Does Islamabad Fear Baloch-US Friendship?

By Malik Siraj Akbar

For the first time, Baloch and Sindhi nationalists are formally and publicly requesting the United States of America to take notice of the grim situation in Balochistan. In the last two weeks, we have come across two similar but rare demands.

Firstly, Baloch Human Council (UK), Baloch Liberation Organization and World Sindhi Congress demanded in a joint statement the “immediate obstruction οf еνеrу kind οf aid tο Pakistan frοm thе US аnԁ іtѕ allies аѕ іt іѕ being used tο crush thе Baloch аnԁ Sindhi national resistance against subjugation аnԁ exploitation.”

This formal request was made after the three organizations staged a protest rally in front of the US Embassy in London on July 31st to raise voice against Islamabad’s violation of human rights in Balochistan and Washington’s silence over its front-line ally in the war on terror over the Balochistan situation.  Among others, Nawabzada Hairbayar Marri, a son of veteran Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri who clearly stands for Balochistan’s independence, also attended the protest rally.

The statement issued to the media further said, “A epistle wіƖƖ bе sent tο Head Obama urging hіm fοr immediate action against Pakistani military creation аnԁ urging hіm tο υѕе thе US influence fοr thе trial οf Pakistani military officials іn thе International Criminal Incite fοr thе crimes committed against humanity іn Balochistan.”

Secondly, Samad Baloch, the secretary general of the Lond0n-based Baloch Human Rights Council, has written a formal letter to US President Barrack Obama seeking American intervention.

“The situation for the Baloch is alarming,” he wrote, “We believe that we are justified in asking for the immediate intervention of United States in order to bring about an immediate end to genocide acts being committed in Balochistan.”

He has further “strongly requested” the US President ” press up on the Pakistani army establishment to stop all atrocities against the Baloch political, social and human rights activists and civilians.”

Mr. Baloch concluded, “We will be grateful if the Government of United States could initiate the process for the establishment of an international commission to investigate the heinous crimes against humanity committed by the Pakistani State establishment in Balochistan.”

This is a policy shift from the people who call themselves as Pakistan’s “oppressed nations.”

Historically, Baloch and Sindhi nationalists have been averse to the United States because of their ideological inclination toward the erstwhile Soviet Union dating back to the Cold War days.  While the post-Soviet Union world has experienced significant changes, the Balochs in particular have done too little to gain the support of the United States government,  its media, think-tanks and human rights groups.

On the other hand, the Pakistani Establishment has done everything to plant the seeds of anti-Americanism in Balochistan. It is no secrete that those who are being used to achieve the objective of presenting Balochistan as a land hostile to the United States are actually members of the Pashtun ethnic group not Baloch. They represent the pro-Taliban Jammiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazal) and  many of them have settled in Balochistan since they came as Afghan refugees in 1980s.

However, it is important to know that the pro-Taliban and anti-US elements are louder and more vocal in the national and international media. For instance, some of the first images of massive protests against the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 emanated from Quetta where the JUI-F rallied against the strikes. Likewise, the hateful images of US flag being burnt after the killing of Osamab bin Laden were also released by wire services from Quetta.

It is pity that the nationalists and progressive elements in Balochistan have not succeeded in presenting an enlightened image of Balochistan. True, JUI’s actions do not reflect the aspirations and sentiments of the broader Baloch population but they have remarkably disfigured Balochistan’s image and shown it as the land of Taliban and religious bigots.  On the top of it, the Jammat-e-Islami, another staunch anti-US religio-political party, has vehemently protested against a proposed American consulate in Balochistan.

The JI is not as widespread in Balochistan as JUI-F but it has significantly restructured its organizational outlook and enhanced membership in the province under the leadership of the new chief Syed Munawwar Hasan.

Mr. Hasan, a left-wing-student-leader-turned- anti-US-India-Israel- zealot, has visited Balochistan more than any other ‘national leader’ in recent months only to promote conspiracy theories and anti-West feelings.

In response to US ambassador Cameron Munter’s fresh expression of concern over the “kill and dump” policy in Balochistan, The News quoted Mr. Hasan terming the US diplomate’s visit “detrimental to the national security and integrity.”  He said he was concerned that the  US ambassador was allowed to freely visit Balochistan where “insurgents and separatists were waging a secessionist movement and terrorism.”

Now that is where the interests of Baloch and Pakistani military-backed right-wing parties clash. If the Baloch and Sindhi want support from the United States, they should move forward and welcome the statements of the US diplomat.That is how international lobbying, diplomacy and cooperation work. In international relations, countries do not offer unconditional support to any cause no matter how genuine they are until these causes match their national interests.

The US clearly needs progressive friends in the region where Pakistan is often officially accused of supporting Islamic militant groups. In their drawing room discussions,  the US officials surely and justifiably ask what it is they will get in return from Baloch, Sindhi or even liberal Pashtun nationalist in return of  possible American moral support to their struggle. That is how diplomacy and foreign relations work, isn’t it?

The Balochs and Sindhis will ultimately have to stand up for themselves and convey a message not only to the United States alone but to the the European Union and rest of the progressive world that they prefer integration and cooperation over isolation and the right-wing’s narrow policy of confrontation. After all, Mr. Hasan was born somewhere in Indian in 1940s which means he does not truly feel the pain of the Baloch nor is he the right person to represent the the Baloch interests. When in Quetta, he says Balochistan is burning but when in Lahore he says friends of Balochistan (such as the US ambassador who spoke about the disappeared Balochs) must not be allowed to travel to the province. That is totally hypocritical.

If the United States embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar do not pose a threat to Pakistan’s integrity and security then why should the proposed consulate in Balochistan worry Islamabad and the country’s right-wing leaders?

It is, thus, mandatory upon the Baloch nationalists to at least appreciate whatever the United States is doing for the Baloch so that JUI and JI do not solely form the public narrative about the US and rest of the world which is largely based on conspiracy theories.

The Balochs, currently residing in Pakistan and Iran, are in an unfortunate situation because of their countries’ deep-rooted resentment toward the US. That is where the leadership challenge arises for the Baloch nationalists. How are they going to befriend the US against two countries whose nuclear programs and support for radical anti-US version of Islam constantly alarm Washington? (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)


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