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where separatists have fought the army in intermittent conflicts since Pakistan was created in 1947.
For an illustration of the current low-point in U.S.-Pakistan relations, take a look at the row over a bill submitted by a U.S. congressman over Baluchistan, a conflict-ridden Pakistani state.
Last week, Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, introduced a resolution recognizing Baluchistan’s right to self-determination. (Baluch people live primarily in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.)
And there it might have sunk without notice, like many bills that are put before Congress.
The resolution garnered no coverage in U.S. mainstream media on Feb. 17, the day Mr. Rohrabacher introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But it was quickly picked up by Pakistani media, which interpreted the move as part of a grand plan by the U.S. to dismember Pakistan.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., said in a statement in response to the bill that “provocations such as these will seriously impact the Pakistan-US relations.”
Then, on Saturday, Richard Hoagland, deputy U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, was summoned by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, which had this to say:
“Ambassador Hoagland was told in clear terms that the move in the U.S. Congress was contrary to the spirit of friendly relations and violative of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and recognized norms of inter-state conduct. He was asked to convey the serious concern of the Government of Pakistan to the U.S. Administration.”
There seems to be a major misunderstanding here about how U.S. Congress works.
In no way does Mr. Rohrabacher, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, represent the White House.
In fact, if you look at Mr. Rohrabacher’s website, you can see he takes positions on a number of foreign affairs issues that are hardly Obama administration policy.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad tried to make this clear in a statement on Saturday:
“Members of Congress introduce legislation on numerous foreign affairs topics and these bills do not in any way imply U.S. government endorsement of any particular policy. The Department of State does not typically comment on pending legislation, but it is not the policy of the Administration to support independence for Baluchistan.”
But the affair rolls on.
On Tuesday, The News International, a Pakistani daily newspaper, reported that the Khan of Kalat, an exiled Baluch aristocrat who supports independence for Baluchistan, had met with Mr. Rohrabacher.
Again, so what? This does not involve the U.S. government and Mr. Rohrabacher is presumably free to meet whom he likes.
Feisal Hussain Naqvi, a Pakistani lawyer and commentator, points out that the resolution feeds into a sense among many Pakistanis that Washington — despite its status as an ally and major aid donor — is aiming to undermine the Pakistan state.
Conspiracy theories are rife in Pakistan and recent events – especially the mistaken killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by a U.S. airstrike on the border with Afghanistan in November – have given weight to those that see the U.S. as an enemy.
“There’s a significant portion of the security establishment that think the U.S. is out to get us,” Mr. Naqvi said. “This thing fits in neatly. All the conspiracy theorists say, ‘See, I told you they were out to get us.’”
Another reason for the brouhaha could be gathering concern in Pakistan about Baluchistan, where separatists have fought the army in intermittent conflicts since Pakistan was created in 1947.
Thousands of Baluch separatists have gone missing and recent newspaper articles – like this one by Pakistan novelist Mohammed Hanif – have drawn attention to the issue