John Solecki and Qambar Baloch—A reminder to the people of the USA and UN
Now that only a few hours are to go from the deadline given by the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) about the release of John Solecki, I have to utter a few words to the Americans. Never before in my life time have I been so badly disappointed with the people of the United States of America. It has been two weeks since John Solecki, an American head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, was kidnapped from Quetta. The majority of John’s countrymen have brazenly kept quite on the whole matter. Not a single journalist from the US reached Quetta in the past two weeks to write a piece on John Solecki. No top US official arrived here, nor did a leading human rights champion.
In countries like Pakistan with almost no democracy in place, the civil society has no role at all to pressurize their respective governments. But I am just disappointed with the American government, media and the human rights organizations. This case could not make enough space in the American press. We thought that American President would speak up. He didn’t. We thought Zardari would be taken to task. He wasn’t. We thought the American peace activists would rush to Quetta and expedite their efforts to release John. They didn’t.
For the first time, I have no qualms in saying that we, the people of Balochistan and the Baloch intellectuals, have spoken more actively in support of John Solecki than the Americans. We have condemned the kidnapping and appealed for Solecki’s immediate and unconditional release. Why has the CNN not actively covered the whole matter? Why has the US government still not put ample pressure on Islamabad to ensure the release of the kidnapped official.
What is the White House waiting for? What are the big guns in CNN, Fox News, CBS News, New York Times, and Washington Post waiting for? Why have they not deputed their correspondents to visit Quetta and bring more news about John Solecki to the whole world? Are they all waiting for John’s death news? Are they preparing to be the first ones to ‘break the news’? Is the White House preparing the draft of a presidential speech to condemn the killing of John Solecki, which may occurred any time in the next 24 hours?
I do not understand why the Americans are so confidently buying the piece of false information given to them by Islamabad. The Pakistan rulers, let me make it clear, are not being truthful. Rehman Malik, the country’s national security advisor, is lying when he says not a single Baloch is in the government’s custody. While he was in Quetta yesterday to investigate the demands of the BLUF, the Baloch students from the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) were protesting the ‘disappearance’ of a Baloch student Qambar Baloch.
More than ten people have gone missing in Quetta in the past two weeks. These include people from all walks of life. The government secrete services have picked up the central secretary general and the information secretary of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Dr. Bashir Azeem Blaoch and Mir Jalil Rekhi respectively. While we are being constantly assured the democracy has returned to Pakistan, another key BRP leader, Chakar Qambarani has also been whisked away. Worst still, the victims of ‘disappearances’ are not only the activists of the opposition political parties. They also include innocent university students.
The interior advisor said that not a single Baloch was in the custody of the government which surely is a white lie. Similarly, if the government can resort to such false statements then I see no reasons why the Americans should not question its commitment in ensuring the release of John Solecki. The American people and the media should pressurize Islamabad to act more swiftly and secure John safe and sound.
The Baloch leaders have disassociated themselves from this case. Nawabzada Jamil Akbar Bugti, the son of late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a key Baloch nationalist leader, has strongly condemned the kidnapping today. He has appealed to the kidnappers to release the American national. A similar appeal has been issued by the central spokesman of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal). Last week, Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, the chief organizer of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) also said his organization had no connections with the abduction. He further commented that his party did not endorse such kind of activities.
However, given the fact that the kidnapping of John Solecki and the ‘disappearance’of Qambar Baloch coincide with each other, the international community should take notice of the prevailing situation in Balochistan. The largest and the least populated of Pakistan’s four provinces, Balochistan has been the center of Islamabad’s repressive policies for six decades. Four times in the past were deadly military operations inflicted on the people of the province. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the battle with the country’s security forces.
Islamabad has been brutally exploiting the Baloch resources. While gas was discovered in the province, which accounts for Pakistan’s 43% total area, in early 1950s, around 95% of the province is deprived of its own gas facility even till today. In the latest phase of the military operation unleashed by the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, thousands of young Baloch have gone missing. These ‘missing persons’ also include around 141 women. It is this situation that has led to the formation of organizations like the BLUF. If one is not to support their activities but one can not overlook their demands at the same time. They are the outcome of unjust policies of the state. They can not be snubbed simply by saying that they resorted to a wrong act. There is the need for a long-term settlement of the Baloch dispute.
Balochistan’s issue is purely political but the government is bent upon using force to crush the Baloch demands. The world community must address the plight of the Baloch people. Islamabad should be asked to halt the sheer violation of the human rights in the province. The sole purpose of deliberately putting John’s and Qambar’s photos together in this post is to ask the world community a few questions. What will happen to poor Qambar, a much younger man than Solecki, even if John, let’s pray, is freed and walks back home happily? Will the world ever speak up for young guys like Qambar? Hailing from a middle class family, Qambar has no links with the UN Secretary General. Then who is going to appeal for his release? The world needs to spend a modicum of time and cogitate about the future of Qambar as well.
The UN should also speak for Qambar and thousands of his likes who are missing. The missing young Baloch boy is supposed to take his annual exams next week. Time is also running for him. He is in his 8th semester. In case he bunks the exams, his whole career would be ruined. He would end up as a wasted youth. Would he be only responsible if we hear tomorrow that his disillusioned young man has joined an armed group?
Will Rehman Malik ever come to Quetta and address a press conference to tell us where our Qambar is? Will the Pakistani newspapers ever write about our missing Qambar? Go through the emotional comments this blog has been receiving from the concerned friends of Qambar. We all are worried about him. We miss him. We want his immediate release.
It is the need of the time the people of the United States of America and the government of the US joined hands with the moderate, progressive and democratic Baloch leaders. A collective appeal should be made. The Baloch people largely do not support the kidnapping of the foreigners regardless of the demands of the kidnappers. The Pakistani government is lying when it says no Baloch is in its custody. Where is Qmabar Baloch? For us, Qambar and John are the same. We have feel passionately for both of them. The Americans should come for the release of their man and also use their good offices to ensure the release of the Baloch student. It is the high time.