Bashir Zeb, former chairman of BSO-Azad and actual commander in chief of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has no doubts “The reason Baloch have not been successful in securing a foreign help is Pakistan’s usage of terrorists as a blackmailing tactics and foreign policy instruments. If a neighbouring country decides to help Baloch on humanitarian basis, Pakistan uses its proxy terrorist organisations to carry out bloodbaths in those countries. For example if NATO ever decides to help Baloch nation, Pakistan will use its international terror organisations to raise havoc upon NATO in Afghanistan”.
Zeb, who joined the armed struggle in 2011 because “my fellow activists were getting killed by Pakistani state forces on daily basis” is crystal clear about militancy, armed struggle and the role of Pakistan and China in the ongoing genocide in Balochistan. Despite the ban on BLA imposed on the organisation by the US State Department in July
Why and when did you join the armed struggle?
Like any other Baloch, I was aware of Balochistan’s history and its occupation by Pakistani state since childhood. However, I formally became part of the freedom struggle after I joined Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) as a student activist. In 2006 I became chairman of BSO and held the office and membership of the organisation until I finished my studies in 2011. This was the time when Pakistani state had made it impossible to practice surface and peaceful politics, my fellow activists were getting killed by Pakistani state forces on daily basis. This only left one form of struggle for me to choose and I joined the armed struggle for an independent Balochistan
The revolt in Balochistan is going on practically since the forced annexion of the country to Pakistan. The last big revolt has been during Seventies. Is there any difference between the actual movement and the one led by Nawab Marri?
In my opinion, the current phase is continuity of 1970s struggle or in fact even before that of the resistance that begun in 1948 against Pakistani occupation. Baloch have been successful in furthering the struggle with enormous improvements each time. However, if we have to compare the current phase with the 1970s then we can mainly find that these days the activists are equipped with clear stance and a transparent ideology. Today, every Baloch activist is aware of their objectives and knows how to attain those objectives. In 1970s there was lack of clarity at the bottom level and that resulted in divisions amongst the ranks. The second biggest difference is the current involvement of educated and urban Baloch in the struggle contrary to the tribal influence that the 1970s struggle suffered from. The most encouraging difference is the institutionalised approach of the struggle which is leaning towards more formal organisations, and that is the main reason the current phase has lasted for nearly two decades now and is gaining further strength with each day.
How is the US ban going to impact the BLA struggle?
It will not impact BLA’s activities in any way. Our activities and existence in Balochistan cannot be compromised as long as we enjoy the public support. However, if we politically analyse the recent ban than it is very clear that the ban instead of being related to BLA, US or Baloch nation is more relevant to ISI’s role in US-Taliban dialogue. Pakistan demanded this ban in return for bringing its proxies to the dialogue table. The most funny aspect of this whole saga is that US had to resort to proscribing a secular organisation as terrorists in order to directly have dialogues with an established terrorist entity. We know for sure that US will soon realise its mistake but they should have already realised that Pakistan is not a state that can be bestowed with any form of trust.
It has been said Baloch struggle has been stilled by a lack of political strategy and by internal divisions
Last year all the groups formed an umbrella organisation, BRAS or Baloch Raaji Aajohi e Sangar thanks to the efforts of BLA’s former chief martyr General Aslam Baloch and BLF leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch. It currently comprises of four organisations, BLA, BLF, BRA and BRG. The main purpose of BRAS is to encourage cooperation amongst the armed organisations, carry out effective joint operations against the enemy, resolve internal differences and increase the military power of Baloch nation. The ultimate aim of BRAS is to unite all pro-freedom Baloch forces to form a national Army.
But the armed struggle goes nowhere without a political strategy
Baloch freedom struggle has a very established and clear political strategy and that is the main reason behind its continuous success. We consider armed struggle a form of political approach. Our movement stems from established political concepts and it is in its current status only because peaceful means of struggle have been banned on us and armed struggle has been left as the only choice. However, our guns strongly follow political principles and ideologies because absence of such principles only lead towards anarchy. Our guerilla struggle is not offensive in nature but rather defensive and is bound by a political strategy. If we had a civilised country in front of us where democracy was existent and the voice of majority was heard then we would have used other forms of political struggle. Politics is always practiced according to the ground realities and the facts on the ground in Balochistan warrant for an armed struggle.
Who's giving the political guidelines?
As far as a joint political command is concerned it exists in form of BRAS, however, as with everything this also has room for further improvement. As I mentioned earlier currently a large majority of Baloch activists are educated and politically aware youth and intellectuals. Today, the majority of freedom fighters are the ones who have nurtured in political structures. All our leaders have strong political knowledge and have successfully maintained and improved the Movement continuously for 20 years now. In fact, today’s freedom fighters have full potential to run the administration, bureaucracy and military of an independent Balochistan.
So there's no division amongst Baloch leaders
Baloch leaders do not have major politcal differences. In form of BRAS, a large majority of Baloch stakeholders have already joined forces. We enjoy pleasant relations with other leaders too and are continously working towards unity. As I mentioned earlier there are few points on which all the Baloch leaders agree, which are Balochistan’s complete freedom, formation of a secular and democratic state and we have the common friends and foes.
The main foe, in the past year, appears to be China. US ban on BLA quotes the attacks on chinese consulate in Karachi on November 2018 and the attack to the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar in May. Why BLA seems to target only chinese interests?
China is involved in mass plundering of our natural resources. To further its economic and military expansionist designs, it has occupied our ports and is present on our land without our consent. Moreover, it is actively aiding Pakistan financially as well as militarily in attempts to quash our freedom struggle. Therefore, our attacks against Chinese interests have continued since 2004. Recently, China has increased their projects manifolds and is directly involved alongside Pakistan in Baloch genocide, therefore, in order to halt Chinese advancements we are justified to intensify our attacks, which will witness further intensity in coming days.