Revolutionary Papers

Jabal, The Voice of Balochistan

Jabal, The Voice of Balochistan

Presented by

— Mahvish Ahmad
Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Politics, London School of Economics. Co-Founder of Revolutionary Papers and the English/Urdu magazine, Tanqeed. (more…)
— Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
Political organiser with the Baloch struggle; public intellectual and writer on Balochistan. (more…)

Last Updated
This tool is intermittently updated to integrate new information sent to the authors.

21 October 2021

Journal Referenced

Jabal

Between 1973 and 1977, the Balochistan People’s Liberation Front or BPLF (earlier the Parari) launched an insurgency against the central Pakistani government. They were protesting the dismissal of a democratically-elected provincial government in the country’s southern, marginalised province of Balochistan; subsequent arrests and conspiracy trials of socialist, Baloch political leaders and workers; and a military operation launched on their homes by a federal government convinced their communities were involved in sedition.

To support their cause, a group of urban Marxist-Leninists from outside the province – who were allied with the BPLF and the broader Baloch struggle – produced an underground bulletin in English and Urdu. Entitled Jabal – or mountain in Balochi 1, one of Balochistan’s indigenous languages, as well as in Sindhi, a neighbouring tongue – it was an homage to the northeastern mountain tracts where the BPLF organised against the state’s military operations.

In at least 14 issues published over three years, Jabal’s editors, writers and allies surreptitiously curated, printed, and distributed alternative histories, news and information, critiques of the regime and its policies, and strategic and tactical analyses of the operation. Published entries included original writings and translated or re-published texts from other national liberation and revolutionary movements from around the world. In its first editorial, Jabal’s creators stated that they wanted to help readers “overcome” the “lies and distortions spewed out daily by the … regime” and to “lay the basis for the UNITY of all oppressed nationalities, democratic and progressive forces in Pakistan” and around the world for the purposes of reimagining the postcolonial state. 2

As a bulletin written in English and Urdu, Jabal was not meant for the vast majority of Baloch who took part in the struggle against military operations, a significant portion of whom were unable to read and write, and many of which did not speak English or Urdu. Instead, through the close coordination between the BPLF leadership and the editorial collective, it served as a vehicle to forge solidarity with struggles around Pakistan and the world.

Via Jabal, this Teaching Tool presents an alternate historical narration of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s counter-insurgency operation in Balochistan, just two years after the secession and independence of Bangladesh in 1971. As a minor and alternative media outlet, it provided another narrative to more formal and established channels subject to state censorship and regulation. It also followed the dissolution of extreme policies of centralising power in the federal government, which ignored Pakistan’s multiple nations and languages. As a journal allied with these efforts, Jabal furthers debates on the limits of postcolonial nationalism after the formal end of empire through critiques allied with minoritised communities that experienced not victory, but defeat, at the moment of formal decolonisation.

  1. However, it is worth noting that the word koh is more often used in Balochi for mountain than jabal.
  2. Jabal, December 1976, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 2.
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1

Introductory Editorial from the First Edition Of Jabal

In the very first editorial printed in Jabal, the editors and authors declared their intent with the bulletin: To provide an alternative outlet for reporting in light of “a deliberate policy of a news blockade regarding the armed struggle in Baluchistan”; to “inform people about the true nature, aims and objects of the struggle being led by the Baluchistan People’s Liberation Front”; and to “lay the basis for the UNITY of all the oppressed nationalities, democratic and progressive forces in Pakistan.” December 1976, Vol. 1, No.1.

Editoral, December 1976, Vol. 1, No.1.

2

Geographical Context

Jabal was named after the struggle from the mountains of northeastern Balochistan, where the BPLF set up insurgent camps to fight the Pakistani military during the 1973 to 1977 counterinsurgency operations.

Image 2 – Hand-drawn illustration of BPLF fighters watching the Pakistani military from the mountains of northeastern Balochistan.

Image 3 – Hand-drawn illustration of an armed BPLF fighter standing in front of sheep grazing on the mountains.

In hand-drawn images across several issues of Jabal, BPLF fighters are illustrated watching tanks and soldiers enter “hitherto unconquered mountains.” 1, often armed and through binoculars.

These images and accompanying text in Jabal present the mountains as a privileged site of revolutionary politics: as vertically distant, and difficult to navigate by military forces, the mountains served as a place of political refuge for those trying to avoid military violence. Fighters who grew up on the mountains could use their local knowledge of its terrain to avoid repeated attempts by the Pakistan Army to cordon off all exit and entry points. They could also surreptitiously find grazing grounds and water holes for their families to circumvent attempts by the military to block incoming rations needed for survival.

Image 4 – Access to water holes, like this one, were crucial to the survival of mountain communities, especially when they were fighting the Pakistani military.

In the years leading up to the first issue of Jabal in 1976, a three-year drought had put immense pressure on targeted mountain communities. They were able to survive water shortages because of a deep intimacy with the mountains. Understood as a harsh enemy, they used their deep knowledge of the terrain to tactically avoid the military might of the state. This distance of the mountains from state power, and their continued inaccessibility and illegibility to the state, were in the eyes of Jabal’s authors the conditions of possibility for a more autonomous and egalitarian vision of collective life.

The one advantage that the Marri fighters enjoyed was their intimate knowledge of the terrain; they knew where the watering holes were and where the caves and gorges were. They carried flour in their pushti, a bed-sheet sized cloth, and water in a khalli, a small goat-skin bag, and survived on meagre rations. This, combined with their determination, made the Marris a potent force. They would fight, disappear and later regroup at another place.
— Talpur, MM. 2009. Memories of Another Day. Newsline Magazine

Close-up of “Marri Country” and “Bugti Country” on a colonial-era map of Balochistan. The Marris and Bugtis were considered particularly “fanatical” in British racial narratives of Balochistan’s tribal formations, and were separated out for separate governance.

Full view of colonial-era map of Balochistan.

Northeastern Balochistan, where these mountains are nestled, remain sites pregnant with the memory of rebellion by indigenous Baloch, including the Marris, Bugtis, and Khetrans, against outside forces. These outsiders included the “Arabs, Huns, Persians, Afghans, British colonialists, or imperialist stooges” according to Jabal.2 After the 1839 colonial annexation of Kalat, when the British Raj constituted the main, foreign aggressors, armed rebellion by Marris, Khetrans, Bugtis, and other tribal formations in northeastern Balochistan were so common, that the Raj decided to govern them separately. The colonial mapping of Balochistan, which ended up determining the contours of what later became the Pakistani province of Balochistan, shows that the British had separated out “Marri Country” and “Bugti Country” because of frequent armed rebellions.

A letter declaring the “Boogtis” as “outlaws” who can be “captured or killed when they come near the frontier” and whose cattle can be seized.

The front cover of the Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn, on how the Khan of Kalat, the head of a major princely state in central Balochistan, resisted the Pakistani military’s attempt to subsume Kalat State into Pakistan. He was subsequently arrested and accused of sedition.

Really, this separation indexed racial tropes by the British that cast all resistance to British colonial rule as “fanatics” and “outlaws”; such stereotypes in turn justified the separate governance of the “wild tribes” of the hills and mountains under draconian laws like the Murderous Outrages Act (1867) and Frontier Crimes Regulation (1872) which gave legal cover to colonial political officers to kill anyone they deemed “fanatical”, without trial. After the 1947 Partition and Independence of Pakistan, which in the eyes of several Baloch nationalists included a 1948 annexation of Balochistan despite a stated desire to maintain substantial autonomy from the new postcolonial state, these northeastern communities retained a reputation for being particularly averse, if not outright hostile, to outside rule.

While their recalcitrance was read as backwardness by the outsiders who tried to rule them, they are remembered in the epic war ballads of the region’s local poets, like Rahm Ali Marri (1875-1933) under the British Raj, as signs of heroic, anti-colonial resistance.

