One of the oldest Baloch militant outfits, Balochistan Liberation Army, has suffered yet another split.
Before the assassination of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti there was just one armed group BLA. But today there are half dozen armed outfits and a new one crops up every now and then. Obviously, militancy has become a highly profitable venture in blood soaked Balochistan.
Pakistan accuses London-based former Balochistan government minister Hyrbyair Marri of assuming the operational command of the BLA, since the assassination of his brother Balach Marri November, 21 2007.
Earlier this month, the “high command” of the BLA released a statement announcing suspension of what it described as “two area commanders,” Aslam Baloch and Bashirzeb Baloch, indefinitely for violating the organisation’s discipline and trying to create anarchy within the organisation. The statement said services of two BLA spokespersons, namely Jeehand and Meerak, were also terminated.
The BLA faction said, “On 1st June 2017 Aslam Baloch visited India without permission from the BLA high command. A disciplinary committee was formed by the leadership to investigate Aslam Baloch’s actions. It was initially decided that the organisation will wait for Aslam Baloch to return from India and then he will be questioned about his visit.”
The statement said when it was learned Aslam is “conspiring against the BLA,” an emergency meeting was called by the high command and it was decided that BLA will inform the Baloch nation about his visit to India. “On 24 July, the Baloch Liberation Army in a press release informed media that Aslam Baloch’s decision to go to India was his personal choice and that it was not an organisational policy of BLA.”
The BLA faction said after its statement about the suspensions Bashirzeb used the name of Jeehand as BLA spokesperson to issue a fake statement to media claiming that the militant outfit’s social media pages and website have been hacked by people working for Pakistani intelligence agencies. “Jeehand (Bashirzeb Baloch) statement was, in fact, untrue and an attempt to mislead organisation’s members, Baloch nation and media about the BLA. Bashirzeb also created new fake social media pages and websites in the name of BLA with the intention to divide the organisation and bring anarchy.”
The BLA faction statement said when Aslam Baloch returned from India, several times he was asked to come and appear before the committee, handover organisation’s satellite phones, fake accounts and answer about his visit to India, but Aslam Baloch not only refused to appear before the disciplinary committee, but he and Bashirzeb Baloch kept violating policies and the discipline.
The BLA faction said it disowns and distances itself from the personal wrong decisions and actions of Aslam Baloch. “In the past, we have neither supported nor opposed the religious groups,” the BLA statement said. “We did, however, took action against those religious elements who directly opposed Baloch national struggle by collaborating with Pakistan state to physically harm Baloch freedom fighters or Baloch civilians.”
The BLA faction does seem to have take a correct stand on Press freedoms. The BLA faction said it does not back the actions which were claimed by the suspended spokesperson Jeehand Baloch’s decision to support the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF’s) anti-media campaign where they have threatened to harm innocent local journalists. “Jeehand Baloch in fact, accepted the responsibility of attacks on media offices and cable operators in Noshi and Khuzdar in the name of BLA. We want to make it clear that BLA doesn’t support such actions and the anti-media campaign which was initiated by these rogue element.”
While vowing not to use its energy against journalists and other innocent professionals, the BLA faction said, “Journalists in Balochistan despite immense pressure from Pakistani state forces have refused to conspire against Baloch struggle and refrained from working for the state against Baloch freedom struggle. Balochistan is one of the dangerous places in the world for journalists because they have been under continuous pressure and threatened with dire consequences by Pakistani state apparatus. Pakistani state army has killed many Baloch journalists from fulfilling their journalistic responsibilities. Some of whom include Javid Nasir Rind, Siddique Eddo, Ilyas Nazar, Lala Hameed, Haji Abdul Razzaq, Munir Shakir and several others.”
In spite of its pro-journalist statement, the BLA itself had violated the Baloch honor code of not touching women and target killed journalism professor, Nazima Talib, seven years ago. Hyrbyair Marri, the alleged BLA chief, had at the time said since the Pakistan army targets Baloch females, Baloch militants too have the right to target Pakistan women.
Recently, Hyrbyair Marri shocked the Baloch people as he came out openly in defense of the “moderate Islam” of Saudi Arabia, though the Saudis are the closest allies of Pakistan’s army. Pakistan former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif has the ears of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is called “Salman bin Kushner” on the Arab streets as he is very close to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s aide and son-in-law. Gen Sharif, who committed war crimes in Balochistan, is commander in chief of the Saudi-lead, anti-Shia Islamic Military Alliance.
