The 8th February presentations on Balochistan, sponsored by Oversight and Investigation House Committee on Foreign Affairs at the Raymond House, Washington D.C has finally let out what had been cooking up for quite some time in the subterranean world of strategy formulating circles of State Department and the CIA. The ‘hearing’ was conducted under the chair of Congressman Donna Rohrbacher , whose command, or the lack of it, over the subject and its related issues was evident from the mere fact that he kept naming Pakistan’s largest province as “Balookistan”.
The majority of speakers in the witness box were Americans rather than Balochis, some of whom are well known for their outlandish ideas, reflecting a wishful mindset in the US establishment; doggedly promoting the pernicious idea of a free Balochistan. For the attainment of this diabolic objective their design envisages encouraging archaic Baloch forces whose institutional survival is linked to foreign support and largesse. Leading the pack was a retired American lieutenant colonel, Ralph Peters, whose claim to fame remains his contribution in the Jun 2006 issue of The US Armed Forces Journal presenting the idea of breaking up Pakistan to carve out a “Greater Balochistan”. In his largely circulated article, the Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East would Look, he had suggested incorporation of Pakistani and Iranian Baloch Provinces into a single political entity, in order to begin the process of political fracturing of Iran and Pakistan.
The onerous responsibility of presenting the ‘Baloch cause’ was resting on the shoulders of Dr. M. Hosseinbor, a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, who had earlier authored a book Iran and Its Nationalities: The Case of Baloch nationalism. Of Iranian descent and a well known figure in the US public diplomacy circles including CNN and BBC, the presence of Dr. Bor as a witness should be sufficient in understanding why the hearing was termed as a political stunt by Christain Fair; another member of the witness panel. T. Kumar, the Advocacy Director for International Issues for Amnesty International USA, of Sri Lankan origins, who called on the US to “apply the Leahy Amendment without waivers to all Pakistani military units in Balochistan” is another active member of the US public diplomacy team who has been active in projecting US hidden agenda in Bosnia, Haiti, Guatemala and now in Pakistan. The holding of the highly objectionable hearing which is a stark US interference into the internal affairs of Pakistan is loaded with ominous possibilities; calling for deliberations and well thought out action at our end.
First, US is very flagrantly providing sponsorship to Baloch nationalists to get a firm handle on Balochistan and the consequence is that America has become a lodestone to Baloch nationalists for gaining prominence, monetary resources and legitimacy. While these US chaperoned intellectuals can openly lobby their cause from the podiums in USA, Baloch Liberation Army hardcore terrorists, involved in large scale acts of terrorism in Pakistan, enjoy CIA patronage, money and shelter in the safe harbors of Afghanistan; right under the nose of the ISAF and NATO commands. Brahamdagh Bugti who is currently seeking asylum as a UN refugee in Switzerland remained for years in Afghanistan along with a large retinue before making his move to reach Europe where he is leading a posh life style , splurging millions of doled out dollars in ‘promoting the cause of his oppressed people’. So is Harbiyar Murree who is fabricating a poisonous propaganda campaign from UK and concurrently leading a band of proxy assassins to kill non-Baloch settlers, security officials and destroying infrastructure in Balochistan. One wouldn’t have to think too hard to unmask the sources of his seemingly inexhaustible funds sustaining his luxurious life style as well his bloody campaign.
Second, the voices from the witness box may sound as theater of the absurd, yet if one deliberates upon the tone, tenor and antecedents of the participants at Washington’s Balochistan hearing, a method to the madness is discernible. The context in which Balochistan is being framed is not human rights but its expanded interpretation , maliciously attempts to throw open the settled and sealed issue of a right of self determination for the Baloch population, not only in Pakistan but Iran as well; a devilish idea propounded six years earlier by Colonel Ralph Peters. It is highly questionable if this nightmare will survive the light of the day but certainly it provides a rallying cry to paid agents to destabilize the Region to create space for the US designs in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It comes across as truly ironic that while US has shown little inclination to support the UN sponsored call for self determination for Kashmir, an acknowledged disputed territory, her alacrity and enthusiasm towards right of self determination of the Balochis who are inseparable part of the Pakistani State, duly echoed by vehement expression of support from a posse of US legislators, comes across as a truly disgusting display of vested opportunism and double standards.
Third, even if it is an unequal contest of resources, power and reach, Pakistan must mobilize national media to expose the antecedents of the so called leaders of the Baloch cause and their extremely narrow support base. There are no Nelson Mandelas, as exuberant sections of the US media are wont to call some renegade scions of the decrepit Sardari system; who by themselves constitute the biggest hurdle to the forces of democratization, progress and change in Balochistan. From among 250 Baloch Sardars there are only three houses, the Mengals, the Bugtis and Marris who are supporting militancy. They have; particularly Marris and Bugtis, deep divisions and while some of them or their forefathers have remained the Chief Ministers of Balochistan, they have done nothing to improve the lot of their hapless people. Their much touted demands for autonomy and control over natural resources are not motivated to improve the lot of the Balochis but to cling on to the vestiges of a system that has outlived its life and is bound to disintegrate with the passage of time.
Lastly, we must deny space for maneuver to outside forces to run amok in Balochistan and take effective measures to cut the umbilical chord that siphons in money and weapons to feed militancy. As it turns out refusing permission to US to open a consulate in Quetta has been a prudent step. We must also clip the liberty of action of the foreign intelligence operators and contractors, working under the garb of diplomats and aid organizers, in line with the established norms and globally accepted diplomatic protocol , to ensure they don’t run roughshod over our vital security concerns in the highly sensitive and strategically placed province of Balochistan.
The writer is a freelance columnist.