —the Baloch rebel, and I. An hour before dinner, I’d reached a shop in Lajpat Nagar (a well-known South Delhi colony) which had Persian or Farsi alphabets painted on its facade. I then proceeded to dial a number which was given to me by an anonymous online Baloch source. A few minutes later, a twenty-something man came out of a housing society in the locality and escorted me to a first floor flat. Dressed in a sky-blue shalwar, seated cross-legged on a bed, was the man I had been waiting to meet for months. A surgical mask covered his face. A pile of medicines and the odour of disinfectant in the room was evidence that the man had recently undergone a medical procedure. ‘Hamara tallukh BLA sey hai,’ (I am affiliated to the BLA) said the Baloch rebel, uttering the unmentionable — the organisation certified as a terror group in Pakistan. I responded with a nod, almost

saying: why else would I be here! We began talking after going past the initial hesitation, and the food worked as a perfect foil in taking our conversation forward. Two plates of chicken curry were kept on his bed which served as a dinner table for the evening. His curry was without salt. A plate of palak-paneer was brought in only for me. ’The doctor has advised me to avoid salt and spices for sometime. So, my assistant cooks the chicken with just tomatoes,’ he said inviting me to join in the dinner. After a few bites of the curry from the plate, he tore the naan with his fingers and dipped it in the palak-paneer curry and paused, as if caught between the temptation to eat spicy food, and the desire to survive following a complex kidney transplant operation. His hands were shaking even as he abruptly dropped the naan. ‘No, I shouldn’t eat it as yet. The doctor hasn’t allowed me to begin eating such stuff,’ he said. The next moment, he insisted I address him as ‘Baloch’, and avoid using the nom de guerre, ‘Qazi’. ‘We are all soldiers,’ he announced by way of an explanation how every Baloch fighter takes on a special name once he becomes a rebel. I noticed how the Baloch was playing the perfect host; oblivious of the fact that it was he who was a guest in Delhi. During dinner, I finally caught a glimpse of his face when he removed his surgical mask. The long spell of illness had left dark circles under and around his eyes, but they still had an innocence about them. The Baloch was a short man with a large face, framed by remarkably large eyes that shifted constantly. He looked emaciated, obviously because of the illness, but his thick neck was evidence that he must have possessed good health at one time. Before our meeting, he’d spent several months in virtual solitary confinement in South Delhi — his only companion was his ‘comrade’, who had also fought for the liberation of Balochistan. Qazi’s real identity was obviously kept hidden from his doctors who probably treated him like another Urdu-speaking Afghan requiring a kidney transplant.

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is one of the most dreaded separatist outfits in the nation’s struggle for independence from Pakistan. According to several institutes that study and watch militant groups across the world, the BLA consists of approximately 6,000 members, and several sympathisers.ii It is well known that for many years now, Pakistan has pointed fingers at India and its consulates in Afghanistan, of extending support to the BLA. Before meeting Qazi, I had read up the latest on the BLA, that its core aim was to secure regional autonomy. But Qazi pointed out the information available online to be inaccurate, and said that they now demanded nothing less than complete freedom from Pakistan. ‘It’s a war now. They don’t spare us, and we don’t spare them.’ On the one hand, if Pakistan accused India of creating trouble in Balochistan, there were reports that Baloch rebels were also backed by a few Western Intelligence agencies. But it needs to be mentioned here that none of these accusations have ever been proven, despite the shrill debates on Pakistan’s television channels. ‘The doctors in India have been very nice to me. It took me a while to find a kidney donor, but once I did, there was yet another problem. I had to prove my relationship with the donor, and that took a long time,’ he said. I was getting used to Qazi. Strangely, a few hours after our meeting, he began looking healthy to me, and definitely not someone who’d had a kidney transplant recently. ‘The doctors often asked me: “Where is the patient?”’ he said laughing loudly. I asked him if it was because of what he had eaten all his life — bread, meat and khurud, the nutritious Baloch diet that is a robust mix of proteins, calcium and carbohydrates — which made him look far healthier than an average man with his medical condition. He just smiled at my question, as if all that belonged to a different time and suddenly turned morose. He recalled what he’d lost — his family, livelihood, and a past which sounded familiar to me. The Baloch aka Qazi went to Balochistan Residential College, a quasi-governmental institute in the mining town of Khuzdar. It was during this phase when he and his best friend were indoctrinated and joined the rebels. Qazi pulled out his mobile phone and said to me,

‘He is here. In my phone all the time,’ and showed me a pencil sketch of a young Baloch man, his friend who had died fighting the war. ‘College was so charming. We weren’t even aware of the hardships which existed around us. By the year 2000 I’d passed out of college, even as the movement was beginning to take shape.’ Qazi soon turned into a full-fledged revolutionary insurgent mainly due to three reasons: radical teachings and propaganda amongst his peers; the overall tension in his community; and most importantly, General Pervez Musharraf, who was bitterly opposed to Baloch radicals and didn’t spare a single opportunity to target them. But Qazi kept his ‘crossing over’ a well-guarded secret, because of his mother. ‘But Ammi got to know. I don’t know how she figured out. But she was very proud that I was fighting for the rights of my people. She always prayed for our safety,’ said Qazi. Once he joined the movement, his life changed overnight, and so did his understanding of Balochistan. He wanted change in his country, but the war had altered everything around him, including his family which disintegrated. At war, he had to acquire a new identity; he had a new name. ‘My name is not important. We are all soldiers, fighting for our motherland. We neither want to be big leaders, nor follow the sardar (chieftain) culture any more in the way that prevailed for hundreds of years in our society. The younger generation needs change.’ All of a sudden, Qazi looked old and fatigued. I realised that he had lived the life of a militant for over a decade, hiding like a fugitive for many years from the Pakistan army and its law enforcement agencies. The cruel mountains of Balochistan must have taken its toll, I asked him. He described the mountains of Balochistan as a ‘shield’, and extolled the fabulous wildlife which he said was fast depleting. Qazi recalled the good old days of cooking a Baloch delicacy called sajji, which was made out of a whole lamb, with his fellow-rebels. The lamb would be cut and placed on hot charcoals with just salt. This smoky lamb dish which cooked in its own fat was one of the main sources of animal protein for the Baloch, said Qazi. In camps,

militants would cook it only during the day to avoid getting detected by Pakistani helicopter gunships that often hovered around. Those were happy days, he said. Then there were days when there would be no food as the Pakistan army would choke all supplies to teach the rebels a lesson. But somehow, the rebels still managed to eat. ‘Here in Delhi, the days are long and lonely, and the meals are tasteless,’ he complained like a child. ‘But I’m determined to survive to go back and fight.’ It was a mystery how the Baloch, who had spent most of the last decade either hiding in the mountains of western Balochistan or Afghanistan, had reached Delhi in the summer of 2017 and spent more than six months getting treatment for his ailment. Was his fight against Pakistan also because it followed a kind of Islam which was alien to him? I asked him. ‘We are Muslims, but our faith is syncretic. Hindus too have been part of Balochistan all through history. Religious fundamentalism is alien to us.’ The BLA is not just another insurgent movement in a clutch of many that took root in and around Pakistan. It is one of the oldest dating back to the Cold War era when both its ideology and leaders took birth. My focus returned to Qazi, reportedly an important player in BLA’s Khuzdar operations. He explained how they fought Pakistani forces. ‘They would target us with helicopter gunships and would typically choose a valley or a gap in the mountains, which are vulnerable spots. After attacking us with rockets, they would unleash the commandos to do the rest,’ he said. Our conversation on war and insurgency often turned surreal with the background noise of toy-salesmen, barking dogs, auto-rickshaws, and gleeful children who make Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar come alive in the afternoons and early evenings. Away from the fear-mongering and talk of the Indian hand creating mischief in Balochistan, the real question was to ensure that there is some semblance of peace restored in the region. This came into

sharp focus when I heard Qazi’s ordeal and for a moment forgot that I was speaking with a dreaded militant-in-hiding. It was clear that despite Qazi’s obsession towards securing freedom for his country, the harsh life in the mountainous terrain had taken its toll. I was told by my sources that before his arrival in Delhi, Qazi could barely walk or even, urinate. The excruciating pain had left him nearly crippled. ‘How did you make it to Delhi?’ I asked him. ‘Sab kuch hamare logon ke support sey hota hai,’ (Everything happens due to the support of our people), he said. His journey to Delhi, locating a donor, finding a house, and other logistics — everything was taken care by his Baloch friends who lived scattered across the world. I had learnt from reliable sources how Qazi had barely made it on time for his treatment and the surgery. In the summer of 2017, like thousands of passengers, Qazi had arrived by an international flight, and then walked past the immigration counter of the Indira Gandhi International Airport. ‘Just imagine how much fun the security agencies in Pakistan would have derived if I had flown via Lahore airport?’ said Qazi chuckling at the mere thought of it. On a serious note, the war had confined him and other Baloch rebels to a tiny, impregnable territory. On the one hand were the hostile Pakistan forces, and on the other, the porous Iran-AfghanPakistan tri-junction, which gave them the option of melting into southern Afghanistan where they had a solid network. As a wanted man, he obviously couldn’t have travelled via Pakistan, and it appeared to me that he had passed through a friendly third country on an assumed identity and procured ‘customised’ travel documents. Did he come via Afghanistan? Or did he travel through a Central Asian or a West Asian country? If not, then how did he land in the heart of Delhi? The answer was swift. ‘We have been fighting since 1948 and one of the main reasons that we lost our previous battles is because our chief supporter, Afghanistan, has been caught in an internal war,’ he said. But then it was also true that unless he had support from his Baloch friends in Afghanistan, Qazi couldn’t have travelled to Delhi and taken a house in Lajpat Nagar where one finds a heavy concentration of Afghans.