Lo! The final hour has struck We have to leave for a decisive war this world one day, between the British determined we are that we will lay down and the Baloch. our lives for the glory of the Almighty and will be rewarded in this world There is none and the world hereafter. who will not dance at the sound We loathe the British money and glitter. of clashing swords. No one will stay behind in this final clash and the world will always Forward Ghazis and Shahids, remember our daring deeds decorate your horses. against the British This humiliating slavery we are not made for. Our God, He alone, is enough for us.
— A war ballad by Rahm Ali Marri during a 1918 operation against Marris in northeastern Balochistan by the British. Translation from Syed, Javed Haider 2007: The Baloch Resistance Literature Against the British Raj. Pakistan Journal of History & Culture. pp. 77-78.

▴ Areas highlighted in red in this image show which territories constituted the major insurgency zones during the 1973 to 1977 insurgency. As is clear, the insurgency spread through Kalat, Jhalawan, Sarawan and Sibi–and existed in places as far afield as Makran, Kharan, and Nushki. Source: Harrison, Selig. 1981. In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Contemporary map of Pakistan.

Though the BPLF started out fighting the Pakistani military in the northeastern regions, the struggle quickly spread to other parts of the province which had their own memories and experiences of protracted rebellion against outside sovereigns. Firefights and ambushes occurred with regular frequency not only in northeastern areas dominated by the Marris, but also in other parts of Balochistan like Bolan, Jhalawan, Sarawan, and Makran, albeit under a different set of leaders. This included Ali Mohammad Mengal in Khuzdar, Safar Khan Zehri in Jhalawan, and Aslam Gichki in Makran, among other people. According to one set of government statistics, while 84 out of 178 army encounters took place in the northeastern Marri areas in 1974, the rest were scattered across Balochistan, with places like Khuzdar and Jhalawan in central and southern Balochistan especially targeted. 3

A hand-drawn map of an imagined “Greater Balochistan” carried by the weekly Al-Baloch, Karachi, in its issue of 25th December, 1932, on page 7.

A map of the Indian Ocean south of Balochistan’s coast.

The connected armed insurgency against Pakistani military operations was possible because those who took part considered themselves members of a shared Baloch national identity that connected them, at times across vast distances (the province of Balochistan is nearly as large as Germany and constitutes 44 percent of Pakistani landmass). This political and affective connection was premised on a territorial imagination that transgressed and exceeded that of the Pakistani state. Twentieth century Baloch nationalists, for instance, imagined a “Greater Balochistan” that stretched from southern Iran and Afghanistan through to the colonial province of Balochistan. This imagination still animates Baloch nationalist separatists today. This broad, territorial imagination also mobilised Baloch students living in the city of Karachi, in the neighbouring province of Sindh, to join the battle against the Pakistani military’s operations (see Political Movements). Of course, not all Baloch shared this nationalist identity.

For instance, southern fisher communities along the coast facing the Indian Ocean saw themselves as more integrated into trans-oceanic networks that stretched from eastern Africa and western India, and at times saw themselves as direct subjects of the Sultanate of Oman which ruled over a section of the southern Makran coast before handing it over to Pakistan in 1958.4

▴ One of the more famous maps of what Pakistan could look like, which illustrates this top-down and homogenising view of Indian Muslims, was produced by Choudhry Rehmat Ali while he was a law student at Cambridge. Source: Choudhry Rahmat Ali’s pamphlets from the collections of the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. Source: Tryst With Destiny, University of Cambridge [Retrieved: 5 October 2021].

A map of Pakistan in 1960, which shows the amalgamation of all of West Pakistan into One Unit, to counter the power of East Pakistan.

These transgressive territorial imaginations ran counter to the Pakistani state’s understanding of Balochistan. Early imaginations of Pakistan lumped together all Indian Muslims in separate, territorial entities, despite the vast differences in languages, cultures, ethnicities and more that actually existed between them. This lumping generated trenchant resistance from Pakistan’s minoritised ethnicities, nations, and languages, including Baloch nationalists who were critical of top-down attempts to marginalise indigenous languages and cultures through the imposition of Urdu and to centralise power in a federal government and military dominated by the country’s Punjabi and Urdu-speakers. To counter the most forceful criticism of this centralisation – which came from Bengalis in what was East Pakistan until the secession and independence of Bangladesh in 1971 – Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra fused the entire, territory of what today constitutes Pakistan (and back then, constituted West Pakistan) into One Unit. It was not until 1970, after a protracted resistance against the One Unit Policy, that Balochistan even emerged as a separate province. This constant attempt to refuse power-sharing prompted Jabal authors and the broader Baloch struggle to see Pakistani state power as an instance of internal colonial rule, a lens that continues to animate Baloch nationalist critiques of state rule in Balochistan today.

… it becomes clear that the first and the most immediate task before the truly national and democratic forces is to launch a democratic struggle against the Bureaucratic Power which has centralised all political power in the state organs patronised by the military elite. … After the pseudo-independence of 1947 and the departure of British Colonialists, a new form of colonialism evolved, both from which and from without. In Pakistan, it was essentially from within that the that the process of advancement of history was interrupted. It was interrupted by the Bureaucratic Power, which trampled upon the democratic rights of the masses and arrested the free development of the various regions especially of the minority nationalities by trying to obliterate a false and exploitative concept of a single nationhood.
— Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 12.

A map of natural resources subject to the economic interests of global and national companies in Balochistan. Source: Harrison, Selig. 1981. In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

More importantly, the Pakistani state imagined the territory of Balochistan as a site of potential resource extraction that could power the rest of the country, and began carrying out geological explorations of resources like oil, gas, and minerals potentially available within the province. The most important discovery within Balochistan was made in 1952, with the discovery of Sui Gas in northeastern Balochistan’s Dera Bugti; from 1955 until today, Sui Gas constitutes the majority of gas provided to the rest of country. However, gas was never supplied to Balochistan itself, and has, most notoriously, yet to be supplied to the surrounding Sui Town from which it is extracted. On the pages of Jabal, this exploitative relationship between the central state and Balochistan lands was exacerbated after the 1971 secession of East Pakistan and independence of Bangladesh, which meant an important site of exploitation was now unavailable. In one essay, entitled Imperialism, Oil and the Baluchistan Revolution, they argue that post-Bangladesh “a deal with Imperialism, especially the United States and Iran, became imminent” resulting in Pakistan offering up Balochistan: “Balochistan was sold. Minerals, oil and her people were auctioned, bit by bit, to the highest bidder.”

Central to Jabal’s political message is an idea that such state-centric ideas of how people should relate to one another, for instance as colonial subjects loyal to the violent British Raj or subjects central to a repressive and exploitative postcolonial states, should be challenged. Against these state-mediated relations, Jabal calls for the forging of transgressive relations between repressed communities and political struggles inside and outside Pakistan to bring about a communist, anti-colonial and anti-capitalist world order. Read more about these counter-alliances in Networks.

  1. Jabal, May 1977, Vol. 1, No. 5.
  2. Jabal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4.
  3. Harrison, Selig. 1981. In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  4. Jamali, Hafeez. 2014. A Harbor in the Tempest: Megaprojects, Identity, and the politics of Place in Gwadar. PhD Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, p. 22-23.
3

Dema Kadam by Mir Gul Khan Nasir | Jabal, June 1977, Vol. 1, No. 6.

In this poem, transliterated and translated into English onto the pages of Jabal, the unofficial poet laureate of Baloch nationalism, Mir Gul Khan Nasir’s poem Dema Kadam is republished. Its lines reflect the deep, emotional attachment of Baloch nationalists to the lands of Balochistan.

Dema Kadam by Mir Gul Khan Nasir | Jabal, June 1977, Vol. 1, No. 6.

4

Historical Context

First issue of Jabal, published in December 1976.

