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Exclusive: Baloch resistance is unfazed by Pakistan military’s death squads, says Ahmed Baloch, BNM foreign policy campaigner

Ahmed Baloch, Balochistan National Movement's (BNM) foreign policy campaigner in London (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Globally, Baloch organisations are known for their armed resistance in their fight for independence against Pakistan. The Balochistan National Movement (BNM) has intertwined itself with the global civil society elevating the Baloch cause internationally. Senior leaders of the BNM are taking up the cause of their struggle with parliamentarians in the UK and in Europe. 

Led by Khalil Baloch, the BNM has been at the receiving end of the Pakistani military which is known to have killed hundreds of BNM workers, including former leader Ghulam Mohammad Baloch in 2009. 

The BNM also runs the autonomous Zrumbesh Broadcasting Corporation—a multi language media network.

India Narrative catches up with Ahmed Baloch, the foreign policy campaigner of the BNM in Central London. Ahmed throws light on the changes taking place in the Baloch society, the internationalisation of their cause and how the Baloch refugees in the UK strive to live and make their struggle heard in the right quarters.

As the head of the foreign policy division, Ahmed interacts with international NGOs, civil society organisations and elected representatives in the UK. “We usually begin with a 15-minute presentation on the history of Balochistan and then talk about human rights violations”.

His work is not as easy as he makes it out to be.

Internationalisation of the Baloch Struggle

Ahmed highlights how its youth wing—the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO)—participated in World Social Forums (WSF) in 2004 in India and later on in Pakistan. “We held a seminar on the human rights issues facing the Baloch people in Karachi during the WSF. A number of international organisations like Amnesty International, Oxfam and ActionAid came to know about the Baloch issues at this time”, says Ahmed.

Baloch activists run into strong and well-organised Pakistani opposition. Over years, Pakistani organisations have become united and act in coordinated collaboration with the Pakistani High Commission in London. The Baloch probably number just 2,000 in all of the UK and find it difficult to get a sympathetic hearing.

Ahmed says that for long the Baloch independence struggle was called “a low-level insurgency. We caught the attention of the world after the attacks on the Chinese consulate in Karachi as well as on the stock exchange. The attack on the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar was against Chinese investors. These attacks focused international attention on Balochistan”.

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Changes in the Baloch Strategy

The Baloch freedom struggle has spread to all sections of the Baloch society. “Our leaders are emerging from the lower and middle classes. They are putting their children on the line in the armed struggle. This began to happen between 8-10 years back”, says Ahmed, adding that earlier, the Baloch fighters would attack Pakistani troops but now it is to capture the posts and hoist the Baloch flags. “The Pakistani army would deny that attacks had taken place. But now they cannot deny it as we capture the posts, put up our flags and make videos”.

Many Baloch leaders are now leading from the field. As an example, Ahmed points out to Dr Allah Nazar, Bashir Zeb and Gulzar Imam—all of who are on ground and directing operations against the Pakistani army.

Ahmed says that various groups and factions among the Baloch are getting together. He says that the emergence of Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) as an umbrella organisation has given a clear message to the Baloch people that their organisations are united in seeking independence.

BRAS was formed in 2018, when the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) came under one umbrella. Recently, the United Baloch Army (UBA) and the BRA merged together to form the Baloch National Army (BNA) which also is a part of BRAS.

The two groups—UBA and BRA—also unite Balochistan’s two major tribes—the Marris and the Bugtis. The UBA is led by Mehran Marri, while the BRA is headed by Brahumdagh Bugti—the son of Akbar Bugti, a leader of the Bugti tribe who was killed in 2006 in a Pakistani military operation.

Baloch Society becoming Political Aware

Ahmed says: “The Baloch masses have become politically aware. We do not see this kind of awareness among the Pakistani people. If you ask simple questions to the Pakistani people, they hardly know anything on Balochistan. But the Baloch people even in rural areas are conscious of what is happening around them and in Pakistan”.

He highlights that there is more to Baloch organisations than freedom fighters and attacks. During the sailab (floods) in Turbat, Baloch youth from the BSO were the first to reach with relief materials, even before government agencies.

“The Baloch have stopped believing in the Pakistani political system or democracy. They have stopped casting their votes in elections as the Baloch people do not want to accept the laws of Pakistan. What we are trying to show the world is that the Pakistani system is not a true representative of democracy due to the very small percentage of votes cast by the Baloch people”, adds Ahmed.

The Mysterious Death Squads

Talking about the terror unleashed by various kinds of Pakistani agencies, Ahmed says that the death squads in Balochistan are a brutal reality. “There are two kinds of death squads. One is the gangs of criminal that do human trafficking, gun running, drug smuggling and manage other criminal activities. They have their own check-posts and collect protection money. These gangs operate directly under the protection of the Pakistani military.

The other death squads consist of Islamic groups who indulge in attacks, kidnappings, killings and lootings under the pretext of violation of Islam. These people target minorities and Baloch nationalists on grounds of people being kafir and for observing different practices under Islam. Members of both kinds of death squads can be identified as they have Pakistani flag insignia on their Kalashnikovs, something that even the Pakistani military does not do. These death squads also work under the protection of the military and intelligence”, says Ahmed. 

Life of Baloch refugees in the UK

The handful of Baloch who moved to Western countries including Canada, Europe and the UK still live in fear. The notorious plot to kill Pakistani blogger and activist Ahmad Waqas Goraya in the Netherlands by UK-based Gohar Khan added to their discomfort further.

“We used to monitor the Goraya case at the Kingston Crown Court. I did not go to the hearings due to safety reasons but we used to send different people at the hearings. We always had concerns which we used to share with the British authorities. In 2013, Hammal Haider, activist Karima Baloch’s husband, who was the BNM foreign affairs spokesperson was attacked with a sword in east London. We reported to the police but it was not taken seriously at that time”. says Ahmed.

Ahmed says that all Baloch people have become cautious.

“We do not venture out without informing our family, we keep sending our location to people at home, they know about the people we meet up with and the purpose of meetings. We are not scared but we take precautions”, says Ahmed.

The Baloch refugees lead a tough life in the UK. Young BNM activists work at McDonald’s and one even works as a loader. They collect donations from among the sparse Baloch community to organise events, do not eat out and save money by living frugally.

Ahmed’s escape from Pakistan

Ahmed left Pakistan as a youth activist after his mentor was arrested by intelligence agencies. “I was planning to meet Zahid Baloch, the chairperson of the BSO, in Quetta in March 2014, to create an international campaign over the discovery of mass graves of 169 people in Tootak in Khuzdar, Central Balochistan. However, he was arrested on way to my place after which I realised that I was exposed”.

"By the time the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) came looking for me in Quetta, I was already in Karachi and was escaping to the UK", says Ahmed.

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