I often get messages and tweets from Baloch people sharing information about their plight in Pakistan. I decided that it was time to end my reluctance to write on Balochistan, simply because I'm Indian.
An informal chat with Shahdad Baloch who often sends me information as a part of his efforts to get Balochistan better heard. This is compiled from several interactions, but the quotes are exact and the references links are provided by him.
This interview is from last week, but its publishing was held because of server issues. In other words, its before Osama was killed.
Can you introduce yourself briefly?
A Baloch son of soil turned as a stranger on own homeland. I am Shahdad Baluch, a business student,and a webmaster struggling to highlight the plight of my Baloch nation.
When did you begin activism for Balochistan? Was there a specific point, or was it a gradual thing? How long have you been trying to get attention to the happenings in Balochistan?
Well I started three years back. The main thing is slavery and I feel the pain of my people as I'm one of sufferer in the hands of Pakistani occupiers and there is a media blackout in Balochistan. So I took the initiatative to make the world aware.
What kind of attention do you receive?
So far so little. We are not lucky like the Libyans. There Nato made it a Non Flyzone within a month, while Pakistan is bombarding Balochistan for years but still [Balochistan is] a flyzone.
Why do you think this is happening? Why is there such studied silence over Balochistan? Pakistan can only control Pakistani media but the world media doesn't seem very interested either....?
There is media blackout. There is no entrance for media groups in Balochistan. Recently a BBC journalist said that PAKISTANI forces doesnt allow us in Balochistan. Because entire Balochistan is controlled by forces from all corners,so media groups dont find themselves save,as Pakistani forces killed morethan 10 Baloch journalist in Balochistan. So I think safety concerns for foreign media.,7
Is this deliberate targetting or a part of the overall insecurity plaguing the region? What specific concerns do media personnel face?
They are targeting deliberately Baloch journalist as they are exposing the Pakistani state crimes in balochisatan. Life threats from secret agencies,many injured,some abducted and later killed in military custody
And foreign journalists? Surely some may have tried to enter the region regardless?
Yes foreign journalists willig to work,but i think they are facing hurdles from Pakistani state.We recently saw a piece about Balochisan in Guardian,Pakistan secret dirty war.
But i think thats not enough and in Balochistan only source of information is Balochistan related websites,but all are banned by the State. The second reason is no foreign media coverage is Pakistan,as its an so called ally of West on war on terror,so i personally think they are kind of blackmailed from Pakistan.
So your website cannot be seen in pakistan itself?
People are using proxies and softwares for accesing the websites.
But the average Pakistani has no way to know these things?
No,they are only relying on Pakistan bias media. Recently i saw a report on BBC URDU SERVICE,there was a servey on streets of Lahore and Islamabad,they all were university students,they have being asked to name any city of Balochistan,none of them know any name.so imagine how ignorant they are about Balochistan.
Lahore has a maximum universities and colleges in Pakistan,and their well educated students even dont know the geography of Balochistan. I saw same student of Punjab know alot about the mineral recources of Balochistan,but they dont know the cities name of Balochistan. So one thing is for sure they are only interested in Baloch resources .
What do you think is the root of this conflict? Surely if it were about natural resources, then it would be to Pakistan's advantage to keep Balochistan happy in order to extract them?
The root cause is illegal occupation of Balochistan Balochistan got its independence on 11th aug 1947 But then Jinnah asked our leaders to join Pakistan,but our parliament majority didnt accepeted the offer of Jinnah. but on 27th march 1948 Pakistan forcefully occupied the Balochistan.
So you never really accepted being part of Pakistan is what you are saying? But Balochistan is represented in the government of Pakistan?
That history is written by Pakistani occupiers. Did pakistan ever mention in history that they occupied Balochistan? Baloch has adopeted all means of Struggle for rights of Baloch people. But these parliaments never be fruitful for us.
The genuine government in Balochistan history was NAP in 70's and that was majority but Bhutto dismissed the government and all Baloch leaders were sent into prison. Then they have accused Balochs being funded by the Iraq and launched a military operation along with Iran. Pakistan and Iranian fighter jets jointly bombarded Balochistan,estimately 25,000 Baloch killed and thousands displaced.
And the people are suffering.
See they always used Baloch land for their own interests. They have tested their nukes on 28th May 1998,they didnt inform the locals that they are carrying out experiment. The Raskoh,mountain is completely turned black. Now they are many unnamed diseases,many skin diseases,many children are disable. The livestock is badly damage. After the nuclear test,Pakistani authorities never returned to the locals.
