By Chidanand Rajghatta
WASHINGTON: A resolution moved by a group of US Congressmen calling for right to self-determination for the Baloch people has driven Pakistan to hysteria, with its leaders from the Prime Minister down questioning Washington’s commitment to the country’s sovereignty.
Following a Congressional hearing last week on the human rights situation in Balochistan, the Obama administration had assured Islamabad that it is committed to the country’s unity and integrity, but suspicion runs deep in Pakistan that Washington is intent on fingering the country on account of its covert support for terrorists.
Some hardline American analysts have suggested that the Washington help the Baloch break away from the federation so that American and Nato forces can have unfettered access to landlocked Afghanistan, given how Pakistan has been holding the US to ransom.
While the hearing itself had caused much disquiet in Islamabad and pushed an angry Pakistan into lodging formal protests, the latest resolution has driven its establishment to hysteria and distraction. Pakistan’s prime minister Yousef Raza Gilani condemned the resolution as a move to undermine the country’s sovereignty, and the Pakistani foreign office and the embassy in Washington took exception to it, saying it was against the “very fundamentals of US-Pakistan relations.”
Politics behind the resolution: Introduced by California Republican Dana Rohrabacher and co-sponsored by two other Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa), the House Concurrent Resolution says that the Baluchi nation has a “historic right to self-determination.”
Stating that Baluchistan is currently divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan with no sovereign rights of its own, the resolution explains that “in Pakistan especially, the Baluchi people are subjected to violence and extrajudicial killing,” and therefore, the Baluchi people “have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country; and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status.”
“The Baluchi, like other nations of people, have an innate right to self-determination,” Congressman Rohrabacher said in a statement. “The political and ethnic discrimination they suffer is tragic and made more so because America is financing and selling arms to their oppressors in Islamabad.”
The statement explained that historically Baluchistan was an independently governed entity known as the Baluch Khanate of Kalat which came to an end after invasions from both British and Persian armies. An attempt to regain independence in 1947 was crushed by an invasion by Pakistan.
“Today the Baluchistan province of Pakistan is rich in natural resources but has been subjugated and exploited by Punjabi and Pashtun elites in Islamabad, leaving Baluchistan the country’s poorest province,” it said.
A maverick lawmaker from California, Rohrabacher is not new to such controversies, having variously dallied with Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists previously when was a fan of the Pakistan and US-sponsored mujahedin as they drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan. But their transformation into today’s anti-US Taliban, and Pakistan’s support for the most toxic terrorists emerging from that movement, has moved him from a pro-Islamabad position (he himself says he was Pakistan’s “best friend”) to an ardent India supporter. He now openly advocates Washington ditching Islamabad for New Delhi.
In fact, the scuttlebutt in town is that Rohrabacher wants to “stick it to the Pakistanis” for their support of terrorism, sheltering of Osama bin Laden, and harassment of US forces. Two days before the Balochistan resolution, the Congressman introduced a separate bill in the House seeking a US citizenship and a medal for Dr Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician who helped the CIA nail Osama bin Laden.
“We are trying to honor him because he helped bring the man responsible for killing nearly 3,000 Americans to justice,” Rohrabacher said. “He did so at a great personal risk. He deserves our deepest gratitude.” Dr Afridi is being held by the ISI and Washington has officially demanded that he be freed.
The two developments, along with the growing presence of Baloch separatists and their lobbying efforts in Washington, has driven Pakistan, already paranoid about U.S intent, quite crazy. On Saturday, the Nation newspaper, the most virulent among the country’s English dailies, carried a lead story under the headline “America again stabs Pakistan in the back.”
“Crossing the limits that apply to the international relations barring all states from interfering in the internal matters of other sovereign states, the US once again stabbed its terror-war ‘ally’ in the back by introducing a resolution in Congress calling for ‘independence’ of Balochistan,” the lead read, making no distinction between the US legislature and the administration.