When NATO vaticinated that Muammar Gaddafi was on the cusp of filicide U.S. leaders felt morally obligated to bomb Libya -- a double standard of historic proportions considering they've stood idly by while Pakistan conducts systemic slaughter in Balochistan province in what historian Selig Harrison has described as "slow-motion genocide."
Unfortunately, America's sins go beyond silent complicity for the Pakistani state has misused billions in U.S. military aid (belied by its harboring of the world's most wanted terrorist) and has used U.S. military hardware -- including F-16s, Cobra helicopters and CIA listening devices -- to oppress the Baloch people on a daily basis, an oppression that features emotionally torturous tactics such as what the Baloch refer to by the literal euphemism "kill and dump" along with enforced disappearances at a clip that rivals Pinochet's Chile, with over 10,000 Baloch gone missing who are either dead or holed up in Pakistani detention centers in locations unknown.
I was apprised of these horrors last week at the First Balochistan International Conference in Washington, D.C. held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Dr. Wahid Baloch, President of the Baloch Society of North America (BSO-NA), granted me the privilege of speaking about how the U.S.-Pakistani "special relationship" has caused the Baloch an egregious amount of undue suffering driven by the nexus between military rule and Islamic extremism.
Aghast, I was listening to a roster of brave and noble Baloch speakers catalog the crimes against humanity Pakistan's government has inflicted upon the Baloch people since 1948 -- the year their brief independence was lost when Balochistan was forcefully incorporated by the Punjabi military into a Pakistani nation, which six months prior had been fabricated by imperial Britain.
The Baloch have yearned for independence ever since, but their situation has been entirely ignored by the world community, overlooking how Balochistan qualifies for secession by every international measure available -- another example of the global elite turning its back on an indigenous people whose self-determination is being undermined.
Haphazardly cobbling together disparate ethnic groups that had never coexisted, the British crown formed Pakistan to achieve its Cold War objectives, seeing Pakistan as nothing more than a strategic military zone, landing pad and listening post. Since the country's founding the Punjabi elite have ruled the other provinces as if they were colonies, underlining the crux of the problem, which is Pakistan's inheritance of Britain's "viceregal tradition," which for Balochistan has translated into a permanent state of martial law.
Truth be told, Balochistan fared much better as a princely state, when it was known as Kalat, under indirect rule during the British Raj, compared to the brutality they live through today as a result of Pakistan's "hands on" approach to governance. Occasionally using the typical proxy Muslim extremist groups, Pakistan, for the most part, has cut out the middle man and, without conscience, has brought police state tactics to bear directly against the Baloch.
Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have diabolically targeted the heart of the Baloch nationalist movement through the extrajudicial kidnapping, torture and assassination of journalists, human rights activists, young political workers, intellectuals and other of the cause's leadership.
Journalist Malik Siraj Akbar discussed the Pakistan government's pathetic attempts to rectify the situation, including Islamabad's plan to "reproduce" those missing. 15 months have elapsed since the empty promises were made with not one reappearance on record. As a matter of fact, no arrests have even been made -- as if people have vanished due to some unseen acts of nature, though the Baloch have witnessed activists whisked away in broad daylight by Pakistani security forces.
Balochistan has also been economically deprived by Islamabad. Though most of Pakistan's natural resources are located in Balochistan -- including natural gas, oil and minerals -- they are being usurped by the Pakistani state. Nearly 40% of Pakistan's gas is produced in the province yet the Baloch see a mere fraction of it.
Throughout the conference the speakers rightfully called upon the U.S. and international community to condemn the genocide and exploitation of Baloch resources. However, the members also asked for the UN to intervene to end the illegal occupation while some even suggested U.S. military support for the Baloch resistance might be a viable solution. I wasn't so sure.
I asked the gathered, in rhetorical fashion, if based on the history of Western intervention in the region they really wanted to experience America's idea of assistance. Although when cornered violence is a natural response, one must question whether militaristic reprisals have been successful in the least. I also reminded the group that U.S. foreign policy is at the root cause of the Islamic extremism that plagues the region, hence, the Baloch must be careful what they ask for.
With that being said, a number of nonviolent options do exist that the U.S. could and should undertake. For starters, silence is no longer an option. The U.S. and UN must recognize that Baloch disappearances, tortures and murders are occurring in the first place and must make Pakistan accountable for its pernicious acts. The U.S. must suspend all military aid to Pakistan, at once, and must ensure civilian aid packages are being equitably distributed.
The U.S. should support UN resolutions to establish Baloch independence, and the international community should work in tandem to pressure Pakistan, diplomatically, to agree to a balkanization of the region, which would establish Balochistan, Sindh and the Punjab as separate, standalone states while allowing Afghanistan to absorb the tribal areas to unite the Pashtun tribes.
The Western media can make an immediate impact by exposing the plight of the Baloch after years of neglecting to cover one of the biggest human rights tragedies of our time. Attempting to search the New York Times archives, for example, one is challenged to find an article over the past year that addresses the crisis adequately -- every story come across related to Balochistan is centered on Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura. Then again, not that it's any excuse, but the state has impressively squelched media coverage within Pakistan itself, leaving many unaware of the severity of their government's transgressions.
By now, one would think the U.S. would have -- at least once -- included the aforementioned human rights violations as a talking point in their discussions with Islamabad, but they tread lightly cursed by the delusion that Pakistan is indispensable to U.S. national security objectives as American policymakers continue to adhere to an absurd "war on terror" policy which hinges upon a state sponsor of it.
Baloch independence would actually satisfy America's geopolitical interests, considering a free Balochistan would represent a beacon of democracy in a region run amok with Islamic fervor -- a secular counterweight, a society that believes in a traditional nonviolent version of Islam and a people that respect the natural rights of each individual.
The U.S. must act with prudence, using every weapon at its disposal within its diplomatic arsenal as opposed to the stale foreign policy paradigms of the past, because the goal is to help the Baloch break their chains, and typical Western militaristic approaches will only serve to keep them in bondage.
Michael Hughes writes similar articles for Examiner.com.
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