By the time the first issue of Jabal was published in December 1976, the BPLF had been in armed conflict with the Pakistan Army for three years. This confrontation formally began on 10 February, 1973, after Prime Minister Bhutto discovered a cache of arms at the residence of Nasir al Saud, the Iraqi Military Attaché in Islamabad.1 In a sensational exposure, involving throngs of journalists and diplomats2, Pakistani officials showcased 300 Soviet sub-machine guns and 48,000 rounds of ammunition, prompting accusations that the Baloch were receiving arms from the Soviet Union and Iraq3.

▴ AP Archive, 12 Feb 1973. “An arms cache is discovered in the Iraqi embassy in the Pakistani city of Islamabad.

Who the arms were really for remains unclear, though most investigations suggest they were headed for Irani Baloch whom the Iraqis wanted to support in retaliation for Irani support for Iraqi Kurds. Some say that the arms were headed directly for the Pararis/BPLF.4 The discovery prompted the immediate dismissal of Balochistan’s first democratically-elected provincial government and assembly, led by a primarily Baloch National Awami Party (NAP) in coalition with a mostly Pashtun Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI); the resignation of neighbouring NWFP’s NAP-JUI government in protest; the escalation of political and armed opposition against the Bhutto’s perceived excesses5 (most notably by the Pararis/BPLF who started attacking economic, military, and political infrastructures6); and the harassment and arrests of critical political workers in and around Balochistan7, including their trial in the famous Hyderabad Conspiracy Case. These actions were preceded by earlier tensions between the federal government and the NAP-majority provincial government.

The Baloch resistance to the unwarranted and unjust military operations — after the illegal and unfair dismissal of Sardar Ataullah Mengal’s government in February 1973, only 10 months after being sworn in — was the most protracted, pervasive and forceful struggle in the province’s history.
— Read Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur’s for a more detailed narrative of the events that led up to the 1973 dismissal in his article, Memories of Another Day, Newsline Magazine

Just a few months after the discovery of the arms cache, Bhutto deployed four divisions, or 80,000 troops in Balochistan against a suspected 20,000 militants.8 Throughout the period of the insurgency, up to 38,000 political prisoners were arrested9, while others were disappeared, tortured, or executed. Though the military had already been present in Balochistan at this point – because of the colonial-era deployment of troops in places like Quetta, earlier military campaigns in the 1950s and ‘60s, and in relation to clashes between the NAP government and the federal security forces prior to the arms cache discovery – this deployment both expanded the military’s presence, and intensified the operations. It expanded the remit of the military’s operations in that it took place on a far larger territory than had been witnessed in the 1950s and ‘60s–in large part because those who took part in fighting the state were also spread over a larger area10.

In a map published by Andrew Mascarenhas, a journalist for The Guardian who toured the area for four weeks in 1975, the operation, was concentrated in northeastern Balochistan, included the southern areas of Sarawan and Jhalawan as well as the territory stretching towards Quetta, in areas like Sibi. Map published in the 24 January, 1975 report in The Guardian showing the extent of the 1973-’77 counterinsurgency operation.

Meanwhile, the intensity of the operations was made possible both by the deployment of what in one instance was reported to be 100,000 troops11 led by General Tikka Khan who was fresh out of the war in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

General Tikka Khan was a four-star army general in the Pakistan Army, who oversaw both the 1971 war in Bangladesh including its violent atrocities, as well as the 1973 to 1977 counterinsurgency operation in Balochistan.

This was supported by US-made Cobra gunships and C-130 transport planes, provided to Pakistan by the Shah of Iran12 who both pressured Bhutto to intervene against a growing political opposition in Balochistan8, and gave in to his requests for being a clearing house for US arms despite an embargo on Pakistan after the 1965 war with India14. The Guardian journalist, Andrew Mascarenhas, recounts that despite denials by the government that the “Pakistan Air Force [had] been used for bombing”, he saw “bomb craters and large fragments of bombs”–F-86 Sabre Jets, UH-1 Helicopters, along with 500 pilots with the Pakistan Air Force, took part in strafing, frequently with the help of Irani pilots.11

In December ’73, an army patrol attacked Tadri, a Marri house holding. When Tangav and his nephews, Karam and Jalamb Ramkani tried to stop the army and their collaborators from taking away their flocks, they were killed. Their women, who attempted to flee, were also shot at, one was killed and two wounded. A young boy, Mangla, also sustained injuries. Our friend Dali treated the wounded. In another instance, and old man, Vashad Ramkani was killed when he struck an army man who had abused him. In the Kalgary area, when an army contingent, all the able-bodied people fled, but a blind man, Jan Baig Ramkani who was left behind, attacked a household died in the volley off fire unleashed upon the house. Pir Baksh Ramkani, a big flock owner, died defending his flock. I personally knew most of the victims.
— In A Page from the Past, Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur recounts stories of military atrocities during the 1973 insurgency.

Jabal emerged as an underground pamphlet put out by the BPLF which was dedicated to circulating news of the army’s operations in Balochistan at a time of intense censorship–and to keep alive a political opposition out of a marginalised territory in Pakistan at a time of extreme, military repression.

With the complete control and censorship exercised by the government over the press, radio, T.V., and all other mass media, and a deliberate policy of a news blockade regarding the armed struggle in Baluchistan, plus the lies and distortions spewed out daily by the Bhutto regime, the people of Pakistan have been kept in the dark or completely misinformed about the situation in Baluchistan. Thus he armed resistance of the Baluch people has been variously described in the official government controlled media as; “the resistance of a few Sardars and backward tribals to modern civilisation, progress and development;” “a foreign-backed movement to break-up Pakistan”; “a Sardari-led struggle for the preservation of the privilages [sic] of the Sardars;” and so on. The government has deliberately blacked out all news about the nature, aims and objects of the struggle being led by the Baluchistan People’s Liberation Front (B.P.L.F.).
— “Editorial: Jabal (Mountain)” in Jabal, December 1976, Vol. 1, No. 1.

▴ Image of three major, Baloch leaders in NAP, including Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Ataullah Mengal and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, at Mach Jail in Balochistan, before they were transferred to Hyderabad to stand trial in the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case. Source

The counterinsurgency operation in Balochistan that Jabal was responding to was part of a broader conflict between a centralising Pakistani government, at that time represented by Bhutto, and demands by Baloch political leaders and workers who felt peripheral to power in Pakistan.

For instance NAP – which included some of the most important, Baloch political figures of the time, such as Ataullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri – criticised Bhutto for centralising power, marginalising minoritised languages and ethnicities; pursuing imperial and anti-Communist alliances; and exploiting the resources of Balochistan16.

Image of soldiers of the Pakistan Army protecting extractive projects in Balochistan in Jabal.

Bhutto, in turn, charged NAP with armed conspiracy to overthrow a postcolonial state struggling for sovereignty within an imperial world order, two years after another part of the country, East Pakistan, had successfully seceded and formed Bangladesh.17 He also charged NAP in Balochistan as a party run by sardars, tribal leaders, intent on undermining postcolonial sovereignty via foreign support, merely to line their own pockets18.

Bhutto meeting with Mir Gul Khan Nasir and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, two Baloch leaders in NAP. The former was not a tribal leader. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The demands put forward not just in Jabal, but among a broader constellation of Baloch oppositional groups (including NAP and various Baloch student organisations), to ensure the inclusion of all repressed nations within a postcolonial state, was dubbed the “national question” in Pakistan. In the pages of Jabal, in particular, this “national question” inside of Pakistan was taking place in a global context of ongoing anti-colonial struggle for national liberation around the Third World, in places like Rhodesia, Congo, South Africa, and Vietnam. On the one hand, Jabal and the BPLF saw demands for greater national inclusion as continuous with these other movements against colonial occupation, albeit one that was now taking place against the neocolonial practices adopted by states after the departure of western empires. On the other hand, these ongoing struggles against European empires were a reminder that the international order was still structured by western power, now in the context of the Cold War, and that newly-independent Third World states would have to join forces against imperial intervention. Bhutto was himself as a proponent of non-alignment and Third World solidarity19; the creators of Jabal also spoke about the importance of anti-imperial internationalism, albeit one that was qualitatively different than the central state’s, including what later became Bhutto’s foreign policy. In other words, though both Bhutto, who was in government, and the political forces in opposition, identified with and spoke about the importance of supporting anti-colonial struggles against western empire, and forging a more democratic internationalist order, this politics crystallised for these different groups within Pakistan in vastly different ways. To read more about the particular counter-political ideas of solidarity imagined and pursued via Jabal in relation to others that were circulated within Pakistan at the time, see Concepts.

