On Nov 16, 2011 and Jan 13 this year respectively, State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner, and chief spokesperson Victoria Nuland, expressed U.S. concern about the human rights situation in Balochistan. On Feb. 8 Congressman Brad Sherman spoke at a subcommittee of Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives of the marginalization of the Baloch and Sindhi (speaking people) and the disappearances, torture and killing of their activists by Pakistan’s security forces.
Sherman went to say that the Baloch and Sindhis, being secular and moderate-minded, shared American values and that the US should reach out to them. Feb 18 saw the introduction of a resolution in the House stating that the people of Balochistan, currently divided between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have the right to self-determination and their own sovereign country and should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status.
A fuller argument openly calling for support of the separation of Balochistan from Pakistan because the latter was acting against American and western interests, appeared in the Globe and Mail – a key mouthpiece of big capital and imperialism in Canada – in an op-ed piece on Dec 21, 2011, titled ‘Solve the Pakistan problem by redrawing the map’ by Chris Mason, a retired US diplomat now at the Center for Advanced Defence Studies in Washington.
Without a doubt the Sindhi people have suffered grievous injustices in Pakistan. Many times greater has been the pain inflicted by the state on Balochistan which, in addition to severe cultural, economic and political deprivation, has been on the receiving end of almost half-a-dozen prolonged and brutal military attacks which began in 1948 and continue to this day. Frustrated and angry beyond measure – and justifiably so – at their appalling treatment by the Pakistani state, the above developments in the U.S. have been widely welcomed by the Baloch.
Nevertheless, U.S. expressions of sympathy and concern for the Baloch and the Sindhis, a first in Pak-American relations – even though not formal U.S. policy – reek of hypocrisy. Not only has the U.S. been oblivious to human rights violations in Pakistan it has actually helped in their perpetration by supporting rightwing and fundamentalist forces, and governments, specially the military variety, that have tormented the Baloch and the Sindhis – and the rest of the people of Pakistan – for over six decades. Especially relevant in this regard is the diplomatic and military support the U.S. provided to the Pakistani government even as the latter was conducting a war of genocidal proportions in East Pakistan in 1971.
Access to, and control over resource-rich Gulf area and Central Asia, a military presence close to the borders of Russia and China facilitated by compliant governments in Afghanistan are Pakistan are some key American goals in the region. Bringing Iran to its knees by imposing a blockade against it – just as the one against Cuba since 1962, and just as illegal under international the campaign for independence of a greater Balochistan might well be how the U.S. decides to acquire a friend in the area.
The Pakistani government alleges the involvement of India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in fomenting separatism in Balochistan. India, in turn, points to the involvement of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist attacks in Indian-Kashmir, Delhi, Mumbai etc. The ISI, allied with some Islamist parties and senior generals of the army, wants to impose a government of its choice in Afghanistan (in the name of the hair-brained concept of ‘strategic depth’ i.e. using Afghanistan as a base of military operations against India in the absolutely unimaginable scenario of India inflicting a catastrophic defeat on Pakistan and over-running all its territory). No Pakistani patriot would want their government to be installed or dominated by a foreign power. By the same token, nor should Pakistan try and foist a government of its choice on other countries. It is in the best interests of Pakistan to have peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with India and Afghanistan.
Since its creation progressives in Pakistan have steadfastly stood for the right of national self-determination (as progressives do world wide, for instance, in the case of the Palestinian people or Quebec or Puerto Rico.) In Pakistan they have, simultaneously, championed a federation of equal partners with most powers vested in the provinces with only a few reserved for the centre, and a democratic and socially just system where economic, linguistic and cultural rights of all nationalities and ethnic groups living within the constituent units are recognized, protected and nourished.
While any publicity about the discrimination and violence faced by Sindhis and the Baloch is to be welcomed long experience, more recently confirmed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria shows that US and western concerns about human rights violations are merely a fig leaf to provide a cover for the naked pursuit of their own selfish imperial interests.
The Pakistani state’s unjust and ruthless treatment of the Baloch, even when their elected leadership accepted the constitutional framework adopted during Z.A. Bhutto’s government in 1973 in good faith as a step toward equitable relations, is the direct cause of the desire among many Baloch to seek independence; as are repeated ‘actions’ by the military in the rise of the Baloch armed resistance movement – reminiscent of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) in East Pakistan’s war of independence.
As the CPPC’s statement of Sept. 16, 2010 on ‘Disappearances in Balochistan’ put it:
“It is self-evident that not only will state terror fail as in the past, but will actually add fuel to the fires of separatism in Balochistan. The only rational way to prevent the further disintegration of Pakistan is to learn from experience and address the social, economic and political causes of the pain and alienation widespread among the numerically smaller nations of Pakistan.”
We again call upon the Pakistani state to end its violence, injustices, discrimination and human rights abuses in Balochistan and in Sindh. We again add our voices to all those in Pakistan calling for a voluntary, equal, democratic and socially just dispensation in the country.
Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians
20 February, 2012