June issue 2009
The Young Also Rise
“We want freedom. We are not willing to let Balochistan continue as a colony of Pakistan,” chanted hundreds of angry young Baloch, and raised anti-state slogans in front of the Karachi Press Club on April 12. They were demonstrating against the killing of three Baloch nationalists in Turbat.
The participation of young, educated Baloch in the ongoing resistance movement in Balochistan has been a unique aspect of the political struggle, which has mainly been led by the second generation of Marris and Bugtis. Although Balochistan is the centre point of the movement, lately Karachi — home to an estimated 2.5 million Baloch — has witnessed a rapid development in the political mobilisation of young Baloch. Reorganisation of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) in various educational institutions and the involvement of young Baloch, including women, in demonstrations, is giving the Baloch movement added momentum in Karachi.
“Before joining student politics, I studied the history of Balochistan, tried to understand the philosophy of the revolution and was a witness to the exploitation of Balochistan’s resources. It was only then that I decided to enter politics to fight for the preservation and survival of the Baloch nation,” says 25-year-old Zahid Kurd, a student of political science at Karachi University (KU), and general secretary of the BSO—Azad. According to Kurd, more than 5,000 students are members of BSO—Azad in Karachi. Well-versed in the history of the movement, Zahid Kurd justifies his disloyalty to the federation with bitter arguments: “Why should we subjugate our right of freedom to the federation, which is dominated by one nation? We have experienced over 60 years of slavery, now we are prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of the freedom of Balochistan. I know the consequences of my involvement in politics — I will be killed one day. But that won’t keep me away. I will be replaced by someone else, and this way our fight for freedom will continue.”
The participation of educated women in the Baloch movement is another interesting aspect. Karima Baloch, junior vice chairperson of BSO—Azad, has dedicated her life to the political mobilisation of women. She spends most of her time travelling to different areas of Balochistan and Karachi to encourage women to demonstrate against the military operation in Balochistan. Sharing her experience, Karima told Newsline that the media has turned a blind eye towards the political struggle of Baloch women, whose voices are inaudible in the print and electronic media. Not only were women demonstrating on the streets of Karachi, she said, but they were also fighting in the mountains of Balochistan.
According to Dr Naeem, a professor at the department of international relations at KU, the number of Baloch students at the university has gone down due to the strict admission criteria. Most of them are forced to join the evening programmes if they want admission in the subjects of their choice, and pay higher fees.
However, even those that do manage to get admission in the morning programme, prefer to keep a low profile for fear of being picked up by the intelligence agencies and harassed.
The majority of the Baloch living in Karachi belong to working class families, with limited resources. The trend of education among the youth is low. “Consequently, most of them end up as daily wage workers. They do not have a strong voice in trade unions,” says Usman Baloch, a veteran labour leader of Karachi, “and end up being politically isolated.”
Several of the youth have hooked up with criminal gangs in Lyari and are involved in drugs and smuggling.
However, all is not lost. Ostensibly, the resistance movement is gaining momentum among the youth, and Karachi’s Lyari area is the hub of activity. “Every action in Balochistan is mirrored by a reaction in Lyari,” says Illahi Bux Baloch, a young social activist in Lyari. “All the revolutionary leaders of Balochistan are as popular among the youth of Lyari as they are in Balochistan. “Brahamdagh Bugti has become a role model for the Baloch in the metropolis. In Lyari, you will find the streets empty and the youth glued to the television screen on two occasions: on the day of the football World Cup final or when Brahamdagh Bugti is being interviewed by a channel,” Illahi Bux adds. Discussing the political mobilisation of the young Baloch in Lyari, he reveals that SMSes, followed by newspapers, are the most effective means of political mobilisation. News about any incident in Balochistan reaches the streets of Lyari within a short span of time. “The circulation of Intekhab and Tawaarhas risen dramatically in Lyari because both newspapers give extensive coverage to the Baloch political movement,” says Illahi Bux Baloch.
Although Baloch activists in Karachi have mostly remained peaceful and have never resorted to violence, even when their leaders were assassinated, with the passage of time and rapid political mobilisation of the youth in Karachi, the resistance may turn bloody. “If the resistance movement in Balochistan gains momentum, Lyari may turn into a breeding ground for young Baloch political activists,” says Akhtar Baloch, a human-rights activist.