  1. For more information, see Vatanka 2015, 89; Harrison 1981, 36-36; 109; Bizenjo 2009, 183-184
  2. Siddiqi 2012, 67.
  3. Vatanka 2015, 89.
  4. Harrison 1981, 36-36
  5. Amnesty 1976, 51, 55. In March of 1973, NAP joined the United Democratic Front, quoting the importance of uniting “with the object of maintaining and strengthening the solidarity, integrity and ideology of Pakistan and for developing the democratic institutions and for restoration of a civilized norms of political conduct and behavior in the country.” Supreme Court of Pakistan 1976. Islamic Republic of Pakistan v. Abdul Wali Khan (Hamoodur Rahman, CJ), 192.
  6. Unknown author. Gigantic Hoax, Ahmed Saleem’s Collection, Islamabad. As Selig Harrison (1981, 34) points out, Baloch guerrillas started ambushing army convoys as the military began moving in, in April 1973, but were nevertheless combat-ready; given their previous experiences with the federal state’s punitive arm, they kept their camps active and in training.
  7. This included the arrest of Sher Mohammad Marri, the founder of the Pararis, who was said to be arrested in the mountains with 80 fighters. Jabbal claims that news of this arrest was false, and that he was instead arrested from his home in Kohlu in the northeastern Marri territories, and was followed by military forces who moved in to blockade the territories. It is unclear which version is accurate. Jabbal, June 1977, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 6.
  8. Vatanka 2015, 89-90.
  9. According to The Economist in Amnesty 1976.
  10. As Selig Harrison (1981, 36) says, “The fighting was more widespread than it had been during the conflicts of the fifties and sixties and touched most of the Baluch population at one time or another.” This is not completely accurate, since many of the territories involved in the current conflict – around the Makran Coast and closer to the border of Iran – were mostly untouched, as is clear in Image 7. Nevertheless, it is true that the conflict led to a politicisation of the countryside and an acceptance of common nationalist leadership across rural and urban Balochistan, albeit for a time. Harrison 1981, 10.
  11. Mascarenhas, Anthony 24 January, 1975: “Full Fledged Revolt in Baluchistan,” The Guardian.
  12. Pakistan was still under an arms embargo from the United States after the 1965 war with India; however, the Shah of Iran acted as a middleman throughout the period that Pakistan remained under the embargo.
  13. Vatanka 2015, 89-90.
  14. Vatanka 2015, 92-93.
  15. Mascarenhas, Anthony 24 January, 1975: “Full Fledged Revolt in Baluchistan,” The Guardian.
  16. Breseeg, 2004: 265-266
  17. Government of Pakistan, 1974
  18. Bhutto, 1976
  19. Bhutto 1976.
5

The Army’s “Development” Role in Balochistan | Jabal, May 1977, Vol. 1, No. 5.

In this essay, Jabal’s authors criticise the claim put forward by Prime Minister Bhutto and the army that they are pursuing policies of development and progress by bringing Balochistan under military control. Through an analysis of the “capitalist infrastructure” being put in place, they attempt to subvert this claim.

6

Political Movements

A BPLF sticker.

While Jabal was the official publication of the BPLF, it was most likely curated, edited, and written by urban left allies literate in English and Urdu, living in Karachi. For this reason, it is unlikely that the cadre of the BPLF, many of them unable to read or write, were aware of how they were represented on the pages of Jabal. This hierarchy between those who were technically literate and illiterate was not addressed by the writers in Jabal, and remains a central tension in most radical prints circulating out of struggles in impoverished regions like Balochistan, around the world. However, the collective retained close contact with the leadership of the BPLF. For instance, Jabal regularly featured reprints of military communique sent to them from key commanders, which included statistical reports on casualties during operations.

Jabal regularly received military communique’s from BPLF leadership and republished data on its pages, e.g. on this front cover of Jabal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4.

The BPLF was, until 1976, called the Pararis, a group formed by Sher Mohammad Marri in 1962.

Sher Muhammad Marri (second from left) stands with members of the Pararis.

As a committed Marxist-Leninist, Sher Mohammad Marri had initially been banned from Balochistan and forced to live in Sindh for his political activities. This ended when he decided to return first to mountains near Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, in 1962, and later to the Marri Hills where he eventually set up the first Parari camps (or what he called “liberated zone[s] or base area[s]”1), attracting people like Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani who eventually became a senior commander in the armed movement. The immediate reason behind the formation of the Pararis was criticism of state-collaborating sardars, like Sardar Doda Khan, who were seen as squeezing local populations through heavy taxes on flocks and land. However, broader frustrations with the One Unit Scheme, Ayub Khan’s military government, and ongoing military cantonment building and resource extraction in Balochistan, also played a role, as did a far broader and more ideological vision of alternative political community.

▴ Sher Mohammad Marri (centre) with Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani (right) during the early days of the Pararis. Source: Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur private photo archives.

The Pararis/BPLF spoke both of Baloch nationalism and Marxism-Leninism, explicitly rejecting alignment with either Russia or China. Though they did not constitute the only armed group fighting at the time – there were reportedly six to seven other armed groups in Balochistan, that “went into the hills” 2 spontaneously after the 1973 dismissal of the NAP government in Balochistan

Mir Gul Khan, Akbar Bugti, Khair Bakhsh Marri, Sardar Ataullah and Mir Ghaus on the balcon during a NAP Rally at NAP Headquarters in Quetta.

and their trial in the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case – they did constitute the largest, longest-running, and most organised one, with many others putting down arms particularly around the time of Bhutto’s declaration of amnesty for insurgents in 1974.

Mir Gul Khan, Sardar Ataullah, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh and Nawab Bugti after a hearing in Karachi. All except Bugti were eventually tried at the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case.

Contrary to a dominant notion that the group was constituted primarily by members of the “tribesmen” belonging to the Marris and Mengals – both of whose sardars, Ataullah Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Marri, were NAP’s two “tribal” leaders – a closer look at the membership reveals a far broader constellation.3 During visits to their refugee camps in Afghanistan between 1977 and 1989, the American journalist, Selig Harrison reported that the Pararis/BPLF consisted of a total of 7500 fighters, 2700 of them in Afghanistan; moreover, while 60 percent of the fighters were Marris, 40 percent were “younger, detribalized nationalists from a variety of different tribes, many of them recent college graduates.” 4 According to Biyyathil Mohyuddin Kutty, a communist from Madras who moved to Pakistan in 1949 and ended up working closely with NAP, these “detribalized nationalists” 4 included “an educated youth belonging to the powerful, left-oriented student organisation” 6, the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO), and included prominent members like Hakim Lehri and its chairman, Khair Jan Baluch.7

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur educated and healed several Baloch in the mountains, as a part of a broader constellation of urban leftists who went into the mountains. This image is from 1987.

In turn, many of these members included young Baloch whose “tribes and … chiefs have cooperated fully” 8 in helping the government’s plans of “socio-economic development and … effective and integrated administration”8–indeed, another pamphlet declared that “men of the tribes of those tribal sardars who owed total allegiance to the Federal Government, also went into the hills against the command of their “tribal” chiefs”.10 Finally, a small group of left radical non-Baloch – most notably the infamous “London Group” which consisted of young men from elite families in Punjab and Sindh and included Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur – also joined the Pararis/BPLF for several years.

