The struggle of Baluchi people
Kristofer Lundberg, Socialist Justice Party (CWI Sweden)
A horrific terror attack was carried out in Baluchistan on Saturday, 12 November, at a crowded Sufi shrine. A bomb killed 52 people, including many women and children and over a hundred more are horribly injured. It was carried by a young ISIS jihadist. Islamic State group claimed responsibility in a statement through their Amaq news agency. It was ISIS who also claimed responsibility for a major attack at a police academy in Quetta in October that killed around 60 people.
Within Pakistan, the situation in Baluchistan is probably the most critical. The population is threatened by religious extremism, militarised clans, suicide bombers and state terrorism. Pakistan has occupied Baluchistan since 1948 and directed fierce repression against its population in order to exploit its natural resources. The Pakistani army has since then carried out a brutal ethnic cleansing directed against the Baluch population and targeted killings of ethnic and religious minorities, political and human rights activists.
Lawyers, political activists and Baluch leaders are hunted down and tortured. The Pakistani security forces are responsible for numerous disappearances and abductions. On 8 August, lawyer Bilal Anwar Kasi was murdered in a targeted attack. He was shot dead in Baluchistan’s capital Quetta. Later the same day a bomb was exploded amongst those who had gathered at the hospital to protest and mourn their colleague. 72 lawyers were killed and 122 injured. Bilal Anwar Kasi was chairman of the Bar Association (BBA) and represented the missing persons’ families as a lawyer and human rights activist.
In 2015, four hundred and sixty three people were ‘disappeared’ with violence in Baluchistan, according to the human rights organisation Voice for Baluch Missing Persons. This is an increase from 2014 when 435 people disappeared. That same year 455 tortured and mutilated bodies were found. The mutilated bodies of missing persons started to be found in 2008 and the number has increased every year since then. They belong to political and human rights activists abducted by the Pakistani military.
There are countless testimonies of human rights activists who have been abducted to the army’s torture cells. One example is Zahid Baluch, now a member of the Socialist Justice Party in Sweden, who was in a torture cell for three months in Pakistan. There is a decision hanging over him of deportation from Norway back to Baluchistan and the Swedish migration board refuses to open his case because of the Dublin regulations.
Human rights organisations criticise the Pakistani government for its “kill and dump” policies used in Baluchistan. In a period of two weeks in December 2015, more than 40 women and 28 children were kidnapped by the Pakistani army. Women stand at the forefront of civil resistance being the ones who are hit hardest by the repression. There are repeated cases of the abduction of Baluchi women because of their active role in the protests and the struggle for justice and democracy .
This is a tremendous achievement in a country with a clear conservative and patriarchal structures. The role of women in Baluchistan civil resistance is also related to their social situation and how they are affected by the Pakistani regime’s policy. Although the Baluchistan region is rich with gold, gas, coal and oil, the local people are forced to travel 700 km to the nearest hospital in Karachi because of the lack of good health centres.
According to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey, three times more women die during childbirth in Baluchistan than in the other regions of Pakistan put together.
The ruling class has neither the will nor the ability to solve the national question since the basis for their oppression rests on exploitation. The population of the Baluchistan region has risen against the oppression from the Pakistani regime, but it is difficult to resist the heavily armed military – one of the region’s strongest.
The power that the Pakistani regime holds in Baluchistan depends wholly on its armed forces and is maintained with brutal repression. The masses do not see anything positive in the Pakistani government. Although organising self-defence against the Pakistani state is legitimate – even an armed one – it is important that this does not take the form of individual terrorism or targeted attacks against civilians. Workers, teachers, bakers or doctors who speak Punjabi or Urdu are not a part of the oppressive establishment, but must be won to the struggle against the government.
Its also important to understand that an armed resistance against the Pakistani regime cannot win alone; there is a need to forge links with movements throughout the whole of Pakistan. In the Baluchistan region there is a war going on against a population that rarely reaches the headlines in the west. The violations of human rights, disappearances and torture are rarely reported.
Withdraw the troops
The first demand must be for the immediate withdrawal of the Pakistani troops from Baluchistan. Political activists, trade unionists and human rights groups must draw up with the civilian population a campaign against war and occupation, oppression and exploitation.
The Committee for a Workers’ International defends national and democratic rights and stresses that they can only be fully established through a struggle for socialism. Imperialism, including the US and China, has a huge desire to increase its presence and position in Baluchistan. It is a key link in the $46 billion transport and trade corridor being built between Pakistan and China, which hinges on a deep-water port in the southwestern city of Gwadar.
It is a strategically important region because Baluchistan is adjacent to Afghanistan and Iran, and has its coast on the Arabian Sea. In addition to its strategic location, Baluchistan is rich in natural resources such as oil, energy, natural gas and minerals and has rich fishing grounds. No solution to imperialist and national oppression can be found within the framework of capitalism. Baluchistan is a region rich in natural resources, which has also produced a nightmare. Both imperialism and the Pakistani governments have left Baluchistan backward and isolated while the Pakistani government has been plundering its wealth.
The struggle for democratic rights and freedoms is therefore entirely bound up with the struggle for democratic control over the country’s natural resources. The country’s wealth should be developed to provide decent infrastructure and welfare. Socialists see the working class as the only possible force capable of solving the problems of the mass of the population.
It has been possible, despite the Pakistani regime’s attempts to divide the population, to maintain a consensus among the Baluch, Pashtun, Punjabi and Hazara workers to stand united in a struggle against fragmentation. The working class has repeatedly shown their determination to fight nationalism, state terrorism and repression. They have shown that harmony can be achieved on a class basis.
A great responsibility rests on the trade union movement in Pakistan to show solidarity with its class brothers and sisters in Baluchistan and to build ties for a common struggle. The working class in Baluchistan urgently needs help and solidarity from around the world.
I was able to speak recently in the chambers of the United Nations on the atrocities going on in the region. But more important is for the international labour movement to act. Support is urgently needed for the social and political forces who protest against Pakistan’s militarisation and against the exploitation for profit of the region’s natural resources.Only under the banner of the unity of the working class against war, occupation and oppression, for peace, equality and a socialist federation of the region, can peace and freedom be achieved. This must include the right to independence for Baluchistan and other national minorities.