Banuk Karima Baloch (BKB): Since in our organization there is no gender discrimination, men and women are participating in the national struggle side by side. During my time as the leader of the organization, I have never felt that I am different or inferior based on the fact that I am a woman. However, I am happy that the participation of my Baloch sisters in the freedom struggle has changed the thinking of the Baloch society toward women. With the resurrection of the national movement, many conservative traditions have now disappeared. Baloch women are, compared to the past, a lot more free and active.
BKB: For us, peaceful struggle has been turned into a lethal poison. During the previous three years, many of our members have been brutally killed and thousands have been abducted. Two months back, the chairman of my organization was kidnapped right in front of my eyes. Before that, in 2009, the vice-chairman of our organization Zakir Majeed was kidnapped by the secret services while he was attending a crowded procession. He is still missing. Alongside the BSO-Azad, Majeed’s family struggled tirelessly for his released but in vain.What I want to say is that the noose has been tightened around our necks. But regardless of that, we continue to persist. Even if the state continues to behave toward us as if it has no conscience, we will not relent from our peaceful and just struggle. Peaceful struggle is our right under international law. The more the savagery of the state, the more we will continue to resist, persevere and rise.
BKB: As I stated, attitudes toward women in the Baloch society have evidently changed. Today, people feel proud at the participation of women in the national movement. Banuk Farzana, Banuk Sami Baloch and the rest of the sisters, due to their brave efforts, are looked upon as the symbols of the national movement. If you look at it, our population is small and is geographically dispersed; and so the women, who are half of our population, have played an instrumental role in solidifying our movement.I also want to point out that the state and its agencies are left scratching their heads thanks to this trend. They are trying to come up with new ways to harass and threaten Baloch women so that their progress could be curtailed, so that they are unable to participate in the national movement. Last year, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in the Baloch area of Quetta, carried out a bomb attack inside a girls’ college. The creation of a new Islamic group in Panjgur recently and the threats to shut down women’s education are other examples of the state policy. Last year in Turbat, Pakistani secret and security services raided a couple of education institutes, destroyed all the education materials, and later sold those institutes. These were those institutions where education and progress of women was encouraged and preferred.
BKB: Despite being laden with natural resources, Balochistan is one of the least developed areas in the world. It is not just the women who are affected by the colonial rule Pakistan has imposed on us; every single Baloch person is forced to live a life of a second-class citizen. According the government’s own statistics, 52.2 percent of of the population of Balochistan is suffering from malnutrition. But in reality, a far higher number is malnourished. Apart from that, the UN Population Fund has noted that the infant mortality rate is at extremely dangerous levels. Every 20 minutes, a woman dies during childbirth.The point that I am trying to make is that it is due to the oppressive system Pakistan has imposed on us and the public’s ignorance about it that people are under so much suffering. If Balochistan does not free itself from Pakistani rule, it will continue to suffer from poverty, destitution, and social and cultural decay.
BKB: In Baloch history, I pay tribute to Hatun Bibi and the sacrifices she made in the struggle against the occupiers of Balochistan in Iran. She bravely fought alongside her family, especially Dad Shah, against the enemies.
BKB: Various student organizations have helped us in our campaign to demand the release of BSO-Azad’s chairman Zahid Baloch. In Karachi and elsewhere, they held protests and rallies in our support. In many areas, human rights groups have shown deep solidarity with us and with Lateef Johar, who is on a hunger strike unto death. We are trying to increase our collaboration with these groups; at least on the grounds of solidarity, we should remain associated and keep our relations going.
BKB: I would like the Baloch people, especially women, to focus on education and become part of the fight against tyranny and slavery, so that Balochistan can be freed and made into an exemplary nation where there is no discrimination based on ethnicity, caste, gender, class, etc.