At this point, sensing my curiosity about his modus operandi, he hinted that ‘help’ meant getting his Baloch contacts on the Afghan side to arrange for the necessary travel documents to India. He smiled at me and avoided direct eye contact when I asked him if the Afghan government or sections in the government were sympathetic to the cause of the Baloch freedom struggle. Without stressing the point, he said cryptically, ‘They have their own problems. We don’t want anything from them and are proud that they have set an example by resisting the enemy consistently.’ I was fine with him not being open about his Afghan connection, but stressed on the point of what the ‘other side’ meant — a welloiled machinery comprising an international support system which included, Afghans, exiled Baloch, and some local Indians who were probably unaware of the visitors’ identity? So, was this the other side? I asked him yet again. ‘The other side is a broad alliance. The enemy is clever and they have cornered Afghanistan since a long time because they know that the Afghans were historically friendly with the Baloch. Please remember that there was no Pakistan before 1947. But the Baloch and the Afghans shared friendly ties before that,’ he said in appreciation of Afghanistan’s overall contribution to the Baloch cause. I wanted to ask Qazi—then, why didn’t he avail of medical treatment in Kabul? There are several hospitals that provide decent medical facilities in Kabul. Even the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, perhaps the best example of India’s medical diplomacy, also treats adults under emergency circumstances. But the next moment, I remembered how hospitals in Afghanistan had been attacked in the past, and perhaps wasn’t suitable for a rebel Baloch leader. A few weeks prior to Qazi’s Delhi visit, a major attack on Kabul’s military hospital had left scores dead, including fifty patients and doctors. The war in Afghanistan had crossed every imaginable limit, because even critically-ill patients were viewed as targets by terror groups. Investigations had later revealed that the so-called Islamic State (IS) of Afghanistan was behind the heinous attack, but what was most surprising was that while leaving, the attackers were heard raising slogansiii in support of the Taliban.

‘Taliban is a threat to us and they have often targeted us in the past,’ said Qazi, and explained why he couldn’t have been in a Kabul hospital. To say that every Baloch rebel lived a dangerous life would be to state the obvious – there was a war on the one side, and on the other the repercussions of it, which were even more dangerous. ‘Seldom does one die if shot in the shoulder. But one of my friends did because we couldn’t get him any medical help. He just bled to death,’ said Qazi. So, why fight? I wanted to ask him and pulled back knowing full well that he would have stopped the interview. This was a war for independence, as he had said. I kept mulling over the point—what if he had joined the other Baloch faction in Pakistan which he described as, ‘Pakistan-parast’ (to mean, devoted to Pakistan). I noticed that despite the physical and mental pain, Qazi was emotionally charged during the interview. But what soon became apparent was that his rage wasn’t an outcome of emotional tumult alone; it flowed from cold conviction. He firmly believed that only an armed insurrection will deliver justice to the Baloch people and free them from age-old shackles. He was convinced that it was imperative to question his own society and its ties with Pakistan. ‘The traditional society of Balochistan was more effective as the sardars were elected through a democratic process and the best of the lot was nominated the head, without giving hereditary succession any significance. But the process changed with the arrival of Robert Groves Sandeman, the British colonial administrator of Balochistan. It was he who introduced the hereditary system,’ said Qazi. Prior to the arrival of the British, the most effective, i.e., the ‘strongest’ male was nominated as the sardar. But the Colonial powers altered the traditional system in order to establish their hegemony over the Baloch, and began perpetuating dynastic rule. This was true because Sandeman, who is best known for his role during the First War of Independence, introduced a system known as ‘Sandemisation’ that was established in Balochistan between 1877-1947. Qazi, who clearly belonged to a new generation of Baloch fighters, not only wanted to end the existing system and also thereby

Pakistan’s hegemony over his country, but also change kawailey, or the system of selecting sardars. He was against every symbol of tribal power. This was indeed ironical, because on the one hand, Baloch nationalism was primarily championed by sardars such as, Ataullah Mengal, Nawab Akbar Bugti and so on, yet the new generation of fighters like my Baloch host felt that the sardars had outlived their relevance. ‘We acknowledge that they have played a role in the past. But we demand that in the future, there should be no space for religious, tribal and sectarian identities, as also the sardar system in Balochistan.’ The role of social media in modern warfare was something I wanted to highlight because Qazi was not only a veteran in field warfare, but ran a robust civil liberties social media campaign for Baloch activists. ‘I am thirty-six years old and left home in 2007 when I was all of twenty-six. I haven’t met my family members ever since, although I have stayed in touch with them.’ Between Pakistan and his chosen borderless existence, Qazi has lived more than one life. His identity was most often hidden, and he avoided being photographed as he operated at a level which required anonymity. The curious world of Qazi was divided into two segments. As mentioned earlier, on the one hand was the group of sardars who were with Pakistan. ‘One is Pakistan-parast, the second is azadi-parast. All the parliamani (literally, parliamentary; elected to the parliament) sardars like Pakistan’s former minister of maritime infrastructure, Haasil Bizenjo, the ex-chief minister of Balochistan, Sanaullah Khan Zehri, are Pakistan-parast. Whereas, Hyrbyair Marri (who lives in London and runs the Free Balochistan Movement, or FBM), and Brahumdagh Bugti are azadi-parast,’ he said. The difference being that the former were supporters of Pakistan, while the latter, of autonomy or complete freedom. Qazi insisted yet again that his ultimate aim was to make Balochistan independent, from both Pakistan and the local sardars, and that he and his comrades weren’t part of any traditional social group, and relied on those who were committed to their cause.

‘From our food, to our safety in the mountains, everything is part of a closely-guarded secret,’ he said. Living in the harsh mountains and sworn to independence was indeed romantic, but did an educated man like him miss the pull of big cities like Karachi, or Khuzdar? ‘I can’t go to Karachi as I am a marked man. I won’t be spared. Please remember, that this is a war. We won’t spare them, and they won’t spare us,’ he said. Therefore, distanced from every other pro-Baloch group, and there are many as we shall discover later, did Qazi and his fellowBaloch rebels only rely on ‘inside’ support? For instance, Fareed, his companion in Delhi, who looked after his leader like a younger brother. ‘His companionship is another miracle. I didn’t know him before my arrival in Delhi. But such are the ways of our lives that we became brothers in Delhi.’ I looked at Fareed who barely spoke. He brought us food and tea, and helped during the interview each time his leader was stuck for the right word. ‘Do you miss your wife, whom you married before leaving home at twenty-six? Do you miss leading a normal life?’ I asked Qazi. ‘No, I don’t,’ said Qazi abruptly and ended the topic. I decided to press on and asked him if he ever thought of being employed, lead a regular life, as many of his peers may have done? Perhaps become a businessman with offices in Karachi and Dubai. Did he feel he had committed a blunder by taking up arms for the cause of ‘liberation’ from Islamabad’s rule? ‘Is it even possible to give up so much that life has to offer?’ I asked him. ‘Hum akele nahi kar rahe hain, sir (I am not the only one, sir). Thousands of men left their homes and now live in the mountains, or in the desert between Afghanistan and Balochistan, or even abroad,’ he explained. ‘We don’t respect artificial borders imposed on Balochistan. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is unjust, and we cross it whenever needed. The mountain is our dost, it helps us, protects us,’ said Qazi and added that the armies on both sides were hamstrung

in negotiating the mountains and the desert that falls between Kandahar and Balochistan. Owing to the atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan, the bond that the Baloch have formed over the last seven decades, has fused the members of the community in a unique way. Every Baloch considers the other his family and tries to help in whatever way possible. His companion Fareed similarly came out of nowhere to help him, as did the kidney donor. I learnt from our common online friend, who wished to be left out from this story that Qazi belonged to a well-known family in Khuzdar and it was therefore easy for the Pakistan military and law enforcement agencies to track him down. No wonder that unlike the stereotypical militant, Qazi was disarmingly polite and there wasn’t a trace of brutality in his tone even as he dismissed any engagement with Pakistan. The Baloch guerrilla was unlike any other I had met so far – be it of the LTTE, or even separatists from Latin America. He was a strange mix of urbane sophistication and rural wisdom. ‘So, how do you like Delhi?’ I asked him. I reckoned Qazi must have felt terribly claustrophobic in that tiny room in Lajpat Nagar, as he was used to the wide expanse of the mountains back home. Qazi’s eyes lit up and he said, ‘I love the city. Everyone has been so helpful. Your city has Pind Balluchi (a restaurant). It makes me nostalgic,’ he said, and added that he wanted to go there one day. He also went to see the India Gate. ‘One visit and then I fell ill. I just couldn’t go anywhere else,’ he said with regret. ‘Pakistan breaks our back; India has given me a new lease of life, a new kidney. As soon as I get well, I’ll return to the mountains to fight. That is the life I’m sworn to till my goals are attained,’ he said. I reminded Qazi about his city, Khuzdar, which is the centre of Brahui culture. ‘But Brahui is not taught in schools,’ said Qazi sounding deeply aggrieved the way both his culture and language were neglected. ‘In Pakistan’s Punjab, the Baloch people are shown in a bad light.’ At this point, I asked him if he would ever consider peaceful means of protest. ‘After all, even Pakistan has some stellar human