The BLA faction also accused the current leadership of BLF (Balochistan Liberation Front) of Dr Allah Nazar of supporting anarchist commanders to change the policy of the BLA. “These two commanders of the BLA, wanted to turn our organisation into an Iranian proxy like the BLF and in this conspiracy, they were also supported by Naela Quadri,” the BLA said.
On their part, the BLF accuses the BLA faction led by Hyrbyair Marri of being in bed with the salafist Jaishul Adal and of being a Saudi proxy– Hyrbyair Marri’s statement in favor of the moderate Islam of Saudi Arabia does speak volumes. After Marri’s statement, BLF chief Dr Allah Nazar tweeted, “I condemn Hairbyar Marri’s statement condoning religious extremists & commending Saudis who fund numerous groups that kill Zikri Baloch.” Zikris are a chanting religion in Balochistan, different from mainstream Sunnis.
The BLA-BLF mutual charges against one another of being Iran and Saudi proxies was echoed by former chief minister, Dr Abdul Malik, who was himself once a supporter of armed struggle. He accused Iran and Saudi Arabia of staging a turf war in Balochistan.
The woman Baloch leader mentioned in the BLA statement, Vancouver-based Prof Naela Quadri is well-known in India. She might have facilitated Aslam Baloch’s visit to India, inviting the BLA’s ire. Hyrbyair Marri’s dislike of Quadri is shared by Geneva-based Brahumdagh Bugti, who is accused by Pakistan of being the head of the Baloch Republican Army (BRA). Bugti appears to be so allergic to Prof Quadri that he stops talking with anyone who simply says hello to Prof Quadri, even though she was once member of his party’s central committee. In the eyes of many Baloch, it is intriguing that two prominent Baloch feudal lords feel insecure by a common Baloch woman leader.
Pakistan army had come hard on Prof Quadri’s family as she was close to slain former member of the Balochistan assembly, Hyrbyair Marri’s elder brother Balach Marri. On September 30, 2006 as many as 60 army trucks and three choppers swooped on her countryside home in Balochistan and arrested her husband Mustafa Raisani. The army mistakenly thought Balach Marri was hiding at her residence. After brutal torture of two years, Raisani was freed but is still sick.
The BLA faction statement further said, “One year ago, the organisation (BLA) formed a three-member committee for negotiations about unity and coordination with Balochistan Liberation Front on condition that BLF abandons its policy of using unnecessary force against the Baloch nation.”
The BLA faction deplored Baloch killings by the BLF. “We believe that because of such actions of BLF, the Baloch freedom movement is losing the support of the Baloch nation. We consider the Baloch nation our main source of power and strength and we will not support the unnecessary use of force against them. Forcibly shutting down businesses of the local Baloch population and bursting the tires of Baloch transporters doesn’t help Baloch struggle in any way nor defeats Pakistan. Nor does such actions get us closer to our main objective of independent Balochistan.”
As far as targeting Baloch locals goes, the BLA faction charge against BLF appears to carry weight as the BLF of Dr Nazar has targeted scores of Baloch civilians, including females, on a frivolous charge they were Pakistan agents. Under Dr Nazar’s instructions, the BLF killed his brother-in-law Daulat Mamasani for being an informer two years ago. In fact one of the most brilliant commanders of the BLF, Dr Qambar Qazi, son of famous poet Mubarik Qazi, was shot dead because he opposed the Baloch killings by the BLF and was about to switch his loyalty to the BLA.
The BLF has also targeted extremely poor laborers from Sindh and Punjab, but the BLA kept mum on it as almost all Baloch militant outfits consider unarmed Punjabi civilians as fair game.
The BLA faction announced it was now dissolving the three-member committee responsible for negotiations with BLF about coordination and unity. “For time being there will be no efforts of cooperation with the current leadership of BLF until the sincere and dedicated members of BLF pressurize their leadership to change the current wrong policies, they stop working as Iranian proxy and convince their leadership to use their energy against the enemy (Pakistan) instead of Baloch civilians.”
