GEVENA/WASHINGTON: The exiled Baloch leader and the President of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Brahumdagh Bugti said on Sunday that the Baloch will not directly negotiate with Pakistan’s civil or military leadership as there is no trust between the two sides and only the United States can play a role of a mediator because American assistance provides lifeline to the Pakistani military and Washington has the ability to influence Islamabad’s violent and repressive policies toward the Baloch.
The Switzerland-based Baloch leader said this in an exclusive live interview on Balochistan in America, an online radio show organized by the Balochistan Institute in Washington D.C. Former Balochistan Assembly Speaker Waheed Baloch and Malik Siraj Akbar, editor-in-chief of the Baloch Hal, co-hosted the one-hour long interview.
Bugti said the “peace process”, as reported in the media, had actually never started between him or the Pakistani government. He had, however, stated that as a political figure, he had never been averse to any kind of dialogue. In order for negotiations to succeed, both parties need an atmosphere of trust which currently does not exist between the Baloch and the Pakistanis. Pakistan will have to agree to the Baloch terms and conditions, including ending military operations in Balochistan, ending human rights abuses in the provinces, before ground is prepared for any kind of negotiations. He ruled out the possibility of talking to Islamabad without international guarantors. He mentioned the United States as one possible and acceptable guarantor that could mediate between the two sides.
“The Baloch cannot live with Pakistan nor do I think we will have a future in Pakistan. The Pakistani constitution and the Parliament do not protect the Baloch interests. We need international assurances if and when we sit on the negotiation with Pakistan.” he remarked.
The Baloch leader castigated the Chinese over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the multi-billion investment in the port city of Gwadar. He reiterated that no project would succeed in Balochistan without the consent of the Baloch people. The Pakistani government was giving false hopes to the Chinese and the international community about Gwadar. He ridiculed the legitimacy of the Balochistan government or the chief minister. The chief minister of Balochistan is always handpicked from Islamabad to ‘remain on the same page with the army.’ People who are not known by the locals or who have never won a local government election are imposed on the people of Balochistan as the chief executives of the province only because they agree to serve Islamabad’s interests, he charged.
“We want the Chinese to stay away from Gwadar,” he warned, “the Pakistanis and the Chinese might look at Gwadar merely as an economic project but for the Baloch, it is a matter of our survival and existence. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that the Baloch land resources are not manipulated or our population converted into a minority.”
The Baloch leader admitted that there was lack of protest on the ground in Balochistan against the CPEC because the government was brutally crushing political opponents, including members of his own party, the Baloch Republican Party. He voiced his concern about the deployment of more troops in Gwadar under the pretext to protect the developmental projects there and the issuance of a special identity card to the local residents which he said he believed were deliberate plans to shut down the doors of Gwadar and its ‘economic benefits’ for the Baloch people.
“Denying the Balochs entry in parts of their own land is not a new policy. They [the government] did exactly the same with Sui [in Dera Bugti District where huge gas reservoirs were discovered in 1951] where the local Bugti tribesmen were asked to carry identity cards to move from one town to the other. The same policy is going to be applied to Mekran. Even the local Balochs would be denied access to parts of their own land.”
Bugti said Islamabad was working on a ‘slow-motion’ genocide of the Baloch people, a systematic project which might take a decade to complete but it was already under progress as a part of which the government was ousting the Baloch from their land, occupying their resources and land.
“The CPEC will have long-term catastrophic consequences on the Baloch people. All Balochs should unite to oppose this project,” he appealed.
When asked about reports in the Pakistani media about the rejection of his asylum application in Switzerland, Bugti said it was rubbish. The report had been filed by a Pakistani journalist based in London in an attempt to please the Pakistani intelligence agencies and it was not factually correct. “They fabricate so many lies that I don’t think everyone of them is worth my time for a rebuttal.”
Regarding the recent proposal from Hyrbyair Marri, another pro-independence Baloch leader based in London, about Baloch unity, Bugti said unity among all Baloch political forces was the need of the time. However, he made it clear that it was important for all parties to respect and tolerate each leader and their party’s manifestos.
“There should be no preconditions attached to any kind of talks. It is not possible to reach consensus or sort out our differences in a single meeting. There is still hope that we can sit down and work together because 70% of the time we have the same goals and mission.”