rights activists. Is it possible to follow that path and get what you want?’ I asked him. He looked terribly disappointed at my suggestion and said, ‘You have no idea what we have faced all these years.’ As Qazi raised his voice, it cracked and his hands trembled, but he continued to sit cross-legged, determined to complete his narration. His story began in August 2006 in the backdrop of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing by the Pakistan army. In early 2005, the situation in Balochistan had turned volatile overnight after an officer of the Pakistan army had allegedly raped a Baloch doctor at the Sui gas field, in the district of Dera Bugti in Balochistan. Akbar Khan Bugti, chief of a powerful tribe and a former governor of the province, perceived the rape as a severe insult to his clansmen and took it upon himself to save the honour of his people. In the ensuing fight, gas supplies to Pakistan was severely curtailed and in retaliation, President Pervez Musharraf had deployed fortyfive hundred armed soldiers with tanks and helicopters to crush the Baloch men. ‘They will not know what hit them,’ he had thundered on TV.iv On 26 August 2006, the much-revered septuagenarian Akbar Bugti was brutally killed after the Pakistan Air Force had carried out strikes near a mountain close to Quetta. It was his gruesome death which had finally propelled Qazi to pick up arms against Pakistan. An entire generation of young Baloch were so overcome with rage that they had sworn to avenge his death and restore dignity to their nation. ‘We suddenly realised that people like us would have no security in Pakistan if someone like Akbar Bugti could be killed,’ said Qazi. After leaving home in 2007, Qazi lived the life of a militant in Khuzdar. Three years later, in October 2010, his youngest sibling, Majeed was abducted, and killed. Qazi pulled out a poster, which I learnt was commonly displayed in Khuzdar, which had pictures of his father and two brothers who’d died fighting in the mountains. After he left Khuzdar, Qazi took refuge in the mountains and soon adjusted to a new life. ‘Rebels have lived in the mountains

since the 1940s and our comrades followed a system that has been perfected over time. Life is challenging, but manageable in the mountains,’ said Qazi, making it sound easy, when it was far from the truth. It was well known that he had put his entire family at a grave risk and their transport business had taken a severe beating. Then on 2 February 2012, his father was shot dead by masked assassins who came riding on bikes. Qazi had his father’s picture in his phone which showed the old man’s body riddled with several bullets, while a pre-pubescent and dead Majeed looked pitiably innocent. But of all the deaths in his family, the most tragic was Nisar Zehri’s. Qazi raised his hands in prayer, ‘I buried him in the mountains with these two hands after he died fighting the Pakistan military. I am the eldest in the family and did not tell our mother that my brother was dead for a whole year.’ Subsequently, Qazi also lost two uncles and a cousin to the Pakistani security forces. I did some quick checks and figured that Qazi aka Mr Baloch was none other than the eldest son of Mohammed Ramzan Zehri, who was considered to be one of the most prosperous businessmen in Balochistan. ‘We owned a transport business in Khuzdar and my father ran it for many years,’ said Qazi as if reading my thoughts. The story of Qazi and his kid-brother, Nisar may resonate with those who are familiar with the practise of ‘revenge’ in societies which follow their own system of jurisprudence. This is not to endorse what they do or follow, but it is a fact that in certain communities in the subcontinent, avenging the death of a kinsman or protecting the honour of a close relative takes precedence over everything else. Therefore, although Akbar Bugti’s gruesome assassination was indeed the trigger for Qazi to join the ranks of the outlawed, it was also the deaths of his father and brothers which turned him into a renegade. I was reminded of yet another band of brothers who belonged to a country which was ironically central to Qazi’s narrative — the Bhutto siblings, Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, somehow evoked memories of the Zehri duo, Qazi and Majeed.

After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was killed in prison, described variously as a ‘judicial murder’, his sons had launched a violent struggle to avenge the death of their father. Although the Bhutto brothers had a solid international network, it was alleged that in sheer desperation, Murtaza had even reached out to India for help. A little distance away from where Qazi was recuperating in Delhi, a former diplomat who was a young officer posted in the Indian embassy of Athens in 1980, recounted how one day Murtaza Bhutto had walked in demanding a visa for India. However, later events proved what finally happened to the Bhutto brothers, consumed as they were by the politics of hate. I pointed out the uncanny similarities to Qazi, who said, ‘Ours was one of the many families that were affected. Every family has a story of hardship and suffering at the hands of the Pakistani military. We are not part of Pakistan; even our independence day is not on the same day. We continue to celebrate 11 August as the day of Baloch independence,’ he said.v ‘The situation in Balochistan is such that everyone has to be armed,’ said Qazi. I intervened to remind him about the dominance of Baloch sardars in their society. Qazi disagreed vehemently and added, ‘No. The struggle in Balochistan is not just for, or by the sardars. It belongs to everybody.’ The Baloch have paid a heavy price in terms of human rights violation. According to some estimates, thousands are either missing or considered dead. So, was there no hope? I asked him. ‘This is part of the accepted norm. They can pick up anyone from home and no one knows what happens to that person. One often finds a note on a dead body: “Indian dogs will meet this fate.” We the Baloch are neither Indian nor Pakistanis. We are Baloch. But by calling us Indian, they get a legitimate reason to kill us. In the course of building Pakistan, Islamabad somehow forgot to add Balochistan. We therefore need you. Please spread the word of our condition,’ he pleaded, the dreaded militant from across the border. If one had to draw a profile of Qazi, then it was clear that he was a suave militant – adept at handling technology, and also an effective communicator who spoke Urdu, Brahui, Hindi and English, and most

importantly, Farsi which helped him connect with men on both sides of the Afghan-Pak border. He regularly tracked the social media accounts of journalists and reportedly at one time, even had a Twitter account. One night, Qazi disappeared from Delhi. I later discovered that he was forced to leave India on 4 December 2017 as his ‘travel documents’ had run its course. I received a cryptic message that he had gone to be with his ‘friends’. I later realised that he’d flown the coop to be with the Baloch diaspora somewhere abroad, and was expected to maintain a low profile for some time. My meeting with Qazi wouldn’t have been possible without the source who’d led me to him. Initially, for reasons of mutual interest, I didn’t feel the need to prod him about his identity simply because the ‘source’ whose area of interest appeared to be confined to medical tourism, introduced me to Qazi without even bothering to ask why I wanted to meet the man. Some time after Qazi’s departure, I learnt that his name was Qazi Naseebullah Baloch, who was an important figure in the struggle for Balochistan’s freedom. For a long time, the details of the rebel’s visit and treatment remained a tightly guarded secret and no one had a clue that he was in Delhi, because since the Nineties, India has been a preferred medical destination for several Pakistanis, and patients belonging to other nationalities seeking medical recourse. However, unlike others, the rebel Baloch, Qazi, was also a wanted man caught in the vortex of a freedom struggle with India’s decades-long enemy, Pakistan. Was it worth taking so much trouble? I asked him. Does he rue over the fact that he had to travel thousands of miles to seek treatment in India? ‘We, the Baloch are intelligent and hard-working people. We don’t require anyone’s support. We are capable of treating ourselves. The only help that we need is to educate our youngsters in modern science and medicine so that we can build good hospitals in our land,’ he said. Ironically, even as the ailing rebel was stationed in Delhi, the biggest attack in recent years was carried out by his fellow-rebels. We discussed one such attack on an evening even as news filtered in from Balochistan.

The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) in Pakistan handles the crucial China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which connects Pakistan’s mountains with its ports on the Arabian Sea. The outfit comprises high-ranking officials, but the majority are agrarian labourers from the north and northwest regions of the mountainous terrain. On 15 November 2017, the Baloch Liberation Army had mounted a violent attack on the FWO, killing fourteen men. The attack was attributed to BLA and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), and according to some reports, fifteen workers of the FWO were also ‘arrested’ by the BLF from the Kech district of Balochistan. This tragic encounter, which unfortunately did not draw the world’s attention, pitted the poorest of Pakistan against another impoverished bunch. The accusations began to fly thick and fast — the BLF alleged that the onus of stopping the killings lay with Pakistan military, and that it must discontinue with the CPEC which was bringing in outsiders into Balochistan, and turning it into a colony. Suffice it to say that this was the biggest assault on CPEC in recent months, and was evidence that the Baloch war had reached a critical point. On its part, Pakistan resorted to subterfuge and declared that the fifteen men were illegal immigrants who’d died while fleeing to Europe. In turn, the BLF released a video in which the captured men were asked to spell out their names. It was clear – those fifteen were poor Pakistani men who had come to Balochistan seeking work, but were killed in what was clearly, collateral damage. As the Pakistan military began bombarding the mountains, the BLF struck back and on 20 November, carried out yet another attack on FWO. This time the damage was severe, disrupting a bridge which was under construction across the Gazzen river (part of the CPEC project), between Heeronk and Tejaban in Turbat. I glanced at Qazi who seemed proud of the attack. I was wondering if he was even bothered about the final outcome of what was clearly a vicious war. More significantly, one which had consumed many in his family? But he showed no remorse.

Before the deadly attack of 20 November 2017, Balochistan had come into focus on 29 March 2016, the point at which this essay had begun to take shape in my mind. On that day, TV screens across India had come alive with high drama. At the centre of the issue was Kulbhushan Jadhav, who Pakistan claimed was a spy, and was involved in terror strikes and sabotage operations in Balochistan. As mentioned earlier, the spokesperson of the Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) claimed that the man in the video was also a serving Indian Naval officer, thereby holding him up as proof of India’s culpability. The claim was peppered with hyperbole, as Pakistan wanted to desperately prove that India was supporting Baloch fighters who were engaged in a battle against the Pakistani State, and more importantly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that had culminated in the massive port of Gwadar. By the time Qazi arrived in Delhi, Balochistan had become a keyword in Indian foreign policy. It all started on a balmy afternoon of 4 October 2015 during a seminar in the heart of the capital to discuss various secessionist movements in Pakistan. Amongst several other guests, there was a quiet Baloch activist who claimed to belong to the faction led by Hyrbyair Marri, leader of the Free Balochistan Movement. The arrival of this Baloch activist in Delhi hadn’t gone unnoticed. Some reacted with shock, while others said that as reporters, we in the media had overreacted and shouldn’t have played up his arrival. But it was clear to us that there was more than met the eye in this emerging trend of ‘bilateral ties’ between India and Balochistan. Coinciding with the arrival of the Baloch during the seminar was also an intense diplomatic battle between India and China over the latter’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of which CPEC and the province of Balochistan remain critical components. However, as mentioned earlier, such incidents notwithstanding, Pakistan has consistently accused India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan and the Kulbhushan Jadhav episode gave it another stick to beat India with. It initiated an international campaign to paint India as the sponsor for Baloch insurgency.

