The Baloch people, a highly marginalized and under-developed community in west Pakistan, are gradually moving towards organized resistance to Pakistan in the form of a government-in-exile. The announcement by Baloch leadership forming this government, on the lines of the Tibetans and Uighurs against Chinese repression, will become a milestone in the Baloch movement from exploitation and Pakistan-sponsored suppression.
Many Baloch leaders have fled persecution by Pakistan and are living in the UK, Europe and Canada. Despite the unifying thought of seeking independence and fighting for it, Baloch leaders found it difficult to come together on a shared platform.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech in 2016 infused the Baloch struggle with hope. From the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi thundered: “I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).” Modi wanted Pakistan to explain to the world “why it has been committing atrocities on people in POK and Balochistan.”
One of the reasons for Modi bringing up Balochistan in his speech was that Pakistan had, just a day earlier, ‘dedicated’ its independence day to the separatist movement in Kashmir, where it has been pushing highly-trained militants to cause civilian strife and bloodshed. Before Modi’s mention of Balochistan and its people, India had been keeping away from supporting the Baloch cause.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest geographical area, resource rich but also the most marginalized region. It is exceptionally poor in human development indicators in health and education. Forming a Baloch government-in-exile had been on the cards for a while but did not see traction due to differences between the exiled leaders.
When Baloch leaders—Munir Mengal, president of the Baloch Voice Association, from Paris, and Naela Quadri, chairperson of Baloch People’s Congress, from Vancouver, Canada—said at a seminar recently that the Baloch leaders are forming a government, it gave a new impetus to the movement.
The two leaders had been invited to speak by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Policy and Development Studies, on the topic, ‘Balochistan-Quest for self-determination: An analysis.’ The leaders took the opportunity to also highlight how Pakistan is involving China in usurping the rights of the Balochis.
Giving an example of how Pakistan is promoting the interests of the dragon at the cost of the Baloch, Quadri said: “China is trying to take control of Afghanistan and that will lead to a major crisis in the area. They are also trying to block Baloch voices in International bodies, like the UN.”
Mengal too highlighted the threat posed by China’s heightened involvement in the region. He said if the game plan floated by China turns successful it will bring destruction to the entire South Asian region.
If the Baloch leaders are successful in forming the government-in-exile, it would still need acceptance from the comity of nations including India and others. The leaders have been trying to seek support from India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan for their movement besides highlighting the issues in the West. They have also been raising issues like kidnapping of the Baloch people by the Pakistani Army, the intelligence services and the government, as well as the extra-judicial killings of students and their leaders.
The formation of such a government would be successful in taking up the case of the Baloch people successfully before more countries and multilateral forums. It would also fire up the Balochis in the region who could turn even more hostile to Pakistani Army and State than they already are.