Should Bangladesh call out the human rights abuse being carried out in Balochistan?
On the Holy Eid-ul-Azha, quietly thousands of Balochistan nationalists in exile observed “Independence of Balochistan” on August 11.
Their celebration was drowned in Pakistan’s tirade against Indian move to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under article 370 of the Indian constitution and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Baloch people living in agony in Pakistan have taken to Twitter to remind that the Balochistan was forcibly annexed to Pakistan against the people’s wishes.
The hashtags #BalochistanSolidarityDay and #BalochistanIsNotPakistan have been two of the top trends on Twitter on Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14.
Before the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, Balochistan consisted of four princely states under the British Raj -- Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan, and Makran, which is known as Balochistan.
Two of these provinces, Lasbela and Kharan, were fiduciary states placed under Khan of Kalat’s rule by the British, as was Makran which was a district of Kalat. The rulers of Kalat State first were subjected to Mughal emperor Akbar in Delhi and after 1839 to the British.
Only three months before the creation of Pakistan (in August 1947), Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the first governor-general of Pakistan, had negotiated the freedom of Balochistan under Kalat State from the British.
The series of meetings were held between the Viceroy, the British Crown’s representative based in New Delhi, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat regarding the future relationship with Kalat State and Pakistan.
The parleys ensued in a communiqué, popularly a Standstill Agreement on August 11, 1947, which stated that: The government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British government with a status different from that of Indian States.
The ruling Muslim League elites of Pakistan led by Jinnah had a change of heart and unilaterally decided to merge Balochistan with Pakistan Union on March 26, 1948.
Pakistan army forcibly occupied the Balochistan capital Quetta, raided the Amar Palace of Mir Sir Ahmad Yar Khan Ahmedzai, Khan of Kalat, who was also the President of the Council of Rulers for the Balochistan States Union and forced to sign a document of accession to Pakistan.
Since Balochistan was forcefully occupied in March 1948, the Baloch nationalists endured appalling human rights abuse, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings by Pakistan security forces.
In 1958, Pakistan military officer Tikka Khan brutally suppressed the first nationalist movement by Baloch people in 1958 and the military commander was dubbed as “Butcher of Balochistan.”
After 23 years, the hawkish Lt Gen Tikka Khan was rechristened as “Butcher of Bengal” for his role in the genocide in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The province is vastly rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, copper, and gold. Despite huge deposits of mineral wealth, Balochistan is one of the poorest regions of Pakistan.
Today, the resources are plundered by Pakistan junta in collaboration with China, in name game of Belt and Road project, which is fiercely resisted by the armed Baloch nationalists.
Mir Suleman Dawood Jan Ahmedzai, the 35th Khan of Kalat, in an interview to Bangladesh media, said that Balochistan was an independent country but Pakistan occupied it illegally.
Equating atrocities in Balochistan to the massacre of Bangalees by Pakistan Army during the 1971 Liberation War, Dawood, a self-exiled Baloch leader and grandson of ousted Yar Khan Mir Ahmedzai, sought Bangladesh’s support to raise the issue at the UN and help liberate the restive region from “Pakistan’s occupation.”
“They (Pakistan) are committing the same atrocities that they had committed with you,” said Mir Suleman Dawood, referring to Bangladesh’s independence struggle during which 3 million Bangalees were slaughtered.
“More than 25,000 people are missing and over a million displaced. First, people go missing and then they are found in the wilderness … tortured, bullet-ridden bodies,” he told Bangladeshi journalist Nurul Islam Hasib.
“Disappearances of people of Balochistan are the most burning issue in the country. Due to this issue, the situation in Balochistan is at its worst,” said Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal, commenting on the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry for Missing Persons on May 4, 2010.
Amnesty International, in a report, stated that, despite several pledges to resolve the country’s crisis of “disappearances,” Pakistan’s new civilian government has not yet provided information about hundreds of cases of people believed to be held secretly by the government in Balochistan.
International political think-tanks say that there is no global support of the Baloch movement for freedom because an independent Balochistan would result in more violence and destabilization.
Saleem Samad is an independent journalist and a recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award.