Another, Duleep Das, disappeared during his time there.

Another, Muhammad Bhabha (known as Murad Khan by the Pararis/BPLF) was the son of a wealthy Karachi import-export magnate; his father had moved from South Africa after involvement with anti-Apartheid activity, and had settled in Karachi. In turn, Murad developed contacts with national liberation movements in places like Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Palestine–indeed, he even organised some members of the BPLF to train with George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Beirut in 1973 11

▴ The BPLF also went to train with George Habash’s PFLP in Palestine. Here: “In the mountains east of the Jordan River, a patrol from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine punctuates a battle hymn with Soviet, Czechoslovak (vz. 58), and (top left) Egyptian weapons. Early 1969.” Source: Thomas R. Koeniges - LOOK Magazine, May 13, 1969. p.27.

Image from the 1918 uprising by Marris and Khetrans against British forces. Here, the Marri Punitive Force is seen returning through a pass in Balochistan after attacking Baloch.

Historically, the Pararis/BPLF traces its lineage back to broad-based uprisings against attempts by outside powers to control the northeastern tracts. This includes uprisings led by Marris and Khetrans in northeastern Balochistan against the British as well as post-1947 insurgencies against attempts to centralise political power away from Balochistan and enter the province for the explicit purpose of resource extraction and securitisation via the expansive building of military cantonments.

According to Baloch nationalist historiography, this includes the 1948 insurgency launched by Agha Abdul Karim after the annexation of Kalat State, a major princely region in Balochistan and the 1958 to 1959 armed conflict famously led by the octogenarian Nawab Nouroze Khan.

Nawab Nauroz Khan, Ataullah Mengal and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo at a court appearance in 1961.

At the same time, the Pararis/BPLF were connected to a far broader constellation of movements that shared their political opposition to the Bhutto regime and its military operations in Balochistan. This included NAP. Though NAP neither verbally nor financially supported the Pararis/BPLF, they similarly propagated a political vision of a socialist, multinationalist and multilingual Pakistan with space for all repressed nations.

On the opening page of NAP’s constitution, the party declares its commitment to establishing Pakistan on socialist principles, through the establishment of a non-capitalist economy committed to cultural, linguistic and national plurality through a “peaceful, democratic struggle” inside and outside parliamentary politics. While NAP never verbally nor financially supported the BPLF, they did share a common vision of a multinationalism and socialist Pakistan, thus the BPLF’s support for Baloch leaders in NAP.

It also included the BSO, some of whom, as mentioned above, joined Parari/BPLF ranks.12 Unlike these groups, which were forged in cities like Karachi and Quetta, the BPLF was based in the rural mountain tracts of northeastern Balochistan. While both NAP and BSO members were subject to large-scale arrests in the cities as an armed group operating in remote and rural mountain tracts, BPLF was able to avoid arrests while being subjected to far more brutal military violence via counterinsurgency operations.

The operations eventually forced Baloch communities to escape to Afghanistan for refuge. Pictured here is Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani with Marris in Afghanistan in 1978.

According to Jabal, central to the Pararis/BPLF was a call for unity among the Baloch, and between the Baloch and others–or the belief that the emancipation of Balochistan’s places and peoples was tied up with the liberation of all. Though the Pararis/BPLF were subject to splits–e.g. between “largely uneducated tribesmen” and “younger detribalised nationalists”13 – it nevertheless focused (or located and took its departure) from marginalised state-critical sites with longer and more sedimented histories of anti-state rebellion, combining them with imaginaries of anti-imperialism and anti-centrism circulating in Balochistan (though Baloch NAP leaders and members as well as the BSO), Pakistan and the world. The aim was to force open new sorts of imaginations and collectivities of political community. To read more about these other kinds of networks and ideas see Networks and Concepts.

  1. Harrison 1981, 33.
  2. Unknown Author: Balochistan: A Political Analysis, 1977, 2.
  3. In a bulletin entitled A Short Review with a Special Emphasis on the Future, splits those fighting into six groups: leftists who wanted a socialist Pakistan and nationalists  who wanted a democratic Balochistan with close relations to India, Afghanistan, and the USSR; those “shocked” by the NAP dismissal; those with “bitter memories of crimes by Ayub in the 1960s” and angry at the “tension and fear whipped up systematically by the Federal Government and its stooges in the province”; Baloch “traditionalists” who responded to calls from the likes of Ataullah Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Marri; “simple and innocent tribal loyalists” who joined out of ‘tribal’ loyalty; and “self-seekers and anti-social elements.” (Pararis/BPLF. “The People’s Armed Struggle in Baluchistan: A Short Review with a Special Emphasis on the Future,” South Asia Resource and Research Centre, 8
  4. Harrison 1981, 74-75,
  5. Harrison 1981, 74-75,
  6. Kutty, B.M. “Baluchistan and the New Imperialist Strategy,” Ahmed Saleem’s Collection, Islamabad, 2
  7. Unknown Author. 1977. Balochistan: A Political Analysis, Islamabad: Ahmed Saleem Collection, 2; Pararis/BPLF. “The People’s Armed Struggle in Baluchistan: A Short Review with a Special Emphasis on the Future,” Islamabad: Ahmed Saleem Collection, 8.
  8. Government of Pakistan, White Paper on Balochistan, 1974, 5.
  9. Government of Pakistan, White Paper on Balochistan, 1974, 5.
  10. Unknown Author. 1977. Balochistan: A Political Analysis, Islamabad: Ahme.d Saleem Collection, 2.
  11. Harrison 1981, 74, 120. The other members included Rashid and Asad Rehman, the sons of Justice SA Rehman; Najam Sethi of the multimillionaire Sehgal family; Ahmed Rashid, a Cambridge graduate; and Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur and his brother, both sons of Mir Ali Ahmed Talpur who became defence minister under Zia.
  12. Really, there were two BSOs: one BSO was formed in Karachi among the city’s large, educated and young Baloch student community in the 1960s—the other, BSO-Awami, split from the BSO in 1972. For a summary of splits within the BSO, since its emergence in the 1960s, see Aamir, Adnan. 2014. Resistance and Splits Mark the Story of BSO. The Balochistan Point.
  13. Harrison 1981, 74, 75
7

The Struggle in the Baluch Mountains | Jabal, February 1977, Vol. 1, No. 3.

In this essay, Jabal’s authors attempt to debunk accusations that the insurgency in the mountains is the handiwork of a select number of sardars or tribal leaders trying to pursue their own, personal motives.

8

Key Figures

Ali Mohammad Mengal (left) with Mir Rasool Bakhsh Talpur (right) during a visit to Hyderabad in 1970.

Ali Mohammad Mengal. (Unknown DOB) to 1973.

Ali Mohammad Mengal joined Nawab Nouroze Khan in the 1958-1960 insurgency, to protest the arrest of the Khan of Kalat and the establishment of One Unit. In 1960, when the military promised amnesty to Nouroze Khan and his followers, he refused to join them in surrendering. Those who came down from the mountains were arrested, many executed. In the early 1960s, he was at the forefront of armed insurgencies  in Mengal-dominated areas. In 1973, Ali Mohammad Mengal once again picked up arms. He was killed on August 10 that year near Kalat, during clashes with the Pakistan Army.

Mir Hazar Khan in Kabul in 1985.

Mir Hazar Khan Ramkani Marri. Mid-1940s to 2021.

