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Exclusive: Baloch activist Mahganj Baloch recalls war against women unleashed by Pakistan 

Mahganj Baloch talks about women activists in Balochistan

Year 2022 has swung the spotlight on Baloch women—notably after the Karachi University bombing by the first Baloch woman suicide bomber Shari Baloch. The bombing killed three Chinese teachers and their Pakistani driver. Months after this incident that made global headlines, unidentified assailants shot dead Nargis Baloch in Balochistan capital Quetta. Nargis’ two children had been shot dead earlier during the year.

Many Baloch women have been attacked in targeted killings by the Pakistani establishment. Scores are being kidnapped without any access to legal remedies or courts.

In an exclusive interview, India Narrative speaks with Mahganj Baloch, central committee member of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), on the role of Baloch women in the nationalist struggle. Mahganj epitomises Baloch womenfolk who have morphed from being normal Baloch women leading normal everyday lives to firmly holding the flag of the nationalist struggle.

Mahganj, who hails from Turbat, was a Junior English Teacher (JET) in a government girls’ middle school in Shapuk when she joined BSO Azad in 2010 and finally the BNM. She narrates her harrowing story of how she was tortured, not in a torture cell or a prison, but in a government hospital. She also says that most Baloch women do not return back to their families once they are “forcibly disappeared”.

Excerpts from the interview:

IN: What happens to women who have been forcibly disappeared? Do you hear about them? Do you get to see them again? Do they come back from Pakistani prisons?

MB: Let me tell you what happens to Baloch women in Pakistan.

In 2014 I had to take a patient to a private hospital where I was apprehended by the ISI. Then they took me to a civil hospital and put me under solitary confinement. The ISI tortured me in a hospital and not in a torture cell. I was always surrounded by the Pakistani army, the Frontier Corps and the ISI.

They would keep repeating to me that when all the Baloch men are killed, they will make a list of the women and abduct them one by one. Do you even know what we did with the Bengalis? We will do the same with baloch women also, referring to the ethnic sexual assaults on Bengali women in 1971 which eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The tales of disappeared Baloch women are very tragic. Some of the kidnapped women come back but a large number of women do not. Despite the kidnappings, the Pakistani army cannot demoralise our women. The women are participating in the struggle with motivation and vigour.

IN: What is the role of Baloch women in the independence movement of Balochistan? Many believe that Baloch women are not asserting themselves because of the patriarchal society and age-old traditions.

MB: Baloch women have been playing an important role in the liberation movement. The Baloch women have served the national struggle as one of the main protagonists.

Now they are managing the political aspect of the Baloch liberation struggle and they are opposing the Pakistani establishment with a lot of courage and determination.

I do not agree that the Baloch women are unable to express themselves. This is fundamentally not correct. I agree that our women do not have enough opportunities to get an education. However, despite this lacuna, they are moving ahead because of their determination and courage.

IN: Do you think that Pakistan agencies have launched a crackdown on Baloch women particularly after the Shari Baloch – the teacher and suicide bomber – killed three Chinese at the Karachi University?

MB: Pakistan has continued its oppression against the Baloch people but after the Shari Baloch suicide bombing, Pakistan’s crackdown has increased against women. It has upped the intensity of their human rights violations against Baloch women on a daily basis.

With the passage of time, the Pakistani government and military have only increased their atrocities against the Baloch with a view to indulge in ethnic cleansing.

IN: Is it true that Baloch women are joining the nationalist struggle as sarmachars secretly and many others are supporting the movement by organising protest marches and sit-ins at prominent places in Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad over enforced disappearances?

MB: I am not really aware whether more women are joining the armed struggle. But I know that Baloch women are playing an important role in supporting the Baloch struggle in various other ways.

IN: Besides Shari Baloch and Karima Baloch, can you recall more Baloch women revolutionaries who have been at the forefront of the Baloch struggle?

MB: There are lots of other women activists who are part of this struggle. To name a few—Sammi Baloch, Dr Mahrang Baloch, Dr Sabia Baloch, Seema Baloch and Zareena Baloch. Besides these, there are an unlimited number of women who are in the nationalist struggle in various ways.

Many women have been killed in target killings in Balochistan. Recently, there was an incident in which Zohra Baloch was attacked brutally. Earlier her husband Raza Jehangir, who was the secretary general of BSO-Azad too was killed.

There is another incident in Turbat in which Malik Naz Baloch was killed and her small daughter Bramsh was injured.

Also Read: China is assisting Pakistan with technology and drones to attack Baloch fighters: Baloch leader Faiz M Baluch