For seventy years, through ups and downs, successes and failures, with rapid and slow pace, the Balochistan’s independence movement has continued with no breaks and has covered several milestones throughout its history. In its seventy years’ long and bloody struggle, people have witnessed several giant characters of this movement, but only one person has gained the reputation of a mythological character.
This person, who like a character from an adventurous story, comes out of the dark through a middle-class family and conquers the hearts of poor people and becomes the talk of the town. In his ranks, he is considered a fatherly character like Spartacus and among his foes, he gains the reputation of a commander who appears with his army out of nowhere and destroys everything. Like the biblical Abraham, he serves his own child for the sacrifice; he becomes the worst nightmare of the enemy who carries multiple enemy bullets inside his body, but the life never parts ways from him. His enemies take sighs of relief, they consider him dead, but he keeps coming back and hits them stronger than ever. He is a commander, a preacher, a writer and a teacher, he is everything at the age of forty-four, he is not from a folk-lore, he is not from a fairy-tale, he is not a mythological character, he is Aslam Baloch of Balochistan, a fierce commander who is regarded as ‘Ustad’—Teacher—by everyone, and he has gained the highest title of the movement—The General.
No matter how good the story is, it always ends. Aslam Baloch’s story ends with a suicide bomb attack by his enemies where he along with his five comrades—Commander Rahim Marri, Taj Muhammad Marri, Akhtar Shahwani, Babar Majeed and Sadiq Baloch—embrace martyrdom on the 25th of December, 2019.
In 1975, in tee-town, Haji Ghaibi Road Quetta city, Aslam Baloch opened his eyes in Raheem Dad Dehwar’s house. He received his primary education at Special high school Quetta. In 1994 only at the age of nineteen , he joined the Balochistan independence movement.
It all started when Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri returned from his exile and stationed in Quetta. Nawab Khair Bakhsh commenced study circles right after his return at his residency by the name of ‘Haq Tawar’ (Voice for rights). At these circles, where social and political topics were discussed week in and week out, Baloch youth were the majority of its participants.
Among the audience, sat Aslam Baloch who like everyone else loved to listen to the veteran leader, Khair Bakhsh Marri. From these circles, he decided to join the armed struggle for Balochistan’s independence and in 1995, he played an important role in the establishment and strengthening of BLA (Baloch Liberation Army) throughout Balochistan.
This armed organization stayed underground for five years and finally began its operation in 2000, where Aslam Baloch commanded its biggest camp in Bolan and after two decades of unmatched struggle, he died as the Commander-In-Chief and leader of that very organization, which at its prime had brought Pakistan’s army on its knees.
When BLA was carrying out its operations, another armed organization Balochistan Liberation Front’s(BLF) future was being carved out, Dr Allah Nazar was abducted by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for the establishment of a pro-independence student organization BSO-Azad (Baloch Students’ Organization-Azad). That student leader, Dr Allah Nazar, later became one of the pioneers of BLF and joined the armed struggle.
Dr Allah Nazar considers Aslam Baloch as his teacher and had always held him in high regard. To find about Aslam Baloch’s character, we contacted Dr Allah Nazar and inquired about his view regarding his teacher.
“We were close, I knew General Aslam Baloch very well, he was a skilled strategist in the battlefield and one could only praise his leadership, the way he directed his soldiers during the war is unmatched. He was a complete person, whether it was in the battleground, tribal society, the urban society or problems of daily life, he adapted very quickly to every situation. It is indeed painful to lose such a companion, but we have always been aware of the fact that revolution devours its own children.”
“Collectively, his martyrdom will not have any negative impact on the movement, but his martyrdom has definitely rejuvenated the determination of freedom fighters and they are filled with zeal and zest more than ever. Aslam Baloch had a firm ideology, and his ideology is every Baloch’s ideology who want to see Balochistan’s independence, his martyrdom has left a strong example which will continue to build the character of every soldier of this war.”
Another reason for Aslam Baloch’s unmatched character was his background, he did not belong to a powerful tribe which could help him to rise to the top ranks in BLA, neither he had an influential political background which could support him, it was his talent and commitment which helped him surpass his companions, and at one time, his own leaders.
Due to his unique magical personality and abilities, he was able to start a movement within the organization, this movement demanded revolutionary changes and sought democratic values within the organization. Aslam Baloch wanted a democratic structure for BLA and he preached that power should be distributed on the basis of abilities, not tribal affiliations, it should only be a matter of talent. He eventually succeeded in that, and today, after his demise, BLA is being led by a former student leader—Bashir Zaib Baloch.
Bashir Zaib Baloch is a graduate from the University of Balochistan and had remained Chairperson of BSO Azad for two complete tenures before the organization was banned by Pakistan government and he had to choose the armed form of the struggle. He considers Aslam Baloch as the teacher of every Baloch fighter and gives him the credit of establishing the struggle on the basis of modern perspectives of war.
For that, we contacted Bashir Zaib Baloch and asked him about the reason why Aslam Baloch has a reputation of a hero and a mythological character in Balochistan’s independence movement.
“We still cannot comprehend the qualities Aslam Baloch had, the hardships he went through and how much he had struggled to bring the movement at this stage, only historians would tell us that how giant of a person he was and how important role he played for this struggle. He was living in a time way ahead of us, General Giáp, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevarra and others were born in societies which were ripe for the revolution but General Aslam Baloch had only 8 companions and a society which could not be ready for revolution for another decade. I even think, if General Aslam Baloch was born in a society which was available to all prominent revolutionaries in the history, General would not be less than an exemplary personality for whole mankind by now. Yet, he is a symbol of bravery and chivalry in Baloch society, he is the founder of modern Baloch guerilla warfare. I cannot do justice to his personality, with the passage of time, new generations will rise and only they would be able to contain his personality and understand the changes he had brought for them, in a true sense, only they can do justice to General Aslam Baloch.”