The two points to ponder here are—should Pakistan, a country which is the cradle for a myriad terror outfits, be given any credence for its theory of India’s culpability in Baloch affairs? Second, are the Baloch in need of such patronage considering they have support from several international bodies? It should also be remembered that the province lies between three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and some parts of the Persian Gulf — and the Baloch have a large presence across South and Southwest Asia. Given these reasons, the Baloch are capable of holding their own against any other country, including Pakistan. However, if India provides humanitarian support to the Baloch movement, then it is a sound diplomatic and humane initiative. For me personally, despite the so-called help from India, it was distressing to see a young man before me, reduced to bones. ‘You need to do more for us. India is the most powerful country in South Asia, and we can help India maintain its natural domination in the region in countering threats from China,’ said Qazi. His emotive appeal for support was shocking because till a few years ago, mainstream Baloch politicians visited India comfortably without bothering about the insurgency back home. For instance, Haasil Bizenjo, the former minister for Maritime Affairs, who’d met me in a Delhi hotel where he was staying during a Track II conference. It’s another matter that he had served as a minister in Pakistan government where his primary responsibility was to ensure the safety of ports, including Gwadar situated in the coast of Balochistan. Meanwhile, the presence of the Baloch activist at the seminar was indication that the times had indeed changed. Delhi had become a preferred destination for rebels, instead of elected representatives, who could remain below the radar and use the city for rest and recuperation. My source in the medical tourism industry had another rebel story to share. Sometime in January 2017, there was a telephone call made to his tiny room in Old Delhi. He had by then earned the moniker of ‘Panditji’ because of his ability to translate Hindi to Brahui. The person on the other side said that a ‘high value’ leader was expected

in India shortly, and a meeting was fixed. After a few days, the phone rang yet again. The ‘high value’ leader had landed in Delhi. ‘This is Saarang Khan. When can we meet?’ The voice on the other side asked ‘Panditji’. Apprehensive of meeting an unknown man who had apparently come from Pakistan, ‘Panditji’ delayed the meeting. Finally, after some insistence by Mr Khan, the meeting took place over cups of tea. Mid-way through the meeting, ‘Panditji’ asked his guest, ‘Saarang, are you really Saarang? Or are you Aslam Baloch, because I have heard of you from friends who come here for treatment.’ Meanwhile, the guest was finishing his tea. Suddenly, Saarang started laughing and exclaimed, ‘You found out! Yes, I am Aslam.’ This was one of the only few ‘known’ meetings that Aslam Baloch had had, who was at the time one of the top leaders of the Baloch Liberation Army. No one really knew how Aslam had procured a visa to enter India, and it is in this light that it may be safe to surmise that perhaps the Indian establishment knew. Qazi and Aslam are both shadowy figures who operate covertly, but with international backing in South Asia. It is widely speculated that they are supported by the powerful National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Intelligence agency of Afghanistan, and travel across the world. (The NDS is considered to be as lethal as the erstwhile Khadamat-e-Aetla’at-e-Dawlati or KHAD in Afghanistan of the 1980s.) Aslam’s visit to India would have remained a secret, had it not been for the storm created in the online Baloch media about the appropriateness of the visit, which was perceived by many as ‘under the radar’ and thereby became a topic of heated debates. I must confess that till his visit, very little was known in India about this insurgent leader from the BLA. What his visit also meant was that the struggle in Balochistan, that had traditionally been in the hands of the sardars, had now transferred to activists and revolutionary leaders. One had to concede — Aslam was the new face of Balochistan and he wasn’t the only one. Therefore India was in a way, getting comfortable with leaders such as Aslam and Qazi visiting, so long as their visits were kept

hidden under a shroud of secrecy. My actual interaction with Baloch rebels began in October 2015, when my eyes had fallen on a notice for an event about the suppressed nationalities of Pakistan in the heart of Delhi, near ITO. I missed the event, but then received a detailed email about it. I was instructed to call a man from the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, whom I then met at the party’s old office at Ashoka Road. It turned out to be a good meeting, and I was impressed with his commitment for giving credence to the voiceless in Pakistan. The politician then gave me the phone number of a man called, Balach Pardili. Like a good, curious reporter, I proceeded to meet Pardili in west Delhi’s Tilak Nagar one October morning. The locality was a typical upwardly mobile Delhi colony, and seemed to suggest that many prosperous Punjabis resided in its narrow alleys in big houses. I soon figured out the reason for the apparent affluence of the colony – it was the hub for providing hospitality for medical tourists from Central Asia and Afghanistan. Several homes in the area rented out their space to foreigners needing medical attention. As a result, over the last few years, the neighbourhood became home to Africans, Afghans, Iranians, and a host of others. For a moment I felt as if I was elsewhere; Tilak Nagar looked nothing like what I had imagined it to be and there were shops, the likes of which I had never seen before – selling African wares, and tiny Afghan teahouses. Balach Pardili lived in this neighbourhood with his family. It wasn’t easy finding his two-room flat in Tilak Nagar’s meandering alleys. After climbing two flight of stairs, I entered his home which was sparsely decorated, but was strewn with objects which immediately reminded me of his origins — Afghan carpets, tea sets and other bric-a-brac. On that day of 4 October, Balach revealed how behind all those trappings of a normal life, was the life of an exiled Baloch in Delhi. Before his arrival in Delhi, Pardili had no idea that hospitals and liberation go hand in hand. His seven years of work as a facilitator and interpreter for visiting Pakistani and Afghan tourists, proved to be an eye-opener for him. He began by making friends with people

who came to Delhi looking for affordable, but excellent medical care, and gradually became a precious source for his community whenever they needed him for medical care, or even other things. Away from his land, in west Delhi’s Tilak Nagar, surrounded by his ailing kinsmen, Balach was fortunate in a way, distanced as he was from the repression faced by his countrymen back home. In his new avatar, Balach was a conduit, an interpreter of Brahui and Farsi. During my meeting with him, I discovered that medical guides like Balach were unique. Despite knowing full well that their jobs were anything but permanent, they went about doing it with utmost dedication. So, Balach Pardili was a medical guide; and he wasn’t. This became evident on a quiet Sunday afternoon when Pardili took a print-out of a brief text and rode the Delhi metro to deliver the first political speech of his life at a seminar titled, ‘Pakistan’s Repression in PoK, Gilgit, Baltistan, Balochistan and Sindh’. Truth be told, it wasn’t really his speech. He was reading out the speech of Hyrbyair Marri, the well-known exiled Baloch leader who’d been living in London for several years. What was unusual about the speech however was that it called for Balochistan’s freedom from Pakistan, and was one of the most dramatic statements made in the capital of India supporting secessionism! It may be recalled that India has always been extremely cautious about political rhetoric emerging from its soil involving any of its neighbouring countries, and particularly political speeches, although academic discussions on the same topic are often not curtailed. Meanwhile, the seminar at which Balach spoke was neither high profile, nor widely advertised. All that was available to the guests were print-outs of online invites that carried the name of the Namo Patrika, an online newspaper that was launched as a platform to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I remember the backdrop vividly which had three pairs of hands clutching a barbed wire. However, it soon became clear that the seminar was supported by Right-wing ideologues and academicians who for years have championed the cause of Sindh, Balochistan and PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) as being part of ‘Akhand Bharat’. But that day, the organisers focussed on the human rights violation of the Baloch people, making Balochistan a compelling case-study.

Balach Pardili’s speech on 4 October 2015 caused a major ripple in Delhi’s diplomatic circles as India was obviously on the defensive – while accusing Pakistan directly about its involvement in fomenting trouble in Kashmir, India seemed reluctant to point out that it co-existed with home-grown insurgencies. The movement for freedom in Balochistan was well known, but what came to the forefront that day was India’s interest in it. In his speech, Balach reiterated how Balochistan was never part of Pakistan, and that it had been forcibly occupied by Pakistan military in 1948, months after 14 August 1947. The government of Pakistan, he said, had carried out five major military campaigns in the province since it’d first moved in to take over. That day in the auditorium, Balach’s passionate appeal had resonated with several people, even as some were left both shocked and awe-struck: Pakistan military over the past 10 years carried out a campaign that led to the disappearance of more than 19,000 Baloch men, women and children from different areas across Balochistan. Thousands of the abducted Baloch have been killed in custody and their bodies were dumped all over Balochistan, Karachi and some other areas of Sindh. The military operations, killing and dumping and the abduction of Baloch activists continue with full intensity. Baloch knocked on all the doors in Pakistan to seek justice for their loved ones but to no avail. They even organised a foot march from Quetta to Islamabad to register their protest with the United Nations – the UN too have ignored their peaceful march and plea for help. I did a series of newspaper stories in 2015 after it became clear that Balach Pardili had become the unlikely hero of a cause that many in India were aware of, but had never quite acknowledged. Surprisingly, the FBM wrote to me protesting against the report, saying that it had nothing to do with the militant organisation called BLO or BLA. I must concede that in my article, I had associated Marri with BLA, as it was well known, but I’d received a terse missive from Faiz Baloch, an

assistant to Marri: ‘If you later wish to publish the interview of Hyrbyair Marri, please do not affiliate him with the BLA or BLO.’ In retrospect, it became evident that Qazi and Marri were two sides of the same coin, albeit in their own distinct ways. Qazi was unapologetic about his cause, whereas the exiled Marri in London, preferred caution. According to Qazi, the BLA was aiming for freedom through an armed struggle, whereas Marri wanted global mobilisation through the FBM. Therefore, if BLA was the fierce face of the Baloch freedom movement, FBM was the moderate face of the struggle. It required Balach to enlighten me that not all Baloch or Afghans arrived in India seeking recovery from physical ailments. Many of them came seeking succour from decades-long oppression, and the medical care in India gave them respite and helped them recover. As far as Qazi was concerned, despite his open gratitude for India’s medical hospitality, there was never a point when he ceased to be the fugitive fighting for his country’s freedom. But, since his visit, he seemed worried about something else — the growing agitational stance amongst young Baloch students and activists. Qazi felt that their violent methods may not bear fruits of a struggle that he had seen unfold in front of his eyes for decades. This was also expressed decades ago by the late Ataullah Mengal, sardar of the Mengal clan, who’d undergone immense personal grief. In an interview to Selig S. Harrison in 1978, Mengal had said: I have no grounds left to plead the case for further efforts to come to an understanding with Pakistan. I tell the students that independence is not possible without a terrible price and might not be possible at all. I tell them that our location makes others feel it is necessary to control us. I ask them: ‘Would you like to change masters? Will that suit you?’ But they still go on talking about independence and working secretly for independence. I tell the students, ‘I won’t oppose you, but I won’t lead you. I’ll be an ordinary follower. Let history judge who is right. You take the responsibility for the blood bath that a struggle for

