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June 10, 2009

The Baloch right of self determination and the global peace

by Samad Baloch

The Baloch national struggle for the right of self determination evolved as a result of illegal occupation of the Baloch land by Pakistan, Iran and other countries. The Baloch struggle for the right of self determination by implication has impacts on regional and global peace. The growing armed resistance of the Baloch in Iran and Pakistan may be the cause of inter-state conflicts in near future causing regional and global insecurity. The right of self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle in international law and emergence of democratic and secular sovereign states in the region as a result of granting the right of self determination to the Baloch and other oppressed nations will be a counter check for the religious fundamentalist states of Pakistan and Iran and will contribute to regional and world security.
Many distinct peoples or nations in the world today live in states they do not consent to be part of. The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa, Middle East and south Asia. The boundaries of many post-colonial states were determined not by existing cultural boundaries, but by the whims and interests of various European imperial and colonial forces. They frequently completely ignored existing boundaries between different national entities, with the result that many peoples of the world suffered the misfortune of being divided up between one or more post-colonial states. This fact also cannot be denied that these nations have never voluntarily given up the hope to regain their national identity and national territory.

The Baloch people are one of the many stateless and divided nations in the contemporary world. Sixty one years ago, in the wake of the British withdrawal from Indian subcontinent, the Baloch hopes for a state of their own were shattered by the Pakistani invasion of the Baloch state of Kalat.  Because of historical events and happenings of the past centuries and historical developments in South Central Asia during the nineteenth century, Balochistan had been arbitrarily divided, with the bulk of its territory split between Iran and Pakistan, a situation which persists today.

The Baloch consider the occupation of their land by Pakistan and Iran as illegal. In March 1948 Pakistani troops entered Balochistan from north and south. The ruler of the Baloch State had no option but to sign an agreement of accession with Pakistan. This was against the will of the Baloch people expressed by both Houses of their parliament. In a Baloch perspective, it is the illegal occupation of their land without their consent. The Baloch have never accepted the annexation of their newly independent state into Pakistan. Since the collapse of the organized resistance against the Iranian occupation in 1928, the Baloch in Iranian held territory have been resisting the occupation through political mobilization and low intensity armed movements.

Islamic Republic of Pakistan constitutes a new, post World War II, colonial order and dedicated to the political and economic hegemony of the Punjabi nationality. The basic pillar of the state ideology of Pakistan is the Pakistani Islamic nationalism which seeks complete cultural assimilation and total political hegemony of the Baloch, Sindhis and other subjugated nations. Pakistani Islamic nationalism is an artificial, colonial construct. The British Colonial Administration in India invented an artificial Islamic Nationhood ideology and a state was created out of blue. Occupation of Balochistan and subjugation of Sindhis and other nationalities came as collateral damages in the colonial scheme of Indian partition.

The present Iranian State is the continuation of the Persian Empire with the addition of fanatical Shia Islamic ideology. This ideology seeks complete elimination of other mythological and religious beliefs but elimination of any national or ethnic identity in the cleric led Islamic Republic. The identity of the Baloch as national entity is in great danger in the land of ayatollahs.

The Baloch access to the political process has been deliberately suspended, to the detriment for conciliation and co-existence with the states of Pakistan and Iran. A system of 'indirect colonial rule' was employed in Balochistan in order to gradually gain comprehensive economic, cultural and political control. A small, carefully selected group of the Baloch who were loyal to the state establishment exercised limited powers in Baloch provinces on behalf of the occupying states. The state intelligence agencies selected, instructed and often co-opted these figureheads who have no political, social or cultural identity in the Baloch society. Violation of basic human rights of the Baloch which includes extra judicial killings of the Baloch by the army, paramilitary and state intelligence agencies, harassment, kidnapping and inhuman torture of the Baloch political activists and intellectuals during the long period occupation have been permanent features of the states and the Baloch relations.
Alien cultural traditions are being imposed at the expense of traditional Baloch social values, and their socio-cultural and political systems are being destroyed or corrupted in a systematic and organized way. The introduction of religious narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism by the States are being seen by the Baloch as attempts to replace their secular and democratic identity. 

The Baloch consider exploration of their natural resources without their consent and so-called developmental programs initiated by occupying states as the ruthless plunder of their natural wealth. The state sponsored settlement of people from the dominant nationalities of Iran and Pakistan in to various regions of Balochistan in order to bring state sponsored demographic changes is to counter the Baloch national aspirations by a drastic shift in the population. The past few decades have witnessed a massive acceleration in the rate at which the Baloch have been deprived of their lands and livelihoods by imposed development programs. Unchecked resource exploitation combined with what is perceived by the Baloch as ‘developmental aggression’ poses grave and irreversible threats to their economic existence and identity of the Baloch as a national entity.

The Baloch national resistance whether armed or political is their struggle for human rights, honor, identity and national salvation. It seeks to control their affairs and destiny - economically, politically, socially, and culturally. Their resistance is the continuation of efforts for national salvation beginning from the Sassanid period. The Baloch resistance against Sassanid, Arab invaders, Afghan plunderers, Qachar and Pehlavi dynasties of Iran were a manifestation of their endeavors for retaining their sovereign national identity, dignity and honor. Despite decades of suffering, oppression and genocide conducted by occupying forces, the Baloch have maintained their identity and determination to be allowed to exercise their universal right to self determination.

