By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - A four-point program helped the Moro people living in the southern Philippines achieve their goal, said the chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Addressing an international webinar -- titled An Islamic Way of Struggle: Bangsamoro Perspective -- on Saturday, Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim said the plan formed the basis of his struggle.
"There were disagreements over the administration of the MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] and ideological impasses," he said, referring to a division in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1978, seven years after its foundation.
Ebrahim joined the faction led by Ustad Sheikh Salamat Hashim as chief of armed forces now called Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which had recruited and trained over 100,000 combatants.
The international virtual meet was hosted by Turkey-based International Youth Forum (IYFO) and South Asia Youth Organization (SAYO).
“We promoted consultative and collective leadership in running the affairs of the organization,” said Ebrahim, who is a trained civil engineer.
He said MILF adopted a four-point program to “achieve our objectives”.
“The four-point program included, Islamization, strengthening of organization, military buildup, and self-reliance,” he said adding the MILF mobilized 70-80% population of Bangsamoro.
Bangsamoro has nearly 5 million population, mostly Muslims.
From 1982 onwards when the MILF was established, Ebrahim said the group also “organized political committees in villages”.
“We also procured weapons and other military equipment from abroad through our self-reliance and also managed to establish our factory of arms inside the jungle producing small arms and even rifle grenade launchers or RPGs including its ammunition,” he said.
He said the group continuously conducted regular Islamic lectures and orientation among armed forces and also established thousands of Islamic schools in villages, military units, and political committees.
After several years of fighting, the Philippines government invited the MILF leadership in 1997 for negotiations.
“We agree and formed our negotiating panel and signed a ceasefire agreement,” said Ebrahim while addressing an online audience from over a dozen countries.
The two sides reached a 9-point agreement including solving the Bangsamoro problem.
“But during negotiations [former Philippines] President [Joseph] Estrada announced an all-out war against our forces thus ending the peace talks and thereafter hostilities resumed in the Bangsamoro homeland,” he said.
- Negotiations resume after Estrada exit
Ebrahim said the negotiations with the Manila government resumed after Estrada’s exit from power with a condition that there will be third party intervention – Malaysia. “There was an agreement that all talks will be conducted outside the Philippines,” he added.
The two sides held talks in Tokyo, Japan in 2012 to fast track the process.
In 2014, two sides again met in Manila, however, the agreement reached between the two sides needed to be translated into law but it was not approved by the Philippines Congress.
“Under current President Rodrigo Duterte, negotiations continued and after he won, he continued the negotiations and in 2019 the Bangsamoro Organic Law was passed in the Philippines Congress,” he said.
“The law was approved by a majority through a plebiscite creating what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, composed of five provinces and three cities,” he explained.
The interim transitional authority was sworn in February 2019 as Ebrahim as chief minister with 41 lawmakers nominated by MILF.
- Bangsamoro strongman for Kashmir autonomy
The Bangsamoro chief minister also advocated for a “meaningful autonomy” status to people of Kashmir – a disputed territory between India and Pakistan who are fighting for right self-determination.
“During our struggle, the MILF leadership stayed in Pakistan for several years,” he said.
“The issue of Kashmir is very, very challenging because we have one country, India, not very eager to grant autonomy to Kashmir,” he said.
He said Moro people know “hardship and difficulties people of Kashmir are facing”.
“I think there must be enough mobilization of the Islamic world to pressure the Indian government to give, at least, meaningful autonomy to Kashmiri people,” the Bangsamoro leader said.