Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dr Zafar Baloch (BHRC) speech at the South Asia Conference (Canada 11th December)

Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen

South Asia is a land where the ancient and the modern co-exist without boundaries. This is true, not only in terms of technology but also at the level of thought, beliefs, and culture. It is a land of contrast in every aspect of life and society. Today’s South Asia cannot be detached from its history of cultural diversity, British Raj, and the division that took place in 1947. Past has a way of haunting the present when it comes to the long-term ills of separation and loss of identity as a people.

Centuries of British colonial rule and its final demise in the Indian subcontinent changed the course of history of the region. The departed colonial power left behind a legacy of artificial borders, territorial demarcations, mass exodus, and a newly founded state, which have now become the deep-seated causes of wars, conflicts, and extremism in South Asia, destabilizing the whole region.

British occupation of Balochistan in 1839 was part of the Imperial Forward Policy to gain control over Afghanistan and to contain the Russian influence in the area. What followed was a series of three Anglo-Afghan wars and demarcation of imaginary boundaries that left Balochistan and Afghanistan divided with the loss of territory and peoples to alien states and cultures. The British Boundary Commissions of Major General Goldsmid (1871), Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (1893), and Sir Arthur Henry McMahon (1896) drew lines in the sand and with the stroke of a pen divided a 700-hundred-year old sovereign nation of Baloch into parts of Iran and Afghanistan. A large part of Balochistan, however, stayed under British control and was granted freedom on August 12, 1947, two days prior to the creation of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the independence of Balochistan was a dream that ended in a nightmare when on March 27, 1948 Pakistani occupation forces entered Kalat, the capital of a sovereign nation, and ended its nascent freedom.

The anti-colonial struggles and movements of national liberation never ended with the departure of the British from Balochistan. Since 1948, the Pakistani occupied Balochistan has witnessed five wars of independence including the ongoing struggle that has become marred with gross human rights violations committed by Pakistan’s army and its secret intelligence services. In addition, the Baloch resistance to Iran’s occupation forces started as early as 1904 and lasted up to 1928 with the slaughter and execution of their tribal elders and nobilities. Present day Iranian occupied Balochistan is the summary execution capital of the world with more than two thousand hangings of Baloch youth in the last six years alone.

In short, the systematic division of historic peoples and creation of artificial borders for the administrative purpose of control and exploitation has not only hampered the peaceful development of the oppressed nationalities involved but the repressive nature of the state in the absence of democracy has become an agency for extremism. The role of a state solely founded on the grounds of colonial interests can be neither democratic nor peaceful.  The predatory nature of the state of Pakistan is based in its genetic makeup designed by the colonial masters to run it as a mercenary army.   This Frankenstein’s monster is an experiment gone wrong and now has an agenda of its own.

Lest we forget, Pakistan was born out of an ideology based on religion and the only thing that can guarantee its survival is a state policy of promoting a culture of intolerance toward secular values or identity based on historic nationhood. Pakistan is a state without a nation and shall remain hostile to the idea of nations existing within its boundaries.

Pakistan’s identity crisis is deeply entrenched in its state ideology of Islam and denial of the historic realities that exist within and outside its borders, which pose a constant challenge to its foreign policy and relationship with its neighbours. Pakistan’s western and eastern borders are a constant reminder of the fact that imaginary lines of demarcation cannot divide the land and its people forever. Whether it is Durand Line that divides Pakhtuns of Afghanistan or Line of Control that separates Kashmiris, a foreign policy based on militarism cannot resolve the issue. A second Kargil adventure would be disastrous for Pakistan and unacceptable to the international community.

Similarly, the ongoing military operation in Balochistan is proving to be counterproductive. The gross human rights violations in the form of enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings, and torture have only strengthened the resolve of the Baloch nation that freedom is the only escape from death and suffering. More than 8000 people went missing in Balochistan since the beginning of the military operation in 2003. A carefully documented list of 1180 missing persons, compiled by human rights groups has been presented to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in November 2010. Pakistan government itself has accepted the figure of 992 missing persons but has done nothing so far to locate or produce them in a civilian court. The families of the abducted youth and witnesses have accused the dreaded ISI and Military Intelligence for the enforced disappearances.

With the coming to power of the so-called civilian government, the human rights situation in Balochistan has taken a turn for the worse. In the last four months alone, 42 Baloch students, activists, lawyers, and journalists were forcefully disappeared by the security forces and their bullet-riddled bodies were dumped in the open fields. The bodies showed visible marks of extreme torture and they were executed with a single bullet shot in the head.  

Balochistan also is the testing centre for weapons of mass destruction including nuclear tests, causing environmental hazard to humans, livestock, and soil. Our natural resources are being plundered and lands taken away for the construction of mega military complexes and bases for secret operations. It is a preparation for complete annihilation of a people through slow motion genocide while not a single news report is allowed to appear in the Pakistani media. International community is being kept in dark on the information related to the atrocities committed in Balochistan by the Pakistani army.

This is the character of the state that was created in the name of Islam and its role in South Asia. The only hope for the Baloch nation today is freedom from this Islamic state and its army that has dreams of expansion of its military power into uncharted territories.
In the end, I would like to make an urgent to the international community and the Canadian government to put pressure on Pakistan to immediately stop the genocide of the Baloch people.
I would like to urge that all economic agreements related to exploration of natural resources in Balochistan should be negotiated directly with the Baloch nation and their national leaders so that Pakistan does not benefit from the spoils of their militarism and further marginalize the people of Balochistan. 

Zaffar Baloch
Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada)
December 11, 2010
Toronto, Canada


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