January 15, 2012

Baloch plight attracts US attention amid tense ties with Pak

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | Jan 15, 2012, 07.36PM IST


WASHINGTON: Baloch separatists achieved a significant diplomatic breakthrough on Friday, getting the US administration to recognize their grievances against the Pakistani state and persuading Washington to urge Islamabad to address their issues through dialogue.

At a time of tense relations with Islamabad, theObama administration chose a social media platform to air its concern about the plight of the Baloch, whose complaints about targeted killings and other human rights abuse has gone largely unnoticed by the world. The State Department on Friday responded to a question on Twitter from a Baloch nationalist on the subject, saying ''This was a very popular question on our feed, so we wanted to make sure that we answered it today.''

''The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Baluchistan, especially targeted killings, disappearances and other human rights abuses,'' spokesperson Victoria Nuland continued, adding that Washington takes the allegations of human rights abuses ''very seriously'' and had discussed these issues with Pakistani officials.

The question from @cadet1081 was provocative, asking the State Department why the United States does not intervene in Baluchistan and help the Baloch achieve freedom. But Nuland was circumspect in her response, noting for now that ''This is a complex issue,'' and Washington strongly believes ''that the best way forward is for all the parties to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue.''

Baloch separatists and nationalists, many of them targeted by the Pakistani state, have been slowly trickling into Washington DC (some of them through the political asylum route) in recent months and trying to highlight the plight of a region which did not readily sign up to Pakistan at the time of partition. They have had little success in a city of many competing causes, with hardly any lawmaker or analyst paying any attention to their issues.

Only Selig S. Harrison of the George Soros-funded Center for International Policy, a former AP and Washington Post correspondent in the region, has consistently highlighted their plight and supported their call for seceding from Pakistan. Another strategic affairs analyst, Ralph Peters, has also backed the idea of splitting Pakistan and creating a separate Baloch nation to weaken the Islamabad-Beijing axis and allowing U.S direct access to Afghanistan currently controlled by Pakistan.

But on Friday, far removed yet from the strategic strands, Baloch nationalists rejoiced in their diplomatic advance.

''Acceptance of (Twitter) question and the subsequent response from the Department's spokesperson is heartening,'' wrote Muatasim Qazi on the nationalist website Balochwarna. ''It should encourage educated Baloch youth to engage more in online activism and advocacy rather than mere futile political sloganeering or mud-slinging.'' One tweet noted: ''What an irony. Takes a superpower to convince us to look into our own issues.''

Resource-rich Balochistan has long been in ferment, going back to the 1970s, stemming from its forcible annexation by Pakistan at the time of partition from India, and its exploitation by the Pakistani military and the elite. Many nationalist Baloch leaders have been killed by the Pakistani army, and the issue of disappearances and human rights abuse of the Baloch, and reprisal killings of Punjabi settlers by the Baloch, has gradually come to the fore. But till this past Friday, Washington had not publicly recorded its views on the matter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Expansion through annexation has been Pakistan's style since the partition...Kashmir wuld have gone the same way if it was not for the intervention by India!