Dr Naseem Baloch, the new chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) in an exclusive interview to India Narrative
The 10th Council Session of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) which was held on April 22-25, saw the election of a new Cabinet and members of the Central Committee. The elections also resulted in the appointment of Dr Naseem Baloch as the new chairman.
India Narrative speaks to Chairman Naseem in an online interview with Mark Kinra. The BNM chairman speaks about his journey in the field of politics, BNM’s election process, the Western media, Shari Baloch's act, expectations from India and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: How did you start on your political journey?
NB: I belong to Mashkay area of Balochistan. It is an extremely underdeveloped area which has been enduring Pakistani military barbarism since the 1970s. This military barbarism, marginalization and the violence manifested in the daily behaviour of the colonizing Pakistani armed forces against us – the Baloch people, and this has brought us to political thinking. Hence, I like many other youths of Balochistan found organized politics against Pakistani occupation as the only way for our national salvation.
The Baloch Student Organization (BSO) played an important role in this regard. It provided me with the opportunity to learn and participate in its political activities in various ranks and leadership roles. I was also one of the founding members and central committee member of BSO-Azad from 2002 onwards. After my student years, I joined the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and worked at different ranks. I was forced to leave Balochistan after I was kidnapped by the Pakistan Army in 2010, tortured and then released. I was doing my MCPS Psychiatry specialisation but I had to leave specialisation and move abroad. However, I continued my activities as a European Organizer and later Organizer of the BNM Diaspora Committee.
Q: Pakistan always had struggles with elections, recent being Imran Khan and Opposition turmoil. You have been recently elected as the 3rd Chairperson of BNM. Could you please elaborate on the process through which the BNM elects its Chairperson, Cabinet and Committee members?
NB: BNM is a democratic political party. It has roots in masses and members are part of basic structures; Units, Zones (which are named Chapters abroad), Central Committee, Central Cabinet and Central Council. The Central Councillors are elected by the members, which in turn elect the Chairman, Central Cabinet and Central Committee after every four years. Each zone/chapter has its representation according to its numerical strength. In the Council session, each councillor has one vote and the right to contest at any position. So, you see that we have an elected authorised basis i.e., the councillors and a democratic process that is vigilant, resilient and participatory.
Q: You have experienced extreme torture at the hands of the Pakistan Army, once in 2005 and then in 2010. How did you survive the torture and what kept you going?
NB: The Pakistani colonial regime is indeed a regime instituted by violence and oppression. When we speak of torture, the whole Baloch society is enduring continuous suppression and torture. It is by this force of violence, torture and numerical strength that the occupying Pakistani regime has established itself in Balochistan, all against the will of the Baloch people.
Pakistan is not satisfied with the brutalities it commits. Its policy of collective torture also manifests in engaging with countries like China to further suppress our language, our way of life, culture and outrightly deny our history.
In 2005, I was abducted along with Baloch leader Allah Nizar, that time BSO Chairman Dr. Imdad Baloch, Akhtar Nadeem Baloch, Shaheed Ali Nawaz Gohar, Dr Yousuf Baloch and GR Baloch. We were tortured for two months in Pakistani Army dungeons. At that time Pakistan had yet not started the notorious “kill and dump” policy. So, after a huge public reaction and protests by masses guided by BSO, the Pakistan Government was compelled to release us. But still, before releasing us, they concocted fake charges against us.
In 2010, I was on duty as a trainee of MCPS Psychiatry in the Psychiatry Department of Bolan Medical Complex Hospital (BMCH). Along with my political activities, I was also part of the doctor's community. When I was abducted, an enforced disappearance in front of the hospital, the doctor's associations in coordination with the political parties started a Balochistan wide strike by closing all the hospitals. The strike paralyzed the health system in Balochistan and once again forced the Pakistani Government to release me after two months of disappearance and severe torture. The strike was led by Dr Mazar Baloch, then president of the Pakistan Medical Association Balochistan chapter and was later killed by Pakistan in October 2011.
protest In Barkhan against Enforced Disappearance..
A large number of people joined to demand safe release of shahzain Baloch , Naseem & dr Jameel Baloch #ReleaseBarkhanActivists pic.twitter.com/x472AjOQwk
— Aneesa baloch (@Aneesabaloch6) March 31, 2022
Q: You have been working as an Organizer of the BNM’s Diaspora Committee. Can you share some examples where the Baloch diaspora has mobilized support for Balochistan?
NB: Baloch people have only recently started to move to Western countries. They do not have a huge diaspora in the West like other movements, such as Tamils, Kurds etc. Nevertheless, they play a huge role and support our movement especially financially, as well as in human resources. However, even with these small numbers, I believe we could be more vocal and influential if we succeed in organizing a thoroughly thought and executed public diplomacy effort. So, I think it is one of the areas that we have to work our way, almost from scratch.
Q: Why do the New York Times or the Arab press like Al Jazeera not highlight the issue of Balochistan and Pakistani atrocities over the Baloch?
NB: There is a complete blackout in Balochistan. Independent and foreign journalists are not allowed to enter Balochistan. Even tourists are banned and need a No Objection Certificate from the Army to enter Balochistan. Despite all this, some journalists have succeeded to get some coverage in different international media houses like New York Times, Guardian, BBC, Washington Post and some others. You must have cognisance that Declan Walsh was threatened by Pakistani secret agencies to leave the country. Agents entered his hotel room and handed over him a letter to leave Pakistan. Among other reasons, the major reason for him being blacklisted from Pakistan was his journalism on Balochistan.
