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'We are the masters of our land'

June 23, 2008
Eighty-nine-year-old Nawab Khair Baksh Marri's meaningful silence over the past many decades has been a constant source of inspiration and guidance for the armed Baloch groups. His age has not crippled Nawab Marri's attachment to the idea of an independent Balochistan.

As head of the largest Baloch tribe, the Marris, Khair Baksh has become a legendary figure in his lifetime. Along with the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Marri forms Islamabad's axis of 'three anti-development sardars in Balochistan.'

Khair Baksh Marri remains a mysterious figure because of his unadulterated silence; the belief that he is in fact leading the Balochistan Liberation Army and that he is a staunch proponent of the idea of a Greater Balochistan, a free Baloch State comprising of present day Pakistani Balochistan province and the Baloch areas controlled by Iran and Afghanistan.

A rare communicator with the media, Nawab Marri recently spoke to Malik Siraj Akbar at his Karachi home.

An ardent advocate of militant Baloch nationalism, Nawab Marri admitted being a 'latecomer' into politics due to the comfortable life he spent at Lahore's Aitcheson's College. Though the Marris were widely regarded for their aggressive battles against colonial Briton generations after generations, flamboyant Khair Baksh, the son of Meherullah Khan Marri, was indifferent to politics in the early days of his life.

It was then Pakistan president Ayub Khan's gas and oil explorations in the Marri tribal areas which aroused his political consciousness. He has always been opposed to the idea of 'outsiders' coming to Balochistan and developing the local Baloch population.

Instead of buying the argument that the Baloch tribal chiefs are anti-development, Nawab Marri accuses the Pakistan government of being simultaneously the accuser as well as the judge. Since the very inception, he had been offered ministries, the post of governor but he spurned such offers.

"If I were mad for money then I would not go to Afghanistan (in exile) or spend time in jail. I was offered all comforts of life by successive governments. Even some people get sold in return of minor amounts. I don't want to glorify myself but these comforts never attracted me," he clarified.

Image: Nawab Khar Bakash Marri, Balochistan's topmost political and tribal leader. Photograph: Malik Siraj Akbar

Also read: Musharraf: What about Baluchistan?

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