And we are seeing the dangers of nuclear radiation, and how seriously it should be taken with Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster. So many instances go straight under the carpet! Has there been any inquiry into this in Balochistan - by the government, NGOs, independent doctors.... anyone?
The locals are loosing the battle of life one by one. Why Pakistan really cares about it? Because we are Baloch, they dont want us, but our land and resources.
Have the baloch tried approaching organizations like WHO? or IAEA?
Yes we have even made several reports about the unnamed diseases,and pictures of affected children but no one taking it seriously. Those pictures,and reports are available on internet.
So world health organization is not interested in this seeming epidemic of strange illnesses?
Pakistan doesnt let the world organisations to help Baloch,as Pakistan is on denial mode
So you are saying Pakistan deliberately blocks medical investigations or assistance?
Yes tells the world there is no such problem in Balochistan ,and Pakistan is capable handling such minor issues. Even during the Floods in Balochistan,we all Baloch demanded for international aid,but Pakistan said no we can help them by their own,but still Baloch are living a miserable life without any shelter.
The international aid didn't happen in Balochistan?
NO,they have been deposited in state bank of Pakistan.
And the international organizations working on the ground? Bringing aid and supplies? Did that reach balochistan?
They have only reached to the border areas of Sindh
So who assisted the Baloch people?
The local Baloch NGO's helped the Baloch flood victims by own resources of Baloch nation. But still they need support. And there is some other issues of Baloch displaced people after military operations and bombardment. There are about 450,000 Baloch are displaced after the Pakistan military offensives in Kohlu,dera bugti, region of Balochistan,they are living in critical conditions without any international support. The international should not be handed over to Pakistani government,we wont get anything from them,should deal with us.
When Zardari came into power, he apologized to Balochistan. It seemed like the beginnings of change. How much did it help on the ground?
Yes this is not the first that Pakistani rulers apologising with Baloch nation. This government is brutall then the previous others. They have abducted thousands of Baloch,and now they are killing Baloch youths in custody and throwing their bodies in deserts and mountains more than 150 Baloch youths killed in military torture cells in last 10 months
Do you think the government has the power to influence happenings in Balochistan? Or are the intelligence agencies acting ontheir own?
Both are colloborating together,bcoz Zardari claims its a democratic government,and during the such a so called democractic goverment its happening to us. The judiciary is actually just playing with time.the most of Baloch youths were killed in military custody ,there petition was filed, but soon after their killings,the chapters are closing one by one. If judiciary is sincere then why not a investigation to those custodial killings?
Who will investigate? Who do you think can be tasked with such an investigation, and you think will carry it out responsibly? Who are you willing to trust?
Only UN and foreign fact finding mission. We no more trust on Pakistani judiciary bcoz we have a witness for each abduction case,that our Baloch youths were abduced in broad day light in public places.
You mean an international investigation into the national military apparatus?
Yes if it can be happen in Srilanka so why not in Balochistan??
Coming to the other side of things, the BLA is considered terrorists by Pakistan. There have been attacks on government installations, soldiers, civilians, foreign nationals killed; gas pipelines spend more time in maintenance than operation. Doesn't it give some legitimacy to Pakistani "counter-operations"? The Punjabis threatened and killed, the Chinese?
Let me clear it first BLA never attacked the civilians Baloch Liberation Army is a defender of Balochistan and fighting against the Pakistani occupiers,for us Pakistan army is terrorist army. The Baloch resources are belongs to Baloch people.either it be Gas,or Gwadar port. The punjabis are killed by the Pakistani intelligence agencies just to defame the Baloch freedom struggle
But there are Baloch blogs warning Punjabis to leave? What makes you say that they were killed by intelligence people and not Baloch fighters?
Whenever Baloch fighter kill anyone take the responsibility of it,and so far killed by Baloch freedom fighters were spys of Pakistani state.
If you read the news more Baloch spys has been killed than punjabis
Sure. I am only questioning what you said - that BLAs don't kill civilians - the news seems to contradict that
Spys cant be count in civilians according to my understanding.
How widespread is the Baloch struggle?
Baloch struggle is spreaded to the all corners of Balochistan.
And its density? What percentage of the population supports it? Say out of 100 people, how many support the BLA?
Anyway, coming to the questions.... The Pakistani government claims that your struggle is supported by an alphabet soup of agencies CIA and RAW are the names that come up the most. How true is that? Is there any information, support, arms or anything coming from that direction?
