Demands trail of Punjab army for atrocities
Wearing a traditional Baloch cap and a kurta, the man known as the “king without a crown” looked merely a naive – sprawling over the old fashioned chair across the room as he meekly smiled in a gesture of warm welcome.
There he was – the Khan of Kalat, the man who held immense influence in the political struggle of Balochistan and capable of mobilising a large number of people in Pakistan and right across to Afghanistan and Iran, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan Ahmedzai.
He was here in Dhaka as Bangladesh stepped into celebration of its 46th Victory Day. The self-exiled Baloch leader’s eyes glimmered with hope for his own kin while speaking of Bangladesh’s bloody independence struggle in 1971.
“I see the days are not far that we will also get independence from the hands of the Punjabi army like you (Bangladesh) did,” he told SMA Ronie on December 15, 2016.
Journeying across the world for garnering support of Balochistan’s split from Pakistan, he came to Dhaka to speak for his cause. He was as humble but univocal of his cause and purpose in conversation with Bangladeshi journalist SMA Ronie from The Daily Star.
Ronie: Tell us of your views on Bangladesh’s independence.
Ahmedzai: Basically we’re striving for victory. You are lucky that you are a good far from the Punjabis. Your people also surrounded these Punjabis and forced them to surrender. You made a very big sacrifice for independence. More than about 2-3 million [3 million] of your people were martyred and killed by the Punjabi army. I call it the Punjab army, they are not Pakistanis.
After your independence, you have grown more than Pakistan. The young generation should be grateful for the country and they should take care of it and make an effort to make it better.
Ronie: Why do you compare the situation that prevailed in Bangladesh in 1971 as to what is now prevailing in Balochistan?
Ahmedzai: What I see here (Bangladesh) is mostly an agricultural country. But as far as Balochistan is concerned, besides agriculture, we have mineral resources including oil and gas. Without these resources still today your country has a better GDP than Pakistan. And what Pakistan is doing there is stealing our resources. We are trying to resist, we’re trying to get support for our people for our nation.
Ronie: Do the people actually yearn for independence from Pakistan? Why?
Ahmedzai: Because of our natural resources, they treat us like fourth-class citizens. They deprive us of education, health, water, sanitation and other amenities. There is nothing for the people. Whatever exists there now, has been handmade by the people of Balochistan. Most of the money earned by our people is eaten by the politicians or the despots. Now the Baloch has realised that it was exploited and now the young generation has started resisting. Since then, our intellectuals are being forcefully disappeared, killed and dumped. Many people have disappeared and been displaced from their homes. Their homes burnt, women raped and young children killed. This is the same situation that you faced in 1971. But we are facing the same situation since 1948. As far as Baloch concerns, they have made up their mind for it. Except few despots, most of the people 94 percent or maybe more want freedom.
Ronie: How do you promote the move for independence in exile? Don’t you feel that people need a strong leadership from the front?
Ahmedzai: I’m trying to get support from many countries, including Western Europe, USA, Indian prime minister and Bangladesh information minister. Our people are aware of it. There are lots of atrocities and genocides being committed in Balochistan. Many people are doing job in the gulf nations including Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arab and earn remittance. As they are not getting the opportunity inside the country, they are going out and doing very well in many areas. They are, in a manner, organised because we cannot agitate too much. Then, they [Pakistani occupation forces] pinpoint them and then they torture, kill and dump them. So we have to be very careful as they continue the atrocities. We are very active, especially the youths and whole of the nation. But we require outside support to raise our voices in the United Nations. All should be aware that they [Pakistan] are committing genocide there. As the founding father of your nation sacrificed their lives and India intervened, you got the independence.
Ronie: Do you think that Pakistan military forces who carried out atrocities in Bangladesh in 1971 and also repeating it in Balochistan should be brought to justice?
Ahmedzai: We will do the best to bring them to justice under the international law, I assert. We need all kind of diplomatic support from countries to charge these people. This is the fifth uprising in 2002 for Balochistan as it is a state with a few number of people while Bangladesh is very populous. It’s long sufferings for us.
Ronie: What role did Balochistan play during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971?
Ahmedzai: I personally met your founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in February or March in 1969 and also in 1970 when he came to Quetta. The Baloch had an alliance with National Awami Party (NAP). That is the only thing, I know about that the Baloch had alliances with the Banglaee against Punjabi. And they won the election.
Ronie: How do you defend yourself when Pakistan labels your resistance as “rebel or separatist” attacks?
Ahmedzai: We are freedom fighters, we are nots rebels. We are not going to Punjab to do something wrong. They are coming to our land and killing our people. The only thing is that they have terrorists in uniform and we are defenders with our plain clothes. We are not in a position to be aggressive. We are in a defensive position. They are calling us rebel or terrorists. But basically if you see Punjabi army is the biggest terrorist in the world.
Ronie: What do you expect from Bangladesh?
Ahmedzai: People of Bangladesh were in the same situation. So I don’t want to tell them anything as they themselves know what they can do. Your people know what sort of state they were in 1971. I have met many journalists, teachers, freedom fights, politicians and professionals over this. They realise the situation. They know how it is to go on with such a situation for long.