independence would involve. I can’t take the responsibility of leading you in that direction.’vi I realised that Mengal had a point. The younger lot were more radical and a section of them had already made the ‘impossible choices’vii that Mengal had forewarned about. I’d chanced upon scores of them on the internet; they also exist on Twitter and exchange reams of propaganda material. One such was Beebagar Baloch, with whom I once began a conversation. Initially, the Baloch activist had refused to reveal his location, but after much prodding said that he lived in Germany. But I knew that he could be located anywhere in the world, including Afghanistan or Pakistan, as it was impossible to figure that out on Skype. Soon thereafter, I ascertained that the young Beebagar was indeed a Baloch nationalist and a resident of Germany. I later interacted with several such people online and was convinced that all of them were consumed by a common feeling of fighting Pakistan to the end. Gradually, the new-age online Baloch insurgents increased in number, and today such groups find ready support from the Baloch diaspora spread across the world. I guess that despite Qazi’s initial reservations about the overly combative stance of his brethren, he somewhere understood their impact in the ongoing struggle and said, ‘The younger generation are the core of the ongoing agitation that has been on since 1992 and was intensified after 2001.’ Pakistan’s repeated accusation of India fomenting trouble in Balochistan notwithstanding, it is important to note that the first time the country gained special focus in India was during the rule of UPA II, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was then that various government-backed think tanks and NGOs began inviting prominent speakers from Pakistan like Sengey Hasnain, who strongly condemned his country for harbouring ties with terror groups even at the height of its fight with Taliban-backed terrorism in 2007. It was also around the same time when sundry seminars about subnational groups in Pakistan were organised in Delhi. Although neither the UPA, nor the BJP dispensations support such platforms overtly, it

was clear that this had become yet another reason for Pakistan to be dragged into the quagmire of being labelled a terror State. The situation is best described by the fate of two Baloch groups and their leaders – the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) led by Brahumdagh Bugti, and the Free Balochistan Movement of Hyrbyair Marri. Although both these groups are operational over the ground, neither Bugti nor Marri can live freely in Pakistan. As mentioned earlier, Marri has been living in exile in London, while Bugti lives in Geneva. As of now, several major and splinter groups are fighting for the Baloch cause — while the BLA, and Baloch Liberation Front or BLF, once led by Jumma Khan are physically fighting in the mountains, the Baloch National Movement (BNM), BRP and FBM are involved on the ground. Furthermore, there is also confusion about who exactly leads these groups. For instance, the BNM is led by Khalil Baloch, who is not a sardar; Dr Allah Nazar, former head of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), is said to be the leader of the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF); Aslam Baloch leads the BLA; while Baloch Republican Army or BRA is commanded by Gulzar Imam. The leadership pattern of the various armed and unarmed groups clearly indicates the altered complexion of the movement. Presently, out of the many, only two ‘over-ground’ parties are led by traditional sardars, while the rest are led by fighters drawn from the ranks of the educated, albeit disenchanted, group of Baloch men. It is also obvious that leaders who are the descendants of sardars, like Hyrbyair Marri and Brahumdagh Bugti, have a lot to worry about their traditional bases, and their decreasing relevance in the struggle of Balochistan. As it is the world over, the average young Baloch who is in the eye of the storm in the twenty-first century, is a different breed from the ones who not only witnessed the decades-long insurgency in the early 1970s, but also faced unimaginable brutality from Pakistan. Apart from this social media-aware group of savvy young Baloch, there is also the large émigré community that is fast emerging as an important part of the Baloch freedom movement. In the debate between sardar-led and others helming various movements in

Balochistan, the two leaders who gained much prominence were Qazi and Homayoon Mobaraki. There is no doubt that both men are still devoted to the cause, but as elucidated above, both hail from two different schools of thought. A Swedish citizen, Homayoon represents the traditional sardar-driven politics of resistance, and keeps it alive abroad through creative work. Qazi on the other hand, leans more towards the current generation of rebels. However, the history of sardars in the trajectory of Balochistan begs special emphasis.

The Golden Age of the Sardars The 1970s was indeed the golden age for the robust sardars of Balochistan. The decade was also tumultuous for Pakistan, as it had lost a war with India; for Bangladesh, it was a new dawn. It was in the same decade that the Baloch began their movement for selfdetermination. Two years after the 1971 war with India, Pakistan was on its way to recovery from an ignominious defeat. In February 1972, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto returned from Shimla after concluding talks with the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sending out a signal to the world at large that he may have lost a crucial war, but as far as diplomatic manoeuvrings was concerned, he was still at his skilful best. At home, Bhutto had appointed the controversial, but pliable General Tikka Khan as the chief of the Pakistan army, who proceeded to bring in a new Constitution. It was on the evening of 9 February 1973, when armed Pakistani policemen barged into the Iraqi Embassy, located in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave. The TV cameras had captured a story most incredible – gunny sacks full of ammunition were lying around; huge wooden crates were found with ‘Islamabad’ written on them. What is more, the cargo also carried another marker saying, ‘Foreign Ministry, Baghdad’, to show where they had originated from. The world was aghast to discover that the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan had turned into a virtual ordnance factory. After the initial investigations, it became clear that the huge cache of weaponry was sufficient to launch an insurgency movement

on Pakistani soil. Pakistan acted swiftly and expelled the then Ambassador of Iraq, Hikmat Sulaiman, and sacked the provincial government of Balochistan on 12 February 1973, blaming Governor Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, and Chief Minister Ataullah Mengal as coconspirators with the erstwhile Soviet Union in a bid to divide both Pakistan and Iran. At this point in the narrative, a slight digression merits mention. Historically speaking, Pakistan, a nation which was carved out of India in 1947 as a country for the Muslims, was in a sense joined at the hip with Arab nationalists. In the early 1970s, major moves were underway in the Arab world to create a distinctive identity for its people. Although the Yom Kippur war of October that year — a war fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations — was still eight months away, but the tectonic shift in the Arab world was beginning to happen. There was a realisation that the Arabs had to unite against the politics of the Cold War era, and also deal with the divisions among themselves. It was during this phase when Pakistan had emerged as a major ally of the Arabs. But it was also caught in internecine and other rivalries, which not only involved its arch enemy, India, but also the province of Balochistan. Meanwhile, post the storming of its Embassy, Baghdad denied its involvement in using Baloch rebels as proxies against Pakistan and Iran, and said it was a rogue section in the Intelligence agency which had orchestrated the incident to embarrass President Saddam Hussein. Selig H. Harrison in his book titled, In Afghanistan’s Shadow refuted the Iraqi claim and said that the arms cache was allegedly discovered at the residence of Nasir Al-Saud, the then Iraqi Military Attaché in Islamabad. Three days before the incident, the man had fled Islamabad and was executed on 2 July 1973 along with the then Iraqi Intelligence Chief, Nazim Kazzar for their alleged role in the socalled anti-Saddam coup. However, it remains unclear what had transpired that day at the Iraqi Embassy, as a virtual smokescreen had obliterated every iota of truth. Was Al-Saud executed because he’d refused to stand guard till

the last moment, and fled? Or had he wavered in implementing Saddam Hussein’s order against Iran? Finally, it was Homayoon Mobaraki who’d filled in the gaps in the crucial Iranian-Iraq-Soviet part of the Baloch story. It happened like this: sometime after 2007, he’d acquired a copy of Harrison’s book in which he had marked out important portions with a pencil. Apart from several queries on the Baloch movement, he was also looking for clues about missing members of his family who had disappeared in the 1970s—three of his uncles, who he said were untraceable, and accused both Iran and Pakistan as culprits. One day, Homayoon Mobaraki spotted the name of his uncle, Musa Khan on page 108 of the book and contacted the author to enquire if he’d got the name right, as the Lashari surname was uncommon in Balochistan. He obviously suspected that it was his uncle, Musa Khan Mobaraki that Harrison was referring to. Homayoon then said that Harrison had acknowledged the error, and ascertained that Musa Khan Lashari was in fact none other than the Pakistani Baloch rebel, Musa Khan Mobaraki, the paternal uncle of Homayoon Mobaraki. Homayoon’s family, the Mobarakis, who were from the Iranian side of Balochistan, were scattered across the frontier of Pakistan and Iran. The chance discovery of Musa Khan Mobaraki brought back into focus the great game that used to be played between Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s. It was this movement that shaped what followed subsequently. On 24 March 1957, Dad Shah, considered to be a heroic figure in the Baloch struggle during the early years of the Cold War, had waylaid and killed an American military aid officer, Kevin Carroll, his wife Anita, and an American contractor Brewster Wilson, when the three were on their way to Chabahar, at that time a little fishing township on the Gulf of Oman. (The same place where Kulbhushan Jadhav was said to be running a business at the time of his kidnapping.) As recently as 2017, the town had hit the headlines for drawing Indian investment for a new port terminal, but as mentioned earlier, in the 1950s, Chabahar hardly held out any promise. However, it had great logistical significance and was viewed as a strategic location by many countries, including the Russians.

