August 16, 2005

Sindhis, Baluchis stage protest demonstration on Pakistan’s Independence Day

By Priscilla Huff,

Washington: Non-resident Pakistani protestors, most of them from Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, gathered outside the Pakistan Embassy in Washington on Sunday to protest against the celebration of that country’s 58th Independence Day.

The protest was jointly organized by the World Sindhi Institute and the Baloch Human Rights International.

Claiming that Pakistan had no right to celebrate the event when there was a consistent and constant violation of human rights in that country, Dr. Malek Towghi of the Baloch Human Rights International said: “Our people have been deprived of their basic human rights and for the last 58 years or so , after Pakistan, Balochistan was occupied illegally by the Punjabi military of Pakistan. So, we want our relationship with this so-called country of Pakistan to be regularized at least by a social contract.”

Dr. Towghi further went on to say that Pakistan independence Day was a reminder to the Balochis of the problems that they were facing back in Pakistan, which was quite similar to what the people of Kashmir were experiencing.

“The Balochis feel that they were an independent nation that was supposed to chose to join Pakistan. Only they were occupied by the newly formed Pakistan Army,” Dr. Towghi said.

He also expressed his despair over the Bush Administration’s support of the military-backed regime in Pakistan.

Emphasizing the fact that Sindhis and Balochis were proud to be American citizens, Dr. Towghi, however, said that they were “baffled as to why Washington continues to support Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.”

“I’m proud to be an American, what I’m saying is unforunately by my tax dollars, my president is supporting a dictator, talking about democracy in Iraq rather than where it was,” Dr. Towghi said.

Criticising the Pakistan Government’s crackdown on Balochis, he said: “We want democracy, we want our basic. We aren’t necessarily secessionist but like Bangladesh, we might not have another choice. So what we need,especially from the civlized world, especially from the western world and especially from the civilized, democratic countries like India, and Japan, not only the West, we all request them, please help us to maintain, to establish, to re-establish democracy for which we, and now the civilized world seems to be a little more interested.”

“The basic problem is, our political rights. Because we ask for our political rights and the other problem now is, Balochistan is now a very...I tell you one thing, 80 percent of Pakistan’s gas goes from Balochistan, from one gas field only. It is a naturally resourceful country and now they are simply trying to do what they did with Sindh, bring in Punjabis to settle under the name of development and we will be a helpless minority, like Ameican Indians here,” Dr. Towghi added.

Humaira Rahman, the founding director of the World Sindhi Institute Chapter just founded in Canada, said that Pakistan’s Independence Day should be seen as a day of reckoning for the government and the people

“It isn’t a day to celebrate really, because the people of Sindh and Balochistan are ruthlessly opressed, suppressed, exploited, and we’re here to register our protest,” Rahman said

“The Balochis and the Sindhis have come together because they have been at the receiving end of military oppression since the birth of Pakistan. Time and again, when push has come to shove, the military has not hesitated to go into Sindh and Balochistan and round up the opposition, incarcerate them, torture them, whatever needs to be done to silence them,” she added.

The protestors also highlighted the sufferings of Pakistani women like Dr. Shazia Khalid and Mukhtar Mai, both of whom had been raped. Rahman went so far as to term the state of women’s rights in Pakistan as abysmal.

“Very few women actually speak out. They suffer shame, they suffer dishonor and they just keep quiet about it or many, many commit suicide. They just live a life of traumatized silence. Few come out, Dr. Shazai Khalid is one of them Mukhtar Mai came out, increasingly, women are coming out. The hudood ordinances has not been repealed. It was put to the Parliament by the opposition earlier this year. It was rejected. The government that has been formed is a government with mullah and military support,” Rahman said.

“I think what this protest does is to tell them, they know it, this is nothing new, they know very well what is going on inside Pakistan, but I think that it is important that they realize that we are not going to be silenced,” she added.

“The one thing we’d like to accomplish is to bring to the world’s attention that what is happening, the only root, the only pathway to rooting out terrorism, is to have, is to uphold democracy and human rights and that is not happening in Pakistan,” she concluded.

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