PRESS RELEASE

Baluch "Terror" protest at Downing Street

Free innocent Baluch detainees

Tatchell said: Stop Pakistan's massacres in Baluchistan

London - 16 December 2007

Baluch human rights campaigners demonstrated today (Sunday, from 2.30pm to 4pm) outside 10 Downing Street and handed in an appeal to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Today's London protest is supported by the Baluchistan Action Committee (UK), the
World Sindhi Congress, the Sindhi Baluch Forum and the Baluchistan Rights Movement. Large number of political activists, human rights campaignerS and local politicians attended and spoke in demonstration. Main speakers were Mir Gulam Hussain (Baloch Action Committee-UK), Jamshed Amiri (Balochistan United Front), Haleem Bhatti (World Sindhi Congress), Rahim Bahndowi (Balochistan Peoples Party), and Peter Tatchell (famous human rights campaigner).

A petition was submitted to 10 Downing Street by delegates. The copy of petition is attached with this press release.

They were demanding the dropping of terrorism charges against two Baluch human rights campaigners in the UK and an end to Pakistan's latest military operation on the people of occupied Baluchistan.

Baluchistan was an independent nation that was invaded and annexed by Pakistan in 1948.

"We are protesting against the arrest by the British police on terror charges of the former Baluchistan MP and Government Minister, Mr. Hyrbyair Marri, and his fellow Baluch nationalist and human rights campaigner, Mr. Faiz Baluch," said protester Ambreen Hisbani, who is coordinator of the Sindhi Baluch Forum.

"These terror charges follow the killing by the Pakistani military of Mr Marri's brother, Mir Balach Marri, on 21 November", she added.

"The men's detention in London coincides with pressure by President Musharraf's regime for the arrest and extradition of Baluch exiles in London. Pakistan wants to silence all of us who are campaigning against its occupation and repression of Baluchistan.

"This protest is also against Pakistan's new military offensive in Baluchistan, which has resulted in many civilian casualties. It's aim is to crush the Baluchistan people, assassinate the nationalist leaders and suppress our aspiration to restore Baluchistan as a free and independent nation," said Ms Hisbani.

Her view is echoed by Mehran Baluch, the Baluch representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Chair of the Baluchistan Rights Movement and brother of the murdered nationalist leader, Mir Balach Marri:

"The arrests of Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch are likely to have been based on false information supplied to the UK by Pakistan," said Mehran Baluch.

"At the very least, Pakistan wants these two Baluch nationalists locked away by the British authorities, in order to halt their campaigning on behalf of the Baluch nation. More likely, Musharraf's regime wants them extradited to Pakistan. We believe that if these men are extradited they will never get a fair trial. They would be tortured and they could face a death sentence.

"For many months the Pakistan government has been demanding that the British government agree to a prisoner swap deal, whereby alleged terrorists held in Pakistan and wanted by the UK police would be exchanged for Baluch human rights activists exiled in the UK.

"The protest is also against Pakistan's new military offensive against Baluchistan, which has resulted in many civilian casualties. It's aim is to assassinate our national leaders and suppress our aspiration to restore Baluchistan as a free and independent nation," said Mehran Baluch.

"Since 6 December, civilian areas in the Kahan and Dera Bugti regions of Baluchistan have been carpet bombed by the Pakistan air force," according to Haleem Bhatti, Chairman of World Sindhi Congress, which is supporting today's London protest.

"In this recent attach more than 200 houses and other buildings, such as schools and clinics, have been destroyed and at least 500 people, mostly women and children, have been kidnapped and incarcerated in detention camps, where they are being tortured and ill-treated. Over 100 civilians have been killed and many hundreds more wounded, said Mr Bhatti.

"Thousands of democratic, secular Baluch and Sindhi political activists including women and children have been either kidnapped or being illegally detained and severely and inhumanely tortured by Pakistan's military agencies, including Dr Safdar Sarki, ex-Chairman, World Sindhi Congress."

Speaking to protesters, Baloch Action Committee's member Samad Baloch said that "Baluchistan is under siege because of it geo-political status. Baluchistan is a gateway to oil rich Central Asia and a corridor to Middle East, Africa and Europe. Baluchistan is front line state and all its airport, sea and spaces are in constant use of NATO forces and its allies. Therefore, Pakistan is taking advantage of this situation and labeling secular Baluch leaders, who are fighting for the rights of their nation, as terrorists."

"Baluch leaders are being detained, tortured and target killed by Pakistan army because they are demanding right of self determination and rights for their own resources. Pakistan army has abducted more then 8000 Baluch political workers, students, and intellectuals" said Mr. Samad.

Today's protest was attended by human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, who has worked on human rights campaigns with both detained men, Mr Marri and Mr Baluch. He supports the Baluchistan independence struggle:

"I urge the Foreign Secretary to protest to the Pakistan Ambassador and President Musharraf against Pakistan's indiscriminate military attacks on civilian areas, and its detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial murder of Baluch citizens," said Mr Tatchell.

"The British government should propose motions in the EU and UN censuring Pakistan's breach of international humanitarian law and affirming Baluchistan's right to self-determination," he said.

At 3.30pm today, a delegation from the protesters will hand in an appeal to Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, urging him and his government to take the following action:

o "Not give in to pressure from the Pakistani military establishment. We believe the extradition of Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch would result in their torture, imprisonment and possible execution.
o "Press the Pakistan government to immediately stop its military operations in Baluchistan
o "Halt all military, economic and diplomatic support for the brutal military regime in Pakistan, which is deploying state terrorism against Baluch and Sindhi people
o "Press Pakistan government to release all Baluch and Sindhi political prisoners and human rights activists
o "Initiate and organise efforts for intentional community observers to visit the affected areas on a fact-finding mission, to establish the facts about the atrocities committed by Pakistan's military establishment in Baluchistan
o "Urge via EU and UN institutions the condemnation of Pakistan's military offensive in Baluchistan and the right of the Baluch people to self-determination."

For further information:

Ambreen Hisbani, coordinator of the Sindhi Baluch Forum, in London: 07930 397 082

Mehran Baluch, the Baluch representative to the UN Human Rights Council, in London: mehranbaluch@hotmail.com

Haleem Bhatti, Chairman of WSC, in London: 07939177286

Samad Baloch, Balochistan Action Committee (UK),
London: smdbaloch@yahoo.co.uk

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner: 020 7403 1790

Current news on the Baluch freedom struggle: www.balochvoice.com and www.balochwarna.org

Background briefing

Read this Guardian article by Peter Tatchell about Pakistan's occupation of Baluchistan:

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/peter_tatchell/2007/08/pakistan_celebrates_baluchista.html

Watch this internet TV interview with Mehran Baluch, the Baluch representative at the UN Human Rights Council:

http://doughty.gdbtv.com/player.php?h=6047f4ff19c2da48b68fed7e067a3a5f

Other Links

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2044324,00.html
2. http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/dec2007/gb20071214_317135.htm
3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5290966.stm
4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5292446.stm
5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/story/2007/12/071213_rauf_invetigation_sq.shtml
6. http://iaoj.wordpress.com/2007/11/22/benazir-bhutto-condemns-murder-of-balaach-marri-says-it-is-bad-omen-for-the-federation/
7. http://www.topnews.in/hrcp-strongly-denounces-killing-balach-marri-27266
8. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C11%5C23%5Cstory_23-11-2007_pg7_30
9. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1221/p01s04-wosc.html

ENDS