Given the Soviets’ interest in the port city, it was believed that Dad Shah and his comrades had killed the Americans in order to enable the Soviets in exploiting the resources on the Iranian coast. Post the assassinations, Dad Shah had emerged as a major player in the Cold War-propelled rivalries between the US and the Soviets in Iran, and it was soon obvious that his daring act was influenced by possible political and financial incentives. The Shah of Iran had declared a prize on Dad Shah’s head and he was finally killed in a major military operation. Thus began the second phase of insurgency in the greater Balochistan region, and one involving the sardars. It was against this backdrop that the Balochistan Liberation Front, one of the earliest post-World War II Baloch rebel organisations, was formed under the leadership of Jumma Khan. Between sipping coffee in Connaught Place, Mobaraki told me how he was planning to make a film showcasing the struggle of the Baloch people. He also spoke about building a robust social media network to help him achieve his dream. During our conversation, we both acknowledged that the life of Musa Khan Mobaraki was straight out of a film. In the early 1970s, he’d left home to fight the Shah of Iran and had since then gone missing. Finally, Homayoon had discovered that his uncle who’d crossed the Pak-Iranian border to fight for Baloch rights in Iran, was killed by the Iranian Intelligence agency. The cross-border raids by the BLF in the Seventies, and an international plot to destabilise West Pakistan and Iran through the Soviet-Iraqi route, coupled with the crackdown by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, was the great game that gave the impetus for the sardar-driven uprising in the first thirty years of Pakistan’s existence. Eventually, the military solution adopted by Bhutto to solve the Baloch problem crushed the sardar-led revolt, but it also resulted in severely aggravating the issue in the long run. One interesting aspect of the Baloch struggle during the 1970s was the educational sponsorship provided by the erstwhile Soviet

Union to students. A large number of Baloch students would travel to Moscow frequently, and the Pakistani diplomats were well aware of this phenomenon.viii One of the students at that time was the son of B.M. Kutty, a Malayali who had migrated to Pakistan in 1949 at the age of nineteen. Incredible as it may sound, Kutty by early 1970s was not only a well-known Marxist in Pakistan, he was also the political secretary of the Governor Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo. It was later alleged by Pakistan that B. M. Kutty was involved in an IndianSoviet-Iraqi arms smuggling network, and also in fomenting trouble in the region. As was proven later, it was a bogus charge which was strongly refuted by Kutty in his autobiography titled, Sixty years in Self-Exile: No regrets. As we were walking towards the aircraft, a tall gentleman, who I came to know later was Asghar Khan, Superintendent of Police, Cantonment area, who was known by the nickname Halaku Khan for his rough handling of his victims, came up to me and called me aside. He asked me whether I was B.M. Kutty. As I was about to answer him, Mir Saheb spotted us and called the man and asked him who he was and what he wanted. Mir Saheb had suspected the right thing. The Officer introduced himself and told Mir Saheb that he had orders to arrest me but declined to divulge the reason. Mir Sahib came towards me and said: “Don’t worry my friend. You have spent years in Ayub Khan’s jail; be brave. They are not telling us where they are going to take you. We will see what we can do when we safely reach Islamabad. You are not wearing any warm clothing. Keep this, you will need it.” Saying that, he handed over to me the woollen jersey he was wearing. Even after seven decades, B.M. Kutty, who is a native of Kerala hasn’t forgotten his mother tongue, Malayalam. He encountered a health scare in 2016 after a paralytic stroke and came to Kerala to recover. Three months later, he was rejuvenated, thanks to the

ayurvedic caregivers of his place of birth. The degree of involvement in the cause of Balochistan of the likes of Kutty, Homayoon, and Qazi is only one of the several ways in which the Baloch issue plays out at the international level. Balochistan gave meaning to all three of them, but the issue of freedom for the Baloch people means different things to the armed and the unarmed sections of Pakistan’s rebels in the Baloch areas. Some believe that Balochistan is to be negotiated upon, but for the likes of Qazi and even Homayoon, there is very little space for negotiation on rights and territory.

Baloch Anger Against Pakistan Every time I travelled to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, I was struck by its abundance. Unlike other towns in the subcontinent, Islamabad seemed like a place which had never known deprivation — no electricity outage, for example, which is a luxury in this part of the world. Even when I’d visited Karachi in the post-Benazir Bhutto era, I’d noticed huge bill boards of Pakistan State Oil (PSO), its unique crescent-and-flower logo dominating the entire skyline of the city. In comparison to India, Pakistan clearly seemed to have an abundance of oil and gas resources, which was aptly described in PSO’s slogan — ‘Enabling billions of journeys, for the past 40 years’. Travellers to Pakistan can vouch for the fact that the biggest cities of that country do not sleep. In the above context, a statement made by the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf had put the condition of Balochistan in a particularly utilitarian perspective: Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province in area but the smallest in population. It is also the most backward. Ninetyfive percent of Balochistan is administratively a “B area,” where the government does not exercise total authority and the local tribal sirdar or chief plays an important role. Only five percent is in “A area” which falls under regular government. I have taken on myself to convert all the B areas into A areas and establish the government’s writ

there. So far we have managed to convert fourteen of the twenty-six districts into A areas.ix Given the situation, in a post-9/11 world, there was immense international pressure on Islamabad to deliver on its commitments towards Balochistan. This had come into sharp focus particularly in the overall security plans for Afghanistan which required Islamabad to crack down on insurgent activities in the province. Meanwhile, after India had successfully carried out nuclear tests under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998, Pakistan followed suit and while building its capacities, had intensified plumbing the rich mineral resources in Balochistan. Therefore, Musharraf’s argument about ‘largest province in area and smallest in population’ was deeply resented by the Baloch who felt that after their territory was belittled by the General, Pakistan had no business exploiting its natural resources with such impunity. Apart from PSO, the other petroleum giant in Pakistan is the Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd (OGDCL). Although the company had developed oil and gas fields across the country, the oldest was located around the famed Sui gas field in Dera Bugti region of Balochistan. The point being that over the years, Balochistan has emerged as the repository of Pakistan’s energy infrastructure, as it constitutes an extension of the Persian Gulf gas reserve into the South Asian zone. There is no doubt that several smaller energy centres have also come up in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh, but the oldest and the biggest are located in Sui. The issue of Baloch freedom or self-determination was therefore tied to the discovery of gas fields in the region during the early 1950s. The main reason for the Baloch discontentment was disinheritance from resources which rightfully belonged to their soil. The other and more crucial bone of contention in the Balochs’ struggle stemmed from the issue of ‘one unit’ which had earlier flared up in a major confrontation with the erstwhile, East Pakistan.x Much like the Bengalis who were caught between West Bengal and the north-eastern states of India, the Baloch felt that the single administrative unit plan for the western region of Pakistan diminished

their political autonomy. They felt that their rights were being denied under a system which suited the elite of Punjab, especially those who ruled Lahore. Therefore, the setting up of the National Awami Party (NAP) at the time was with the sole intent of securing the rights of various marginalised nationalities of Pakistan. Post the Indo-Pak war of 1965, the scenario underwent a change and by 1969, Pakistan dissolved the ‘one unit’ system and resorted to the provincial system which continues till date, minus of course, East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. In 1972, Pakistan formed the provincial government – Sardar Ataullah Mengal became Balochistan’s chief minister, and Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, its governor. It was this government which was dismissed after the Iraq Embassy episode in 1973. Till this point in history, Pakistan was witness to traditional tribal Baloch radicals who were seen to be practising violence as part of their social structure. But after the dismissal of the NAP government, things took a serious turn and Baloch insurgency took firm root. The similarity between the incidents of 1972—73 and the spike in militant activities in 2016xi as reflected in the attacks by militants lies in the fact that the first Baloch insurgency was handled by leading tribal groups like the Bugtis, the Marris, and the Bizenjos. But later in history, although the movement was still led by tribal satraps, some of the major heads were in exile, and carried on the struggle from foreign soil. In addition, a major factor was the arrival of the new educated urban rebels. As mentioned earlier, the Seventies’ Baloch insurgency was just a ‘matter of gas’. The premium on energy resources was such that the coalition government of Bizenjo had to ensure unhindered supply of gas from the gas fields of Sui as one of the preconditions for the formation of the government. With the passing of time, the kernel of Baloch insurgency also underwent change. The leaders of the 1970s rose in revolt demanding a fair share in the natural resources, much like similar insurgent movements in other parts of South Asia, like Assam, or Latin America. However the generation of Qazi and Homayoon demand more than just that — they not only ask for cultural and educational rights, there is a clamour for social reforms. This is the

major point of departure between the sardar-led insurgency of the 1970s and the insurgency of the twenty-first century. However, little has changed and can change overnight in Balochistan. The main grouse, like most separatist movements across the world, is negligence. Despite Balochistan’s massive contribution to Pakistan’s energy security, most parts of the province are engulfed in darkness. According to one estimate, in the last decade while the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) gave sixty-two per cent of its total supply to Punjab, twelve per cent to the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Balochistan was given a meagre six per cent. This obvious bias is bound to create more strife in the region. For example, Pakistan draws its gas supply from a pipeline which is divided between Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) – both the strongholds of the Bugti tribe.xii While the Bugtis cannot stop Islamabad from acquiring gas from the fields, the tribe can easily mobilise support and create hurdles in the smooth functioning of energy facilities. Furthermore, from the disparity of resources follows the impact on the tax structure of Pakistan which is highly centralised. From the very beginning, Balochistan has received only five per cent of Pakistan’s natural resources which is distributed on the basis of its population share, although it is almost half of Pakistan.xiii Therefore, it is more than evident that Balochistan will continue to remain volatile, and at the centre of its dispute with Pakistan will be a long history of neglect. Currently, the issue holds little significance in the scheme of things for several Baloch groups. The reason being that most, including the BLA and BLF, have moved away from the traditional tribal elite-led uprising model which was compromised under pressure from Islamabad. At present, the insurgency is not for a fair share in resources, but for the freedom of Balochistan.