Mir Hazar Khan’s father, the mukhaddam Gul Khan, fought in the 1918 Battle of Harab, when the Marris refused recruits to the British Imperial Army during World War I. This and Mir Hazar Khan’s own resentment against excessive taxes on flocks and land by Sardar Doda Khan made him resentful of authorities backed by state power. When Sher Mohammad Marri set up the Pararis in northeastern Marri in 1962, Mir Hazar Khan joined him to become a camp commander. He eventually joined thousands of other Baloch to take refuge in Afghanistan, remaining there until the mujahideens overthrew the sitting government.

Mir Lawang Khan holding a rifle outside a building.

Mir Lawang Khan. 1901–1973.

Mir Lawang Khan was born in Killi Mengal, Noshki, and educated there until grade four. In 1948, he was harassed by military forces after annexations in Balochistan, forcing his move to Dasht-e-Goran, Kalat, where he owned ancestral property. He is known for his four-hour armed confrontation with military forces when they surrounded his village in 1973. After 25 soldiers and 35 villagers were killed, he was shot; today he is considered a martyr of the Baloch struggle. Mir Gul Khan Nasir, his imprisoned brother known as Balochistan’s informal Poet Laureate, wrote this elegy upon hearing of Mir Lawang Khan’s death.

Sher Mohammad Marri (far right) with Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur (centre) and Mir Hazar Khan Ramkhani (far left).

Mir Sher Mohammad Marri. 1935–1993.

Mir Sher Mohammad Marri, affectionately called Babu Shero, is widely credited for introducing organised, armed resistance when he founded the Pararis (renamed the BPLF) in 1962. Descending from fighters who resisted British rule (his father, Saidhaan Marri, died in exile in Afghanistan) he was radicalised as a Marxist, prompting the state to bar him from Balochistan for political activities. In 1962, he defied the ban, jumped bail, going first to mountains near Quetta before returning to the Marri Hills, where he set up the first Parari camps. He died in 1993, after returning from five years of self-exile in Kabul.

Third from left, Khair Bakhsh Marri at the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case, next to Mir Gul Khan Nasir (second from left) and Akbar Bugti (far left).

Khair Bakhsh Marri. 1928–2014.

Khair Bakhsh Marri was named after his grandfather who, unwilling to provide recruits to the British Imperial Army in World War I, fought against them in the 1918 Battles of Gumbaz and Harab. He was an early supporter of Balochistan’s independence, known for his staunch refusal of state patronage unlike other tribal heads. He spent 11 years in self-exile in Afghanistan after the 1970s insurgency, returning in 1992 after the mujahideen takeover. He is known as a “spiritual beacon” of the Baloch struggle. In 2014, at his funeral, his casket was famously carried by women of the Baloch movement.

9

Print Form

Cyclostyle machines, such as this one, were used to reproduce copies of Jabal.

​steel stylus

All 14 issues of Jabal were curated, authored, printed and distributed underground. It was curated and authored by a collective of urban leftists, most likely living in Karachi. It is unclear to what extent BPLF’s own fighters even knew (or agreed with) what was written on its pages: Most of them neither spoke Urdu nor English. What is clear is that Jabal received instructions and information directly from the BPLF leadership, through a set of underground channels. Meanwhile, there was no central place that Jabal was printed. Instead, those who printed copies prepared stencils and then used cyclostyle printing presses to produce several copies by hand. This was no easy process. First, the stencil paper had to be written on with a steel stylus so the paper could be cut to allow the ink to pass through. The stencil was then fitted on to a cyclostyle machine and rotated to produce the copies needed, while ensuring that the ink was distributed evenly, without smudges. It was a tedious and messy task.

Given that Jabal was an outlawed journal, the stencils and smudged papers had to disposed of meaning those printing it had to burn them discreetly. This was to ensure that the smoke did not arouse suspicions from adjacent apartments (most printing was likely done in Karachi). Burning was necessary because you could not throw away the stencils or smudged papers in a garbage dump, since the producers and publishers would have been found out.

▴ ​​Cyclostyle machine

When distributed, readers would be asked to recopy from the one that they had, and then hurriedly staple it together before distributing it further. They were expected to partake in a practice of disciplined destruction, after handing copies forward to other potential readers and sympathisers. Those who received copies were explicitly told only to hand Jabal to “like-minded people.” I.e. people they could trust, comrades, and potential sympathisers. Jabal ended up circulating as far away as Lahore and Rawalpindi in northern Pakistan, including Punjab University; over 1000 km away from Balochistan’s northeastern mountains. Their circulation depended on people intimately trusting each other even in the face of potential arrest and trial for treason. Indeed, people who decided to read Jabal could be considered complicit in treason. According to one source, students in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Punjab University caught with copies were sentenced to long jail sentences.

Jabal was part of a vast informal media network – some of which remained underground – that operated in and around Pakistan during a period of censorship. This included other Baloch magazines like Mahtak, Makran, Graand, and Roshanal out of Iranian Balochistan and Nadae Balochistan, People’s Front, and Democratic Pakistan abroad. It also included other underground pamphlets, such as Jehd-o-Jehd (Struggle) published by the Balochistan Inqilaabi Jamhoori Mahaz (Balochistan Revolutionary Democratic Front). After the establishment of broadcasting stations – in Quetta, for instance, in the 1960s – which made possible the spread of transistor radio, these texts were accompanied by Balochi-language programs on stations from Radio Kabul, All-India Radio, Radio Quetta, and Radio Zahedan 1 –as well as places as far away as Baghdad, Dubai, and London.

  1. Sufi 2016, 116; Harrison 1981, 101; Wolpert 2007, 219.
10

On Medical and Educational Work in BPLF Areas | Jabal, May 1977, Vol. 1. No. 5.

Jabal was part of a vast set of counter-infrastructures that the BPLF was trying to set up to provide alternatives to state hegemonies. In this essay, Jabal’s authors explain how BPLF fighters and allies attempted to build alternative medical and educational camps, a parallel state infrastructure that operated among northeastern Baloch communities in the middle of the operations.

11

Networks

Jabal aimed to connect territories and communities in ways that transgressed the Pakistani state’s ideas of how they should relate to one another. Identifying the mountains of northeastern Balochistan as a key site of revolutionary activity, Jabal sought to facilitate deeper links into other sites of political activity in Pakistani cities and internationally, around the world.

The struggle for democracy and socialism has begun in the mountains of Baluchistan. It is from here that the foundations of the armed struggle are being laid so that they may spread to the farthest corners of Pakistan. THE ARMED STRUGGLE BEING WAGED BY THE BPLF IS THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE TO THE ELECTION FARCE that is being prepared by the Bhutto-Tikka clique.. Therefore it has become imperative that all the oppressed nationalities, democratic and progressive forces in Pakistan unite in solidarity with the armed struggle of the Baluch people... The first shots of the democratic revolution have been fired in Baluchistan, which now constitutes a reliable base area for the liberation struggles throughout the country.
— Jabal, December 1976, Vol. 1, No. 1.

Jabal spoke repeatedly of the mountain and its more rural environs as a privileged site of revolutionary politics, by drawing on both Baloch mythological ideas of the mountain as a site of refuge (“The gorges without paths are our friends”)1 and global revolutionary ideas of the countryside and mountains as “the basic arena for armed struggle” 2 and therefore a key site from which to launch a “struggle for democracy and socialism” that can “spread to the farthest corners of Pakistan.” 3 The mountains were both seen as facilitative of a more autonomous and democratic politics because of its distance from the vertical power of the state. It was also seen as a raised, physical terrain that allowed its communities to see the state’s actions clearly.

The BPLF believes Baluchistan will be the next area of major conflict in Asia after Vietnam.
— Jabal, January 1977, Vol. 1, No. 2.

