Balochistan, a troubled region: BLF commander delivers video message before dying of gunshot wounds

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“Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch” (BLF) delivers his final message before death

A video has surfaced on social media that shows the final message of “Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch” Commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) Upper Mashkay before his death from alleged gunshot wounds. The BLF are fighting for an independent Balochistan. The Baloch struggle for independence began in 1947-1948 when Pakistan annexed the region setting off a bitter battle between state and province. The fight is one of nationalism with Balochs claiming they are a distinct nation and several militant groups holding independence as their main goal. This article contains a link to the BLF video, first however…. what are the main issues behind the insurgency and what led up to the killing of Shehak Baloch?

A fight to control Balochistan’s natural resources in a region “kept backward”

Earlier this year the Balochwarna News stated,

“at the time of British departure from Balochistan they recognised Balochistan as an independent state on 11th August 1947. Balochistan was one of the wealthy nations, compared to many Middle Eastern (Arab Countries) but eight months after its independence, Balochistan was again occupied and forcefully annexed by Pakistan.

After the occupation of Balochistan Pakistan started looting Balochistan’s natural wealth and spending it for the benefit of Punjab and selling it to international companies for peanuts. Pakistan systematically kept the Baloch people backward and deprived them of basic facilities such as schools, hospitals and clean drinking water. Balochistan’s natural gas was not even provided to its inhabitants – the Baloch people.”

Balochistan is an area around the size of France and borders Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Quetta is the provincial capital and an important trade and communication centre between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Balochistan’s coastline borders the Arabian Sea and includes the strategically important port of Gwador at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Nearby are the Straits of Hormuz where there are key shipping routes in and out of the Persian Gulf.  The region is rich in exhaustible and renewable resources which include gold, gas, copper, chromite, barytes, sulphur, marble, iron ore, quartzite and limestone. Gwador has become a bone of contention due to plans to develop further with Chinese investment. In 2014 reported, The Times of India reported that,

“China has won the right to operate Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which is believed to have strong military possibilities, for a period of 40 years. The move will give China access to Gulf countries, and the possibility of building a naval base on the Arabian Sea in future.”

There is an ongoing battle between government and insurgents, one side wanting to develop the region for the wider benefit of Pakistan and foreign allies and Balochs wishing to protect and develop the area as they see fit for the benefit of locals. In April, Chinese President President Xi Jinping flew into Pakistan to sign a £30bn ‘land corridor’ agreement. The Guardian reported that, “under the proposed China-Pakistan economic corridor, strengthened rail and road networks will allow Chinese goods to flow the length of the South Asian nation from its northern mountains to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.” There are also plans to tackle the ongoing security issue in Balochistan by the army setting up “a special force” which would provide protection to an influx of foreign workers responsible for developing the province’s infrastructure. See following link,

“China president arrives in Pakistan to sign £30bn ‘land corridor’ agreement”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/20/china-president-xi-jinping-pakistan-land-corridor-agreement

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Body of labourer killed in Turbat attack (Express Tribune)

Turbat massacre

In April this year 20 construction workers were killed by gunmen as they slept and another 3 injured in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat, in Kech, Balochistan. Security guards from Balochistan there to protect the workers were left unharmed. DAWN media reported Provincial Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti as saying “the victims belonged to Sindh and Punjab. They were working for a private construction company building a bridge over a stream in Gogdan, 15 km from Turbat.” A father of one of the victims Majeed Makwano sobbed as he told Express Tribune,

“though we knew of the perils of working in Balochistan, we were forced to choose between having a job and having none. We also assured ourselves that Baloch rebels have no problem with Sindhis and, therefore, they will not harm them”

DAWN listed the dead as follows,

“the slain workers were identified as Sobdad, Abdul Majeed, Mohammad Ayub, Mohammad Aslam, Mohammad Rana, Abdul Rehman, Mohammad Farooq, Haji Din Mohammad, Ashiq Hussain, Allah Dina, Mumtaz Ahmed, Bawal Khan, Mohammad Irshad, Faqir Mohammad, Afzal, Sajid Ali, Tahir Zaman, Kala and Nela Methu. The name of one of the deceased could not be ascertained.”

The banned Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack and a hunt was now on to track down those responsible see,

“20 labourers gunned down in Turbat”

http://www.dawn.com/news/1175427

Back in April Vice News interviewed BLF Chief Commander Allah Nazar who claimed that the version of events submitted by the Pakistan media was “complete and utter propaganda aimed against the Baloch freedom movement.” Nazar argued that “their targets had been workers of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), a body linked to the Pakistani Army.” He stated to Vice,

“if [the construction workers] were just ordinary civilians, why would they be protected by the Frontier Corps [a paramilitary group], and other armed units?”

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Protest alleging human rights abuses in Mashkay

Pakistan security forces have long been accused of alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan including “disappearing” people, torture and extra-judicial killing including against civilians not related to the insurgency. Graphic images of what Balochs call a “kill and dump” policy can be seen daily on social media. Locals accuse Pakistani and international media of largely ignoring their plight. Reporting on the region has proven extremely difficult with threats from different bodies. DAWN reported that, “over 43 journalists have been killed in Balochistan over the past few years.”

Since the Turbat attack, the army has carried out increased operations in the Mashkay area to find the killers. On June 30th there were claims of homes burnt down and an aerial bombardment from the military with the village of Mehri allegedly “under siege”.

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Description provided with the video, allegations released by BLF supporters leading up to the death of “Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch”

“On June 30th 2015, Pakistani Army attacked Mehi village in Mashkay, some 400km from Quetta, the hometown of Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) supreme commander Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch. Army began aerial shelling and spraying bullets with helicopter gunships on the village and nearby mountains and then ground troops moved in breaking into civilian houses. In that carnage totally 11 people were brutally massacred including Dr. Allah Nazar’s elder brother Safar Khan and two of his nephews Suleman aka Shehak and Zakir Baloch aka Seth.

Suleman was a commander of BLF. The family was gathered there for the funeral of Suleman’s father who passed away on June 29. Among the martyred only four were members of BLF and rest were noncombatant civilians.

Here are two EXCLUSIVE video clips recorded moments before Shaheed Shehak Jan’s martyrdom where he speaks his last word for his friends, family and nation.”

Video of “Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch” final moments

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Poster which circulated on social media claiming to name those allegedly harmed and injured in Mashkay (Facebook)

So what is the future for Balochs?

On 10th July Pakistan’s media covered a press release from ISPR that General Raleel Sharif had been given a detailed briefing on the overall security and law and order situation of Balochistan. The focus is to facilitate Balochistan as a regional hub for energy and trade according to Express Tribune using a civil military approach. Efforts are being made to encourage insurgents to lay down their arms and undergo “rehabilitation”. However as Pakistan Today reports the head of paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan, Major General Sher Afgun plans to crush those internal elements deemed to be working for ‘external operators’ to undermine peace and progress in the province. The message is loud and clear, “no one can halt progress in Balochistan.”

Meanwhile the movement for an independent Balochistan shows no sign of abating, activists angry at the death of those they see as fighting for the freedom of their land are once again taking to social media to express their discontent. With each “enforced disappearance” case of torture or dumped body, resentment grows, there are no signs that the insurgency will stop anytime in the near future.

Links

‘We Are Suffering Genocide at the Hands of Pakistan’: An Interview with BLF Commander Allah Nazar”

https://news.vice.com/article/we-are-suffering-genocide-at-the-hands-of-pakistan-an-interview-with-blf-commander-allah-nazar

“Understanding Pakistan’s Baloch insurgency”

http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/cracking-pakistans-baloch-insurgency/

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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