Surrender in Quetta

June 5, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Can the Baloch people in France-sized Balochistan repulse the world’s first largest army that is China’s People’s Liberation Army that has a strength of 2.33 million and the world’s seventh largest army of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with a strength of 617,000 “ready to fight” personnel? The answer is yes. Because it is said armies have won against one another but no army has ever won against a people.

In this backdrop it was painful to see a turbaned Baloch fighter, in traditional attire with bristling black beard, surrendering in Quetta to Nawabzada Jangyz Marri, who was reportedly called the “ISI’s son” by his late father and icon of Balochistan liberation movement Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. Kalati, who was described in the media as a commander of the United Baloch Army and a lieutenant of the new chief of the Marri tribe, Nawab Mehran Marri, was shown in Pakistani newspapers laying down his arms. The surrender came five days after a horrific massacre of 22 Pashtun passengers in Mastung.

If Kalati was in any way involved in the Mastung massacre, as has been suggested in the social media, then there is no need to worry. His departure from UBA should be welcomed and termed good riddance. The Baloch movement needs heroes, not cowards who kill unarmed civilian noncombatants. If there are more such elements in the UBA, then it may be advisable to get rid of such elements without delay. If rogue elements were responsible for the Mastung killings, then it may be appropriate for the UBA to tender an unconditional apology to the bereaved families instead of making this a prestige point. Pashtuns or Afghans are Baloch brothers as they have natural ties with one another dating back centuries, which the Baloch do not have with Punjabi rulers of Pakistan.

It is true Pakistan has committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, military aggression and is involved in genocidal killings, but this does not mean Baloch should do the same as they simply cannot afford this. There has to be a clear differentiation between a killer and fighter, even during times of war. Everything is fair in love and war does not give any party the right to violate the Laws of War. It is not only the utter inhumanity that happens in the dastardly killings that happened on that Friday of May, for which no words are enough to condemn, the problem is also that of real politics. There can be no two views that the state of Pakistan is in itself a rogue terrorist state that has the blood of thousands of Baloch patriots on its hands. In spite of that, Pakistan wriggles out of Western censors as its embassies and consulates work overtime to deceive and even buy officials and policy makers in the West. But the stateless Baloch do not have any such system in place.

Let alone Mastung, even in Karachi one of the largest political party MQM was accused by the media of drowning the city in bloodbath  May 12, 2007 that left 45 people killed and hundreds injured. The former chief justice had launched a movement against his dismissal by the Urdu-speaking or mohajir dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, who styled himself president, and those killings happened allegedly on his bidding. The militant Karachi party was also accused by the authorities of killing 250 people in a factory fire in September 2012. In spite of these serious allegations, the MQM clearly wriggled its way as it has a huge share in the civil and military bureaucracy of the country and the mohajirs control the media. The Baloch in Pakistan struggling for independence do not enjoy any such influence and hence cannot engage in reckless actions that bring a bad name to their movement, nor can they allow their movement to be drowned in ethnic warfare which was clearly the intent of the Mastung massacre.

In the wake of Mastung killings, Pakistan lodged a fake FIR against Nawab Mehran Marri. Mehran Marri, who was selected by his father as the chief of his Marri tribe, has always condemned civilian killings. Though some leaders in the freedom camp advocate tit-for-tat, Mr Marri has long believed civilian killings are not the answer against Pakistani occupation. So it was not surprising that he tweeted, Friday, “Pakistan is trying to pit Pushtuns against Baloch, but we are one. My Mom is Pushtun & Dad was Baloch.” Five days earlier, he tweeted, “Vile Pakistanis say I’m behind #MastungAttack on Pushtuns. U shd know my mom is Pushtun 4m Pishin, home of the victims killed by ISI goons.” Other leaders who condemned the killings were party of commoners Baloch National Movement’s  Hammal Haider, former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal, chief of Bugti tribe Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti, and Mehran Marri’s estranged brother Hyrbyair Marri.

