“A Baloch government in exile should involve all stakeholders”: an interview with Naela Quadri Baloch
Naela Quadri Baloch, writer, filmmaker and president of the World Baloch Women’s forum has been a long time campaigner for the secession of Balochistan from Pakistan. She had started off as an activist leading a Baloch student organization during Benazir Bhutto’s election campaign to ‘liberate’ Balochistan.
After years of self-exile in Canada, Quadri applied for an Indian visa and flew to Delhi to garner support for her cause. Invited for a talk at the Department of Geopolitics in Manipal University on the topic “Genocide in Balochistan by the Pakistani Army”, Professor Naela was interviewed by The Manipal Journal.
Her talk focused on alleged genocide in Balochistan and her expectations of India’s role in its aspirations of independence.
PM Modi hinted at probable support for the Baloch movement in last year’s Independence Day speech. After maintaining silence for decades, what do you think prompted the government to bring it up? Do you think that India’s ongoing rift with Pakistan was a reason?
I think that the rift between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is a very old thing. This happened because of, and I have to credit the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his courage, a thoughtful decision. I’m sure this is not a personal decision. The decision was thoughtful and though it has taken some time, his entire team is clear on Balochistan and its rights.
Also, in the Indian Parliament, all the parties have supported Mr. Modi when the Balochistan issue had come up. This is the political unity of the Indian lawmakers and politicians, and Balochistan as a subject has unanimous support. This is why this historic moment happened.
Balochistan’s issues are not new. For 70 years Balochistan has been bleeding but no Indian Government had ever raised this issue. And hence, it makes this moment even more historic.
Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republic Party who is living in self-exile in Switzerland and seeks refuge in India, had tweeted about your visit to India stating that you’re not representing the Baloch people, and rather than helping you are damaging the Baloch cause by your actions. Can we have your comments?
She smiles at this question, and poses a question back at us. I want to know your comments regarding this, do you also believe that I’m the damaging the Baloch cause? She laughs it out before she goes on to answer the question.
He’s actually like my younger brother. I don’t know why he would say this but yes, maybe he has some concerns… communication is the key. It is only when people communicate with each other that these things can be solved. About why he thinks like this or what kind of damage he thinks I’ll do by coming here I don’t know what to make of.
The exile government needs national consensus, and I’ve always said that I’ve only given the idea of exile government but I’m not going to make one. If it does happen no one is going to be left out. It needs all the stakeholders, groups, parties and most importantly all the people of Balochistan. All should join hands and create an exile government, because creating an exile government will create a milestone and a basic roadmap towards the independence of Balochistan. For example, the exile government of Bangladesh which was created in India played a very important role in the liberation of Bangladesh.
You talked about how the Indian Government hasn’t done anything since the speech on 15th August, 2016 and how the silence since has been an irritating one. What do you think would be the future role that India is expected to play in the Baloch movement?
Yes, the silence is very irritating. Especially for we who are in India, we are called Pro India Baloch. We are facing a lot of pressure from different Baloch groups who question India’s inactivity.
Every delayed day makes a difference as the lost lives will not come back. For all the losses we face, there is no substitute. Questions keep coming in as to why India has been silent. I think that it’s not an emotional thing, it needs proper planning.
If you remember, former PM Indira Gandhi had a world tour and had sent representatives to different countries with the aim of isolating Pakistan to strengthen India’s case towards the liberalization of Bangladesh. This is pretty much the same thing PM Modi is doing and it will take some time because it isn’t so easy. At that time Pakistan had no such kind of support that it enjoys now, especially from China.
So yes, Pakistan needs to be isolated first. We need to prove that Pakistan is a terrorist state and we need to prove that Pakistan is committing genocide and then, the other steps can be taken.
“Mobilizing Indians to do what Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did in East Pakistan in 1971 and liberate Balochistan from Pakistan, the way Bangladesh was” is what you had said on being asked about the purpose of this visit.
In your words, you’re here to help form a government in exile even though you’ve said you’re not in a hurry. Can you tell us how you plan to do that, and what is it that you’re looking for in this visit?
The basic idea is to be approved by two stakeholders: the Indian Government and Baloch groups. It doesn’t matter whose approval comes first, but both stakeholders should agree to the idea of an exile government. After this a government can be formed with a democratic process. One must keep in mind that it shouldn’t be as quiet as the Tibetans’; our exile government has to be proactive.
We will need to have more relations with important countries and the United Nations. to file a case for the Independence of Balochistan and a case against the Pakistani Army for its war crimes and genocide in Balochistan.
All these things need India’s help and support. If we can all sit and plan together with India’s expertise and support, it will make things more effective and efficient.
Imran Khan has assured the people of Balochistan that his party will never use force against them.
He said “I will never start a military operation in your province but will respect your right to protest”, claiming that he understood the Baloch people were struggling for their rights.
Do you believe that if Imran Khan wins the next elections it’ll make a difference and that he’ll keep his word on Balochistan?
Even before the question is completed she starts shaking her head. They are all the same.
Even Nawaz Sharif, before he came to power spoke about Balochistan. He did the same thing as Imran Khan is doing now. Whoever comes to power in Pakistan, signs away everything to the Pakistani army, and they do what the army wants them to do. They are all mere puppets.
It is like a market where they raise their price, speak about Balochistan, about poverty and all kinds of social and political issues. They will talk about this just to better their image. But when they win, they give away all their rights to the army just before they come into power.
Our struggle isn’t about who comes into power. We need, we demand and we struggle for our independence. Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf or Jinnah, they are all the same, puppets of the army. They want to crush us.
Pakistan has accused India of meddling in its internal affairs by encouraging subversive espionage activities and by funding the separatist movement through the R&AW. How do you answer these allegations?
In reality, no one supported us, and if India or anybody else had supported us, Balochistan would have been free many decades ago. Even the time when Bangladesh was liberated with the help of the Indian army, if India had marched a little more into Lahore we were ready to join hands with India to finish Pakistan off and achieve liberation.
But at that time they stopped. India never helped us, but they could have. If India had helped us then, we would have been free decades ago. That’s the point; we are fighting on our own. That’s why we are sacrificing that many lives and yet, we are not free.
With inputs from Nachiket Tekawade.
Edited by: Soumyajit Saha and Shivani Singh.
Featured Image: Shriya Ramakrishnan.