Faiz Baluch is ‘casualty of post-9/11 geo-politics’
From Times Online
January 5, 2009
Asylum seeker Faiz Baluch is ‘casualty of post-September 11th geo-politics’
By Fran Yeoman
An asylum seeker on trial for allegedly inciting terrorist murder in Pakistan is not a criminal but a casualty of post-September 11th geo-politics and the alliances forged between Britain, America and the Musharraf regime, a court heard today.
Faiz Baluch, a Baluchistani nationalist, was branded a terrorist after attempting to highlight the “brute violence, death and destruction” being meted out to his people by Musharraf’s government, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said.
Mr Baluch said that after he came to Britain, he helped set up the Balochwarna.org (Baloch Youth) website and posted news reports there “to bring the plight of the Baloch nation to the attention of the international community.”
Asked if he believed in terrorism, Mr Baluch said: “I don’t,” adding: “Terrorism is the indiscriminate killing of innocent people just to terrorise people, to harass them.”
Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, although the region also spills over the borders in to Afghanistan and Iran, where Mr Baluch was born.
In recent years, Balochis demanding independence for the region have engaged in violent opposition to the Pakistani government under the name of the Baluchistan Liberation Army.
Mr Baluch, 27, and his co-defendant, Hyrbair Marri, 40, are on trial at Woolwich Crown Court accused of gathering information to help the BLA, which is proscribed in Britain, and inciting murder in Pakistan via websites from their homes in London.
The court heard that they were not committing terrorist offences but playing their part in lawful self-defence.
Mr Baluch said that his dream was for Baluchistan to return to its pre-1948 situation as a sovereign state and argued: “I think when people are under attack they should have the right to defend themselves.”
However, he said that he did not advocate terrorism and denied ever using a website to incite others to kill. “I don’t want independence at the cost of human lives,” he said.
Opening Mr Baluch’s defence, Lady Kennedy said the case was not about “regime change or revolution” but about survival in the face of “unprecedented levels of repression” including killings, mass disappearances and evictions. If the Germans had succeeded in invading Britain, she told the jury, they would have been entitled to do “exactly the same” as the Balochi people and resist.
In the wake of September 11th, George Bush declared a War on Terror but, argued Lady Kennedy, terrorism is a “problematic concept”.
“Lots of nations call their dissidents terrorists”, she said. “The apartheid government of South Africa called Nelson Mandela a terrorist… Mugabe calls his opponents terrorists. Musharraf, an undoubted dictator, called the Baloch terrorists.”
The British government became “drawn into that distortion for purely political reasons because Britain, like America at that time, wanted Pakistan on-side in the War on Terror.”
Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, was no great friend of the West before the attacks on the World Trade Centre, but “suddenly after 9/11 he becomes out great ally and Faiz Baluch will tell you that he believes he is a casualty of geopolitics. He is a casualty of that allegiance”.
She added that despite being “full of anxiety” about facing serious charges in a UK court, Mr Baluch, who sought asylum in the UK in September 2002 after fleeing first Pakistan and then Iran, “is more in terror of the Pakistan authorities than of the British” because of what the former “can do to people he loves”. “The ISI [Pakistani intelligence service] looms large in the lives of these men and they know of the necessary relationship between Pakistani intelligence and British intelligence.”
Lady Kennedy told the jury that the case had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. Jihadism is “anathema” to Balochi nationalists, she said, and although Mr Baluch is a Muslim “as far as he is concerned it is nothing to do with his politics”.
Mr Baluch told the court that in 1998 the Pakistani government tested a nuclear bomb in Baluchistan, leading to serious health problems among the people.
In 2000, after a judge was killed in the Balochi capital Quetta, police rounded up over 100 men from a refugee camp where he volunteered as a teacher, detaining them for over a year and torturing some, he said. In March 2005, the village of Dera Bugti was bombed, killing women and children.
Both Mr Baluch and Mr Marri deny incitement to murder outside the UK as well as possession of items for terrorist purposes, preparation of terrorist acts and collecting information useful to terrorists. The trial continues.