One of the biggest drawbacks of the Balochistan freedom movement is that it is mostly led by feudal lords, who can switch loyalty to Islamabad at the drop of a hat. Baloch commoners have long accused these feudal lords of running the 12-year-old insurgency in their France-sized homeland as if it was a family business.
The case in point was the return of former Balochistan home minister, Nawabzada Gazzain Marri, brother in-law of former chief minister Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, to Pakistan after ending his 18 year exile in September. At the same time, his youngest brother Mehran Baluch, president of the Baluchistan House and alleged head of the militant United Baluch Army (UBA), had launched a Free Baluchistan advertisement campaign in Geneva.
Former Balochistan home minister Nawabzada Gazzain Marri arriving in Pakistan after ending his 18-year-old exile in the UAE.
None of the pro-freedom feudal lords said a single word about Gazzain Marri’s return, who upon arrival in Pakistan disavowed militancy and said he has nothing to do with militant politics of his two brothers: Mehran Baluch and former Balochistan minister Hyrbyair Marri, who heads a faction of the Balochistan Liberation Army. Both Mehran Baluch and Hyrbyair Marri, publicly deny association with the UBA and BLA, respectively.
Though Gazzain Marri, a bosom buddy of former president Asif Ali Zardari denied association with militancy, he is in fact the senior most freedom leader who has made peace with Pakistan army, with the help of the former president, since the militancy began in 2005.
Gazzain Marri enjoys complete trust of Zardari; after the 2008 elections Zardari told Marri that the then army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had told him that the PPP can do politics in the three other provinces, while Balochistan will remain under the military thumb.
Now eyeing a top slot after the 2018 elections, Gazzain Marri said he believes in resolving all Balochistan issues through talks. But insider Baloch sources said when the late Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri developed differences with his son Hyrbyair Marri, over freedom funds called muddee in Balochi, he had given the responsibility of the militancy business to his two other sons, Gazzain Marri and Mehran Baluch.
Half Danish calligraphist Ruheena Malik, who has been common friends with President Asif Ali Zardari and Gazzain Marri for more than 30 years.
Camaraderie between Marri and Zardari dates back three decades when they had a common friend in horse riding enthusiast, half Danish Lahore calligraphist Ruheena Malik.
Gazzain Marri, who has one of the finest collections of Rolex watches, did face legal challenges after his arrival in Quetta, capital of Balochistan. He was in custody on the pressure of his eldest brother Jangyz Marri, who is a serving provincial irrigation and energy minister in the Balochistan government, according to Marri sources.
Gazzain Marri’s return to Pakistan was in effect a farewell to arms, but none of his brothers, Hyrbyair Marri or Mehran Baluch, or other feudal lords clamoring for freedom gave any Press statement against him for throwing in the towel. Mehran Baluch’s brother-in-law Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party, also kept mum over Gazzain Marri’s return. Both Baluch and Bugti are facing heat as Pakistan appears to have convinced the Swiss government that they head separate militant outfits.
Concerns run high among the Baloch middle classes that when the feudal lords surrender, or make a U turn, there is not even a whimper. “But when a poor Baloch sheep man sells a sheep to the Frontier Corps soldiers for $25, he is killed by the militants for being an informer,” said Dr Ali Mengal, president of the Baloch Diaspora France.
However, a most damning report in the Firstpost early this year about corruption in the militant movement said the feudal lords have misappropriated the freedom funds provided to them by India. “On condition of not sharing his name, he said that a few of these exiled leaders used Indian financial support to pick up expensive cars and homes. That defeats the entire purpose of backing exiles, he remarked,” the report by Sunil Raman reads.
It is true the Baloch feudal lords are enjoying a super lavish lifestyle, with posh mansions and penthouses in Dubai and the West; their super expensive limousines can invite envy of the Gulf princes, one Baloch source said in Dubai, on the request of not being named. In May, Jangyz Marri eldest of the Marri brothers, had leveled charges on the same lines against his youngest brother Mehran Baluch; Mehran Baluch denied the allegations.
Baloch “princes” Mehran Baluch, alleged head of the UBA, and his eldest brother Nawabzada Jangyz Marri, Balochistan minister for irrigation and energy.
The sibling rivalry between Mehran Baluch and his elder brother Hyrbyair Marri that has been brewing for nine years now, has also seen the latter’s camp accusing Mehran Baluch of misappropriating the freedom resources, or muddee.
Recently, Pakistan ports and shipping minister Mir Hasil Bizenjo, also leveled the same kind of charges against the exiled Baloch feudal lords. Bizenjo, who is himself one of the biggest feudal lords from Balochistan, said all feudal lords know each other quite well how much wealth each has.
If Raman’s allegation is true, designer clothes, designer shoes, Rolex watches, and super expensive cars such as Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, Lexus owned by the feudal lords is being paid by Indian taxpayers, whose annual per capita income is $6,600 as compared to arch-rival China’s $15,400. However, according to sources privy to the matter, the alleged corruption would not have been possible without connivance of the Indian security managers, who take as much as 40 percent in kickbacks.
In contrast, the Firstpost report by Raman, a former BBC journalist who now is public affairs head of Hill+Knowlton Strategies in India, favored all out support to the Balochistan Liberation Front, which is led by Dr Allah Nazar.
However, India has to tread this path very carefully as some of the actions taken by Dr Nazar’s BLF, including killing of non combatant civilians and Baloch political opponents, violate the Laws of War and may paint India in a negative light in the eyes of the world.
“They (India) just gives bullets to the gunmen,” complains Moscow-bases Dr Jumma Marri, son of legendary guerrilla leader Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani, who spearheaded the 1973-77 uprising against Islamabad. “Not ink to the writers.”
Others believe the change is already happening. “Don’t worry. We are winning,” says Prof Naela Quadri, who along with her son Mazdak Dilshad Baloch has worked diligently to raise the profile of Balochistan in India but lives hand to mouth. She is a thorn on the side of the feudal lords, who regularly accuse her of meddling in their affairs when disgruntled freedom fighters part ways with them.
India, as a highly responsible democracy, should focus on helping all those activists and public intellectuals who are trying to defend human rights in Balochistan in an opaque manner.
Public intellectual and activist Prof Naela Quadri says the change will come in the freedom struggle as the rotten feudal lords will be replaced by the enlightened middle classes.