India can do a lot, Modi will be remembered: Balochistan leader in self-exile
A decade after he left Pakistan and went into self-exile in Britain, the scion of the ruling family of one of the country’s largest princely states says his sole aim is regaining independence for Balochistan, which was annexed at the point of a gun.
Like other Baloch nationalists, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan Ahmedzai, the current holder of the title of “Khan of Kalat”, welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “brave and long-awaited” remarks on atrocities allegedly committed in Balochistan by Pakistan.
Now, he said in an interview with Hindustan Times at his home in a quiet suburb in the capital of Wales, the Baloch people are “looking forward to work with the Indians and others for peace, prosperity and security in south Asia”.
Cooperation between India and the Baloch people, he suggested, could help find a solution to Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a state policy over the past few decades and improve security in the region.
“I have one plan and that is to regain independence for Balochistan, which was annexed by Pakistan at the point of a barrel,” Ahmedzai said.
“He (Modi) will be remembered by the Baloch nation for a long time. I have spoken to a number of tribal chiefs, leaders and people – they are all looking for peace, stability and security,” he said.
“The Baloch, Indian and other nations who have been the victims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism can together defeat it.”
Elaborating on his expectations from India, Ahmedzai said New Delhi could do “a lot diplomatically” about the rights violation that Modi had spoken about. “India can help us at the UN and at the International Court of Justice. Together with our supporters in the US, we can at least get assets of the leading lights of Pakistan frozen, to begin with,” he said.
“We must explore new ways of cooperation between India and Balochistan. We can help remove the threat to India from its western border,” he added.
The erstwhile Baluchistan Agency composed three princely states, Kalat, Kharan and Las Bela. Kalat was the largest with an area of about 190,000 sq km. The Khanate of Kalat has existed since the 17th century and it was briefly independent between Partition in August 1947 and March 1948.
Kalat acceded to Pakistan in 1948 but the ruling family has contested the accession. It remained a princely state till 1955.
Shortly after leading Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti was killed in a military operation ordered by military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2006, Ahmedzai left Pakistan after he was reportedly targeted by the security agencies.
Modi’s remarks about rights violations in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir provoked an angry response from Pakistan, which said he had crossed a “red line”. Islamabad has also said Modi raised Balochistan to divert attention from the unrest in Kashmir, where more than 60 people have died since militant commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces.
The latest war of words between India and Pakistan has sent ties into a tailspin and New Delhi has said any talks between the two sides should focus on terrorism. Islamabad, however, insists that Kashmir should be the subject of dialogue.
But Ahmedzai said the issue of Balochistan couldn’t be compared to Jammu and Kashmir. “The cynics may say that India will use Balochistan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop sponsoring terrorism in India,” he said.
“But Indian national security and future economic growth is dependent on an independent Balochistan. How? China and Pakistan will surround India if Baloch aspiration for independence is suppressed and if the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is accomplished,” he said.
“I believe Mr Modi is interested in India’s national interest, and an independent Balochistan is in India’s national interest.”
The situation in Balochistan is so bad, Ahmedzai said, that he would even be willing to accept help from Israel for regaining the independence of the province.
“The situation in Balochistan is very bad. There are no accurate estimates but 25,000 people are said to be missing and over a million displaced. Pakistan’s rule over Balochistan has never been legitimate, now it has lost control over Balochistan,” he said.