The Indian Theory About Balochistan New Delhi’s concern for Balochistan goes back a long way, but Narendra Modi was the first prime minister to send out a strong

message by speaking about the Baloch struggle from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August 2016: Today from the ramparts of Red Fort, I want to greet and express my thanks to some people. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have thanked me, have expressed gratitude, and expressed good wishes for me. The people who are living far away, whom I have never seen, never met – such people have expressed appreciation for the Prime Minister of India, for 125 crore countrymen. This is an honour for our countrymen. The Indo-Pak relations had also improved after Prime Minister Modi had dropped by at Islamabad on 25 December 2015, on his way back home from a trip to Afghanistan where he’d inaugurated a dam. However, within a week of that impromptu visit, the Indian airbase in Pathankot was attacked, and the perpetrators were traced back to the Pakistan-based terror organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed. Despite an official confirmation by the Indian government, Pakistan had vehemently refuted its role in harbouring terror groups that targeted India. As the level of frustration increased amongst diplomatic circles by the hour, mainly about the lack of options in delivering punitive measures, India decided to send out a message to Pakistan about the leverage it had over Islamabad. A series of interesting developments indicated the parallels that existed between the issues raised by the sardars in the 1970s, and those pursued by the rebels of BLA and BLF. In the 1970s, the Baloch radicals drew support from the Iraq-Soviet axis to attack both Pakistan and Iran that were part of the Cold War great games. But in the twenty-first century, as indicated by President Musharraf, Balochistan was caught in another great game – this time between China, Pakistan and India. Several other countries, as also the European powers suddenly developed an interest, mainly because of China in the backdrop of a series of international fiascos and failed interventions by the United States in the Arab world.

It was in this context that Prime Minister Modi had made a reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech. Modi’s reference had come eleven months after Balach Pardili had read out his speech on behalf of the FBM to a packed hall in Delhi. Although Narendra Modi had dwelt but briefly on the topic, it was a shot in the arm for the Baloch rebels – it was decoded to mean that India was now willing to bend its rules to corner Pakistan. But there were several voices amongst the Baloch who were sceptical about India’s willingness to support their freedom struggle. A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj highlighted the suppression of human rights in Balochistan at the UN General Assembly. In a strongly-worded speech, she reminded Pakistan to look inside its own house for human rights abuse and avoid blaming India for the unrest in Kashmir: On 21st September, the Prime Minister of Pakistan used this podium to make baseless allegations about human rights violations in my country. I can only say that those accusing others of human rights violations would do well to introspect and see what egregious abuses they are perpetrating in their own country, including in Balochistan. The brutality against the Baloch people represents the worst form of State oppression. However, Sushma Swaraj was not the first to bring up Balochistan at the United Nations. On 3 October 1962, with war clouds hovering over India and China, Pakistan had launched a diplomatic offensive against India at the United Nations. Addressing the UN General Assembly, B.N. Chakravarti, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, had quoted from the speech delivered by Sardar Ataullah Mengal at the National Assembly of Pakistan. At the heart of the problem, said Chakravarti, was the growing unrest and violence in East Pakistan. The government of General Ayub Khan had taken over Pakistan, and the army under his rule had carried out some of the earliest, but most vicious atrocities in Balochistan.

One may wonder what had prompted Chakravarti to venture into the Baloch issue at the UN General Assembly? This had a bit of interesting history and something which went back to the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947. In the aftermath of the Partition, Pakistan had often accused India of high handedness when India had deported Pakistani nationals from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Defending itself on the issue of dealing with illegal immigrants, the Indian government had said that it was Pakistan which had a terrible record in handling its own people. In a stirring speech, Chakravarti made a strong point at the UN, as follows: There has been an allegation that we have been brutal in turning out these people and that the methods used were extremely uncivilized. Here I crave your indulgence to read an extract from a speech by Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal in the National Assembly of Pakistan on 19 June 1962. This was soon after the basic democracy started to function. Incidentally, I may say here that Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal has now been put behind bars. I quote from this speech:xiv “Through you, Sir, I would like to draw the attention of this House to what happened in Baluchistan. This is a matter of such vital importance that it has invited the hatred of the Baluch. After the 8 October, 1958 so-called bloodless revolution, the Government ordered the Army to invade the privacy of our homes and for six months 15,000 jawans — jawans means the privates—of our army had been engaged in testing out the weapons of the American military aid openheartedly on the hungry and miserable Baluch people. They, the Army, were using bullets, shells, cannons, bombs and aircraft without any hesitation or second thoughts.... But this was not all. After this military operation wholesale arrests were made.” The following was the condition of the prisoners, “They were hung by their hair and a fire would be burnt under them. For twenty days and nights at a stretch they would be kept standing until their legs were swollen to such an extent that their

shalwars would have to be torn off them”—shalwar means a tight pyjama—“Many of them due to blood pressure and other causes had their flesh burst open around their loins. One prisoner’s testicles were crushed completely and after his release he committed suicide.” This is the statement made by one of their elected members of the Pakistan House. I would now refer to certain factual things, instead of making statements which are not supported by indisputable evidence. Pakistan claims to be an Islamic State where non-Muslims are at best second-class citizens who are statutorily debarred from holding the highest offices in the State. It is Pakistan’s policy to squeeze out non Muslims from the State by political and economic discrimination and by creating a sense of insecurity among the minority community. In the western wing they have succeeded in getting rid of practically all non-Muslims; in the eastern wing, even after the initial mass migration of the minority community, some 9 million non-Muslims were left.” India’s Permanent Representative’s speech highlighted Pakistan’s unrelenting focus on Kashmir, and the rights of Muslims in eastern India, that it alleged were being thwarted. Balochistan therefore found a prominent place in the Indian foreign policy discourse throughout the post-Partition years, much like Junagadh, Hyderabad, and Bahawalpur. In September 1965, India brought up Balochistan yet again, in the backdrop of its war with Pakistan. Speaking at the United Nations, Syed Mir Qasim, a minister (without a portfolio) in the Jammu and Kashmir government, and a member of the Indian Delegation to the UN, said that Pakistan held Balochistan against the will of the Baloch people:xv The representative of Pakistan went on to ask: “Is there any newly independent State from Asia and Africa that holds a country against its declared will?” The answer to the representative of Pakistan is very simple. Yes: it is

Pakistan which holds Baluchistan against the wishes of the people there. Yes: it is Pakistan which holds the people of Pakhtunistan in bondage against their wishes. The reign of terror let loose in Baluchistan and Pakhtunistan by Pakistan has, as my delegation stated on 29 September, exceeded even the limits of a police State. The representative of Pakistan went on to say that if India needed company he could suggest to her the company of colonial powers. India’s record in the freedom struggles of the peoples of Africa and Asia is well known....... There have been many denials of the principle of selfdetermination of people in the world. But there is none so glaring, and none so inhuman, as the denial of the right to self-determination of the people of Baluchistan....However, there is certainly every justification for constituting such a commission to inquire into the conditions of the downtrodden and suppressed people of East Pakistan, Baluchistan and Pakhtunistan, because it is widely recognized that while the rulers of Pakistan may be free., the people of Pakistan are not... The criticism under the aegis of the United Nations gained immense significance because India had fought two wars – the first in 1962, and the second three years later. Much like 1948, when the newlyindependent Pakistan had sent kabayilis or tribesmen dressed in Pathan suits into Kashmir, ten days before Indian Independence day, large numbers of Pakistani army personnel entered Kashmir on 5 August 1965. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan waxed eloquent on the peoples’ right of self-determination, or, if I may say so, other peoples’ right of self-determination. How about the right of self-determination of those people whose territory Pakistan has annexed? Does Pakistan practise what it preaches to others? What is its record in recognizing and honouring the right of self-determination of the people of Baluchistan, Pakhtunistan, Gwadar, and that area of the

Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir forcibly occupied by it in 1947-48? Let me lift the veil on the subject. Pakistan’s administration in Baluchistan was described by the newspaper, Guardian of 21 April 1962, “typical of good colonial rule” in which “there is a wide gulf between it and the people.” Baluchistan, lying to the south-west of Pakistan, despite its predominantly Muslim population, did not automatically become part of Pakistan, as the neighbouring province of Sind did. In view of the wellknown opposition of the Baluchi people to their integration with Pakistan, the British Government’s declaration of 3 June 1947, concerning the transfer of power and partition of British India, provided that: “This province will also be given an opportunity to reconsider its position”. But the referendum that took place in Baluchistan was boycotted by the most powerful and well-organized Baluchi party. Since then, the Baluchis have been struggling for their freedom,...despite the most brutal suppression. In independent Pakistan, the Baluchis have lost even the tribal freedom which they enjoyed under British rule. The repression in Baluchistan was so severe that the Sangbad of Dacca, in its issue of 15 April 1964, warned the people of Pakistan that the country was “crossing the limits of even a police state”. The paper wrote, “We have more than once heard about heartless repression in Baluchistan. Only the other day, Mr. Abdul Haq, a member of the National Assembly, disclosed that an Eid gathering there had been bombarded...surely an astonishing occurrence.... But the manner in which repression in Baluchistan is going on and the countrywide arrests, the lathi charges, the firings and bombings...do they not prove that we might be crossing the limits even of a police state. The Baluchi demand is similar to the demand of the Pakhtuns in the North West Frontier area. India’s position on Balochistan became more strident than ever before, even as Pakistan was confronted with one domestic crisis

after another. After eleven years of rule, Gen Ayub Khan, a man with a chequered career, was replaced by Yahya Khan. Soon after taking over, Yahya issued the Legal Framework Order in 28 November 1969 which paved the way for general elections. Even as the country was heaving a sigh of relief, the situation soon turned volatile with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the champion of East Pakistan’s Bengalis, began his campaign called the ‘Six Points agenda’. His demand for greater provincial autonomy and freedom for his people on the eve of the December 1970 election, was countered by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s call for ‘roti, kapda, aur makaan.’ The stage was set for a major clash. Operation Searchlight, launched in April 1971, which’d led to the genocide of hundreds of thousands of citizens in East Pakistan, was followed by the war in December 1971. Meanwhile, the Balochistan narrative also underwent a sudden change in India. After the victory of 1971, leaders of the Congress party led by Indira Gandhi, who was eulogised as a ‘goddess’ after the war, toned down their rhetoric on Balochistan. For instance, cautioning the Right-wing Jana Sangh against highlighting the Balochistan issue after the signing of the Shimla agreement, External Affairs Minister Swaran Singh had said: Another thing was mentioned by an honourable Member here and I would like to repudiate that. After the signing of this Agreement, to talk of unrest in Sind, to talk of unrest in the Frontier Province, to talk of unrest in Baluchistan, is totally inconsistent with the spirit of this Agreement. Those are their internal matters and it is absolutely wrong for anyone in India now to say anything which is purely internal. Let us be quite clear about our obligation. Whatever the matters between the people of Sind and the Central Government of Pakistan, or the people of Baluchistan and the people of Northern Frontier Province with their Central Government, they are their internal matters. We will not interfere in their internal affairs and we would not like them, by any means, to interfere in our internal affairs.