The Western media’s coverage is also oriented to the problems and interests that affect the West. The lives of the Baloch people and their struggle for freedom do not serve the western narrative very well. Especially the British post-colonial – neo colonist policy of creating Pakistan and the millions of deaths that this creation brought along with the genocide of the Bengalis in the 1970s and that of Baloch, Pashtoon and Sindhis right now are a continuation of the shameful British past. And I say that reporting on such a historical blunder like that of Pakistan which to date is held intact by violence and human rights violations can logically be akin to reporting on Western, particularly British, indignity. Hence, they opt to turn a blind eye.
Q: Prof. Naela Quadri Baloch, leader of the Baloch People’s Congress recently claimed to have formed Balochistan’s Government-in-Exile. What are your comments on this?
NB: I believe, for the sake of legitimacy, such a step would need consensus with the multiple stakeholders in Balochistan’s freedom struggle. It would only work when we start to develop a unified consensus and a minimal level of understanding among ourselves. Otherwise, I only see it as another unnecessary public statement put forward to serve the sentimental emotions of the Baloch public.
Q: In your congratulatory note after winning the elections, you have stated your willingness to open a new chapter of negotiations with Pro-independence political parties and other organisations that are struggling for a free Balochistan. Could you please elaborate more on this – which groups are you talking to and what will be your strategy?
NB: The BNM as a democratic party believes in the diversity of the Baloch nation and its liberation movement. We see this diversity from Koh e Suleman to the Makkuran Coast as our beauty and strength. Hence BNM has always played a collaborative role among the diverse Baloch freedom-seeking organizations. At times we have succeeded in forging alliances, Baloch National Front (BNF) is one example. In the past years, we have once again stepped up our efforts to collaborate with other Baloch freedom-seeking groups. I am personally open to all possibilities of cooperation and collaboration including the possibility of building alliances. I would also try to engage with other groups too in near future.
@DrNaseemBaloch Organizer BNM Diaspora Committee and Hatim Baloch are talking to @TimesofGeneva about ongoing HR violations and #BalochGenocide during a protest at Broken Chair in front of @UN office in Geneva.
#HRC40 #Balochistan pic.twitter.com/kEehkEgXCU
— Dil Murad Baloch (@DMBaloch_) March 13, 2019
Q: On 26 April 2022, Shari Baloch, the first female fidayeen attacked Chinese nationals and Pakistani interests. How do you see the involvement of Baloch women in Balochistan’s freedom struggle? Will more Baloch women turn towards suicide bombing?
NB: Baloch society is one of the last societies that are still heavily controlled by the patriarchal power hierarchy. BSO Azad and BNM were among the first political institutions during the early 2000s that emphasised more freedom and participation of the Baloch women in the Baloch society. As a result, we have seen that a lot has changed in the last 20 years concerning women's rights. But still, the major battle for women’s rights in Balochistan remains unfought. I hope more women would come up and claim their rights. BNM as a political party stands on their side, not to mention that BNM’s ideology of emancipation from Pakistan includes complete equality for women in a free Balochistan.
That being said, I would also emphasise that women have always supported the liberation struggle. We have a long history of it, but recently it has become more prominent. Their role is very important because they are leading the ground forces and masses in Balochistan. Especially, the enforced disappeared persons’ issue is solely highlighted by them, some like that of Sammi d/o Deen Mohammed whose father was abducted by the army when she was about 9-10 years old has grown up to be a leading women’s peaceful and courageous voice.
I believe some Baloch people like the fidayeen Shari Baloch have a first-hand observation of the multi-dimensional brutalities, diverse aggressions, cumulative and collective punishment and are thereby being confronted by the question of how to end the Pakistani brutalities at any cost. They believe brutal powers do not yield to peaceful means. Hence, they find it logical to choose any means necessary against these brutalities. I think one has to question why on earth people have to go to such extreme steps to get their basic right to a dignified life. The world has failed us that people are forced to take such extreme steps.
Q: As BNM’s Diaspora Committee Organizer you had the privilege to engage with various communities around the world. Which community do you feel is most receptive to the Baloch cause? Do Non-Resident Indians sympathize and support the Baloch cause?
NB: I do not have much to say on this. Neither, do I have feedback from non-Resident Indians. But I wish all the citizens of the world show their moral support for the Baloch cause as it is a just one and it serves the purposes of human brotherhood and peace against a fascist Pakistani country.
Q: It is said India has not taken up the cause of the Balochistan freedom struggle. What do you, as the new Chairman of BNM, want India to do for the cause of an independent Balochistan? Do you have a message for India or Indians?
NB: Not only India but we request all the other countries to talk about the barbarism being committed against the Baloch people by Pakistan. They should support a Free Balochistan which will guarantee peace in the region. India is in the limelight due to Pakistani propaganda for fuelling the Baloch movement. But I believe that India being the regional power, largest democracy, and neighbour, should have a more prominent role. I hope India and others will go a step ahead and speak up against the state atrocities of Pakistan in Balochistan and help us in our freedom struggle.