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Human Rights Violations in Balochistan Raised in the UK Parliament

Human Rights Violations in Balochistan Raised in the UK Parliament

Yesterday [21 November 2017], in the House of Commons, Foreign Office Minister Mr Rory Stewart affirmed that the UK continues to raise reports of human rights abuses in Balochistan with the Government of Pakistan. The statement by Mr Stewart – who is Minister of State at the Department for International Development – was an answer to this question, asked by the Member of Parliament Mr Bob Blackman: “What representations has my right honourable friend made to the Government of Pakistan about human rights abuses and the desire for freedom in Balochistan?” Click here to watch a video of this moment.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and most resource-rich province, responsible for 40% of Pakistan’s primary energy production. However, it is also the least developed province, following decades of economic exploitation through the plundering of natural resources and the systematic economic deprivation, social and political exclusion of the indigenous Baloch people. According to the 2016 report of the United Nations Development Programme, 71% of people in Balochistan live in multidimensional poverty.

Human rights violations are commonplace and have been reported by organisation such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The frequent abuses committed by the Pakistani military against the Baloch people, often used to suppress their peaceful calls for justice and equality, include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

Having the issue raised at the UK Parliament is an important milestone for those who advocate for the rights of the Baloch people and against the violence they are subjected to: freedom of expression is a right long-suppressed in Balochistan by the Government of Pakistan, which makes it crucial for the matter to be approached internationally.

Giving voice to the victims of these atrocities requires, furthermore, requires the attention of the media and the public opinion around the world. Therefore, the WBO launched, earlier this month, the #FreeBalochistan campaign in the streets of London, with adverts carrying slogans such as “Save the Baloch” and “Stop Enforced Disappearances”.

The campaign has been attacked by the Pakistani Government, which pressured UK authorities and succeeded in having WBO’s banners removed from London cabs. Transport for London (TfL) claimed that the slogans raised matters of public controversy and sensitivity, which makes them unacceptable according to the clause “2.3(h)” of the TfL Advertising Policy.

However, the same clause states that adverts promoting “the right to life, liberty and security” are usually accepted in spite of any controversy. These are exactly the issues raised by the #FreeBalochistan campaign – however, TfL has repeatedly refused to make any suggestions or to accept WBO’s suggestions for new slogans (such as “Stop Killings in Balochistan” and “Raise your voice for human rights in Balochistan”).

TfL’s refusal to engage in dialogue reveals that the company made the decision to ban WBO’s adverts, a discriminatory move considering that other human rights adverts have previously been previously accepted, for example, a recent campaign highlighting the crisis in Myanmar on London buses.

WBO reaffirms the peaceful, respectful and legal character of the #FreeBalochistan campaign and urges UK authorities to support the struggle against human rights violations in Balochistan. The campaign is ongoing, in spite of all the obstacles which have been imposed to it, with billboards on roadsides all around the city of London.

Mr Bob Blackman’s initiative to raise this long-forgotten issue in the UK Parliament has brought a valuable contribution to the struggle of the Baloch people, in a moment when it is crucial for the issue to be discussed and carefully taken into account by the UK authorities.

Posted by WBO Media Team
WBO adds to its #FreeBalochistan campaign in London

WBO adds to its #FreeBalochistan campaign in London

The World Baloch Organisation (WBO) launched, earlier this month, an advertising campaign on London taxis, buses and roads focused on highlighting Pakistan’s human rights abuses in Balochistan.

 

Despite attempts by the Pakistan government and Transport for London (TfL) to censor our advertising campaign, removing banners from cabs and buses, our billboard advertising campaign is going ahead on roadsides all over London.

 

Furthermore, the WBO has added new messages and a new design to its #FreeBalochistan billboard campaign in London, with the slogan “Raise your voice against Human rights abuses in Balochistan”. The campaign is ongoing on roads all around the city and its surroundings, catching the attention of Londoners by highlighting Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in occupied Balochistan.

