Report by: Khalid Hashmani (McLean, Virginia, USA)
Washington DC, August 15, 2008 – A group leaders of Baluch nationalists and religious minorities in North America addressed a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The press conference was dubbed as an event marking the founding of Pakistan. The speakers severely criticized Pakistan government and security forces and demanded that their rights be respected and restored. The Baloch leaders demanded independence of Balochistan and emphasized that Balochistan was never a part of the country.
In a prepared statement distributed at the press conference, Mr. ROBERT SELLE, who is President of the “American Friends of Baluchistan” said that at this great time of trial and tribulation, 20 million Baluch have been deprived of their natural rights and the right of self-determination. The statement further said, “Their killings and mistreatment continue as Pakistan celebrates its 61st birthday”. He said that the Baluch people are “victims of Jihad” at the hands of Pakistan Army and called for immediate international intervention. Mr. Selle says that Balochistan gained the status of a sovereign nation in 1947. It remained independent until March 1948 when Pakistani military thwarted that independence. He added that the Balochistan education system has been neglected. Leading to high literacy. The statement of Mr. Selle further says that “We welcome Pakistani press reports that U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Michael Mullen made a proposal to Pakistan to hold a referendum to see what the people of Balochistan really desire concerning their future.” Mr. Selle called for a congressional fact finding mission appealed United Nations to establish a Commission on Baluchistan empowered to explore the possibilities of reversing the inequities in Balochistan.
Mr. NAZIR , Founder President of Pakistan Christian Congress and Editor of Pakistan Christian Post (BHATTIPCP) said that he attests the religious tolerance of Baluch nation with gratitude. He recalled that several years ago, a Baloch Leader Habib Jalib said “There is no Christian jailed in Balochistan under blasphemy law nor any Christian is accused under blasphemy since it was legislated in 1985, because it is formed by Punjabi Muslim religious extremists and they are victimizing Christians”. Mr, Bhatti went on to say that innocent Baluch are being martyred because establishment plans to keep total control over natural resources of Balochistan by force and aggression. He continued that this is not the first time that Baluch had been attacked and such operations are conducted whenever Baluch raise their voices in protection of their rights. He said that the process of Islamization set under Objective Resolution (Haddod Ordinance) have made Pakistan to be breeding grounds for Islamic extremists and terror organizations. Such religious extremists spread hate towards religious minorities and targets Christians by implicating them in accusations of Blasphemy laws. He said extremists have attacked churches, Christian hospitals and schools. The worshipers were gunned down and pastors were shot dead in major cities and towns of Punjab but killers were never apprehended. He said Christians are not hired for any senior jobs and no Christians are hired in lower grades. He added that Pakistani courts are not fair in assuring justice to Christians. The Lahore refused to declare blasphemy laws. He said it should be noted that the blasphemy laws were legislated on direction of one judgement of high court. He added that “It is a fact that Pakistani judiciary never seriously redeemed our miseries nor took notice on Suo-Motto on any arrest under blasphemy laws, gang rape or forcible conversion of Christian women.” In concluding his statement he said 15 million Pakistani Christians have grave concerns on aggression of Pakistan Armed Forces and killing of thousands of innocent Baluch and their leaders.
Mr. AHMED MUSTIKHAN, a well-known Baloch journalist, criticized Pakistan government for conducting its nuclear tests in Balochistan. He said that the scientific evidence suggest that the nuclear tests have deviated the ecology of the area and the water has been contaminated with radiation. He said that reports from local areas say that there are increased cases of skin diseases, and mental and physical disorders in Chagai and surrounding areas.
Mr. WAHID BALOCH, President of Baloch Society of North America said that Forces operations continue in Balochistan. In July alone, more than 100 innocent Baluch were killed in Dera Bugti and surrounding areas. So far more than 2,000 Baluch have been killed and 80,000 have been displaced and are now homeless in the first two years of current military operations. He said these operations are truly “Crimes against humanity”. He called forces as “Jihadi Army” and say they are simply Taliban in uniform. He said Pakistan is not fighting terrorists but is a coordinator of terrorism. He also talked about the plight of Baluch in Iran and said that the Iranian forces have killed many hundreds. He compared the current military operation in Balochistan to the 19971 action by the same Army in then East Pakistan, which became independent Bangladesh. He said that Balochistan got its independence from British as a separate entity from Pakistan. Both houses of Balochistan Parliament (called” Diwan-e-Aam” and “Diwan-e-Khas” rejected the idea of joining Pakistan. He added that the last legal ruler of Balochistan, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan was arrested by Pakistan Forces and was forced to sign an “Instrument of Accession” on March 27, 1948 and even that document promised semi-sovereignty too Balochistan. He said that recently a grand Jirga attended by more than 100 Baluch tribal leaders and 400 other notables and passed resolution to approach the International Court of Justice at The Hague to force Pakistan to honor its commitments under the 1948 Instrument of Accession. He said that just because majority of Baluch are Muslims, it does not give right to Pakistan to occupy Balochistan, because its majority is also Muslim. He appealed to the US Government and US Congress not to support Pakistan if they want to see end of terrorism in Afghanistan.
In answer to a question from a reporter, Mr. Baloch said that the Baluch people are not and will not benefit from the “Gawadar” seaport. Most of the lands in the surrounding areas have been sold to other people in Punjab and Karachi. How can Baluch benefit from a project that is not controlled by Baloch people butt by Pakistan government? He invited reporters to visit Balochistan and they would clearly be able to see that they are travelling through an occupied area.
A reporter remarked that much of the misery of Baluch were due to their bad corrupt sardars and were Baluch people not blaming them. Mr. Baloch replied that it is deceitful propaganda by the Pakistan government that Baluch sardars are exploiting their only people. He said that Baluch sardars take care of their people and their policies and practices are people oriented. When compared to Pakistan government, its security forces, which is 80% corrupt, Baluch sardars have significantly better record of serving their people.
To another question about where were Baloch fighters getting arms including heavy arms like rocket launchers. Mr. Baloch replied that there is an open arms market in tribal areas, where you can get any weapon and arms. Pakistan security forces, who pocket the money from such sales, are selling bulks of these arms.
Answering another question about the changing demography in Balochistan and whether or not Baluch still were a majority in Balochistan. Mr. Baloch said like Sindh, there is also a conspiracy to turn Baluch majority into a minority. As of now, in spite of strong encouragement by the government for Punjabis to migrate to Balochistan, its majority population still remains Baluch.
Answering a question about the status of the Baluch petition to the International Court of Justice. Mr. Baloch said that it is in the “investigation and research” phase in the court. He was certain that the petition would be handed over to the justices of the court for verdict. He was confident that Baluch people would be victorious in that verdict. high court