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Ghulam Mohammed Baloch: Life and politics

Ghulam Mohammed Baloch was one of the most influential nationalist leaders in the contemporary Baloch politics. His political career spanned from 1974 when he was still in school till April 2009 when he was picked up by Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps personnel and eventually assassinated.

In his 35-year political career, he always remained a staunch left-oriented Baloch nationalist wanting to create an independent Balochistan. He is known for a manifesto he penned down in which he expressed his wish to help create a free Baloch society where people could live in peace without the discrimination of colour, ethnicity, caste, religion etc. The manifesto is now part of the constitution of the Baloch National Movement, a political party he founded in 2004.

Born in 1959, Ghulam Mohammed opened his eyes at a modest middle-class home in Mand, a village bordering Iranian-controlled Balochistan. His grandfather, his namesake, once used to be a rich landlord in the area. But when Ghulam Mohammed was born, his father, Mohammed Ayub, had already sold away most of the ancestral property. Thus, he spent a modest childhood. As years passed, his family’s wealth depreciated and at one point, when he was still a teenager, he had to work at a tea stall after school to earn a living.

In 1974, legendary Baloch politician Fida Ahmad Baloch, who was later assassinated in Turbat in May 2, 1988, started teaching at Mand High School, where Ghulam Mohammed was a student. Influenced by Fida’s political nationalist philosophy, he joined the Baloch Students Organisation — a students’ group formed in 1969 and is considered as the champion of the Baloch nationalist politics. He was elected as BSO’s General Secretary of Mand Zone in the same year.

During this period, his elder brother, Mohammad Yousuf, found a job in Qatar, helping improve the family’s financial situation.

After completing his Matriculation from Mand, Ghulam Mohammed left for Karachi for further studies. In 1980, he got admission to SM College where he also continued his activities as an active member of the BSO. In 1983, he was elected as the General Secretary of the organisation’s Karachi Zone. A year later, in 1984, he was elected as the General Secretary of the Sindh Province.

After completing graduation from the SM College in 1984, he got a Masters Degree in Balochi from the University of Balochistan .

He climbed the ladder of BSO’s hierarchy quite fast. He was elected as the group’s Central Junior Vice-Chairman in 1986 and Central General Secretary in 1988, the year when his political guru Fida Ahmad was assassinated.

He was elected as BSO’s Chairman in 1990. Because of his popular tenure as BSO’s Chairman, he’s still popularly called Chairman Ghulam Mohammed.

After completing his two-year tenure as the BSO’s chief, he joined the Balochistan National Movement (BNM) in 1992/93. Those were the years, when Baloch nationalism, after Fida’s assassination, was faced with perhaps the toughest times in the recent history. Most of the nationalist parties, including the BNM which was formed by Fida’s closest colleagues, had already joined Pakistan’s parliament on the pretext that it would help gain media attention for Balochistan’s liberation movement.

However, there was still a small group of politicians, led by Ghulam Mohammed, who were against the participation in Pakistan’s parliament. They believed that it would legitimize Pakistan’s “unconstitutional occupation” of Balochistan. They rather campaigned for a mass mobilization movement against Pakistan’s rule.

During that period, he was elected as BNM’s Central Vice-President.

As times passed, differences between both the groups within the BNM sharpened. Finally, the students’ wing of the party, led by Dr Allah Nazar, a close comrade of Ghulam Mohammed and now one of the top Baloch guerrilla commanders, decided to part ways with the BNM in 2001. Dr Nazar-led Baloch Students Organisation now advocated against Baloch nationalists’ participation in Pakistan’s parliament and openly campaigned for an armed struggle for Balochistan’s liberation.

In 2004, Ghulam Mohammad staged a coup d’état against the pro-parliamentary leaders of the party. As a result, the BNM was split into two groups: the Baloch National Movement (BNM) which was now led by Ghulam Mohammed and the National Party (NP) which was headed by Dr Hai Baloch.

In the meantime, a guerilla warfare had been launched in almost all parts of Balochistan, including Ghulam Mohammad’s hometown of Mand. By 2005, the Ghulam Mohammad’s BNM managed to gain political support from most influential Baloch leaders, including Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Nawab Khair Bux Marri.

As the popularity of the newly-launched Baloch liberation movement increased, Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies launched a crackdown against Baloch leaders. Dr Allah Nazar was first abducted by Pakistan’s intelligence services in 2005 from Karachi along with five other leaders of the BSO. He was kept at some unknown torture cell for almost a year, then shifted to a jail and then subsequently released in 2006 after much public protest. Ghulam Mohammed was picked up in 2006 from Karachi after a public gathering in Lyari, Karachi. He was also kept at an unknown torture cell for a year where he was subjected to physical and mental torture. He was shifted to a jail in Turbat in 2007 from where he was released on bail.

Ghulam Mohammed’s memory and hearing were badly affected due to excessive beating and electric shocks during his confinement. Sometimes, he would not even notice his cell phone ringing in his front pocket. His long-time friend, Allah Nazar, and others advised him to join the armed struggle, as holding rallies and gathering in cities made him a soft target for the military. He refused, as he believed no liberation movement would succeed without political mass mobilization.

He continued his activities after his release. In fact, his following and popularity had increased manifold. Despite belonging to a middle-class family, his following and fame was unchallenged, dispelling the impression created by Pakistan’s government that the Baloch nationalist struggle had been stirred by a few landlords and sardars.

He was arrested again in 2008 in Karachi. But this time his followers laid siege to the police station, forcing the authorities to release him a day later.

On February 2, 2009, John Solecki, an American national and a senior official of the UNHCR, was kidnapped by a previously unknown Baloch militant group from Quetta. The Baloch militants wanted the US and the UN to press Pakistan to stop abducting and killing Baloch political workers. The United Nations and the US government sought Nawab Khair Bux Marri’s and Ghulam Mohammed Baloch’s help for Solecki’s release. Both the Baloch leaders issued a passionate appeal for Solecki’s release on humanitarian grounds.

However, a day before Solecki was released by Baloch militants to honour the call of Baloch leaders, Ghulam Mohammed and two of his comrades were picked up by Pakistan military on April 3 from the chamber of Kachkol Ali advocate, an important lawyer and a Speaker in the Balochistan Assembly.

Ghulam Mohammed’s bullet-riddled body was later found on April 9 from Murghap, a mountainous area 14 kilometers from the Turbat city.

In reaction to his assassination, Balochistan witnessed worst riots in the recorded history. His followers burnt most of the government installations and Pakistan’s flags were removed from government buildings. It was a turning point in the Baloch nationalist politics.

About Sajid Hussain

Sajid Hussain is a journalist and writer. He is the Editor of Balochistan Times. He has previously worked for The News International, Daily Times and contributed for the Reuters news agency. He receives emails at [email protected] and tweets @sajidbaluch.

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