I would, therefore, appeal to the honourable Members from all sections of the House that this is a futile thing to do, we will not get anything except making speeches. You create suspicion without achieving anything. I would ask my brave friends of the Jan Sangh: What will they do in Baluchistan? What will they do in the Frontier Province or even in Sind? What is the use of adopting this type of attitude? There is a certain code of international conduct. We as a mature country should adhere to it and should not be swept off our feet because you feel what somebody else is doing is not palatable to us. Even if it is not palatable to us, even then, we should set an example, and I am sure that there will be response. We are in a strong position. We should set that example by correct international behaviour, a good neighbourly behaviour. And I am sure that this will not go unheeded because it is also in the interests of the people of Pakistan to achieve peace. We have lived with this problem for 25 years. Now, personally, on many occasions, I feel greatly worried because I was a party to Partition, and after that our expectations were not realised. We did not get peace. The statement by Swaran Singh marked a definite departure in India’s policy towards Pakistan. Having succeeded in delivering justice to East Pakistan by helping to carve out Bangladesh, India was now willing to adopt a less intimidating position and the Shimla Agreement of 2 July 1972 sealed the mutually agreed position of ‘non-interference’ into each other’s internal affairs. India was the victorious power after the 1971 war, and therefore could afford to be magnanimous. Following the agreement, India returned some of the captured territories to Pakistan, and desisted from pushing for dissolution of the rest of the Pakistani provinces like the North West Frontier Province, and Balochistan. Immediately thereafter, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began making changes in his government. The following year, he

introduced the new Constitution of Pakistan and after having consolidated his position, he turned his ire on Baloch leaders and jailed most of them, including Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo. Following the severe crackdown by Bhutto, which was spearheaded by Pakistan’s Chief of Army, Gen Tikka Khan, who is infamously known till this day as the ‘Butcher of Bengal’, the Baloch resistance movement reared its head yet again. After a gruelling seven years, the Baloch issue finally found a much-needed healing touch with the arrival of Gen Zia-ul-Huq who was appointed the Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan. The reason for the restoration of peace between Baloch leaders and the new ruler in Islamabad was due to the latest geopolitical crisis in Afghanistan. As the head of Pakistan, Gen Zia could only deal with one problem at a time. As a result of which, he extended an olive branch to India to focus on the unprecedented inflow of refugees near the Khyber pass, and the CIA-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan. Zia ordered the withdrawal of military operations against Baloch leaders and even went to meet leading Baloch figures such as, Ataullah Mengal and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo in jail. Over lunch at the Hyderabad Jail in Sindh, Zia described the Baloch rebels as loyal citizens of Pakistan, and gave instructions to send Ataullah Mengal to Europe for seeking medical help for a heart ailment. Thereafter, for almost eight years, there was peace between Balochistan and Islamabad. The reason: both Pakistan and India were intently watching the situation in Afghanistan, and posturing over their individual nuclear capabilities. During the early part of his decade-long rule, General Zia had succeeded in securing the allegiance of Baloch sardars with great aplomb. However, things began to change during the last years of his rule when certain anti-Zia political forces had cobbled together to form the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which also included leading Baloch figures like Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo (who was dismissed in 1973 following the Iraqi arms scandal). In his autobiography, B.M. Kutty had described Bizenjo as a secular Baloch nationalist. This was obviously in reference to his championing the cause of democracy and human rights along with Benazir Bhutto against the draconian regime of General Zia.

Mir Saheb too turned out to be a staunch secular nationalist in his political life. He became the ‘baba-eustman’ for the people of Balochistan, the undisputed pioneer of Balochistan’s progressive nationalist movement and the role model for today’s younger generation of political activists. I was fortunate in being closely associated with him for over 25 years until his death in 1989. In a way, New Delhi has always strived to maintain close links with Baloch activists from the days of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo. Whether it was because of men like B.M. Kutty or others, the relationship has evolved over seven decades. What also helped in the rekindling of the relationship between India and the Baloch freedom movement was the setting up of the CPEC, which had succeeded in creating a interest in the South Asian region, as also Prime Minister Modi’s speech evoking Balochistan on 15 August 2015. There was a sudden spurt of Baloch activists visiting New Delhi; some openly, and a few covertly. But the point being that they could freely enter India, unlike Pakistan where many would have been held captive, or even killed. The Geneva-based, Brahumdagh Bugti has even declared his intent of seeking refuge in India. However despite his open declaration at a press conference in Geneva, he hasn’t been granted an Indian visa.xvi On the contrary however, several non-sardar Baloch figures including Qazi and Aslam Baloch managed to visit India for both medical and political reasons with great ease! Yet another person who is a frequent visitor to India is the well-known Baloch feminist, Dr Naela Quadri. Although she has drawn bitter criticism for her advocacy of democracy and freedom from her own people, she has easy access to India. The frequent arrival of Baloch radicals on Indian soil is an indication that India is now faced with a choice that it did not earlier have. Qazi’s extended stay in the capital signalled that New Delhi was now ready to support the cause of Baloch freedom struggle in multiple ways, if it meant keeping Pakistan under check.

Even as Pakistan has stuck to its allegations of espionage against Kulbhushan Jadhav, as also apportioning blame on the Indian government for subversive activities in Balochistan, (both of which are being debated in the International Court of Justice), the Baloch movement has nevertheless gained significance in the Indian foreign policy agenda. However, Baloch activists across the spectrum are also clear that they are more comfortable seeking help and being supported by a secular India–led by a government which is seen to be nonpartisan, and not a majoritarian government that neglects other communities. This issue was debated seriously across Baloch ranks in the context of several incidents of communal strife, including violence against Muslims in India. For instance, the brutal murder of a migrant labourer in Rajasthan on 6 December 2017 triggered a protest by the US-based Baloch activist, Ahmar Mustikhan. Over the next few months, he actively campaigned against Indian involvement in Balochistan, and in several interviews with me, he alleged that Indian Intelligence agencies were financing international publicity campaigns like ‘Free Balochistan’ in western countries and urged to put an end to this. ‘I became a part of the Indian whatsapp groups in the US because I believed in the axiom that enemy’s enemy is a friend. But if India continues to tolerate attacks on minorities then that will be counterproductive,’ Mustikhan told me over a phone call. Finally, the road ahead for continued Indian involvement in Baloch struggle is certainly not straight. However, it can be safely surmised that the Baloch outreach has resulted in India extending humanitarian support, albeit indirectly, to the rebels. But as it has been proven time and again in history that supping with a rebel group has never yielded results for any government, as was proven even at home in the case of Khalistan, which had led to the brutal assassination of Indira Gandhi in October 1984. It is therefore prudent for India and its foreign policy experts to revise and reevaluate every step in the evolving story of Balochistan, which is pleading for international intervention.

Notes i







Nicholas Schmidle, To Live or To Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2009, pp. 73.


Following meetings between Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Khan of Kallat Ahmad Yar Khan, an agreement was concluded on 11 August 1947. The agreement assured that ‘discussions will take place between Pakistan and Kallat at Karachi at an early date with a view to reaching decisions on defense, external affairs and communications.’ During the same meeting, M.A. Jinnah recognised Kallat as an independent state. Three days later, on 15 August, Khan announced independence of Kallat, offering Pakistan special status in Defense, External affairs, and communications.


Selig S. Harrison, In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations, New York, Carpegie Endowment for International Peace, 1982, pp. 65-66.


ibid. pp. 65.


Interview with Homayoon Mobaraki


Pervez Musharraf, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, London, Simon& Schuster,2006, pp.59.


From 1947 onwards, there was disparity between the East and West Pakistan—the former was more populous compared to other areas in the West Pakistan and therefore demanded more resources. In order to deal with this recurring demand, the West Pakistan dispensation used the ‘one unit’ concept in the 1950s to basically show that all regions in the West constituted one unit, while East Pakistan was another unit. The ‘one unit’ formula helped Pakistan’s rulers in dealing with Dhaka, but provinces like Sindh, Balochistan, and the Tribal territories felt that their rights were being usurped.


https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2016/272241.htm This US government report shows that majority of terror/militant attacks in Pakistan are taking place in the province of Balochistan.


Robert M. Hathaway & Michael Kugelman (Eds.), Powering Pakistan: Meeting Pakistan’s Energy Needs in the 21st Century, New York, 2009, pp. 98.




B.N.Chakravarti’s reply to Pakistan Foreign Minister’s criticism, Foreign Affairs Record Volume 8, January 1962.


MEA Foreign Affairs Record, 1965, Volume XI, No 1. https://mealib.nic.in/?pdf2553?000



About the Author Kallol Bhattacherjee is a Delhi-based journalist and author. He works at The Hindu newspaper as a Senior Assistant Editor.