|Jan 28, 2010
Pakistan the oppressor
It is little surprise that Baloch nationalist leaders have rejected the latest
peace package proposed by Islamabad
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
The Guardian - Comment is Free - London - 28 January 2010
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A series of massacres of peaceful protesters by Pakistani security forces look
set to sink hopes of a settlement deal between the government in Islamabad and
Baloch nationalists who are campaigning for self-rule. There are fears that the
sinister, shadowy Pakistani military and intelligence agencies are behind these
killings, in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the reconciliation package put
forward by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf
On 15 January, at least two Baloch political activists were shot dead and four
others seriously wounded after Pakistani security forces opened fire on a peaceful,
lawful protest organised by the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) in the Khuzdar
district of Balochistan.
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The rally had been called to protest against the recent murder of Baloch citizens
in Karachi and the launching of a new military crackdown in Pakistani annexed
and occupied Balochistan.
The shootings are the latest of many Pakistani killings of Baloch protesters
and nationalist leaders. They’ve been targeted because of their support
for the six-decades-long campaign of resistance against Pakistan’s invasion
and subjugation of their homeland.
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In September last year, Pakistani forces opened fire on a public gathering at
Tump High School in Balochistan, killing 20 year old political activist, Mukhtar
Baloch, and wounding 27 others, including four women and a six year old child.
Five members of the BSO were arrested at the scene and taken to unknown locations.
Watch this mobile phone footage of the attack. The shooting begins just over
four minutes into the film:
A similar Pakistani military assault on a peaceful Baloch rally took place in
January 2009 in Turbat.
A month later at Dashte Goran the army attacked a wedding party, killing 13 people,
including the bride, groom, six family members and the wedding officiator. A
total of 21 people were injured – the majority of them women.
Rasool Bux Mengal, joint secretary of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), was
abducted from Uthal last August. His tortured dead body, slashed and covered
in cigarette burns, was found hanging from a tree.
The intention was clear: to terrorise and intimidate the Baloch people. Mengal
was the second BNM leader murdered in the last year. In April 2009, the body
of Ghulam Mohammad, chair of the BNM, was found partly decomposed in a vat of
In October last year, Baloch medical students were beaten up and arrested by
Pakistani forces in a raid on the Bolan Medical College.
The same month, eleven innocent civilians, including women and children, were
killed in the Dera Bugti district by Pakistan army bombardments.
Little wonder, then, that Baloch nationalist leaders have rejected the latest
peace and reconciliation package proposed by the government in Islamabad. They
cite the on-going military repression and the inadequate nature of the proposals.
At first glance, the “Rahe-i- Haqooq Balochistan” deal doesn’t
seem unreasonable. It offers a cessation in military operations, a ban on the
construction of new army garrisons (although existing ones would remain), the
release of most (not all) political detainees and a payment of $1.4 billion in
gas royalties, spread over 12 years.
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Baloch nationalists say the offer does not give the people of Balochistan control
over their own natural resources or a fair price for them. Moreover, of the 4,000
Baloch people who have been arrested and disappeared, only a handful have been
released since the democratic civilian government of Prime Minister Gilani was
elected in 2008.
The torture of Baloch rights campaigners remains routine and widespread.
Promises of de-militarisation are contradicted by continued military operations,
attacks on civilian targets and by the building of more police and military garrisons
in Balochistan, including a 62% increase in police stations and a 100% increase
in paramilitary checkpoints.
Baloch human rights groups report that the kidnapping and torture of peaceful,
lawful Baloch activists continues unabated.
Indeed, the Pakistani government itself has admitted that in 2009 at least 1,102
persons were seized by the security forces in Balochistan and disappeared. In
recent years, an estimated 80,000 Baloch people have been displaced by Pakistan’s
These attacks have been aided and abetted by military supplies from the UK, including
small arms, artillery, helicopter components and military communications equipment.
The US has sold the Pakistani military billions in arms, including F-16 attack
aircraft, and Bell and Cobra attack helicopters, which have been used against
the people of Balochistan.
Rejecting Islamabad’s proposals, nationalist leaders such as Nawab Khair
Bakhsh Marri and Akhtar Mengal, leader of the Balochistan National Party and
a former Chief Minister of Balochistan, argue that the deal would not ensure
genuine autonomy and self-rule. They see it as a way of continuing the Pakistani
colonisation of their homeland.
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Indeed, if the government in Islamabad has a genuine intention to negotiate a
settlement, why has it taken nearly two years to put forward these proposals
and why are they so inadequate and qualified?
The 1973 constitution of Pakistan promised complete provincial autonomy for Balochistan
within 10 years. It never happened. Democratically elected Baloch Chief Ministers
who have tried to defend the interests of the people of Balochistan have been
sacked by Islamabad. The current Chief Minister, Aslam Raisani, has limited authority
and can be overruled at any time by the federal government and the military top
brass if he steps out of line.
Even if the government of Pakistan had good intentions, its options are limited.
Whatever President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani may want to happen in Balochistan,
they are in office but not truly in power. They are the public face of a Pakistani
state that is beholden to more powerful forces – the Pakistani military
and intelligence services, including the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Federal Investigation
Agency (FIA), Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).
Together with the army, these intelligence services are the real power in Pakistan.
They are implicated in six decades of disappearances, torture, detention without
trial and extra-judicial killings in Balochistan.
The former dictator and general, Pervez Musharaff, may have been ousted from
the presidency in 2008 but his cronies still hold many of the key levers of power,
especially in the all-crucial military, security and intelligence agencies. They
continue to call the shots and pull the strings, regardless of what the democratic,
civilian government says and wants.
* More information on the Baloch freedom struggle: www.balochvoice.com and www.balochwarna.org
To learn more about Peter Tatchell’s human rights campaigns, see here:
Further articles on the oppression of the Baloch people:
Balochistan mourns 60 years of Pakistani annexation and occupation – August
ian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2 007/08/pakistan_celebrates _baluchista.html
Pakistan launches another military offensive – December 2007
ian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2 007/12/pakistans_secret_wa r_in_baluch.html
More Pakistani military raids in Balochistan – February 2008
ian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2 008/02/us_aids_pakistan_ma ssacres.html
Baluch leader Akhtar Mengal remains in prison on trumped up charges – March
ian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2 008/03/pakistans_nelson_ma ndela.html
Pakistan army burns Baloch prisoners alive – August 2008