We asked him if BLA had faced damages due to his loss? He told us, “If I talk about my feelings, I have never been in pain as much as I was on his martyrdom. After his demise, I feel the absence of a friend and a teacher but BLA as an organization is still intact because it was one of his greatest achievements that no matter how big a personality is, after his death, organization should not face a crisis, the void should be filled within no time and the movement should continue as ever. He always thought ahead of his time and he liberated the organization of all influences which were hampering its development. He has now become a role model for the youth.”
Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar or BRAS (Baloch National Freedom Front), is a coalition of four armed organizations—Baloch Liberation Army, Balochistan Liberation Front, Baloch Republican Army, Baloch Republican Guards— of the resistance movement in Balochistan which was declared on 10th of November in 2018. This coalition is considered as a milestone in the history of the movement and Aslam Baloch along with Dr Allah Nazar is considered as the architect behind this coalition.
Gulzar Imam is the head of Baloch Republican Army, whose organization is a partner in the coalition of BRAS. We contacted him to find his views about General Aslam Baloch.
“I and Aslam Baloch had a good relation, he was a farsighted person and a great commander. I was impressed by his personality, he would always try to carry everyone along and emphasize on fighting this war together. Even though physically he is not with us anymore, but he has left us a roadmap to follow, and ‘BRAS’ is that roadmap. If we fail to strengthen BRAS or damage it, only then we can say General’s martyrdom has caused us damage, but if we continue on building this organization, then he will become immortal along with his ideology.”
Though Aslam Baloch was a nationalist and founder of a resistance movement but he was always against the fascism and religious extremism, therefore, he never hesitated to condemn attacks on Shia minority in Balochistan. He was a man of principles and always emphasized on the laws of war, he always avoided harming women, children and people with disabilities during the war. For that reason, he had good relations with the oppressed nations of the region.
Sindhu Desh Revolutionary Army (SRA) has been fighting a war for the freedom of Sindh and Sindhi nation. Sufi Inayat Shah and General Aslam had remained close companions.
“Respected, Martyr General Aslam Baloch and I had an unending connection of ideology, resistance and affection from 2002 until his martyrdom. If I try to define him in one sentence, Ustad was kind, compassionate, truthful, honest, understanding and a nationalist who was true to his nation, he understood his people; he had all great qualities of a professional commander. For that reason, he sacrificed his life for his people and Balochistan. He has left a great example of commitment and if we follow his footsteps, Balochistan will definitely see the freedom”, said Shah.
General Aslam Baloch was a non-traditional commander, whose skills were not only limited to gun and bullets, but he was also a renowned writer and accepted in literary and political circles of Balochistan. He used to express his views time and again on political and social issues which were published in various newspapers, magazines and electronic media. He had agreed to give interviews to international(Al-Jazeera) and national media on many occasions.
Salam Sabir is a journalist who has a deep understanding of conflicts of the region, particularly of the Baloch independence movement. He has followed the movement for a long time and written news stories for newspapers, magazines and has also interviewed prominent leaders of the movement. He had interviewed Aslam Baloch on undisclosed locations and while interviewing him he got the opportunity to understand him better. We spoke with Salam Sabir about his views regarding Aslam Baloch’s understanding of literature and his scientific approach of society and politics.
“When you talk about a commander, you assume someone carrying a gun and dressed in camouflage, but Aslam Baloch was the opposite of that. I had met him on several occasions for interviews at secret locations and always found him carrying a bundle of books along with his gun. He was fond of books and studying. He was an expert on politics, philosophy, psychology and history, you could never guess that his formal education was only up to 10th grade at a school in Quetta. When he answered, his answers were deep, yet very simple and when you read his writings, they are full of logic, detailed arguments, and thoughts so deep one could easily call it a scholarly article of someone who has command as good as a doctorate of that subject. Aslam Baloch was a fighter, but I always found his gun following his ideas and principles. Even though he never compromised with his ideals but he never refused to listen to other people and gave importance to their arguments.”
Aslam Baloch for years was considered a heroic personality, a giant in freedom movement but one of his big achievements was the establishement of Majeed Brigade of BLA, which his enemies still fear the most and makes his companions regard him in high places.
Majeed Brigade was established in 2010, after Majeed Langav II embraced martyrdom while fighting the enemy face to face in a gun battle at Quetta, Balochistan. Right after a year, Majeed Brigade carried out its first operation.
On 30th of December in 2011, Darvesh Baloch of BLA-Majeed Brigade targeted the head of a Pro-Pakistan militia—Shafeeq Mengal—at his residence. The attack was a suicide mission and he blew himself along with a truck full of explosives, BLA claimed the attack and declared Aslam Baloch as the founder of this new brigade but after that, no attacks were carried out by the brigade until Aslam Baloch became the head of the very organization in 2017 where he had started as a commander in 1995.
Aslam Baloch became commander-in-chief of BLA in 2017 and on 11th August 2018 he sent his twenty-two-years old son Rehan Baloch on a “sacrificial mission”, where he targeted Chinese Engineers in Dalbandin town of Balochistan with a suicide attack similar to the first attack carried out by the Majeed Brigade. On 23rd November 2018, three more members of Majeed brigade went on a “sacrificial mission” and attacked the Chinese consulate in Karachi. This was the last attack carried out by this brigade under the leadership of Aslam Baloch but it did not stop after him.
On 11th May 2019, four members of Majeed Brigade attacked a five-star hotel (where Chinese businessmen were stationed) at Gwadar, and the attack lasted for two days.
Aslam Baloch was a practical man, his circle of friends is vast and he also had many enemies but no one could approach his stature. He was the kind of person who died early but lived ahead of his time and lived beyond himself.