Cover of the book: REVOLUTION IN THE REVOLUTION? Armed Struggle and Political Struggle in Latin America

Che Guevara in Congo

This alternate space of revolution also reconfigured the time of revolution. In its pages, Jabal expressed a frustration with the “defeatist” attitude of other Marxists, who were waiting for “objective and subjective” conditions to develop. Against this, they found inspiration in movements from “Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, etc.” 4 who did not wait before launching armed, revolutionary activity, but instead found their existing conditions as ripe for revolutionary momentum. Most notably, they were inspired by what the French intellectual, Régis Debray, coined foco theory: a term introduced in Debray’s analysis of Che Guevera and the Cuban Revolution, made possible because of his exclusive access to some of its main leaders, in his book, Revolution in the Revolution 5.

The theory held that cadres of small, fast-growing paramilitary groups can establish themselves in rural areas with anti-state sentiments to provide a “focus” for popular discontent against a sitting regime, leading to a general insurrection. The mountains of Balochistan had made possible another kind of time, and another kind of potential history, where revolution was not a thing that had to happen in the distant future, but something that could happen now.

… the Islamabad government … reinforces [tribalism] by sending Punjabi settlers to Baluchistan, by distributing land to those who collaborate with the state, and by adopting a conciliatory attitude towards the big families…”
— Against the divide and rule of the state, Jabal, January 1977 Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 9.

In order to realise the space and time of revolution, Jabal’s creators said that BPLFs aim was to connect BPLF fighters more deeply with the surrounding communities of which they were a part. Within the northeastern mountain tracts, Jabal said that this was done through active efforts to unite Baloch internally — across what it judged to be outsider-created tribal divides — and to deepen alternative infrastructures normally associated with state services through the creation of parallel health and educational services. In one essay, entitled Uniting the Tribes in a Common Strategy, Jabal creators insist that the BPLF was ensuring that “the tribe” was losing “its monopoly over the social organisation.” 6 This “tribalism” was seen as a direct outcome of colonial rule, and the interventions of the current postcolonial state, which had inherited imperial logics (“These tried to keep the Baluch atomised and backward so that they could not unite and become a powerful nation known for its bravery and historic resistance to subjugation.” 7). In line with modernist, Baloch nationalists who propagated ideas of modernity as central to progress within Balochistan, Jabal also pushed the idea of a unified Baloch identity that eschewed existing class, cultural, and linguistic differences between those categorised as Baloch. In order to do this, they spoke about the ways that the BPLF tried to build alternative state infrastructures that could uphold a united national identity. The mode through which this was then done was by the creation of a “small nucleus” that would unite “all the different factions and clans, the BPLF has developed a secure and large zone in which BPLF forces move quite freely.” 8 To have a “mass-based nucleus of the true democratic and revolutionary movement” 8 the BPLF attempted to set up a parallel system–including education and health services. 10 According to Jabal, the BPLF believed that the “… task of revolutionaries is to go deep into the remote areas where there is room to grow and manoeuvre out of each of the enemy’s repressive forces and to turn these backward rural areas into advanced political, economic, cultural, ideological and military bastions of the revolution.” 11

  1. Jabal, December 1976, Vol 1, No. 1, p. 9.
  2. Jabal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 3.
  3. Jabal, p. 5, December 1976, Vol 1, No. 1, p. 5.
  4. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4,” p. 4.
  5. Newsweek dubbed the book “a primer for Marxist insurrection in Latin America.”
  6. January 1977 Vol. 1, No. 2
  7. Jabal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4
  8. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4,” p. 3.
  9. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4,” p. 3.
  10. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, January 1977 Vol. 1, No. 2.”
  11. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, June 1977, Vol. 1, No. 6,” pp. 13-15.
12

Imperial Oil and Torture | Jabal, July 1977, Vol. 1, No. 7.

In two essays entitled “Imperialism, Oil and the Baluchistan Revolution” and “Four Years of Armed Struggle: Prisoners and Torture in Baluchistan”, Jabal’s authors analyse the intersections between empire, capitalism and state violence, with particular attention to how Balochistan is both a site of resource extraction and a site of experimentation for Cold War-era anti-communist torture techniques used by the CIA.

13

Concepts

Jabal circulated subversive, counter-political ideas that reimagined the relationship within Balochistan, and between Balochistan and its mountains with the rest of Pakistan and its cities—as well as internationalist connections with the rest of the world. Against Bhutto’s idea of northeastern, mountainous Balochistan as a site where a “reactionary system” of tribal rule, epitomised especially in the figure of the head or the sardar, “has kept the poor Baluch backward and in chains”1, Jabal imagined them as home to an especially autonomous community who with their fellow Baloch elsewhere could lead the country towards a more democratic order.

On the one hand, Jabal stated that “British colonialism and its Pakistani inheritors” had “tried to keep the Baluch atomised and backward so that they could not unite and become a powerful nation known for its bravery and historic resistance to subjugation.”2 Mirroring the discourse of the Pakistani nationalist state – of the Baloch as unconnected and behind – they offered another vision of what it could mean to look towards one another, and look forwards towards the future. So, Jabal explained that the Pararis/BPLF sought to “unite” the “people” in Balochistan by giving a “united command, with guerrilla forces for the defence of the people’s rights, lives, and property, and guidance to achieve the long cherished goals of national liberation from the yoke of exploitation and oppression by the fascists.”3 This became especially possible, they argued, because of the war itself: “A new structure, the product of war, is gradually overshadowing the traditional tribal structures.”4 On the other hand, central to Jabal and was the belief that the freedom of the Baloch in Pakistan, especially those of its mountains, was mutually dependent on the freedom of other repressed communities inside and outside the country. In order to achieve this freedom, Jabal spoke of how BPLF and other sympathetic movements should create links among themselves within Pakistan as well as other, ongoing armed struggles against colonial and postcolonial repression around the world. So, Jabal’s authors write that the first step “towards true emancipation of the people of Pakistan is the struggle of the minority nationalities for their national and democratic rights coordinated with the democratic and progressive forces  in the Punjab”, i.e. progressives from Pakistan’s most politically and militarily powerful province.5 For this, they drew on the idea of multinationalism, which called for the recognition by the state of multiple languages and national groups. Indeed, Jabal links the fate of Baloch with those of the Bengalis in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Just two years prior to the launch of Bhutto’s counterinsurgency operation, the Bengalis fought and seceded to create a new country precisely because Bhutto and the Pakistan Army had refused to recognise Bengali language and identity as integral to a more multinational idea of Pakistan. The view of Jabal’s authors reflected that of the founder of the Pararis, the group that eventually renamed itself as the BPLF, namely Sher Mohammad Marri. Indeed, in an interview, Sher Mohammad Marri argued that “the power structure in Pakistan could be overturned only if other minorities joined the Baluch in waging simultaneous and coordinated armed struggles to win their demands for regional autonomy.”6 He was convinced that it was the only way to pluralise a state that was so dominated by “Punjabi capitalists”7 and those who worked with them, whether they were “Punjabi, Sindhi or Baluchi [sic.].”7 “Pakistan,” he was convinced, “is a country of several nationalities. Communism is the only solution for the structure of a state which has a plurality of nationalities.”7

Pakistan is inhabited by several nationalities. The country will only begin to prosper when there is interdependence and unity among them. But this unity cannot be realised until all Pakistanis feel that they are equal and no one should rob them of their fundamental human rights. A Communist society will end that exploitation which is the primary cause of mutual hatred among the people. Our rulers are trying to split the masses so that they can continue their malpractices and exploitation. The responsibility for the mutual hatred among the immigrants, Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, and Pathans falls on our selfish leaders and the decadent system under which Pakistan is being run.
— Interview in Pakistan Forum, May-June 1973, pp. 38-39. Translation of original Urdu interview by Ahmed Shuja in October 1972, first half published in Urdu in Jid-o-Jahad, London, 39.

