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Exiled Baloch leaders set to congregate in Geneva on November 18

09 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Exiled leaders of several proscribed Baloch outfits are set to congregate in Geneva on November 18 to deliberate on the possibility of a joint and peaceful struggle for their demands. Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has completely rubbished the idea saying that the sardars have lost public support in the province.

The proscribed Baloch Republican Party (BRP) is hosting the moot. The list of confirmed participants includes Harbiyar Marri, Mehran Marri, Javed Mengal, and representatives of the Baloch Nationalist Movement and the Balochistan Liberation Front.

In an audio message  BRP head Brahamdagh Bugti can be heard saying that the purpose of the moot is to bring together all the groups and parties that are part of the Baloch resistance movement. He says that a meeting was held in Geneva last month in which almost all the key parties and organisations sent their representatives. Harabiyar Marri could not participate because of his busy schedule. BRP spokesperson Sher Muhammad Bugti told reporters that the party has high hopes from the meeting not only because the peaceful Baloch resistance needs a boost but also because solutions need to be sought for problems faced by the common Baloch people who are being crushed between insurgents and security forces.

The efforts to merge all the Baloch resistance parties are not new. In 2004, a similar attempt was made by Akbar Bugti, former Balochistan governor and chief minister.

Many groups had given their consent at that time for a joint platform, but nothing could be materialised till Bugti’s death in 2006 in a military operation in Kohlu district.

To a question, Sher Bugti says that his party opposes the current constitutional framework for the federation as well as the parliamentary system of government. He refers to the system as ‘highly exploitative and unjust’ for the Baloch people.

“We also oppose armed conflict and believe in peaceful political resistance,” he says, adding that his party is hopeful that the upcoming gathering will pave the way for a joint struggle for greater provincial autonomy in Balochistan.

Regarding the perception that Baloch separatist groups are in cahoots with terrorist organisations like the TTP and other sectarian militant groups, he says, “All the Baloch nationalist parties are secular. We do not believe in using religion for killing innocent people.”

He says all Baloch groups proscribed in Pakistan for continuing their struggle for provincial autonomy consider groups like the TTP as terrorists. “We believe that there are no good or bad Taliban. All of them are terrorists and need to be punished according to the law,” he adds.

He dismisses that India or any other state is helping the proscribed outfits in terms of funds or weapons. “If we had foreign support, would we be in a condition that we are in right now?” he asks.

About the possibility of a dialogue with authorities in Pakistan, Bugti says that no one but the security establishment is empowered to have a meaningful dialogue but ‘they have shut all the doors on us’. He recalls that a couple of years ago the then chief minister of Balochistan, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had contacted his party leader and assured to get back on the demands put forward by the BRP head after discussion with the security establishment and the federal government. “Too bad that he never returned to us and the dialogue process was stalled,” he says.

Bugti says that any future dialogue will be possible only if Balochistan is granted provincial autonomy and the armed forces are withdrawn from civilian areas.

He said his party will consider coming to the negotiation table only if the constitution is amended to grant greater autonomy to the province, alongside accepting the ownership of Baloch people on the resources of Balochistan.

Meanwhile, Anwar Kakar, the Balochistan government’s spokesperson, says, “these elitist sardars are losing public support in Balochistan, which has made them nervous. The gathering reeks of their anxiousness to regain lost relevance in Balochistan’s politics and society.”

Kakar says Baloch people have totally rejected the narrative peddled by the sardars. “The people want safe, secure and prosperous life in a province where they can educate their children and contribute positively to the progress of the country,” he says.

“The BRP and all other groups meeting in Geneva have two faces. All of these so-called political parties have their militant wings engaged in violence and terrorist activities in Balochistan. These wings are involved in killing of innocent citizens especially labourers from Punjab and other provinces. The IEDs installed by these groups in different parts of Balochistan have led to the killing of many innocent citizens including women and children. These sardars quest for power and resources has turned them into hardcore terrorists,” he says.

On the possibility of negotiations, Kakar says the idea of negotiations is open but things will proceed on a timeframe set by the government. “We won’t accept dictation from outside,” he says, “Negotiation is a process that needs to be undertaken artistically. At the moment, the middle-class Baloch fighting on the ground have stolen the thunder of these big sardars. This is the reason why they now want to take charge of the narrative from the non-elite terrorist groups like the one led by Dr. Allah Nazar.”

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