 

The WBO has repeatedly urged the International community to hold Pakistan accountable for its crimes against humanity in Balochistan, including the numerous and frequent cases of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture.

 

Bhawal Mengal, responsible for the organisation of WBO’s campaign, said: “Our campaign aims to highlight the situation in Balochistan, which has long been concealed. Local journalists are not allowed to report on the situation – the ones who do are either abducted or killed – and the international media is prevented from entering Balochistan. Therefore, we believe such campaigns can be very effective in highlighting the situation, attracting attention from public opinion and gaining support in our struggle for human rights”.

 

Pakistan has denounced the advertising campaign as “malicious”, “anti-Pakistan” and an attack on the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

 

The Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Syed Ibne Abbas, has called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to order the banning of the adverts. The UK Ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, has been summoned by the Goverment of Pakistan and stated that such adverts “should not be allowed.”, a statement condemned by WBO, which has acted strictly in the terms of law and under the universal right to freedom of expression.

 

The WBO maintains that it will continue with the campaign, peacefully and respectfully, speaking out against human rights violations in Balochistan.

Posted by WBO Media Team
TfL colludes with Pakistan’s attacks on freedom of expression

TfL colludes with Pakistan’s attacks on freedom of expression

After ordering the removal of the #Free Balochistan Campaign’s banners from London cabs and buses, giving in to pressure from Pakistan’s authorities, Transport for London (TfL) has issued a letter of apology to the High Commissioner for Pakistan, Syed Ibne Abbas (click to access the letter: page 1 and page 2). In the document, TfL apologises for the company’s “oversight” and stresses that it stands by Pakistan’s demand for the shutdown of the campaign – a serious offence to freedom of expression.

 

The #FreeBalochistan campaign approaches the dire human rights situation of the Baloch people, focusing on attracting public attention to the cause in London by displaying slogans such as “Save The Baloch” and “Stop Enforced Disappearances” on banners and billboards on London’s cabs, buses, underway passages and roadsides.

 

The letter proves that the Pakistan High Commission sent letters to TfL on the first day of the campaign, November 2nd, and on November 7th, when the third phase of the #FreeBalochistan campaign kicked-off, with banners on London’s red buses. The High Commission has allegedly pointed to breaches of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), apart from TfL’s own policies, and has threatened the company with a legal action. Nevertheless, as previously pointed out by the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), the campaign is in full accordance with both TfL’s clause (h) promoting life liberty, security, and ASA’s norms.

 

TfL has also affirmed that cabs which have not complied with the order of removal have been notified with an unfit notice. According to a source in TfL, one of the drivers, who refused to remove #FreeBalochistan’s banners, has had his license removed. TfL has threatened to do the same to all drivers who, standing with the right to freedom of expression, display the #FreeBalochistan banners or similar adverts. The TfL spokesman added that an amended advert was recieved but has been rejected and all advertisers have been told not to display the amended adverts, which the WBO feels is unjust, discriminatory and seems like an attempt to appease Pakistan by giving into their illegitimate demands of banning our campaign regardless of of the content.. Furthermore, TfL’s Commissioner Mike Brown assured Pakistan’s High Commissioner that any adverts planned by the advertising agency hired by WBO should be sent to TfL before being installed, an unusual procedure.

 

WBO reaffirms the peaceful, legal and respectful character of #FreeBalochistan, Stop Enforced Disappearances, Save the Baloch People and urges TfL to stand by “Life, Liberty and security” as its guidelines state and reconsider its ban on promoting human rights.

Posted by WBO Media Team
Press release: WBO condemns statement from UK High Commissioner to Pakistan

Press release: WBO condemns statement from UK High Commissioner to Pakistan

Defending human rights in Balochistan

 

WBO’s press release in response to the statement issued by the UK High Commissioner in Islamabad, Thomas Drew, after being summoned & pressured by Pakistani authorities over the ongoing awareness campaign which highlights the human rights situation in Balochistan

 

The Baloch people reject the statement issued by the UK High Commissioner in Islamabad and demand an immediate clarification.

