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Dec 10, 2009

Does the UDHR apply to the people of Balochistan?
By Faiz Baluch

As the world marks International Human Rights Day this 10 December, Pakistan and Iran should be urged to respect the Human Rights of the Baloch.


International Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on Dec. 10 to commemorate the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration has become a universal standard for defending and promoting human rights. The first sentence of the declaration reads: "The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." The declaration remains one of the most important documents ever created. It represented the first clear formal statement of the fundamental rights to which all humans are entitled. Guinness World Records describes it as the world's ''Most Translated Document''.

Does this declaration protect the rights of occupied Nations or stateless Nations?

The oppressed and occupied Nations continue to suffer at the hands of member states of the United Nations.  Balochistan is one such stateless Nation that has long been under siege and attack by occupying countries that are signatories of the United Nations.

Due to the lack of international media coverage and international recognition, the Balochistan conflict is known as the “Forgotten Conflict”.  The Baloch people’s struggle for independence, and against the illegal occupation of their sovereign state, continues till this day.  Balochistan was first occupied and divided by the British in 1839. Later, two artificial British-drawn borders, the Goldsmith Line and the Durand Line,  sliced Balochistan into three pieces. Northern Balochistan and Western Balochistan were given to Persia and Afghanistan respectively, and Eastern Balochistan (Pakistan-occupied Balochistan) remained independent and maintained treaty relations with the British.  Balochistan was never a part of British India, Persia or any other empire or countries.

In 1947 when the British concluded that they could not rule over a united India, they came up with the idea of building a separate state for Muslims. The “Two Nation Theory” was proposed to serve this purpose, and India was subsequently divided in the name of religion. A new state was carved out of India and named Pakistan, meaning the land of pure, though many may argue that its purity is doubtful.

Before the partition of India and the withdrawal of the British, the Baloch were given three options: (1) join India, (2) join the upcoming Pakistan or (3) remain independent. The Baloch, of course, chose to maintain their sovereign state.

On 11 August 1947 the British, India and the upcoming Pakistan administration declared Balochistan’s independence. On 13 August 1947 India was granted independence and on 14 August 1947 Pakistan was carved out of India and declared a country. On 15 August 1947 the ruler of Balochistan, “The Khan,” formed the two houses of Baloch parliament, “The House of Commons and The House of Lords”. Balochistan’s independence, however, was short-lived as newborn Pakistan, within 9 months of coming into existence, occupied Balochistan; the rationale used to justify this occupation was the idea of shared religion.  The so-called founder of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah, also known as Mohammad Ali Jinnah by Pakistanis, had invited the ruler of Balochistan to join Pakistan.  On 16 December 1947 the Khan called a joint meeting of the Houses and put the matter before them. The Balochistan parliament overwhelmingly rejected the idea of joining Pakistan and opted to remain independent. 

On 27 March 1948 the Pakistani army invaded Balochistan and held the Khan and his family members hostage in their own palace.  That same year, while the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsproclaimed a people’s right to The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the independent state of Balochistan was occupied at gunpoint--a sheer violation of the Baloch people’s Human Rights and their right to freedom and justice.

In late 1948, the Baloch people initiated the first revolt against the illegal occupation of their motherland. In fact, it was the younger brother of the ruler of Balochistan, Prince Abdul Karim Khan Baloch, who led the revolt and fought occupying forces.  The struggle to regain Baloch sovereignty has erupted intermittently thoughout the years and continues till this day. The Baloch people’s only desire and demand is their right to independence and the Baloch are determined to continue their struggle until such time that Balochistan is free once again. After the initial revolt in 1948, Pakistan has come into open conflict with the Baloch on four occasions: 1958, 1962-63, 1973-77 and the current ongoing conflict which started in early 2000.

Hundreds of thousands of Baloch have been killed since the occupation in 1948 and many hundreds have been made homeless, now living in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan under appalling conditions. International aid agencies have been denied access by Pakistani authorities to help the displaced people of Balochistan. Unfortunately, the UN seems unconcerned by Pakistan’s actions towards the Baloch, and uninterested in helping Baloch refugees.

It was during this most recent conflict that many top Baloch leaders were murdered, along with thousands of innocent Baloch women, children and elderly. Among the top Baloch leaders assassinated during Musharraf’s dictatorial regime and the current so-called elected PPP government, were Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Nawabzada Balaach Marri, Dr. Khalid Baloch, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch, Rasool Bux Baloch and, most recently, Nisar Baloch in Karachi. At present, 8,000 Baloch political activists, students and ordinary Baloch are reported missing. The families of abducted Baloch claim that they have not been told about the situations of their loved ones. None of the forced-disappeared Balochs have been presented in any court, or allowed any legal representation. 

Even today as I write this article, a military offensive is taking place in Balochistan and people are disappearing. According to latest reports, the Pakistani military is preparing for a military operation in the Makoran region of Balochistan.

I am upset by the silence of the International Community regarding the atrocities committed in Balochistan by Iranian and Pakistani security forces. Baloch are killed and executed under sham pretexts and labeled drug dealers or enemies of GOD in Iran and outlaws or miscreants in Pakistan. Yet, the USA, the EU and other democratic powers take no action against Pakistan and Iran. The Baloch need their moral support and it is the ethical responsibility of these champions of Human Rights and democracy to raise their voices against the human rights violations in Balochistan.

Pakistan is deceiving the International Community, especially the West, claiming to help fight the “War on Terror”, while committing heinous crimes against the people of Balochistan. Baloch nationalist parties allege that the weapons and other resources Pakistan receives to fight the Taliban are instead being used against the secular Baloch people. The international War on Terror is more like a give and take business, it’s being used as “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. 

The Baloch and other oppressed Nations are the invisible victims of the War on Terror. The member states of United Nations are suppressing the genuine struggle of occupied Nations whereas the UN is reluctant to take action against these states.  It is high time that stateless Nations like the Baloch, the Tamils, the Kurds and others are given fair representation in the UN to make their voices heard across the globe.  The UN, instead of covering up the crimes of member states, must take actions against them. If solutions lead to the dismemberment of such states, the UN should not hesitate to support this.

On this International day of Human Rights the Baloch urge the UN and other International Human Rights Organisations to pressure Pakistan and Iran to put an end to human rights violations in Balochistan. Pakistan and Iran must be urged to respect the human rights of the Baloch people. The articles of UDHR apply to the Baloch, as much as any other oppressed Nation. If the world wants to honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it must respect the rights of the Baloch people, as well.

The Baloch urge the honourable UN secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon to recognise Balochistan as an occupied territory under the Geneva Convention and use his good office to emphasise to world leaders that they should take notice of the gross human rights violations committed by the fascist regimes of Iran and Pakistan against the Baloch people.