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The Che Guevara of South Asia: Allah Nazar Baloch – From physician to freedom fighter

Dr Allah Nazar Baloch of the Baloch Liberation Front

Before India’s independence and Pakistan’s creation, on 11 August 1947, Balochistan got independence. But it lasted only nine months as Pakistan occupied Balochistan on 27 March 1948. Since then, Balochistan has been fighting for its independence and for more than two decades one person–Dr Allah Nazar Baloch has been fighting tooth and nail against the Pakistani Army.

In an exclusive interview, Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch speaks with Mark Kinra about his journey in the field of politics, torture in Pakistani dungeons, the newly created BRAS group, the Iran connection, Barrick Gold, Baloch expectations from India and much more.

Excerpts from the interview:

IN: Please tell me something about your background and how did you start your political journey?

ANB: I was born in a common Baloch family in Mashkay, Awaran district. My family’s occupation was similar to that of a common Baloch—living a nomad’s way and working as seasonal farmers. As far as my political life is concerned, it started in 1985 through the Baloch Students Organization (BSO). 

IN: What were the turning points in your life that made you put down your stethoscope, shun your medical practice, pick up the gun and become a freedom fighter?

ANB: I will not term it as a turning point because we had been hearing the stories of terror from our elders which were perpetrated by Gen. Ayub Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and others, which has affected our living conditions on a day-to-day basis. Later, BSO gave us an understanding of how the Baloch are subjugated and our rights denied.

As far as shunning medical practice is concerned, this was a great opportunity for me as I can indulge myself in understanding my people, my land and my nation I which couldn’t do during five years of medical education. Not that I was waiting for such an opportunity but as soon as I got that opportunity and the BLF came into being; our real political struggle i.e the freedom struggle started. But I never really left the practice completely and tried to continue it alongside the freedom struggle. But surely in some sense, Pakistan’s barbarity towards the Baloch, poverty and stories from our elders was a turning point which led us to pick a weapon and initiate the freedom struggle for Balochistan.

IN: You were a member of the Baloch Student Organization (BSO), what was the reason to form your own student organization BSO (Azad)? 

ANB: Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law was still in place when I became a member of BSO. Soon after his plane crashed in August 1988, elections were announced. A section of BSO to which I was attached, had relations with the Baloch National Youth Movement (BNYM) and the latter contested the elections on the condition that they will use this platform to highlight the freedom struggle. But later they got entangled in Pakistani politics and it became a challenge for us.

Until that time, I held several top positions in BSO. I was the Senior Vice-Chairman of BSO when BSO (Azad) was created. Our thought was to create a platform which would be free from the influence of Pakistani politics and to create leadership for the community. We were eventually successful and as of today, the Baloch freedom struggle movement takes its credit that most leaders were part of BSO (Azad).

IN: Please tell us in detail about BLF. Does it relate to Jumma Khan’s BLF of the 1960s or is it a completely different organization?

ANB: Jumma Khan’s BLF has nothing to do with our BLF. Mir Jumma Khan was a seasoned politician who used to fight in Iran-occupied Balochistan. Yes, we have taken our name from the old organization but our organization is very different in its ideology.

IN: You have been arrested many times by Pakistani forces and detained for years. You faced uncountable physical and mental torture. How did you maintain your will and sanity in such extreme situations?

ANB: During the political protests, I was arrested many times–sometimes for hours, sometimes for days but the cruellest mental and physical torture which I had to bear was in 2005. I still carry trauma from the torture which was inflicted on me 17 years ago.

It isn’t just me. Numerous Baloch have undergone torture in the torture dungeons of Pakistan and they have the same story to share. This includes several of my colleagues who are fighting for independence today and have survived these torture cells like – Mir Wahid Qambar, Mir Abdul Nabi Bagulzai, Dr Naseem Baloch (BNM Chairman), Kamal Baloch (Senior Joint Secretary), Akhtar Nadeem and my brother Ali Nawaz Gohar who was later martyred and many more friends.

Our longing for freedom kept us strong during these horrific times. I remember once when I was in jail, a professor visited me to ask about my well-being and told me that I have to sustain this torture because I am living for a bigger purpose. All those struggling in Pakistan’s death dungeons today are alive because of their willpower and bigger purpose for the Baloch nation.

IN: In 2018, BRAS was formed, which is an umbrella organization of Baloch armed groups. What was the reasoning behind BRAS, when BLF is already functioning separately?

ANB: As far as BRAS is concerned, we needed Etihaad (togetherness) and we were planning this for long. BLF is a successful organization but we believe whichever organization is fighting this independence war should be on a common platform. Groups like BLA, BRG and BRA are all part of BRAS. There are several other groups, which I believe should also become part of BRAS and I intend that this alliance should culminate towards a strong unified organization in future, my firm belief along with other leaders is that this organization will lead the Baloch struggle further.

