USA should respect Pakistan’s sovereignty
Baluchistan is at the junction point of South Asia, Central Asia and gateway to Middle East. It is endowed with oil, gas, copper, gold, copper reserves. With eyes on resource rich Baluchistan and its coastline along the Arabian Sea, intelligence agencies of the US and its strategic partners have been making concerted efforts since 2002 to destabilize the province and ultimately detach it from Pakistan. Baloch Sardars of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes were induced to join hands and wage an insurgency in 2004. Col Ralph Peters article ‘Blood Borders’ along with a map showing truncated Pakistan, published in 2006 was a clear cut indicator of sinister intentions of the US. Foreign backed insurgency which later morphed into a separatist movement was given added strength through well-orchestrated propaganda war to extol insurgents and demonize security forces and intelligence agencies. Themes of propaganda kept changing from economic to political grievances, to human rights violations, to missing persons, mutilated bodies dumped on the wayside and of late to mass graves. US Congress Senators led by Dana Tyrone Rohrabacher projected the separatist movement as a political movement seeking right of self determination.
The discovery of the mass graves in Tootak area of Khuzdar on January 25, 2014 created a furor. Consequently, Baloch nationalists unleashed a barrage of allegations against Pakistan by bloating the number of bodies found and declaring them to be those of “Missing Persons”. The discovery provided the Baloch nationalists a whip to wallop Pakistan and use the news as propaganda to portray Baluchistan problem as a human rights issue at international forums and seek support.
On January 27, 2014 exiled Baloch leader Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Khan Daud submitted a petition to US State Department as US Senator John Kerry met Pakistan’s National and Foreign Affairs Advisor, Sartaj Aziz. In addition to launching propaganda campaigns through social media, the Baloch nationalists organized protest rallies at important world capitals in front of iconic buildings to propagate their stance. Upsurge in Baloch nationalists’ propaganda activities was aimed at exploiting the mass graves issue to accuse the intelligence agencies, LEAs and Frontier Constabulary, discrediting Government of Pakistan and gaining moral ascendancy for the Baloch nationalists.
In the same chain of events, on January 29, 2014, exiled Baloch leaders Hyrbiar Marri, Mir Suleman Khan and Mehrab Sarjov (Suleman Khan’s Assistant) met US Congressmen Louie Gohmert, Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher in Central London to propagate against Pakistan for alleged human rights violations in Baluchistan. The issue of the discovery of the alleged mass graves was also discussed in the London meeting. The US visitors accompanied by top official from the US State Department assured them of the open and clandestine help in their activities in Baluchistan and abroad. Gohmert told them that he would do his best to highlight their movement.
A meeting was held in US House of Representatives on January 30, 2014 which was attended by US Rep. Steve King, Rep. Louie Gohmert, and Rep. Rohrabacher. The situation in Baluchistan was extensively discussed and the two asked the US officials to step up support for their efforts. Louie Gohmert found it opportune to deliver a highly venomous speech on Baluchistan situation, citing his meeting with the Baloch nationalist leadership. An article of Tarek Fateh (Canada based Baloch nationalist sympathizer), published by the Toronto on January 28, 2014, was read out, criticizing US for ignoring the mass graves issue during US Senator John Kerry’s meeting with Pakistan’s National & Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz on January 27, 2014. Senator Gohmert criticized Pakistan over the alleged human rights violations and strongly endorsed Baloch nationalists’ separatist agenda of Independent Baluchistan.
For several years, Hyrbyair Marri and Khan of Kalat have been living in exile in London. Both have been given asylum status by the British government. Likewise, Mehran Marri and Brahumdagh Bugti have been given asylum by the Swiss government. Mehran Marri, Khair Bux Marri’s youngest son and Baluchistan’s unofficial representative at the United Nation Human Rights Council, has been holding meetings with ambassadors of European countries in Geneva. Officials of the US administration had also met Mehran in Brussels.
Some of the US and European representatives have been meeting the Baloch exiled leaders off and on but the presence of some US government officials in London meeting gave rise to the speculations which were there for a long time that elements of the US establishment were deeply involved in Baluchistan and were helping some armed Baloch groups, directly and indirectly. Although US politicians and the government figures deny supporting the Baloch nationalist political movement or the armed insurgency, but such meetings strengthen the view of those in Pakistan who believe that the US interest in the resource rich province, which is also of huge strategic importance in the region has not waned.
