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Is the BLA a terrorist organisation?

A suicide blast in Quetta, Balochistan (Photo: Twitter)

There is no justification in calling the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) a terrorist organisation, as Pakistan calls it, or, a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in Pakistan as the United States has designated and sanctioned it. If the BLA is called a terrorist for self-defence against the Pakistan Army’s atrocities on the people of Baluchistan, then why the US not label the Mukti Bahini a terrorist organisation in East Pakistan in 1971. The world was convinced that the Mukti Bahini was engaged in a just war against the trigger-happy Pakistani soldiers. The BLA is trying not only to protect its people from the trigger-happy Pakistani soldiers and their agents but also the natural wealth of their province from Pakistani and Chinese looters.

Again, the US never called the Taliban as terrorists despite their claims to having hundreds of suicide bombers and their frequent terrorist attacks on the Afghan elected government for 20 years. Mukti Bahini and BLA have exactly the same meaning as a liberation army. The Mukti Bahini emerged in 1971 to counter Pakistani occupying Army’s mission of exterminating Bengalis of East Pakistan. They killed about three million Bengalis and criminally assaulted lakhs of women. The world supported the Mukti Bahini’s right to defend.

The Baloch hate for Pakistan started in 1948 when the Pakistani Army bombed Baluchistan to annex it. The BLA’s origin can be traced to 1973 when then Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the Balochistan provincial government, jailed its leaders and ordered military crackdown on Balochistan. Armed Balochs climbed up into the mountains to fight the Pakistani Army. Hundreds of them escaped to Afghanistan where Khair Bux Murri organised military training for them. Marri never accepted Pakistan’s occupation of Baluchistan.

The Baluch-Army confrontation lasted from 1973 to 1977. In July 1977 Army Chief Gen. Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Bhutto and called off military crackdown on the Baluch in December 1977.

During the military crackdown (1973-77) a Baluchistan Independence Movement (BIM) was launched which reflected the aspirations of the common Baluch. This movement slowed down after Gen. Zia called off military action against the Baluch. But anti-Pakistan sentiments kept simmering because persecution and discrimination against the people of Baluchistan were not stopped.

As a result, BIM ultimately was replaced by the BLA in 2000.

The media treated the Mukti Bahini and the BLA very differently. The former received a highly sympathetic Press all over the world. Against this, the latter did not even get into the Pakistani Press. The army does not allow newspapers and TV channels to write or air the truth about the human rights violations, loot of natural wealth by Pakistanis and Chinese in Baluchistan and the reasons for BLA revolt. The media is free only to talk about its terror activities. Human rights organisations and civil society activists are warned against highlighting the suffering of the Baluch. Pakistanis, therefore, do not know about the sufferings in Baluchistan. They also hardly know how Pakistanis and Chinese are looting Baluchistan’s natural wealth. They may also not know how young poor Baloch boys risk their lives by working in their gold and coal mines in Baluchistan without adequate facilities and wages.

To face the Pakistani Army and its agents who kill or torture Baluch youths at will, the BLA claims to have hundreds of fidayeen including women also. Earlier women had kept away from such activities but ‘continuing disappearances’ of their fathers, husbands and brothers have forced them to join the man folk to fight the Pak Army. It is noticeable that women outnumber men at sit-in protests in front of different Press clubs in Baluchistan against disappearances of their dear ones. In Gwadar protests, women and children participate in very large numbers.

Last month, a 25-year-old woman suicide bomber Journalist Sumaiya Qalandarani Baloch targeted a 5-vehicle convoy of Pakistani secret agencies in Turbat when it was on way to ISI headquarters. The army did not disclose how many people died.

Sumaiya joined the BLA apparently to take revenge for the disappearance of her grandfather, uncles and cousins on one day-February 18, 2011. Commenting on Sumaiya’s sacrifice, a BLA spokesman said the revenge for her sacrifice was “complete independence of Baloch motherland”. He said Pakistan and China should immediately leave Baluchistan. Last year in April, a BLA woman suicide bomber Shari Baloch targeted a vehicle in Karachi and killed its three Chinese occupants.