WSC, BHRC Observe International Day to Support Victims of Torture
Toronto, June 28, 2014 – World Sindhi Congress (Canada) and Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada) held a joint event to observe the United Nation’s 26 June International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. A large number of Sindhi and Baloch community members and families attended the event in Toronto to express their support for the victims of torture and enforced disappearances in Sindh and Balochistan.
Speakers paid rich tribute to Khair Bakhsh Marri, legendary leader of Balochistan’s independence struggle and elaborated on his life and struggle that has greatly contributed and influenced the political movements in Balochistan. Audience observed a moment of silence to honour the passing away of Khair Bakhsh Marri and the uncompromising struggle he steadfastly led to free Balochistan from the military occupation by Pakistan in 1948.
Farhan Soomro, Vice Chairman – WSC, Shahida Soomro and Yasmin Baloch hosted the evening’s proceedings and briefed the audience on the significance of the United Nation’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Dileep Ratnani, spokesperson, WSC (Canada) presented a slide show and a documentary prepared by Asian Human Rights Commission, highlighting the victims of torture and the involvement of the state apparatus of Pakistan in the cases of the missing persons, torture, extra-judicial murders and killing & dumping of Baloch and Sindhi political activists. He emphasized that in the cases of several Sindhi political activists, following their illegal abductions; they were tortured and burned alive. He presented 20 cases each from Sindh and Balochistan of the missing persons, abducted by the state secret agencies who were brutally tortured, some of them burned alive and later dumped in the fields.
Farhan Soomro, Vice Chairman, WSC presented a slide show highlighting the legal and international dimensions of what torture constitutes and the criminal nature of the act that is secretly or overtly supported by governments and countries who also are members of UN. He spoke on the matter of impunity and how governments get away with this crime against humanity and that there must be regulations to abolish torture worldwide and in countries like Pakistan.
Dr. Naseem Baloch, a victim of torture and central leader of Baloch National Movement (BNM) addressed the event via video message and described his experiences of torture and enforced disappearance by Pakistani security forces. Dr. Baloch was abducted twice – in 2005 and 2010 and was subjected to brutal torture by the Pakistani authorities. He stated that he was electrocuted, cut with sharp objects, beaten with leather baton and injected with chemicals. He added that other torture methods used on him were sleep deprivation and waterboarding. He stated that he is lucky to be alive after all that gruesome, humiliating and painful experiences in the Pakistani torture chamber.
Tarek Fatah, author and columnist and a great friend of Balochistan spoke on the destruction of culture and secular norms in Sindh when it joined by Pakistan in 1947 and the Arab invasion of Sindh by Mohammad bin Qasim in the 8th century. He said that these two incidents in history are the cause of all the social, economic and political ills in Sindh today. He emphasized, “If you desire independence from Pakistan, then Sindhi and Baloch nationalists should stop giving their children Pakistani or Arabic names. Instead name them from your own rich heritage. Send a message that you are no one’s slaves. And if you cannot take this simple step towards asserting your freedom, then forget about ever becoming free countries.” Tarek Fatah praised Khair Bakhsh Marri for his steadfastness on Balochistan’s independence struggle and further stated that all the issues of human rights, political and economic freedoms can only be achieved through complete independence from Pakistan.
Zaffar Baloch, President, BHRC – Canada
(Complete text of speech)
If the mountains of Balochistan could speak; they would tell a tale of blood and tears, decades of unwavering struggle with a single goal in mind – freedom. And if one man who measures up to be the author of this story of courage and wisdom, that man is Khair Bakhsh Marri, the architect of Balochistan’s independence struggle. He had the wisdom to understand the nature of the beast – the state of Pakistan – and the courage to challenge it against all odds.
Khair Bakhsh Marri’s passing away on June 10, 2014 has left behind a political vacuum in Baloch politics, hard to fill in the coming years. Canadian Baloch community shares the sorrow and the loss with the family members and the Baloch nation. On behalf of the Baloch community I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family members; Gazain Marri, Hairbyar Marri, Hamza Marri and Mehran Marri for the loss of a father who also is the father of the nation.
Khair Bakhsh Marri was a towering figure and an institution in Baloch politics influencing four decades of Balochistan’s current history. The ongoing struggle for independence is a testament to his legacy that will deeply influence generations to come. Much has been said about his political philosophy and struggle by Baloch as well as non-Baloch writers, journalists and media gurus. He has been portrayed as a nationalist, Marxist, chief of the powerful Marri tribe, leader of armed resistance, separatist and anti-state – some also suggested that Pakistani rulers failed to negotiate with him or used excessive military power that turned him into an enemy of the state.
