How Much Support For Jundullah Is Too Much?



By Malik Siraj Akbar

Balochs living in Pakistan’s provinces of Balochistan and Sindh reacted very irritably towards the decision of the Iranian government to hang Abdul Malik Regi, the chief of banned organization Jundullah, by terming it as an act of repression by a regime that is bent upon crushing its Baloch population.

All available forms of condemnation, such as issuance of newspaper statements, arrangement of press conferences, protest rallies and condolence references, were used to censure the hanging of a leader who fought for the rights of the Sunni Baloch minority population residing in Iranian Balochistan. The outpouring of condemnation was so overwhelming that even an impressed Jundullah spokesman went on to appreciate the Balochs living in Pakistan for their moral and political support offered to the Iranian Balochs at the critical juncture.

In Eastern Balochistan, the Baloch National Front (BNF) was on the forefront of all protest rallies held in the province to condemn the execution of 28-year Regi who was wanted by Teheran in more than seventy cases. The Front observed three days of mourning and organized a number of programs to vent its frustration of Iran’s behavior towards its Baloch population. Nonetheless, many people, including some components of the BNF, now realize that they went overboard in agitating on the Regi issue which could, at the end of the day, prove counterproductive and detrimental for the secular Baloch nationalist movement.

A timely expression of this concern has been made by the Baloch National Movement (BNM) which has categorically refused to join the BNF in its announced schedule of anti-Iran protests to express solidarity with Jundullah and the Balochs of Iran. Condoling the murder of Regi and his brother, Abdu Hameed, the BNM central spokesman, however, said here on Monday that his party did not see eye-to-eye with the Jundullah manifesto which underlines religious and sectarian ambitions.

The BNM believes that the Baloch issue has nothing to do with religion nor can it go an extra mile to join hands with ethnic Balochs living in Iran who do not recognize Baloch nationalism and solely talk of religious rights. BNM is equally disillusioned with BNF leadership for not taking it into confidence while unfolding its schedule of protests in support of Jundullah and said that it could not support a Sunni movement which did not keep in consideration the Baloch identity.

This is a very crucial development. The BNM stance will surely alert the Balochs struggling in Iran on religious lines that their counterparts in Pakistani Balochistan do not concur with their ideology. The Baloch resistance movement in Pakistan, which is largely leftist, is not compatible with what Jundullah stands for i.e. Sunni rights. BNM has clarified its stance on the right time as the BNF response to Regi’s killing had already begun to raise many eyebrows about the ideological foundations of the Baloch resistance movement.

By supporting Jundullah, the BNF, which always requests the international community to take notice of the plight of the Balochs, is further confusing the world. Does it mean that the Baloch nationalism has succumbed to religion and begun to endorse suicide bombings on the name of religion as was done by Jundullah inside Iran? If the answer to such a question is in affirmation then BNF will surely find itself in an indefensible position before the larger world which is currently battling the scourge of religious fundamentalism.

On their part, the supporters of Jundullah do not easily digest the nationalists’ claim that Regi was a secular. For example, Hafiz Abu Ubaid, the acting vice president of Karachi-based Ittehad-e-Tuleba-wa-Sunna, has strongly condemned Abdul Wahab Baloch, chairman of Baloch Rights Council, for calling Regi a secular. The righwing has termed Wahab’s remarks and proposal that Jundullah should operate on nationalistic lines as highly offensive. They have sought an apology from Wahab Baloch for allegedly insulting Regi by calling him secular. This is another point of view which exists and has to be acknowledged, if not agreed with.

Baloch nationalism and Islamic nationalism cannot comfortably go side by side. If the mere fact that Regi was a Baloch attracted BNF reaction then one wonders if similar reaction would be shown on the death of a Baloch who is a part of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Pakistan People’s Party and Muslim League? BNF should not judge people merely on their Baloch ethnicity. It should support the people who share the same ideology that the BNF stands for.

Baloch nationalism cannot live in isolation. No national movement can start and end with a simple demand for national liberation. The Baloch movement needs to have clearly defined answers of several crucial questions to satisfy the rest of the world about the structure of a proposed independent Balochistan. Such a roadmap should implicitly define the relationship between the state and religion; role of tribalism and the status of women and religious as well as ethnic minorities in an independent Balochistan, the ultimate goal for which parties like BNF are struggling right now.

BNM has adopted a timely stance and rightly warned BNF not to compromise on Baloch nationalist ideology by backing religious fundamentalism. By supporting religious fundamentalists, Baloch nationalists would be compromising on their ideological foundations and make it more difficult for the international community to support the Baloch movement.

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