While surrendering, Haji Wali Kalati made a disturbing observation, which is true. He pointed out to the competition between UBA and BLA for the guerrilla turf, the so-called “Muddee war.” According to published media reports, Kalati said former communications and works minister Hyrbyair Marri and his younger brother Mehran Marri had been daggers drawn since the the UBA split away from the BLA. Senior Pakistan journalist Zahid Hussain writes in Dawn, “The two groups have recently been engaged in a bitter turf war resulting in several deaths.” Last November in an article titled, “The End of Pakistan’s Baloch insurgency,” Malik Siraj Akbar, Edward Mason Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, wrote in the Huffington Post, “On November 3, the United Baloch Army, an underground armed organization, said the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), another armed group, had killed one of it its commanders, Ali Sher, and detained four of its ‘freedom fighters’. This was an unprecedented development as the Baloch insurgents had never attacked each other in the past although half a dozen armed groups have been operating separately for a decade to challenge the Pakistani state.” The young but outstanding journalist and scholar wrote, “The killing of a fellow Baloch commander comes in the midst of a call two days earlier by two most important pro-independence Baloch political organizations, the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) that appealed to all the armed groups to refrain from fighting each other.” This scenario was predicted by Moscow-based Dr Jumma Marri, an astute observer of Balochistan politics and son of former guerrilla leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani, a hero of the 1973-77 insurgency, many years ago.

The Sarmachar or freedom fighters is the most precious asset of the Baloch people, and killing of one Sarmachar by another is an unpardonable offence that falls in the category of high treason. If this senseless competition as a result of the term I have coined called,  “brenemies”, that is brothers turned enemies, continues the Baloch movement will suffer immensely and may even suffer defeat, which none can afford. Social media supporters of UBA and BLA have also been engaged in juvenile mudslinging competition with one another at a time when complete unity is the need of the hour. It is true there may at times be a difference of opinion among Pakistani security services on the best way to crush the Baloch movement, but have we ever seen them turn their guns against one another? Have the Baloch Sarmachar leaders become cavemen or cowboys? There is no room for sibling rivalry here as the situation demands not only political sobriety and maturity, but also farsightedness and in fact statesmanship. Balochistan is at crossroads; Pakistan has set its eyes to take away Gwadar from the Baloch with the help of China any infighting is tantamount to playing in the enemies hands. 

At this juncture, those who wish well for the Baloch people, have to come forward to make the estranged Sarmachar leaders talk to one another. Some of them are highly respected among the Baloch like US Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Louie Gohmert, Steve King and other leaders of the Tea Party who are supporting the independence on Balochistan. Other international friends who can play a positive role are intellectual Tarek Fatah, international human rights defender Peter Tatchell and Afghanistan Green Trend chief and former Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh. They have to tell these leaders, who are real brothers, in plain English, “Cut it out.”

In addition to avoiding a repeat of Mastung, the Baloch leaders overseas must repose their full trust in the leadership of the most respected leaders and commanders whose feet are on the ground, including gold medalist gynecologist and chief of the Baloch Liberation Front, Dr Allah Nazar, Wahid Qambar, Mir Abdul Nabi Bangulzai, Abdul Rahim, among others. All of them should also salute organizations such as Baloch National Movement and the Baloch Students Organization Azad, who are the lifeblood of the Baloch movement. If their feet cannot be on the ground, in the battlefields of Balochistan like was the case with Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri, the overseas leaders should leave the guerrillas on the ground do their job and focus on such key areas like amassing international support, funding and better arms. If they aspire to create a France-sized country there are a host of issues they can handle, primarily meeting heads of states and governments or at least ambassadors of foreign countries where they live in exile.

It cannot be over emphasized  that all Baloch organizations must follow the Laws of War. However, Pakistani civilians who work on strategic projects that help the army’s stranglehold of Balochistan or augment the “corridor of death,” that is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, must understand the Baloch Sarmachars cannot be blamed for treating them as enemy combatants if their aim is to help Islamabad, or for that matter, Beijing, turn them into a minority in Balochistan.

Pakistani newspapers do not understand that a surrender of one or even a handful of commanders will not make much difference on the ground as the people of Balochistan have risen up against Pakistan’s state injustices. These newspapers were gleefully reporting Haji Wali Kalati’s surrender. Sweden based Baloch journalist Razzak Sarbazi comments, “Now Kalati will become the night watchman of Jangyz Marri.” One newspaper The Express Tribune, cited Nawabzada Jangyz Marri as saying, “I was not tasked or given responsibility to reach my brothers, Hyrbyair Marri and Mehran Marri, for negotiations.” None should trust his words as he does not represent the Marris, who have a glorious tradition of challenging the high and mighty since the days of the British Raj.