Baluch are a group of tribes speaking the Baluchi language and estimated at about five million inhabitants in the province of Baluchistan in Pakistan and also neighbouring areas of Iran and Afghanistan. In Pakistan the Baluch people are divided into two groups, the Sulaimani and the Makrani separated from each other by a compact block of Brahui tribes. Some 70 percent of the total Baluch population lives in Pakistan and approximately 20 percent inhabit the coterminous region of southeastern Iran. The Baluch people are mostly concentrated in the province of Baluchistan in Paksitan. It is estimated that approximately 55% of the Baluchis live in Baluchistan and 27% reside in Sind. Despite Baluchistan’s huge mineral wealth, Baluchistan is the poorest region of Pakistan. Much of the population is malnourished, illiterate and semi-destitute; living in squalid housing with no electricity or clean drinking water.
Cultural imperialism is another weapon. Punjabi supremacists have imposed an alien language, Urdu, on the Baluchi-speaking people. The cultural conquest of Baluchistan also involves the radical Islamification of the traditionally more secular Baluch nation. Large numbers of religious schools have been funded by Islamabad, with a view to imposing Pakistan’s harsher, more narrow-minded interpretation of Islam. Although Baluchistan is the largest province in Pakistan, the Baluch number only five million people and are outnumbered in their own province by Pashtun tribesmen and other non-Baluch settlers like the Shia Hazaras who arrived in the 19th Century.
What also irks the Baluch is that Pakistan allows the Afghan Taliban – who are Pashtun – to run their war against US forces in Afghanistan from Quetta, the provincial capital. In Iran too, Baluchis are a disadvantaged group. There some 2 million Baluchis concentrated in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, representing about 2 percent of the country’s total population. Iran’s Baluchi population is subject to economic and cultural discrimination and has been unfairly targeted by Iran’s security forces. As regards the religious preferences, Irani Baluch follow Sunni sect just to irritate the Shia regime. On the contrary, Pakistani Baluchs are more secular in their religious outlook. The question of Baluchistan has been an ongoing one since 1947.
However the government of Pakistan has distorted the historical facts to hide the truth. The Pakistani state has denied the Baluch people their basic rights. The ‘target killings’ have all the characteristics of a political assassination by Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies, in a long succession of what have come to be known as “kill and dump” operations targeting Baluch rebels, dissidents, and their families, both within and outside Baluchistan. The Baluch Diaspora is found throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Turkmenistan, East Africa, Europe, and North America and in other parts of the world. It is estimated to be around 3 to 5 million. Many Baluchs have migrated to Europe and America and from those Western shores; they carry the struggle for Baluchistan. The Baluch Diaspora in Europe and the US is especially active.
The most significant and the active group formed by the Baluch Diaspora is the Baluchistan house, which is supported by Mengal, Bugti, and Marri’s. Baluchistan house has taken a number of initiatives to bring the problems of Baluchis in front of the international community. One such initiative taken by the organization was the organization of a conference on ‘Human Rights and Security Perspectives for Baluchistan and Pakistan Post-2014’. The conference took place at the United Nations in Geneva on 10 March 2014, and attracted a large audience of diplomatic delegations, journalists, academics, and human rights defenders. Another major organization that presents the plight of the Baluchs in front of the international community is the International Voice for Baluch missing people.
The international community has been largely sympathetic to the Baluch cause. The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International and other human rights groups have verified and denounced the extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, disappearances, illegal detention and torture being used by Pakistani authorities to suppress Baluch aspirations to control their own affairs. On June 7, 2013, USA and UK supported nationalist leader Mehran Marri, Baluchistan’s representative to the UN, at the 23rd regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s general debate in Geneva. In 2014, the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament hosted the event titled “Baluchistan: Destiny Denied” in which Mehran Marri, special representative of Baluchistan to the EU, denounced the alleged army operation and remarked that the situation in Baluchistan can only be defined as genocide.
In the event, Canadian MP Russ Hiebert, British MP Andrew Percy, Baluch special envoy to the EU Mehran Marri and commentator Tarek Fatah condemned the alleged ongoing operation in the province and a systematic campaign to crush Baluch identity. The European Parliament, in a resolution adopted on 12 March 2014 asked the Pakistani government to take immediate measures to end enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions notably in Baluchistan. The Baluch Diaspora has highlighted to the global community about the grave human rights situation in Baluchistan and has that urged that more attention needs to be given by the international community in general, and the UN in particular, to human rights violations in Baluchistan, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings . The international community needs to step up its efforts to investigate the mass atrocities currently taking place.
Courtesy: New Delhi Times