February 22, 2010

BALOCHISTAN: Bangkok Conference pictures

Now it is Pakistan Vs Balochistan.

Bangkok Conference, titled "Balochistan Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Meeting the Challenges" invited he ire of Pakistan. Here are some pictures of conference and protesters at "The FourWings Hotel", Bangkok.


Balochistan Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow:
Meeting the Challenges

Concept Note

Balochis of Pakistan have been on the wrong side of history for no fault of their own. They were the victims of imperial conspiracy and colonial oppression during the colonial period and they have been under illegal occupation since 1947. The state of Pakistan has treated Balochis as second-class citizens and viewed their genuine demands for cultural autonomy and economic justice with suspicion. The elites of Pakistan have regarded Balochistan both as a strategic outpost and a resource rich terrain which can fill their coffers and boost the economy of Pakistan. Balochistan has lured them with its rich resources and strategic geopolitical location.

Balochistan has 48 per cent of total territory of Pakistan and mere 5 per cent of population. It is endowed with rich mineral wealth (natural gas, coal and minerals). With the construction of a new deep sea port at Gwadar, Balochistan has even become more strategically important for Pakistan. It is projected to act as the hub of an energy and trade corridor which will connect Pakistan with China and the Central Asian republics.

However, the Balochis have been treated with absolute scorn and contempt. In terms of human develop index, Balochistan is at the bottom of the table in Pakistan. There has been no plausible effort to develop this human resource of this state. The infrastructural and physical developments (Gwadar port, Mirani dam, coastal highway, and cantonments) introduced in the state are limited to some pockets and aimed at enriching the economy of the Pakistani state. Such lopsided development has resulted in the creation of colonies where people from other states are being encouraged to migrate and settle down. At another level, new cantonments have been established to ensure the state’s control over the territory and people of Balochistan.

Impartial accounts have suggested that “the development scene in Balochistan is appalling and the extent of relative deprivation in the province is unspeakable”. 25 per cent of the population has access to electricity (national average, 75 per cent). The male literary rate is 18.3 per cent and the female literacy rate seven percent. Compared to the 340 vocational institutes and commercial and law colleges in Punjab, Balochistan has only nine such institutes in urban areas, with poor infrastructure. It has the highest infant and maternal mortality ratio in South Asia.

All in all, the demographic changes taking place over the years have reduced Balochis to a minority in their own land. The Pashtuns dominate the north and soon, Punjabis will dominate the south. The Balochis will be sandwiched between the two and forced to toe the line. Despite being a resource-rich province, Balochistan is today marked by a high rate of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and infant and maternal mortality. A government report revealed in October 2009 that Balochistan is the most backward province in terms of HDI in Pakistan. It is almost 21 per cent below the national average while Sindh is below the national average by 10 per cent.

Any voice of protest from the Balochis has been silenced through brutal display of state power. Rather than addressing the genuine grievances of the people of Balochistan, the state of Pakistan has tried it best to suppress dissent through force and fraud. Agreements have been made in the name of Holy Quran and then dissolve without any qualms. Baloch leaders starting from Nawab Nauroz Khan till Nawab Bugti and Balach Marri have been termed as traitors and liquidated by the Pakistani state. The return of democratic rule after the fall of the military regime headed by Musharraf has not changed matters much. The army is busy eliminating all promising Balochi youth who have raised their voice against the gross injustice and military excesses in the name of preserving the integrity of the Pakistani state. The politicians have tried to evolve a political solution to the problem but they have only rehearsed the measures taken in the past, which were unacceptable to the Balochis. The state has brazenly promoted Islamist elements in Balochistan to wipe out the ethnic identity of the Balochis and destroy their secular credentials.

In these circumstances, it has become impossible for the Balochis not to raise their voice of concern against such brazen oppression. In fact, a significant section amongst the people of Balochistan considers Pakistani occupation of Balochistan as illegal. They regard the signing of accession by then Khan of Kalat as being done under duress and argue that the representatives of the people of Balochistan had decided against joining Pakistan. That is why they continue to fight for total independence of Balochistan from Pakistani hands. The more moderate elements who have demanded autonomy for the province and just share in the national resources, in terms of their contribution to national economy, have also been disillusioned with their stand and concluded that they cannot expect Pakistani state to grant them their due without a fight.

After the failure of the democratic methods, a large section of the Baloch youth has launched an armed struggle to liberate their territory from Pakistani control and this has been termed a movement to realise their right for self-determination. Many among them have demanded reopening of the case of accession and delegitimize Pakistani claim that Balochis joined Pakistan put of their free will. There are also concerted efforts to acquaint international community with the gross human rights violations and genocide attempted by the Pakistani army during the last five years. Balochi diaspora in Europe, the Gulf states and north-America are now closely coordinating their activities to lend moral support to their hapless brethren fighting an unending battle with the fourth largest army in the world.

In this context, it will be useful to organise a meeting of Baloch leaders, scholars and civil society activists, along with political scientists and strategic analysts focussing on Balochistan from Pakistan and around the world in a neutral venue and discuss the issues concerning the people of Balochistan.

It is proposed hereby to organise a three-day conference in either Bangkok or Singapore and invite about 20 participants to attend it and engage in a brainstorming exercise to find out the ways and means through which Balochis can attain their goal.

The objectives of the conference are:

i) To provide a historical analysis of the Baloch struggle for their rights and independence.
ii) To enumerate the acts of genocide and human rights violation by the Pakistani army and bring out a compendium for wider circulation.
iii) To critically analyse the policies of the Pakistani state vis-à-vis the Balochis.
iv) Evaluate the role played by the Baloch leadership, both past and present, and point out their short-comings.
v) Isolate and analyse the ways in which the state is trying to address the problem
vi) Identify the ways and means through which Balochis can coordinate their activities and sustain their struggle.

The end products will be following:

i) A compendium of human rights violation by the Pakistan army in Balochistan.
ii) A book containing the papers presented at the conference
iii) A dedicated website for coordinating the activities of disparate sections

1 comment:

Thebaloch said...
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