The Balochs all over the world and their friends and well-wishers in India and the rest of the world are mourning the reported death of Nawabzada Mir Balach Khan Marri, the legendary Che Guevara of the Baloch freedom struggle. His father Nawab Khair Bux Marri has reportedly not yet been accepting condolence messages from friends, relatives and the people of Balochistan till he has seen the dead body of this proud son of Balochistan and one of the legendary fighters for the cause of an independent Balochistan. However, his elder brother Mir Gazeen Marri has reportedly confirmed his death and indicated that efforts were being made to bring his dead body along with those of his body-guards and four others, who were also reportedly killed, to their ancestral land for burial.
The Pakistani military and intelligence authorities, who have been trying to have the Baloch independence struggle discredited by alleging that the freedom-fighters were operating from sanctuaries in Afghan territory with the alleged collusion of external forces (meaning thereby India), have been disseminating reports that Balach Marri, his bodyguards and associates were killed in Afghan territory in an American air strike. However, Beebrag Baloch, a spokesman of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), has stated that they were killed in the Marri area in Balochistan.
Other sources also say that they died in an air strike by a helicopter gunship of the Pakistan Army and that it has removed their dead bodies before the freedom-fighters could reach them and take the dead bodies to their ancestral land. The Pakistan Army, which has been using for months the helicopters, communication interception sets and other equipment given by the US for use against Al Qaeda in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for its operations against the Baloch freedom-fighters, managed to establish through the interception of their telephone conversations the exact location of their hide-out and kill them. US given helicopters and other equipment for operations against Al Qaeda and for locating Osama bin Laden were similarly used by the Army in August last year to determine the hide-out of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and kill him through an air strike. The loss of a second legendary freedom-fighter due to careless use of telephones, highlights the weak communication security of the freedom-fighters, which has been exploited by the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)/
The hopes of President General Pervez Musharraf and his Army that the death of Nawab Bugti would end the freedom struggle were belied and the freedom struggle continued with increased vigour. Their hopes that the death of the Baloch Che Guevara would cause a serious set-back to the freedom struggle would also be belied.
The news of Balach's death has led to an outpouring of anger all over Balochistan. There were a number of violent incidents in Quetta and other towns and four Punjabi policemen have been killed by protesting demonstrators. There have been attacks on business establiashments and offices run by Punjabi settlers. The Army has rushed reinforcements to Balochistan to bring the situation under control.
On November22, 2007, the Baloch Liberation Army carried out a number of attacks on power supply lines causing widespread disruption in the supply of electricity. The Dawn of Karachi reported as follows on November 23,2007:
"Over 100 industrial units were closed in Hub as power to the entire Lasbela district was suspended after a pylon of high-power transmission line supplying electricity from Karachi was blown up on Thursday. “The entire Lasbela district was plunged into darkness after the huge tower of the 132,000kV transmission line was blown up on the Sindh-Balochistan border,” a police officer told Dawn. “Production stopped in all industrial units in the Lasbela Industrial Estate and ship breaking work was suspended in Gadani. Karachi Electric Supply Company sources said restoration of power supply after replacement of the destroyed pylon would take at least a week. Another explosion took place in Hub close to the wall of a post office in Allahbad Colony. Quetta was rocked in the night by two powerful explosions in Killi Bunglezai and in Smungli Road area."
The Che Guevara of the Baloch freedom struggle may be dead, but there are thousands of Che Guevaras keeping up their fight for independence. They say that the death of their leader has only re-doubled their determination to keep up their independence struggle. It is incumbent on the people and the Government of India to share the grief of the Baloch people and re-affirm their solidarity with them. The death of the Baloch Che Guevara coincided with the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi. Had she been alive today, she would not be keeping quiet over this tragedy. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his colleagues from the Congress (I), who project themselves as the true inheritors of the legacy of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, should not hesitate to do what she would have done had she been alive.
The hearts of the people of India bleed for Khair Bux Marri and his family and for the people of Balochistan and their freedom-fighters in their hour of tragedy. They pray to God that He gives them added strength to continue marching to their independence. Independence is their birth right. Neither Musharraf nor the Pakistani Army nor the ISI can deny it to them.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
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