Shrill Pitch for a Separate Balochistan Echoes in Social Media


What separates them is that while the Kurds at the frontline against IS get media attention, the Baloch, besieged by the ISI, hardly do.

By: Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Last autumn, I had a conversation with a vivacious young lady in Toronto.

It was a unique experience for me since I had never before spoken to someone outfitted in the uniform of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces.

The person I chatted with was Helan Abdullah, better known as Helly Luv, a pop superstar for Kurds worldwide.

Her newer music videos focus, sharply, upon the battle that her people are engaged in against the Islamic State.

In a behind the scenes clip from her latest video, Revolution, she points out, “We’re about three kilometers away from ISIS.”

Right now, the Peshmerga is actually and fighting not just the Kurdish people and Kurdistan. They’re actually protecting and fighting for the whole world.

—Helan Abdullah or Helly Luv 

Garnering Support Through Social Media

The Kurds have benefited from positive global coverage as they have emerged as a capable force against the savagery of the IS.

While still proscribed by the Turkish Government, the war engulfing the region may finally provide a pathway to an independent Kurdish state.

Helly Luv is its prime publicist, tweeting in tongues, like Hindi. For instance: “जब प्यार पागलपन ना हो तो वो प्यार नहीं है.”

But while the issue of Kurdistan gets international attention, another region with a similar crisis afflicting it is only now emerging on social media, trying to get the world to pay it heed.

Call for a Separate Country

While Kurdish territory spans parts of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, the Baloch people find themselves spread across the boundaries of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

Both populations survive in a region beset with violence, West Asia and Af-Pak.

The Kurds believe they deserve an independent homeland, the Baloch are insistent theirs was snatched away by Pakistan in 1948.

What separates them is that while the Kurds at the frontline against IS get media attention, the Baloch, besieged by the ISI, hardly do.

Balochistan is rich in mineral deposits and natural resources and home to the port of Gwadar, therefore central to the economic partnership between Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s government has tried to woo the self-exiled Cardiff-based Khan of Kalat to resolve the crisis, but those talks in Britain have collapsed.

‘Trend’ Tool

Even as the civilian government attempts a political solution to the impasse, the security establishment is carrying out undeclared military operations in Balochistan and, as the Khan himself noted at the recent meeting, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Baloch continue as before.

Dawn, Pakistani Daily 

Toronto-based Zaffar Baloch, president of the Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada), argues that while Islamabad wants to negotiate “on paper”, on the ground, Pakistan’s military has opted for a hardline stance given the massive Chinese investment in the province.

The situation of enforced disappearances, massacres, heli gunships has become part of daily life. There is a serious threat, targeting of the freedom struggle.

—Zaffar Baloch, President of Baloch Human Rights Council, Toronto 

That there is such a struggle in that area is news to many, since the Baloch issue has hardly figured in the mainstream media.

But in recent months, activists have taken to posting images and videos on social media, tagging news organisations and individual SM influencers.

“There’s a new upsurge, the social media cries out more,” Zaffar Baloch says.

That campaign has had limited impact. While #FreeBalochistan briefly trended on Twitter in India this summer, the Baloch have yet to gain sympathy beyond places like London, Geneva or Dubai, where the expat populations are mainly based.

There’s nothing on the scale of the well-organised demonstrations that the Kurdish diaspora have been able to field in European capitals.

Pakistan is a artificial country, & every Artificial product has it’s expiry date too. #14AugBlackday #Balochistan

Pakistani-Canadian commentator Tarek Fatah, who espouses the Baloch cause, however, is glad that “because of social media, there is greater awareness today.”

Our history, our land is antiquity independent frm 5yrs ago, no one can b distant it to us, #11AugustIndependenceDay

This week, Baloch tweeple have taken to hashtagging #11AugIndependenceDay and #14AugBlackDay.

Baloch as it will be celebrating Black Day on August fourteen. #14augblackday

That revolution may not be televised but it has certainly started trending.

Anirudh-Bhattacharyya(Based in Toronto now, Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a columnist and author of the humorous political novel, The Candidate.)

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