Baloch leaders in London and Washington are supporting Modi’s call to end Pak-instigated atrocities in Balochistan ….writes Syed Shihabudheen
Recently activists of UK-based Baloch and Sindhi groups held a demonstration against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and human rights violations outside the Chinese embassy in London, demanding that the $46-billion project be called off.
The struggle against Pakistan in Balochistan has been going on since 1948 when it was occupied by force. There is a thriving Baloch diaspora which has been speaking on behalf of their people who suffer daily at the hands of the Pakistani army and para-military forces which enjoy greater power than the civilian administrators in Pakistan’s largest province.
The Baloch and Sindhi diaspora in London and in Washington are garnering more support for their campaign. World Sindhi Congress chairman Lakhumal Luhana was quoted as saying that the massive $ 46 billion CPEC was responsible for “gross human rights violations” in the region.
“It is a matter of life and death for us,” Luhana said, adding there were no plans for rehabilitating thousands of people displaced by the CPEC. The project is being imposed by Islamabad but could not materialise without the people’s consent, he said.
Several diaspora forums joined the protest in London. The protest, mainly organised by the World Sindhi Congress, got support from Sindhi Baloch Forum, Baloch National Movement, Baloch Republican Party, Baloch Human Rights Council-UK, Baloch Students and Youth Association and Baloch Students Organisation.
The protester shouted slogans like “Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Balochistan” and “Kadam badhao Modiji hum tumhare saath hain.” They also shouted slogans such as “No to CPEC” and “Hai haq humara aazadi.”
A memorandum opposing the CPEC was sent by post to the Chinese embassy before the demonstration. It described Balochistan as an “occupied territory” and said the CPEC is aimed at “bringing demographic changes” in the province by settling 2.5 million people from other parts of Pakistan. It added the activists also feared a “large number of people will be settled from outside” in Sindh, making the Sindhis a minority.
Meanwhile, Mr Malik Siraj Akbar, CEO of the Balochistan Institute in Washington (D.C.) has described Modi’s statement on Balochistan as a ‘game changer’. “Baloch political activists have been struggling for years and making direct appeals to the government of India to condemn Pakistan’s atrocities against Baloch,” he added.
According to Mr Akbar ‘Baloch nationalists have always wished to be treated as an entity separate from Pakistan’.
Pakistan discredits the Baloch nationalist movement, calling its leaders ‘Indian agents’. This will not dilute the Baloch ‘freedom’ movement. The Balochs are used to being dubbed ‘foreign agents’. It is quite likely that the Pakistani army will step up its oppressive campaign against the Balochs. The Balochs are ready for it; it will be no different from what they have been receiving from the Pakistanis army and para-military forces all these years.
Akbar has drawn attention to the fact that the Pakistani army controls the flow of information on Balochistan and the people of the country get to know only what the army wants them to know. Foreign journalists cannot enter Balochistan or Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The few in Pakistan who sometimes speak in support of the Balochs do so with some reservations because they are Pakistani loyalists first before being anything else.
In a newspaper article, Akbar has stated that the provincial government in Balochistan is micro-managed by Islamabad. The last three chief ministers were ‘selected’, not ‘elected’ because the incumbent has to be totally under the control of Islamabad. They have been unable to protect the interests and lives of the people of Balochistan, richly endowed in natural resources but denied its fruits by the ruling Punjabi elite of Pakistan.
The Balochs need ‘allies’ in the region. They cannot look for support from their immediate neighbours, Afghanistan and Iran because both countries have small Baloch population which they do not want mixed up with a possible movement for independent Balochistan. But funnily enough, Pakistan accuses India of using the Afghan and Iranian soil for mounting anti-Pakistan activities. Both countries deny the Pakistan allegation. In fact, they get very upset whenever Pakistan makes the allegations against them.
Those in India who have been critical of the B-bomb dropped by Modi seem to think that it amounts to taking steps to physically liberate Balochistan. That is impossible simply because Balochistan is not a contagious territory. But unfailing Indian support henceforth to the people of Balochistan should be possible and need not be restrained.
Yes, a desperate Pakistan will do all it can to add to problems India faces in Kashmir and elsewhere. But it is naïve to imagine that Pakistan will turn a new chapter in its relations with India if the Indian government reverses its new policy on Balochistan and PoK.
The need in India is to deal with the unrest in Kashmir with a humane approach to deny Pakistan the opportunity of bracketing it with their oppressive rule in Quetta and Muzaffarabad.
The test that the Modi government faces is not about its new approach towards Pakistan but the manner in which it will carry it forward. There should be no hesitation in India to declare that it will extend ‘moral, diplomatic and political’ help to the people of Balochistan in their fight against their oppressors in Islamabad – Rawalpindi combine. This should include appearance of the Baloch nationalist in India to make Indians know about their struggle and also lending strong support to their voices which have remained muffled so far.
Pakistan expects India to respect the ‘redline’ that it draws. What nonsense! It has repeatedly attacked India with its army, grabbed illegally a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and for nearly three decades has been exporting terror to India unapologetically.
Yet, Pakistan has the cheek to accuse India of crossing the ‘redline’ in raking up the issue of Pakistan army’s atrocities in Balochistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) when it has no history of honouring it.
The louder the protest by Pakistan against India after the Balochistan-POK arrow was fired by Narendra Modi the more clear it becomes that it has hit the target. Pakistan fears the prospect of Balochistan becoming an ‘international’ issue the way it has tried to propel Kashmir on to the global stage to spite India.
India has done well to decide to take up the issue of illegal occupation of a part of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan. A territory forcibly taken cannot be called a legal territory of the aggressor nation. According to the terms of the UN resolution that Pakistan tom-toms so fervently and unfailingly, its military aggression in PoK has to be vacated. Obviously, that Pakistan will not do so.
Pakistan has also to undo the demographic aggression it launched in PoK as a result of which the non-Kashmiris outnumber the locals. That is a good reason to reject the Pakistani call for a ‘plebiscite’ in the state. If the nearly seven decade – old UN resolution on Kashmir has to be implemented, Pakistan will have to meet the two conditions. Since Pakistan will not do so it has no right to demand that the UN resolution be implemented.
The UN resolution has lost its relevance altogether not only because of what Pakistan has done in the part of J&K it occupies but also because of its ceaseless export of terror to India and interference in its domestic affairs. India is right therefore in demanding an immediate discussion on ‘contemporary’ issues.
Despite the Pakistani toddies parroting anti-India slogans in Balochistan and PoK those who have suffered brutalities by the Pakistani forces have welcomed India’s move to make the world hear their cries of agony. Pakistan questions Prime Minister Modi’s claim that the people of Balochistan and PoK have warmly welcomed his statement. It can also be questioned about its claim that Modi’s statement has led to a strong wave of anger against India in Balochistan and PoK.