Though the BLA faction used the term “high command,” the statement was most probably drafted by Kabul-based Hafeez Hasanabadi, a right hand man of Hyrbyair Marri and uncle of former senator Sanaullah Baloch. Hasanabadi is regarded as the chief ideologue of the BLA.
Bad blood between the BLA faction and BLF is surprising. Just last month Hyrbyair Marri was expected in Geneva for a unity talk among militant leaders. That unity meeting would have been attended by Hammal Haider, international spokesperson of the BNM, which is said to be the political arm of the BLF. The BNM denies link with the BLF in public.
The meeting, called by Brahumdagh Bugti, could not take place as Pakistan successfully pressured the Swiss government to arrest and deport Mehran Baluch from Zurich airport, even though he is a Briton. The Swiss have clamped a lifetime ban on Mehran Baluch’s Swiss entry on a charge he heads the United Baluch Army (UBA).
The BLA faction statement said, “Azad Baloch will remain organisation’s only, and the official spokesperson. The media should only regard Azad Baloch’s statements as the official statements of BLA,” the statement concluded.
Some years ago, the BLA suffered a major setback when a splinter faction United Baloch Army (UBA) parted ways with it. Mehran Baluch alleged head of the UBA like his estranged elder brother Hyrbyair Marri, has no experience of guerrilla warfare. Other groups involved in the militancy business are Baloch Republican Army (BRA), which Pakistan alleges is headed by Brahumdagh Bugti and now dormant Lashkar-i-Balochistan, which Islamabad charges is led by Mir Javed Mengal and his son Noordin Mengal, both of who are based in London.
The overall militancy budget is guesstimated at $60 million, a huge chunk of which or $25 million, lines the pockets of the unnamed donors as kickbacks. Another big chunk ends up in the lines of corrupt freedom leaders; only a trickle reaches the freedom fighters or Sarmachars. Though the donors remain unknown, an article in the Firstpost earlier this year bared, “On condition of not sharing his name, he said that a few of these exiled leaders used Indian financial support to pick up expensive cars and homes. That defeats the entire purpose of backing exiles, he remarked.”
Some time back, former guerrilla leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani, a hero of the 1973-77 insurgency, also went to Dubai to get a piece of the action from the unnamed donors, but failed. Dejected, he ended up meeting former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Most influential among Baloch leaders was the late ideologue of Baloch militancy, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. He commanded full respect of four countries — the former USSR, India, Afghanistan and Cuba. Almost all of his five sons are today multimillionaires with overseas businesses and bank accounts. In contrast, common Marri tribesmen are among the poorest in Balochistan, overwhelming majority of whom suffer from under nutrition.
Pakistan accuses India and Afghanistan of supporting militancy in Balochistan but also suspects a wide array of nations, most notably United States, Israel, UAE, Oman and even Norway of meddling in Balochistan.
Though as many as 35,000 Baloch civilians have been killed– and according to Mama Qadeer Reki, vice president of the Baloch Voice for Missing Persons 6,000 Baloch have been allegedly buried in mass graves and 21,000 are victims of enforced disappearances– the large number of militant outfits gives an impression people have set up militant shops to make a fast buck on Baloch blood.
The infighting and competition between the militant outfits, which have more or less become some kind of a “Balochistan Militancy Incorporated,” lack ideological or political underpinning but is mostly over funding.
Since the amount of money in the militancy business is decent, it has pitted one brother against the other. For instance the Marri brothers Hyrbyair Marri and Mehran Baluch have been daggers drawn with one another for more than eight years over muddee or resources, leaving nearly four dozen Marri fighters dead.
Some years back when Hyrbyair Marri visited the Palace of Nations in Geneva, his younger brother is widely suspected to have conspired to have him arrested and kicked out of the building after enabling him to enter the premises on a fake pass; likewise when Mehran Baluch was arrested and deported from Zurich airport last month, Hybyair Marri kept quiet.
Though an analogy is repeatedly drawn between Balochistan and Bangladesh, there is nothing in common baring Pakistan army crimes against humanity. Bangladesh had a genuine party Awami League which enjoyed the mandate of the people, one leader Sheikh Mujib and one army Mukti Bahini, which enjoyed open support of India.
In Balochistan case, all militant leaders run away from elections on the charge they are fixed by Islamabad, but in reality they do not seem to command voters respect, neither do they enjoy India’s open support.