Dr Allah Nazar is Balochistan’s most popular middle-class nationalist leader. Belonging from a modest family in Balochistan’s town of Mashkay, he started his political career from Baloch Students Organization (BSO). He founded his own faction of BSO in February 2002 that openly advocated an armed struggle for liberating Balochistan. In 2003, he went underground to organize his own militant group. His Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) made headlines when it claimed responsibility for killing three Chinese engineers in Gwadar on May 2, 2004.
He was picked up by intelligence agencies on March 25, 2005 from an apartment in Karachi where he had secretly come to meet his old BSO comrades. He remained missing for a year. Meanwhile, the BSO initiated mass protests throughout Balochistan and Karachi for his release. On August 12, 2006, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies shifted him to the jail ward of the Bolan Medical Complex in Balochistan’s capital city of Quetta. During his incommunicado detention, he had been subjected to severe mental and physical torture. The photo of a frail Dr Nazar lying on an ambulance stature in the Bolan Medical Complex went viral among the Baloch youth and he soon became an iconic leader. After his release on bail, he went into hiding again and he now leads the BLF.
Question: When you decided to turn to militancy, why in spite of joining Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) you and your comrades formed Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF)? Many believe that you wanted a middle-class organization as BLA was being led by a tribal chief?
Answer: Not really. For now, our struggle is for national independence and it’s not class-based. At this time, we need unity among all the classes to get our independence. We are all –be it a sardar or a common man – slaves. Once the Baloch get their independence, they will be free to choose a social and political system for themselves through a democratic process.
I agree that tribal system has lost its significance in today’s world. The current tribal system is not the one our ancestors practiced. The Baloch cultural tribal system was distorted by Robert Sandeman during the British rule. He introduced a new system by allocating absolute powers to sardars in order to control the Baloch masses.
After the withdrawal of the British, Pakistan nourished the so-called Sandeman System. Authorities used sardars to counter the Baloch uprising against Balochistan’s forcible accession with Pakistan. Still, most Baloch tribal chiefs, except for Khair Bux Marri, are the stooges of the ruling establishment. So people have lost faith in this system and tribalism is dying a natural death. In many areas of Balochistan, it has vanished for good.
Question: What’s your idea of an independent Balochistan?
Answer: I want it to be a democratic, secular and welfare state where every citizen – irrespective of their class, gender, religion or caste -- has access to free education and healthcare. Every citizen should enjoy equal rights without any discrimination.
Also, an independent Balochistan would not enter into the nuclear arms’ race and it would promote peaceful co-existence among neighbouring countries.
The state would promote arts, science and literature under the policy of free-speech. I strongly believe in free-speech and it’s one thing that can guarantee the prosperity and success of a nation.
Question: The divisions among the once-united Baloch separatist leaders are no longer a secret. Don’t you think it will help Pakistan to counter the Baloch insurgency?
Answer: Honestly, I don’t see any major differences on the ground. We have joint guerilla camps and we are cooperating with each other. In fact, one BLF fighter and one from BLA were killed by Pakistani forces recently when they were on a joint mission.
Question: But Hairbiyar Marri’s supporters are openly criticizing you on social media and similarly your supporters are speaking against Mr Marri.
Answer: I’m aware that some people have been saying things on the social media that they shouldn’t. I’ve asked my supporters not to use such a language against any Baloch leader who’s part of the Baloch independence movement. But, as I said, we are one on the ground despite these differences on social media. Efforts are being made to sort out these minor differences.
Also, I believe that Pakistan’s atrocities against the Baloch people will keep us united. Pakistani forces are out to kill every Baloch, irrespective of their affiliation with organizations. So the Baloch groups will eventually realize that this enemy can only be defeated with unity in our ranks.
Question: The BLF is the dominant group in the strategically important Makran region which is home to the Gwadar port and borders Iran. But it’s also a fact that the BLF is the most cash-starved group and many think that it won’t survive in the long run?
Answer: The BLF has sustained for the past 12 years on the donations of the Baloch nation. We’ve a huge Baloch Diaspora who has been funding our struggle. And I’ve faith in them. We rely on their moral and financial support.
Apart from BLF, other groups are also operating in Makran. Similarly, BLF is expanding to other regions of Balochistan. So I don’t think that the struggle will die anytime soon because of financial restraints. We always have an alternative strategy and we’ll survive.
Question: The Nato forces plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 and talks are in the process with Taliban to give them a share in Afghan government. Don’t you think it will seriously affect the Baloch armed struggle as a Taliban government will be more sympathetic to Pakistan than the Baloch?
Answer: The withdrawal of Nato forces will affect the entire region, and Balochistan is no exception. But it’s a wrong impression that the Baloch armed struggle started after the arrival of Nato forces in Afghanistan and that it will end after their withdrawal.
However, I don’t think the United States should make the same mistake in Afghanistan that the USSR did. Leaving Afghanistan at Taliban’s mercy who are controlled by Pakistan will plunge the entire region to an era of unprecedented instability and chaos. We’ll see worse than we have seen before. My study of the recent developments tell me that the US is not withdrawing completely from Afghanistan and it will be keeping nine military bases.
At the same time, I think Afghanistan is not the root-cause of extremism in the region. Instead, Pakistan is the breeding ground for extremists. The trouble in Afghanistan is because of Pakistani establishment’s policy of blackmailing the world through extremist Jihadis. Be it Afghanistan, Africa or Middle East, Pakistan is exporting extremists there. So Pakistan needs to be tackled first.
If the world powers want stability and peace in the region, they should help us create a secular and moderate state of Balochistan which would serve as a buffer zone between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. I think it’s the only formula for sustainable peace in the region.
Sajid Hussain works as a freelance journalist, contributing articles for newspapers and news agencies. He mainly cover the war-torn region of Balochistan.(This article forms part of the Balochistan Dossier, forth-coming in Naked Punch 16).