Taking Cognizance Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Surely Balochistan is not going to become independent due to Congressional committee meetings. The only positive outcome of this meeting for the Baloch is that it has highlighted their plight and this may encourage other western countries to pay more attention to the human rights abuses in Balochistan

Sadiq Umrani, President PPP Balochistan, while condemning the cowardly murder of Brahamdagh Bugti’s sister and niece in Karachi by the intelligence agencies on the Balochistan Assembly floor made a shocking disclosure that he and two other ministers, Yunus Mullazai and Zafar Zehri, in November 2011 saw Frontier Corps (FC) personnel holding two blindfolded and handcuffed men at the roadside on a highway near Mangochar. He said that the FC men gunned them down and their bodies were found from the area the next day. Equally shocking is Umrani’s four month silence on the incident.

This shocking disclosure like all other known atrocities against the Baloch has fallen on deaf ears and gone unnoticed. Atrocities against the Baloch have come to be accepted as a normal state of affairs by all and even the inhumanly gruesome murder of Brahamdagh’s sister and niece has evoked minimal response from civil society or the media.

Murdering women to settle scores is the lowest ebb that establishments can reach and it has been reached here. Banok Zamur Bugti was not Brahamdagh Bugti’s sister alone – she is a sister of all honourable and conscientious Baloch. It is an outrage and a wound which all the Baloch will forever remember.

A national daily reported that these murders were a message for Brahamdagh Bugti to desist from resisting Pakistan. Apparently the establishment overlooked the fact that the message they gave by killing his grandfather Sardar Akbar Bugti went unheeded, so why would he heed these chilling murders and give up resistance now.

The state and its representatives forget that it was they who initiated the hostilities against the peaceful Baloch and the Baloch are exercising their right to defend themselves and to secure their rights. Ironically, Baloch resistance to atrocities and injustices is considered a crime while state atrocities are deemed legal.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the National Assembly said the government had taken cognizance of the killings of Bakhtiar Khan Domki’s family. He was in turn castigated by the assembly members for his remarks relating these killings to those of the FC personnel killed in the recent attacks. Incidentally, the Domki family killings followed and also prompted attacks on FC personnel in Balochistan by militant groups. After the killings of the FC personnel in Margat area, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) spokesperson stated these were in retaliation for the killings of the Baloch ladies.

The Baloch understand how utterly worthless and meaningless Rehman Malik’s cognizance taking is but interestingly someone else too has taken cognizance of the situation in Balochistan. Yes, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs took cognizance and convened a Congressional hearing for an exclusive discussion on Balochistan.

Amid the deteriorating mutual relationship between Pakistan and the US, this is an important development. This powerful House of Representatives Committee oversees the US’s foreign assistance programmes and experts believe it can jeopardise US assistance to Pakistan over human rights violations in Balochistan and this worries Pakistan no end. It follows the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s expression of concern over human rights abuses in Balochistan on January 15. The world is slowly waking to the atrocities in Balochistan.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who recently co-authored an article with Congressman Louie Gohmert expressing support for an independent Balochistan, chaired the hearing. In his piece he had written: “Perhaps we should even consider support for a Balochistan carved out of Pakistan to diminish radical power there (in Pakistan).”

At the Committee meeting in his opening remarks, Mr Rohrabacher said that Balochistan is a turbulent land marred by human rights violations “by regimes that are against US values”. He outlined the history of Pakistan’s creation, and highlighted Balochistan’s grievances vis-à-vis natural resources, and said that the province’s wealth was being taken by the dominant Punjabi elite.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), in his submitted remarks, said that the cases documented by the HRW show that Pakistan’s security forces and its intelligence agencies were involved in the enforced disappearance of ethnic Baloch. He termed the military’s role in the province as brutal, and an occupying one.

In his testimony, analyst Ralph Peters, who had in his June 2006 article ‘Blood borders: How a better Middle East would look’ published a map of free Balochistan, called Pakistan a supporter of terrorism. In his submitted testimony, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Director T Kumar called on the US to “apply the Leahy Amendment without waivers to all Pakistani military units in Balochistan”. The Leahy law prohibits US military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

Dr M Hosseinbor, a Baloch lawyer and witness at the hearing, quoting Baloch sources said that nearly 4,000 people have disappeared in the province since 2001. In his submitted remarks, he called on the US to support an independent Balochistan “in case Pakistan or Iran or both collapsed from within”.

This meeting has naturally evoked an adverse reaction here from the Foreign Office and the Senate where it was condemned as ‘direct intervention’. The senators across the divide consider the meeting as an affront for Pakistan’s sovereignty and have expressed anger. It just goes to show how misplaced their priorities are, as there is hardly a squeak from them when atrocities are committed against the Baloch but if someone highlights the atrocities, it is resented.

Surely Balochistan is not going to become independent due to Congressional committee meetings. The only positive outcome of this meeting for the Baloch is that it has highlighted their plight and this may encourage other western countries to pay more attention to the human rights abuses in Balochistan. Balochistan is slowly emerging on the world scene not only because of the state atrocities but also due to valiant and relentless Baloch resistance.

This meeting is also fraught with adverse consequences for the Baloch; some people in the world would not hesitate to cut off their nose to spite their face. The Pakistani establishment falls into this pathetic category and I fear that just to show to the US that it does not care for what its committees say or do, it will increase the atrocities and human rights abuses against the Baloch.

It really does not matter if the US or Rehman Malik take cognizance of the abuses in Balochistan; what really matters is that the Baloch have taken cognizance of the injustices against them and have decided to resist the same with all resources and energies that they can muster and this is what will eventually tilt the balance in their favour.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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