For Sher Mohammad Marri, it was this call for unity, and communism, that set the Pararis/BPLF apart from other “bourgeois [nationalist] movement[s]” like that “Sheikh Mujib in Bengal.”10 His members, in Pararis/BPLF’s bulletin, Jabbal, declared that it was this sort of united front that would give “renewed hope to all the peoples of Baluchistan and Pakistan that there IS an alternative to the Bhutto-Tikka regime; that there is an alternative to the government of the bureaucratic-bourgeoise and feudalists; that there is an alternative to the dependence on Imperialism … and [for] the oppressed nationalities of Pakistan.”11 Indeed, as one non-Baloch leftist who briefly worked with the Pararis/BPLF, observes, many of these relations already existed: “We had Marri areas mostly surrounded by Pashtuns in the north. And we had very close relations, and good relations. They didn’t necessarily fight with us, but they helped us especially with supplies and food and stuff like that. So there was none of the sort of tension that exists today, there was much closer cooperation between the Baloch.”12

This attempt to link repressed nations internal to Pakistan with one another against a repressive regime was mirrored with a commitment to link themselves to external nations, internationally, facing a common enemy. At one point Jabal declares: “The national and democratic struggle of every people forms part of the International revolution and needs the cooperation of other fraternal revolutionary movements which may develop into direct cooperation at some stage.”13 So at the time Jabal was circulating, Baloch from southern Balochistan were being recruited into the Omani army to fight the Dhofar Rebellion, a move heavily criticised by Jabal (“… an effort is being made to turn the sentiments of the revolutionaries of Dhofar and the Middle East against the historical struggle of the people of Balochistan by using these men as hired soldiers against the Dhofar and Arab freedom fighters. In this way they hope to prevent the establishment of links between these movements and the liberation struggle of the people of Balochistan.”)14 As a result, Jabal articulated an alternative idea of internationalism to that of the pursed by the state, through diplomatic and military channels. Against the state’s pursuit of linkages between state officials and militaries, Jabal called for forging direct links between struggles. So, they criticised the many “… officers of the Pakistan army [who] have served reactionary governments in Oman-Dhofar, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, etc.”15 Against these links, which they identified as serving only the interests of the “ruling clique”16, they declared: “The day is not far when the revolutionary forces will succeed in making them understand that the Baloch and Arab people are united in their struggle against oppression.”16 Such solidarity with the Dhofar rebellion is not the only instance of the BPLF expressing direct solidarity with movements, rather than states: In 1970, a small contingent of BPLF fighters went to train with George Habash and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In other words, Jabal saw an internal battle for a more democratic and pluralist, multinationalist dispensation (one that gave all minoritised groups within the new postcolonial state an equal stake in power) as inextricably linked to a more democratic and pluralist, internationalist dispensation around the world. This call for a unified armed front–among the Baloch and between the Baloch and others–for the purposes of a general insurrection was not just ideological but also a pragmatic political position. Balochistan’s small population in a heavily strategic territory prompted the Pararis/BPLF to conclude that if they went for separation they believed they would come under one or the other power bloc, exacerbating rather than ameliorating their situation. At the same time, they concluded that the Pakistani state they were fighting – which they found to be a “reactionary, military-bureaucratic dictatorship which protects and promotes the interests of the landlord and bourgeois classes” – only existed because of foreign support.

Without Imperialism’s direct and indirect assistance it is difficult to imagine the continued existence of the essentially neo-colonial state of Pakistan in its present condition. Imperialism and the oligarchy are united on the issue of maintaining the most backward and reactionary social structures, maintaining the centuries old rule of the landlords over the peasantry, and oppressing the minority nationalities. Imperialism is the counter-revolutionary prop of all that is most backward and reactionary in our society and impedes its historical development by maintaining the structure of metropolitan dependence and internal exploitative class relations. Even capitalism in our country develops partially, lopsidedly, unevenly and as a dependent adjunct of the world capitalist economy.
Jabbal, February 1977 Vol. 1, No. 3,” p. 5

In other words, vertical alliances with “Imperialism” were alliances engaged in by the state that they were fighting; against those sorts of alliances, the Pararis/BPLF sought horizontal alliances between struggles inside and outside Pakistan.

We don’t want tanks, we don’t want aeroplanes, we don’t want massive, gigantic guns. What we need are small, almost imperceptible things. […We] do want help from friends, small help for a big cause, for a noble cause. We are inspired by the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people that triumphed in the face of more stupendous odds. We are inspired by the great struggle of the Palestinians. We are inspired by the triumphant struggle of the African people, the most recent victorious struggle of the Angolan people. We know we can win, because we know how to fight, because we have now a clear goal, because we have a nation behind our struggle, because our struggle is for a noble, righteous cause–for freedom, liberty, peace, democracy and socialism. … We need help from friends. We are fully aware that our friends have their own considerations and limitations to go by and the international implications involved. That is why we say that our needs are simple and limited and can be met without attracting attention. We know how to make the best use of them without involving or implicating our friends.
— Jabal 1976. “The People’s Armed Struggle in Baluchistan: A Short Review with a Special Emphasis on the Future.”
  1. Bhutto, Zulfiqar Ali. 1976. “Abolishing Sardari System,” Prime Minister’s Speech, Quetta, April 8, 1976. Available here. Accessed 8 Sep. 2018.
  2. Jabbal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 6.
  3. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, March-April 1977, Vol. 1, No. 4,” p. 7.
  4. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, January 1977 Vol. 1, No. 2.”
  5. Jabal, September 1977, Vol. 1, No. 9, p. 1.
  6. Quoted in Harrison 1981, 72.
  7. Interview in Pakistan Forum, May-June 1973, pp. 38-39. Translation of original Urdu interview by Ahmed Shuja in October 1972, first half published in Urdu in Jid-o-Jahad (London), p. 38.
  8. Interview in Pakistan Forum, May-June 1973, pp. 38-39. Translation of original Urdu interview by Ahmed Shuja in October 1972, first half published in Urdu in Jid-o-Jahad (London), p. 38.
  9. Interview in Pakistan Forum, May-June 1973, pp. 38-39. Translation of original Urdu interview by Ahmed Shuja in October 1972, first half published in Urdu in Jid-o-Jahad (London), p. 38.
  10. Interview in Pakistan Forum, May-June 1973, pp. 38-39. Translation of original Urdu interview by Ahmed Shuja in October 1972, first half published in Urdu in Jid-o-Jahad (London, 39.
  11. Pararis/Baloch Popular Liberation Front (BPLF). 1977. “Jabbal, December 1976, Vol 1, No. 1.”
  12. Interview with Ahmed Rashid, 30 June, 2016, Lahore.
  13. Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 4.
  14. Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 4.0
  15. Jabal, June 1977, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 7.
  16. Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 4.
  17. Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 4.
14

On Arab-Baloch Solidarity | Jabal, March 1978, Vol. 2, No. 3

In an article from 1978, the writers of Jabal criticise the Government of Pakistan’s collaboration with the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, as the latter continued to recruit young Baloch men as mercenaries to be enrolled into its army for the purposes of fighting the Dhofar Rebellion (1963-1976), a Marxist-Leninist insurgency launched against Sultan Said bin Taimur for the purposes of setting up an independent, communist state in Dhofar. Many of these young Baloch men were being recruited from the coast to the Indian Ocean, which had remained under Omani control until 1958. Left-wing Baloch movements, including the BPLF, the BSO, and NAP, were heavily critical of the recruitment. Famously, Hameed Baloch, a student of Government Degree College in Turbat and a member of the BSO, was arrested on 9 December 1979, after being charged with shooting at an Omani military officer recruiting Baloch soldiers to fight the Dhofar revolution. As a member of the BSO and a Marxist-Leninist, he viewed the recruitment as an attempt to break important internationalist links of solidarity with the Dhofaris. He was executed for his rebellion on 11 June 1981. Similarly, in this article, Jabal expresses its criticism of the recruitment drives, calling instead for “fraternal… Arab-Baloch solidarity” that can unite “the struggle waged by the revolutionaries of the two peoples against oppression, barbarism and dictatorship.”