Six steps to halt the conflict, protect human rights & secure self-rule
“The national democratic movement of Balochistan is weakened by the lack of unity and coordination and by the lack of a peace plan to secure a negotiated political settlement to the six-decades-long conflict,” said London-based international human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
He is today reiterating the “road map for self-determination” that he outlined at the conference on the future of Balochistan, held earlier this year at the Royal Society in London and organised by UNPO, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.
His UNPO speech can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/60679199
Mr Tatchell reemphasised that the major challenge for the Baloch people is “the absence of a programme to deescalate the conflict, end human rights abuses and secure a negotiated political settlement leading to self-determination for the people of Balochistan.”
“There are many laudable aims from many different sectors of the Baloch national democratic movement. But there is no agreed plan on how to get from where the Baloch people are now to where they want to be in the future.
“A plan and unity are vital for success.
“Without a concrete plan for peace and self-determination it will be much more difficult to secure the support of the international community. They want to see a consensus on how the nationalist movement proposes to solve the conflict.
“The Baloch people can put Pakistan on the spot by offering a negotiated political settlement and setting out the means to achieve it.
“I speak as a friend of Balochistan who is very mindful that the future of Balochistan is a matter for the people and national democratic movement of Balochistan. It’s not up to me or any other outsider to make any such decisions. I offer advice, experience and knowledge but the future of Balochistan must be decided by the Baloch people.
“What I’m doing is offering a few ideas for consideration. These ideas are not mine alone. They are the result of discussions I had with a group of Baloch national activists in Geneva in 2010, when we went there to lobby at the United Nations.
“This is our draft road map for peace and self-determination:
“First, there should be a ceasefire and the cessation of military operations by all sides; with Pakistan agreeing to withdraw troops and paramilitaries to barracks, halt the construction of new military outposts and permit independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peacekeepers.
“Second, all political prisoners should be released and the fate of all disappeared persons accounted for.
“Third, there should be unfettered access to Balochistan by news media, aid agencies and human rights organisations.
“Fourth, displaced refugees should be allowed to return, have their properties restored and receive compensation for losses caused by the conflict.
“Fifth, the population transfer of non-Baloch settlers into Balochistan should end.
“Sixth, there should be a UN supervised referendum on self-determination, offering the people of Balochistan the options to remain part of Pakistan, greater regional autonomy and full independence.
“These six ideas are only tentative, draft proposals. They are open for further discussion, refinement and amendment. But they are a starting point for a united front for Baloch emancipation. Surely all Baloch nationalists, whatever their other differences, can agree with them?
“My advice is: concentrate on the issues around which you can unite and then the Baloch movement will be stronger, more effective, and you’ll be taking the first step on the road to a long-delayed, much-deserved freedom,” said Mr Tatchell.
The full text of Peter Tatchell’s speech follows below.
“Time to Talk Peace in Balochistan: Solutions To End An Era of Terror”
Full text of Peter Tatchell’s speech at the Royal Society in London, 24 February 2013.
Thank you very much to UNPO and to all of you for being here today. It’s a great honour to speak alongside so many esteemed speakers who have done so much to profile the Baloch cause.
As many of you will know, I have worked with the Baloch national democratic movement in an attempt to bring international attention to the human rights abuses in Balochistan, both on the Iranian and Pakistani sides. Much of this has been done through my articles in The Guardian newspaper and elsewhere.
What I want to share with you today are some tentative, draft ideas on the potential way forward for the people of Balochistan.
I speak as someone who has been campaigning for more than 40 years, promoting democracy movements and the right to self-determination in countries such as Zimbabwe in the days of white minority rule during the 1970s – and in Angola, East Timor and South Africa.
I am bringing my experience and knowledge to the table – my experience and knowledge of how they succeeded in moving from a regime of occupation to a successful liberation movement that secured independence.
This is the big challenge for us now: how do we get Balochistan from where it is at this moment to where we want it to be in the future.
I speak as a friend of Balochistan, but I’m very mindful that the future of Balochistan is a matter for the people and national movement of Balochistan. It’s not up to me or any other outsider to make any such decisions. I offer advice, experience and knowledge but the future of Balochistan must be decided by the Baloch people.
So what I’m doing today is offering a few points and ideas for consideration. These ideas are not mine alone. In fact, they are the result of discussions, which I had with a group of Baloch national activists in Geneva in 2010, when we went there to lobby at the United Nations.
These discussions came down to the recognition of three major problems faced by the national democratic movement of Balochistan.
Firstly, the lack of unity within the Baloch movement. Secondly, the under representation of women within the Baloch movement. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important point, the absence of a road map to secure a negotiated political settlement. These are the three big challenges that the Baloch movement now faces.
The first major challenge is that the Baloch democratic national movement needs to find a way to become more united. The lack of unity and the divisions that exist are major obstacles to advancing the Baloch movement for self-determination. To create a national united front is fundamental to success.
Right now, we have a great deal of disunity with many different political parties and guerrilla movements, sometimes with competing sectarian agendas and political rivalries. Whatever these political differences are, surely there are fundamental principles on which they can and should all agree?
