What is the Baloch Freedom Charter?
A recent report from London published in The News International says that the Balochistan Liberation Charter Coordinating Committee intends to publicize the Baloch Freedom Charter in 2013 in order to address the concerns of those who have been reluctant to approve the document. The Committee said in a press release, “from time to time, we have also heard accusations and assertions being circulated about the contents of the charter that are contrary to the core spirit of the charter itself…any undue delay [in publicizing the Charter] would not serve those interested in liberation struggle but only lead to further confusion.”
The same newspaper had also reported a few days earlier that most Baloch leaders in exile did not support Hyrbyair Marri’s ‘Freedom Charter’ “for consultations to unite the Baloch nationalists on a single platform.”
Mystery shrouds the Baloch Freedom Charter for a number of reasons. It seems to have caused confusion among nationalist leaders over its motivations and substance and raised doubts among the ordinary people about its significance. All Baloch leaders do not seem to be on the same page about the Freedom Charter nor do we see any signs of joint future consultations among all political leaders to finalize the Charter.
What actually is the Baloch Freedom Charter and who are the members of the Charter Coordinating Committee? Nobody knows. Lack of public knowledge about the origins and intentions of the Charter are the basic problem. No body knows who thought of the idea of giving the Baloch people a freedom charter and how the Coordinating Committee was formed. Charters and constitutions are normally tailored by an elected body that represents the wishes of the people. If the Baloch Freedom Charter intends to reflect the aspirations of the Baloch people then it is very important that all segments of the Baloch society should be represented in the first phase of the process (preparing the Charter) instead of the upcoming phase (bringing it to general public attention for feedback).
We are not sure if Mr. Marri’s Freedom Charter is the same as the one published and circulated by British gay rights activist and journalist Peter Tatchell on June 15, 2012. Mr. Tatchell’s Charter is a blend of demands from Pakistan, very similar to what one saw in Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s Six-Point demands to the Pakistani Supreme Court and wishful democratic principles such as equality, land reforms and secularism in the free state of Balochistan. Mr. Tatchell, had also invited public debate and feedback for his Charter. The fundamental problem with Mr. Tachell’s Charter is that it is an imported one that is imposed on the Baloch people from outside. The Balochs should sit down to craft their own charter and future plans instead of getting the work done by outsiders. After all, preparing a charter for a new free country is not the actual challenge for the Baloch. The real challenge begins if and when they acquire freedom. If they wish to run a free state, they also have to learn from now how to manage their own affairs instead of getting their very fundamental documents written by people who have not lived in Balochistan. While the support of non-Balochs is laudable, it is important for the Baloch leadership to prove that their movement is indigenous rather than foreign-sponsored-dictated. The future of the Baloch people should be decided by those who enjoy broad support among the local masses.
The Baloch Freedom Charter came under limelight after Baloch leader Hairbayar Marri visited Bramdagh Bugti, the chairman of the Baloch Republican Party, in Switzerland and presented him the Charter. Photos of similar meetings between Mr. Marri and the Khan of Kalat were also seen in the local Urdu media as well as on the social media. Later on, Mr. Marri seemed to fail in drawing ample support for the Charter among rest of the Baloch leaders.
A Freedom Charter is extremely essential for the Baloch leaders to explain to the world what they are struggling for and what they stand for. They also need to have such a document to tell the people of Baloch what this movement offers them for the future. Without a powerful and convincing document, a nationalist movement is unlikely to gain serious attention and support from the international community. So, it is a good sign that the Baloch leaders have decided to soon publicize the Charter.
The biggest challenge for the Charter, nonetheless, is to be consistent and persistent to the extent that it is taken seriously by the international community. In the recent past, we have seen a number of political gimmicks which provided temporary benefits to some individual leaders but did not contribute to the benefit of the Baloch movement. One such idiotic move was taken six years back on April 18, 2006, by announcing an obscure Baloch government in exile which “nominated His Highness Mir Suleman Dawood Khan as our King, chose the red, green, blue with sun as our flag, and reinstated Kalat as our capital.” In September 2006, the Khan of Kalat once again made headlines over deciding to move the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) in the Hague against Pakistan for occupying Balochistan. Six years after that announcement, the Khan of Kalat has not made an inch of progress in his pledge to challenge Pakistan at the I.C.J. The latest political gimmick was seen from Sardar Akhtar Mengal, president of the Balochistan National Party, who mimicked the father of Bangladesh freedom struggle, Shiek Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, by presenting Six Point demands in front of the Pakistani Supreme Court.
We hope that the Freedom Charter is not Hairbayar Marri’s moment of personal-heroism. Before freedom, the Charter should unite the nation, respect every leader, accommodate diverse and divergent opinions so that a consensus document about the future of the Baloch people is developed.
This editorial was originally published in The Baloch Hal on December 21, 2012