IN: Do you think that the leadership of common Baloch like yourself has replaced the Sardari system?

ANB: The Sardari system hasn’t benefited the Balochistan independence war from the beginning. Moreover, we feel there are a lot of pitfalls in the tribal system as they cannot fulfil the desires of the independence struggle. That is why the Baloch nation has decided to fight a war which leads the whole nation together. I don’t want to name myself, but there are a lot of Baloch under whose leadership the Baloch nation is fighting a commendable independence war and they have no linkages to the family of any Sardar but they are fighting like a common Baloch. Sardars and their families should realize that the tribal system will not fulfil the desires of the national movement and they should fight this war as Baloch.

IN: In a recent interview, Mehran Marri said that the genesis of Balochistan’s struggle was laid by Marri and Bugti families, how do you see this statement considering that the fight for Balochistan has gone beyond these families and common people have joined in?

ANB: I disagree with Mehran Marri sahib that the struggle for independence of Balochistan was started by either family. The freedom struggle was started by the people of Balochistan. Though both Nawab Khair Bax Marri and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti were stalwarts of the Baloch nation and we highly regard them for their sacrifices which are inspiring to the Baloch nation today and in times to come. I believe, the trust which the Baloch nation had towards the two stalwarts is lesser towards the current family members. If they can fight this independence war being a Baloch and not a Sardar then the Baloch nation wholeheartedly will support our friends.

IN: Pakistani intellectuals and authorities have stated that Iran is supporting and backing you while Mehran Marri, without naming the BLF, has stated that many new activists are being monetarily supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia and ISI. How much truth is there in this statement?

ANB: I don’t know on what basis, the concerned person is saying that I am getting support from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia doesn’t even share a border with Balochistan. We are fighting independently, we want support from the EU, UK, US, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Gulf states and all those countries who consider the Baloch as a victim. They should support our cause for independence and we would welcome them. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has supported us till and I don’t see any plan in the foreseeable future. However, hope God-willing these countries support us.

IN: There have been some major attacks on Pakistan since the start of this year. After the Lahore blast at the Anarkali market, you stated that each independence war is unique and depends upon the war strategy of the oppressed. Are you favouring the killing of civilians in this independence war?

ANB: I will never favour attacking the civilian population as a human being but the fact of the matter is the psychology of our enemy, the realities of our land and region are very different than in other parts of the world. Our enemy doesn’t even spare our mothers and children.

Men and women, old or young are treated in the same manner, they are being dragged out of their homes and put in jail or killed and their mutilated bodies are dumped. Our enemy is coward and scared of our scholars in the universities from their fame and their enlightened minds and is trying to silence them through assassinations. And in this context, I have stated that our struggle is different from anywhere else in the world, especially in regards to the enemy and geography as we are fighting a complicated war, therefore our strategy also needs to be different. Our enemy doesn’t have any ethics nor cultural values or redlines in war, so we need to act accordingly at times.

IN: BRAS has warned Canadian company Barrick Gold to stay from the Reko Diq deal. The new deal will give 25% to Balochistan and will give employment to Baloch. Why do you oppose the deal, even the Balochistan Assembly has given its assent to the deal?

ANB: Balochistan Assembly doesn’t represent Baloch, all those people who are sitting in the Assembly are brought in by ISI. Baloch doesn’t even know the names of these representatives. They are all selected people. The alleged CM of Balochistan belongs to my place, what kind of popular support does he have? He couldn’t even bag 8% support among the registered voters but now he has become the CM. I firmly believe Baloch has never trusted this Assembly for its legality or its freedom struggle. I request the media to take note of this that this Assembly is created by ISI and from time to time people sit here like in musical chairs. I completely support the warning which BRAS has given to Barrick Gold officials for Reko Diq or Chinese for CPEC that foreign companies should not trade with illegitimate people who have colonized us and these projects are displacing people, exploiting them and they do not have approval or sanctity of the Baloch nation.

IN: Pakistan has alleged that BLF has for a long time received funding and support from India. Is this true? If No, do you wish that the Indian people and Indian Govt. should support the cause of Balochistan?

ANB: Pakistan has always alleged from the start that we receive funding and support from India, which is ridiculous. These Pakistani Punjabis are perpetual liars, they even blame their politicians/political parties as Indian agents. This is part of their culture and political narrative. We are fighting for our independence, so Pakistan will use this propaganda. We want to clarify that we want India to intervene in Balochistan as an immediate neighbour but unfortunately India is not openly supporting Balochistan’s independence nor providing any kind of support to Baloch. We appeal and welcome India being the biggest democracy to intervene in Balochistan as India knows how Pakistan is committing genocide upon us, it is also your responsibility from our shared history.