“Pakistan is a terrorist organisation and its economy and foreign policy are driven by terrorism. However, it is high time the civilised world adopts a strong approach and stops Pakistan’s blackmailing tactics for good”, says Bashir Zeb, former chairman of BSO-Azad and the actual commander-in-chief of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
In an exclusive interview for ThePrint, Zeb is quite forthright: “The reason Baloch have not been successful in securing foreign help, is Pakistan’s usage of terrorists as a blackmailing tactics and foreign policy instruments. If a neighbouring country decides to help Baloch on humanitarian basis, Pakistan uses its proxy terrorist organisations to carry out bloodbaths in those countries. For example, if NATO ever decides to help the Baloch nation, Pakistan will use its international terror organisations to raise havoc upon NATO in Afghanistan”.
Zeb, who joined the armed struggle in 2011 because “My fellow activists were getting killed by Pakistani state forces on daily basis”, is crystal clear about militancy, the armed struggle and the role of Pakistan and China in the ongoing genocide in Balochistan.
The BLA continues its struggle, despite the ban on BLA imposed by the US State Department in July 2019.
Excerpts from an interview with journalist and author Francesca Marino for ThePrint.
How is the US ban going to impact the BLA struggle?
It will not impact BLA’s activities in any way. Our activities and existence in Balochistan cannot be compromised as long as we enjoy public support. However, if we politically analyse the recent ban then it is very clear that the ban, instead of being related to BLA, US or the Baloch nation, is more relevant to ISI’s role in the US-Taliban dialogue.
Pakistan demanded this ban in return for bringing its proxies to the dialogue table. The most funny aspect of this whole saga is that US had to resort to proscribing a secular organisation as terrorists in order to directly have dialogues with an established terrorist entity. We know for sure that the US will soon realise its mistake but they should have already realised that Pakistan is not a state that can be bestowed with any form of trust.
It has been said the Baloch struggle has been hampered by a lack of political strategy and by internal divisions?
Last year, all the groups formed an umbrella organisation, BRAS or Baloch Raaji Aajohi e Sangar thanks to the efforts of BLA’s former chief martyr General Aslam Baloch and BLF leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch. It currently comprises four organisations, BLA, BLF, BRA and BRG. The main purpose of BRAS is to encourage cooperation amongst the armed organisations, carry out effective joint operations against the enemy, resolve internal differences and increase the military power of the Baloch nation. The ultimate aim of BRAS is to unite all pro-freedom Baloch forces to form a national Army.
But the armed struggle goes nowhere without a political strategy.
The Baloch freedom struggle has an established and very clear political strategy and that is the main reason behind its continuous success. We consider armed struggle as a form of political approach. Our movement stems from established political concepts and it is in its current status only because peaceful means of struggle have been forbidden and so an armed struggle is the only choice left to us. However, our guns strongly follow political principles and ideologies because absence of such principles only lead towards anarchy.
Our guerilla struggle is not offensive in nature but rather defensive and is bound by a political strategy. If we had a civilised country in front of us where democracy was existent and the voice of majority was heard, we would have used other forms of political struggle. Politics is always practised according to the ground realities and the facts on the ground in Balochistan warrant an armed struggle.
Who’s giving the political guidelines?
As far as a joint political command is concerned, it exists in form of BRAS. However, as with everything, this also has room for further improvement. Currently, a majority of Baloch activists are educated and politically aware youth and intellectuals. Today, the majority of freedom fighters are the ones who have been nurtured in political structures. All our leaders have strong political knowledge and have successfully maintained and improved the movement continuously for 20 years now. In fact, today’s freedom fighters have the full potential to run the administration, bureaucracy and military of an independent Balochistan.
So there’s no division amongst Baloch leaders?
Baloch leaders do not have major politcal differences. In the form of BRAS, a majority of Baloch stakeholders have already joined forces. We enjoy pleasant relations with other leaders too and are continously working towards unity. There are few points on which all the Baloch leaders agree, which are Balochistan’s complete freedom, formation of a secular and democratic state and we have the common friends and foes.
The main foe, in the past year, appears to have been China. The US ban on BLA quotes the attacks on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 2018 and the attack to the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar in May. Why does BLA seem to target only Chinese interests?
China is involved in mass plundering of our natural resources. To further its economic and military expansionist designs, it has occupied our ports and is present on our land without our consent. Moreover, it is actively aiding Pakistan financially as well as militarily in attempts to quash our freedom struggle. Therefore, our attacks against Chinese interests have continued since 2004. Recently, China has increased their projects manifold and is directly involved alongside Pakistan in Baloch genocide. Therefore, in order to halt Chinese advancements we are justified to intensify our attacks, which will witness further intensity in coming days.
Francesca Marino is an author and journalist.