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India must do more to back Balochistan struggle

January 16, 2016 11:57 IST

Image: Policemen stand guard at Quetta's central mosque. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters

 

The magnitude of atrocities inflicted by the Pakistani establishment on the Baloch people is unimaginable, says Dr Abhay Jere.

On December 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Pakistan to wish Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and the entire world took cognisance of the camaraderie between the two leaders.

Back in India, many observers were cautious as they genuinely believed that this goodwill generated by our PM's magnanimous gesture would be shortlived and the Pakistan army would never allow the political leadership in Pakistan to emerge powerful.

Observers also believed that the Pakistan army in coordination with terrorist organisations would certainly make every possible attempt to sabotage the positive development in the India-Pakistan relationship to safeguard its vested interests.

Within eight days of that visit, the Pathankot airbase was attached by terrorists, thus creating again an environment of uncertainly and jeopardising all the gains and goodwill. The theory of blaming only non-State actors for the Pathankot attack is completely humbug as such attacks are impossible without active support of the Pakistan army and the Inter Services Intelligence.

Unfortunately, the Pakistani establishment, especially the army and ISI, have always being short-sighted, overzealous and misadventurous in their approach, thus losing all major battles till date. Globally, these agencies are now perceived as 'bad boys' who support and export terrorism and extremism internationally.

Even within Pakistan, the army is known for committing huge atrocities against its people. The Pakistan army's misdeeds against the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) are well documented. Pakistani soldiers looted, raped and killed tens of thousands of East Pakistanis, which eventually resulted in an armed struggle and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Similarly, for the last 66 years, the Pakistan army has been committing atrocities against tens of thousands of people in Balochistan (also traditionally called the state of Kalat).

The gravity of the Balochistan problem is similar or even greater than that of the Palestine problem, but unfortunately, the world has turned a blind eye towards serious human rights violations against the Baloch people by the Pakistan army.

The media is banned from entering Balochistan and negative reports are suppressed immediately. According to some estimates, since 2000, more than 20,000 Baloch people (including about 5,000 children) have been kidnapped and/or killed by the army. Minorities, especially Hindus, have been specially targeted and killed.

Geographically, Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan, comprising 44 per cent of Pakistan's total area. It is very sparsely populated (only 5 per cent of Pakistan's population) and the least developed. Balochistan is very rich in natural resources, especially minerals, oil and natural gas which Pakistan exploits extensively.

In India, people are hardly aware about the nature and scale of brutality being committed by the Pakistan army and ISI against the Baloch people and their struggle for survival with dignity.

Under British rule, Balochistan was divided into four princely states. As per the Pakistani version (disputed by many), three of the princely states -- Makran, Las Bela, Kharan -- decided to merge with Pakistan. But the Khan of the biggest princely state, the state of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, respected his people's sentiments and decided against a merger with Pakistan.

The state of Kalat was declared independent on August 11, 1947 as the people of Kalat were completely against the idea of joining Pakistan. Kalat functioned as an independent democratic country for about eight months.

After the formation of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah formally requested Kalat to merge into Pakistan. On December 16, 1947, Kalat's elected representatives debated Pakistan's request for merger in their parliament and unanimously rejected it. The people of Kalat believed that although they are Muslims, they are socially and culturally very different from Punjabi Muslims who dominated Pakistan's polity.

As soon as Kalat rejected Pakistan's request for a merger, Jinnah ordered the Pakistan army to invade and annex Kalat. The army forced/coerced then then ruler Ahmadyar Khan to sign a treaty of accession against the will of the majority. Ahmadyar Khan tried everything possible to prevent the accession to Pakistan.

In a recently published article by Ahmar Mastikhan, an expert on Balochistan, he claimed that Ahmadyar Khan approached the Indian government for accession to prevent its merger into Pakistan, but unfortunately, then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected the offer.

India remained a silent spectator while Pakistan acted swiftly to take over the biggest state in Balochistan. The then Indian establishment certainly failed to understand the strategic importance of a sovereign Balochistan.

Even today, the Baloch people don't consider themselves Pakistani and have been struggling for their freedom for the last 66 years. They still celebrate August 11 as 'Independence Day' and consider March 27, the day on which the state of Kalat was annexed by Pakistan, as a 'Black Day.'

With the current Pakistani establishment, the Baloch people feel a deep sense of insecurity and are disgruntled and frustrated. Early last year, the prince of the defunct state of Kalat and also the chief of the Baloch Rabita Ittefaq Tehreek, Prince Mohyuddin Baloch, warned the Pakistan government that if it failed to settle the Balochistan issue in accordance with the aspirations of the Baloch people, then by the end of 2015, it would soon lose all control over the situation.

The magnitude of atrocities inflicted by the Pakistani establishment on the Baloch people is unimaginable. With no vocal support from the international community, these people are fighting a lonely battle for survival.

Unfortunately, the Indian media has hardly done anything to expose the Pakistan army's brutality in Balochistan. Such exposes, if available, will be of great strategic significance for India internationally.

One thing which the Indian media certainly needs to learn from the Pakistani media -- its continuous pursuit of keeping Kashmir in the news has been used very strategically by the Pakistani establishment to engage with the international community.

Why can't the Indian media tirelessly pursue the issues of human rights violations in Balochistan? Why can't we emerge as the most credible source of information regarding the injustice done to the Baloch people?

India needs to ascertain that the world community takes cognisance of these atrocities and by continuously engaging with global agencies, we should ensure that the future is bright for the next generation of the Baloch people which necessarily need not be with Pakistan.

IMAGE: Policemen stand guard at Quetta's central mosque in Balochistan. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters

Dr Abhay Jere
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