This strikes me as absolutely crucial for any advancement.
If you look all throughout history, national liberation movements have only won when they have been united. For me, the unity of the Baloch movement is vital to its success. People have to learn to sink their egos, agendas and histories, and recognize the common issues that unite them.
We saw the consequences of division and disunity in Angola in 1970s. There were three competing national liberation movements: the FLNA, MPLA and UNITA. They all fought their own sectarian quarter, and this delayed the process of winning independence. If they had been more united, I am sure they would have won independence from Portugal many years earlier.
After independence was won, Angola became a bloodbath, as the three movements then fought each other for control of the new state. Hundreds of thousands of Angolan people died. Even today, people are still living with the bloody legacy of that sectarian civil war.
Contrast Angola with South Africa. In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) was able to present a program, the Freedom Charter, which united the different elements of South African society that wanted to end Apartheid. Indeed, the ANC succeeded in uniting roughly 85% of the non-white population behind its broad-based inclusive unity program. That’s why, thankfully, South Africa post-apartheid did not experience bloody sectarian violence, as seen earlier in Angola.
I think these contrasting histories show that division does weaken national democratic movements. Unity is strength. A united national liberation movement is a stronger, more effective movement. This surely has to be one of the key aims of the Baloch people.
The second big challenge to overcome is to increase the participation of Baloch women in the national struggle. I am aware that in some instances, in Balochistan, women have participated in protests, but overall there is an absolutely catastrophic under-representation of Baloch women.
Just look at this room, just look at the panel of speakers. When I go to Baloch protests in London and Geneva, it is 95% men. How can Balochistan win its freedom if it doesn’t involve half the population? You are denying yourselves the effectiveness of the female half of the Baloch people! It’s completely irrational – you are undermining your strength.
No people have won their freedom without women on side. Every successful movement, from the Vietnam liberation struggle to South Africa and the struggle against Apartheid, women have been at the forefront. This is part of the reason why those movements have won.
Right now, the Baloch freedom struggle is operating on half strength, and that’s got to change. The empowerment of women is fundamental to the success of the Baloch cause. The place of Baloch women is not in the home; it is on the frontline of the freedom struggle. If you want to win, you have to change.
The third big challenge is the absence of a peace and self-determination plan. There are many laudable aims from many different sectors of the Baloch national democratic movement. But there is no coherent, generally agreed plan on how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
It is absolutely essential that there is a plan – a road map – setting out how to end the occupation and the human rights abuses, if you are going to move towards a negotiated political settlement.
If you can’t present a plan for peace and self-determination to your own people and to the international community, you are putting yourselves in a position of extraordinary weakness.
The Baloch political movement needs to put Pakistan on the spot by proposing a coherent plan saying: “This is what we want. This is how we’re going to get from here to there”. The international community also wants to see a plan. They want to see what you stand for. How are you proposing to solve the conflict?
If you have not got a plan, then the Baloch people are not going to be taken seriously.
What I did in Geneva with my Baloch colleagues was to draft some tentative, provisional ideas, which we called the “Baloch Freedom Charter”.
I would like to briefly share parts of it with you.
These proposals are an attempt to map out the very simple principles by which you can move the Baloch national movement forward.
First, the Baloch people should demand a ceasefire and the cessation of military operations by all sides. Furthermore, the Baloch people should demand the withdrawal of troops and paramilitaries to barracks and a halt to the construction of new military bases and outposts, combined with independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peacekeepers.
Second, all political prisoners should be released and the fate of all disappeared persons should be accounted for.
Third, all of Balochistan should be open to news media, aid agencies and human rights organisations.
Fourth, displaced refugees should be allowed to return, have their properties restored and receive compensation for losses caused by the conflict.
Fifth, end the population transfer of non-Baloch settlers into Balochistan.
Sixth, a UN supervised referendum on self-determination, offering the people of Balochistan the options to remain part of Pakistan, greater regional autonomy and full independence.
Now, these ideas are only a very broad outline. They are open for further discussion, refinement and amendment. But they are a starting point.
The Balochistan national movement needs to present a credible, practical program to be taken seriously – to promote the right of self-determination and to unite the people of Balochistan.
The people of Balochistan rightly want to know what this movement is about, where it’s going and what it wants to achieve. Without a document that sets out a plan for transition and change, they won’t know. Without a concrete programme of demands, the Pakistanis and the Iranians will not be under pressure. Without a document, the international community will be reluctant to come forward to offer its support to the Baloch people because they won’t know what the Baloch people want or how they intend to achieve it. I agree.
This outline programme could be much more detailed and much more specific. But there is virtue in simplicity and brevity. Looking at the Freedom Charter of the ANC, it contained a mere ten key points.
In this speech I have only mentioned six demands. Whatever the differences and divisions between the relevant Baloch political parties in Eastern and Western Balochistan, these six principles are demands that surely everyone can agree with.
Concentrate on the issues around which you can unite and then the Baloch movement will be stronger, more effective, and you’ll be taking the first step on the road to a long-delayed, much-deserved freedom.