Khair Bakhsh Marri was a creation of the anti-colonial struggles in the region and was greatly influenced by the national liberation ideologies that supported it internationally, but most of all it was in his blood to resist all forms of foreign dominance and forced occupation of his land and people. He inherited the culture of resistance and its methodology from his forefathers who fought the British Raj in the 19th century Balochistan. He strongly believed that history of a people is a cultural document that can be affectively used as a weapon against the forces of occupation. He was not a “separatist” a term used by colonizers to degrade struggles for independence – resistance to the British colonial power was not a separatist movement and neither the struggle for independence from the Pakistani military occupation has anything to do with separatism. In fact Pakistan itself is a creation of separatism based on religion that resulted in the division of the Indian Subcontinent. Khair Bakhsh Marri had a profound understanding of the Pakistani state and the colonial nature of its military institution born out of the British Indian Army with whom there could be no compromise.
The 1948 Pakistani military invasion of Balochistan is the foundation that sparked the Baloch resistance to free their land from foreign dominance, and the struggle continues to date after going through various phases. It should be very clear in our minds that Khair Bakhsh Marri was not “angry” with the Pakistani rulers as suggested by some in the media – being a Baloch patriot, he simply could not accept the idea of being ruled by a foreign army and resisted the occupation until the day his great heart stopped beating.
Today, Khair Bakhsh Marri’s legacy of resistance and his political vision regarding the true nature of Pakistani state has been proven beyond doubt. Pakistan Ideology has unleashed its demons in the form of Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Tayaba and several other state-sponsored Islamic extremist outfits in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to curb secular nationalist movements and to target religious minorities and Shia Hazaras.
Interestingly, wherever the Pakistan Army marches to repress peoples’ struggles, it develops in its wake an Islamist jihadist culture that attacks secular trends of tolerance and social harmony. Talibanization of civil society is the last line of defense in the protection of the state founded on Islamic identity. Today, Sindh and Balochistan are witnessing the worst sectarian violence in our entire history and the targeting of Hindus and Christians has become an everyday occurrence.
Enforced disappearances, torture, targeted killings of Sindhi and Baloch political activists and leaders has escalated in the recent years as state policy involving security agencies and secret death squads. Torture as a tool of state to repress political activism has gone beyond the confinement of a secluded chamber; the whole society is now bearing the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of state policies without hope of salvation and justice.
Zahid Baloch and Maqsood Qureshi are just a recent addition to a long list of victims of state brutality. And yet we have so-called civilian governments in assemblies who either seem helpless or simply don’t care what goes on in their backyard. Whatever the future holds for Sindh and Balochistan – one thing is for sure, the role of the state and its machinery will be the enemy as foreseen by Khair Bakhsh Marri.
Now it is up to us to choose our destiny or the state will choose it for us. As historic nations, Sindh and Balochistan have come a long way and experienced decades of subjugation that destroyed our societies beyond recognition. We are experiencing various forms of genocide and loss of culture, land and natural resources under the control of this military state called Pakistan.
As historic nations, we have the right to say no to the Pakistani state and its hegemony – we have the right to be free from this Pakistani killing machine – we have the right to be independent nations and live with honour and dignity. We will have to choose between freedom and the torture chamber called Pakistan. In the words of Khair Bakhsh Marri – independence should be our only goal.
Mumtaz Khan, Chairman, United Kashmir Peoples National Party, praised Khair Bakhsh Marri for his consistency in struggle for Balochistan’s independence and the clarity of his political views on Pakistan’s destructive role in the region. He said, “Balochistan is our only hope at the moment and the only clear struggle that is challenging the very basis of the state’s control and hegemony over oppressed nationalities and has the potential to bring dynamic changes for the region and other nations.”
Hajjan Kalhoro, WSC (Canada) mentioned the atrocities and human rights violations committed by the state of Pakistan against Sindhi people. He agreed with Tarek Fatah that Sindh’s original heritage was distorted in history with the Arab invasion centuries ago and that became also the basis for joining Pakistan in 1947, which was another blow to the language and culture and loss of our urban cultural and economic centres in Sindh.
Mohammad Ali Baloch, spokesperson, Balochistan Peoples Party (Iranian occupied Balochistan) and Secretary General, BHRC-Canada recited patriotic Balochi poetry dealing with subject of struggle, freedom and homeland.
Shahida Soomro, WSC recited Sindhi poetry presenting the humane philosophy of Shah Latif Bhittai and a culture of tolerance and love for all human beings