Some US Congressmen as well as human rights officials showing increasing interest in Baluchistan took it upon themselves to talk about the issue of mass graves and the issue was mischievously drummed up. This story was similar to the bloated figure of ‘missing persons’, claimed by ‘International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’ to be 18000, but ground inquiry undertaken by the former Raisani government found out the figure around 100; most having run away from homes to join terror groups in Farari camps established by foreign agencies in 2004. HRW gave the figure of 5149, while Interior Ministry gave the total figure of missing persons as 813 out of which 369 persons were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 169 from Sindh, 165 from Punjab, 165 from Baluchistan, 17 from Islamabad, 21 from FATA and 10 from AJK. Only 22 cases from Baluchistan were filed in Supreme Court.
Deputy Commissioner Khuzdar submitted before the Supreme Court that total number of discovered bodies was 13 and that their identity was being established through forensic evidence. Asma Jahangir, a legal and social activist also confirmed that total 13 bodies were discovered. The Supreme Court, in turn, appointed Balochistan High Court judge Noor Mohammad Maskanzai to head a judicial tribunal earlier this month. Accompanied by Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shah, the members of the tribunal were given a tour of the area. They were flown to the site from Quetta where they examined around 10 graves; each one appearing to be different from the other; some had been dug 10 feet deep and others around seven. Thirteen bodies were recovered from Tutak; the identity of the corpses remains a mystery but other evidence sheds some light on the gory episode of the mass murders and attempts to bury the remains.
The judicial tribunal appointed by the Supreme Court discovered only a feet away from the graves, the remains of a training camp, apparently used by miscreants. The tribunal also found about 400 spent bullets from the area. The bullet casings matched the weapons classified as 9mm pistols and submachine guns. Casings of a 7mm sniper rifle were also collected from the location. More ominously, a number of cardboard shooting targets were also recovered. The heinous message of ‘Shia Kafir’ was inscribed on a piece of cardboard with a black marker; while the name of a militant organization was scribbled on top of another. Besides visiting the site, the tribunal recorded the statements of witnesses. It will submit its report to the Supreme Court within a month.
Baloch nationalists used the discovery of the graves to draw attention to their plight but in the bargain, they blew the issue out of proportions. Their baseless propaganda is aimed at creating misperceptions among domestic masses through emotional appeal. This can be used as a tool to exert pressure on Pakistan and embarrass it in international forums. The shenanigan of the Baloch nationalists is directly in line with their agenda. The US Congressmen have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Baloch nationalists. The aim of the Baloch nationalists’ anti-Pakistan propaganda in collaboration with US Congressmen is to gain credibility, increase pressure against the Government of Pakistan and internationalize the Baloch issue. Petitions were also sent to UN Secretary General for UN intervention in Baluchistan to stop and investigate the alleged genocide in the province.
The US Government and US State Department must not be endorsing the activities of its parliamentarians but it should look into the matter. Pakistan is a sovereign state and if the members of parliament of another state, sponsor separatists, encourage insurgents and start interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign independent state, their acts must be condemned. The support of the US Congressmen, even if they are rogues, is tantamount to anti-Pakistan activity and appears to be aimed at destabilizing Pakistan. It must be denounced and the propaganda campaign should be condemned by all Pakistanis, including the peace loving citizens of Baluchistan.
So far the United States government itself has not condemned the pro-Baloch sub- nationalists’ activities of some of its Congressmen. Interestingly, twenty states along with the states of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee, have filed petitions demanding independence. The last time some US States demanded secession, it resulted in the US Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865 and led to over 618,000 casualties. It remains an internal affair of the US; similarly US Congressmen should stop supporting Baloch sub nationalists’ propaganda and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. The US has otherwise been violating Pakistan’s territorial integrity and injuring its sovereignty by clandestinely supporting TTP to destabilise Pakistan, drone war, helicopter stealth raid in Abbotabad on May 2, 2011 and blatant attack on military posts at Salala in Mohmand Agency on November 26, 2011. It has also hurt the sensitivities of Pakistani nation by declaring it the most dangerous country in the world, its Army’s alleged collusion with militants, and insecurity of nuclear program.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran/defence analyst/columnist/author of 5 books, member Executice Council PESS, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors TFP. firstname.lastname@example.org