 The Baloch national struggle for the right of self determination evolved as a result of illegal occupation of the Baloch land and subsequent subjugation by the Pakistani and Iranian states. Passive and democratic non-violent protests against injustice and discrimination were responded with military oppression, paving way to an armed struggle.  The Baloch people have today risen up in unison asserting their distinct identity as a ‘Nation that respects noble human right values and cherish their valued culture and tradition’. The Baloch demand for the right of self determination relates to the collective right of the Baloch to life with freedom and in all respects it is a Baloch peoples’ right to live as a sovereign nation.

The global impact of the Baloch right of self determination

 The existence of a host of multinational states with culturally and ethnically diverse and historically unrelated entities is believed to be the root cause of intrastate or international conflicts. Conflicts between different national identities in such artificially created multi-national countries are prime forces in both promotion and destruction of peace, human dignity and social justice. The Baloch struggle for the right of self determination by implication has impacts on regional and global peace. International borders created by the colonial administrators are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

  • Global peace and human right issue are inseparable in today’s international peace and security point of view.  Achievement of long-lasting regional and global peace is impossible without taking into account the human rights of the people of a particular region. Self determination as the fundamental human Right  is an impacting element today in international relations. The violation of basic human rights of the Baloch by the Pakistani and Iranian states is among major cause of conflicts and disability in south central Asia.
  • It has been observed in other parts of the world that nationalist movements of   divided peoples naturally affect the interests of the states in which they live and can provoke inter-state conflicts. Political and geographical division of the Baloch into many countries of the region, the growing armed resistance of the Baloch in Iran and Pakistan may be cause of inter-state conflicts in near future.
  • With enormous atrocities committed by the state in case of a national resistance movement in the artificially created multi-national states, the conflict can spread involving surrounding states and drawing outside powers. With the displacement of thousands of refugees and violation of fundamental human rights by the state, the regional conflict soon becomes international as the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations become involved.
  • Iran and Pakistan may strike at “enemy bases” and supporters across state boundaries.
  • The dispute between Pakistan and the Baloch may also be carried on internationally in various far away countries by the Baloch Diaspora.
  • Government of Pakistan may also try to foster internal conflicts or rebellions in the countries which they think are providing moral or material support to the national liberation movement of the Baloch.

The Baloch sovereignty and global peace

Self-determination has been endorsed and defined by the International Court of Justice as the need to pay regard to the freely expressed will of peoples. The right of self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle in international law. It is embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Common Article 1, paragraph 1 of these Covenants provides that: "All peoples have the rights of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." The right of self-determination has also been recognized in other international and regional human rights instruments such as Part VII of the Helsinki Final Act 1975 and Article 20 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Territories and Peoples.

Balochistan is situated at the confluence of three zones which are now threatening not only the regional but the global security and peace. The Shia fundamentalism in the west, the Taleban terrorists in the north and the Pakistani religious fundamentalist state in the east with Baloch Land   imbedded by geography in the centre of what is now the most dangerous zone on this planet earth. The most obvious physical results of a sovereign secular Balochistan would be the geographical separation of the Shia fundamentalism and Sunni fanaticism. It will also mean a strong watching corridor against the rising Arab fundamentalism in the gulf region. A secular democratic Balochistan will be an oasis in the vast desert of fundamentalism and terrorism.

Pakistan and Iran are no doubt the epicentres of terrorism and religious fundamentalism. It is an open secret that Pakistan is exporting terrorism in India, Afghanistan, Chechnya, China and Europe. Iran is also supporting terrorist activities in the Middle East and is one of the factors in the continued turbulent situation in the region. Allowing the Baloch to exercise their right of self determination will lead to the achievement of this right by the other subjugated nationalities like Sindhis, Kurds, Azeris, Seraikis and other in Iran and Pakistan. Emergence of democratic and secular sovereign states in the region will be a counter check for the religious fundamentalist states of Pakistan and Iran contributing to regional and world security.

Uninterrupted access to energy resources is vital for peace and prosperity of a future world. Balochistan stretching from Turkmenistan to Indian Ocean is vital in securing energy transfer from Central Asia to other parts of the world. The international community should not look with favour at the prospect of vast and strategically economically important region of south central Asia being controlled by an amalgamation of religious fundamentalist states with hegemonic mindset and with an agenda for international terrorism.

The UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples states that “the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.” Without giving the right of self determination to the Baloch, it is hard to make and maintain peace in the South and Central Asia. An independent Balochistan’s role as a democratic and secular state is extremely valuable for the West in their efforts to fight the growing menace of Islamic terrorism and religious fundamentalism. The international community must get involved in the conflict between the Baloch and the occupying states. Situations of tension persist wherever peoples are deprived of their rights, and denied freedom and dignity. The states which are occupying the Baloch Land are denying the Baloch the enjoyment of their right to exist, despite the recognition of right of self determination as the inalienable right of all nations. The systematic repressive tactics used by Iran and Pakistan for decades to counter the Baloch demand for national right of self determination, have led to an explosive situation that seriously threatens regional and global peace and security. For securing a long lasting peace and security situation in the region it is imperative that the unjust state boundaries should be readjusted and the divided Baloch should be united.

Samad Baloch
Secretary General
Baloch Human Rights Council (London )