If we being supported by the foreign powers,the ground sitution was totally different
Not full support, perhaps not arms or money or training, but other ways? *any* support at all? On the other hand, the Balochs are requesting assistance from many countries and particularly US and India - what kind of response has that got?
Personally i dont think so.There is no foreign support for Balochistan.you can imagine it by the silence of the India and US. media. Yes Baloch are asking for your morale support.
But so far no response. I mean Indian and US or any other country to morally support our freedom cause. But so far no positive response.
There have been articles about Balochistan's secular influence in a region of extremist violence and particularly articles targetted at the US and to some extent India about how this is to their advantage Both countries have solid intelligence channels and think tanks particularly think tanks focused on the increasing problem Pakistan is becoming So what do you think stops them from any intervention in Balochistan?
Yes we Baloch are secular people.The majority of Baloch are Muslims,we have hindus, and other minorities but from thousand of years we are living in peace and love,infact we are securing them from the ISI extremist elements. The Western countries and India know that Baloch are secular people,but because of Taliban war, US is not supporting us as Pakistan is a so called ally of US.
But West should know that,if you guys want peace,and stability in the region you must support Baloch freedom cause.
And India? Why is India silent?
I think its Kashmir which not allow Indians to speak up.
What do you think of the Kashmir struggle? Is it similar to what Balochistan goes through? Will supporting Balochistan mean India has double standards?
Well i think Kashmiris can better define their struggle. but i know one thing that ISI is using kashmir for own interest. Our struggle is different than Kashmiris.they are fighting on religious bases while we are on national basis.
Do you think India *can support you without undermining its stand on Kashmir?
We see on PTV,every day Pakistan give an hour coverage on Kashmir,at least Indians can do the same for us. Because India said to be a biggest democracy of the world.
What does Pakistan need to do IMMEDIATELY?
Pakistan should immediately pull back all troops from Balochistan and accept the only demand of Baloch nation,that is Independence of Balochistan.
There have been Pakistani journalists, particularly from progressive newspapers who are bringing attention to Balochistan and the wrongs happenign there how much is that helping? How can such journalists help?
I dont think those locals journalists are about bring any change,as Pakistan recently rejected the Amnesty International report about the HR violations in Balochistan,then Pakistan rejected the HR violations report of US state department.So i dont think Pakistan will listen to those little champs
There is a nuclear waste dump coming up at 10km from some Baloch city Khuzdaz, which is obviously risky business. What is the scene around that? What about the nuclear safety bodies? Parvez Hoodoboy has been raising questions of safety for a while now. Is there a possibility to engage experts to talk about this?
Nobody knows the exact extent of radiation among the inhabitants in the Chagai region. The government has banned access to the area and it is impossible to carry out any study on the local population. In any case, physicians like myself who have treated patients from the region have come across large numbers of cases of skin cancer and eye cancer in particular. The radiation probably reached the underground water reservoirs. People rely on those as we hardly get any rain here. A patient from Dalbandin who had visited Raspoh told me that the black granite had acquired a yellowish color, the same as the water. We need someone to take a water sample and analyze it abroad. No laboratory in Pakistan dares to do so for fear of reprisals. I myself do not dare to give my real name because, quite possibly, the ISI (Pakistani intelligence) would kill me by the time this interview was published.
Even if Pakistan or the world are not willing to look at freedom for Balochistan, is there a possibility for Balochistan to be restored to a peaceful part of the country by addressing wrongs? As an autonomous region, etc
This is war of our national existence,our identity,our language,our culture,our history,we will keep struggling to the any length.We can not betray to our thousands of Baloch martyrs,who sacrificied their precious lives for the liberation of Balochistan,we can not betray our thousands of Baloch who are kept in Pakistan military torture cells.We dont want any little shares out of our own resources,we are the owner of this land not the beggars.
We will continue our struggle untill the independence of Balochistan.
How can the world help?
They can help us in several ways if they are really care about human lives in Balochistan .
World should immediately take the notice of Pakistani state crimes in Balochistan.
Pakistan is not abding the International War laws.There should be sactions on Pakistan.As we all saw in Libya the way the west react within one months Libya declared as a Non-Fly Zone,while civilians in Balochistan still a soft targets of Pakistani fighter jets. The Pakistani state should be dragged into International Criminal Court and immediately delcare Balochistan as a occupied territority and a war zone. The international print and electronic media should play their role to focus the ongoing Pakistani crimes in Balochistan.
The all peace loving,democratic countries should morally support our cause,as we are the only secular people in the region.They should start a direct diplomatic dialouges with Baloch freedom leaders.
Thanks for your time, dost!
Thank you too see ya