 

London, UK – 16 November 2017

 

“The World Baloch Organisation (WBO) condemns the statement made by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, regarding our ongoing advertising campaign in London. Rejecting the call to “#FreeBalochistan”, “Stop Enforced Disappearances” and “Save the Baloch people”, his statement said: ‘We [the UK] fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan of which Balochistan is and will continue to be an integral part.’ The WBO sees this statement as partisan and contradicting the very values and principles the UK stands for. The Honorable British High Commissioner is in no position to know or decide what the people of Balochistan want or what the future for Balochistan might be. According to UN Charter, which Britain has signed and pledged to uphold, the people of Balochistan have a right to self-determination. Only the people of Balochistan have the authority to decide their future. We see the High Commissioner’s statement as wilfully ignoring the UN Charter and a blatant denial of the right to self-determination of the Baloch people by the UK government’s representative. We urge the UK governmet to take notice of his statement and clarify its position on the well documented case of human rights violations in Balochistan. We hope the UK government will uphold the UN charter and respect the sentiments of the millions of Baloch people around the world “

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a long-time supporter of human rights in Balochistan and is backing the advertising campaign:

“Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. This is an outrageous bid to subvert our democratic tradition of allowing the free exchange of ideas. Pakistan’s iron-fisted rule in Balochistan is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter the region. These adverts are much needed to defend the human rights of the Baloch people and to expose the atrocities of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.”

The World Baloch Organisation, which advocates for rights of the ethnic Balochs who live in the Balochistan regions straddling Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, launched its campaign on London’s black cabs, billboards and buses to highlight the “war crimes and gross human rights abuses” of the Islamabad government.

The WBO maintains that it will continue its campaign by peacefully and respectfully, speaking out against human rights violations in Balochistan.

Posted by WBO Media Team
Phase 3 of #FreeBalochistan campaign: London bus adverts

Phase 3 of #FreeBalochistan campaign: London bus adverts

Bid to highlight Pakistan’s human rights abuses in occupied Balochistan

In spite of all attempts to ban and censor its adverts, the World Baloch Organisation has this week launched the third phase of its “#FreeBalochistan” advertising campaign: more than 100 London buses are carrying adverts that say “Free Balochistan”, “Save The Baloch People” and “Stop Enforced Disappearances”.

Bhawal Mengal, spokesperson for the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), which organised the advertisements, said:

“This is the third phase of our London campaign to raise awareness about Pakistan’s human right abuses in Balochistan and the right of the Baloch people to self-determination. We started with taxi adverts, then did roadside billboards and now we are advertising on London buses. The attempts by the Pakistan government to pressure the UK to ban our adverts has failed. The campaign is powering ahead and will continue for weeks to come. The bullying tactics of Pakistan are an attack on freedom of expression. They are an anti-democratic bid to censor the voice of the Baloch people and cover up the war crimes of the Pakistan army in Balochistan. This is a peaceful advertising campaign. Pakistan’s aggressive reaction is a bare-faced attempt to intimidate the UK government and Baloch human rights defenders.”

Pakistan government officials, in a clear bid to quash freedom of expression and to intimidate human rights activists, called the campaign “malicious” and “anti-Pakistan.” They pressured the British government to remove WBO’s adverts. Indeed, within 24 hours, Transport for London ordered the removal of the taxi adverts; though the billboards remained because they were not on TfL property.

WBO will continue, peacefully and respectfully, to speak out against human rights violations in Balochistan.

Articles regarding the WBO campaign have been published by Pakistani and Indian media, and by the British newspapers The Independent and The Guardian:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pakistan-london-black-cabs-adverts-free-balochistan-remove-condemned-a8040641.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/08/human-rights-adverts-transport-for-london-banned-balochistan-pakistan

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a long-time supporter of human rights in Balochistan and is backing the advertising campaign:

“Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. This is an outrageous bid to subvert our democratic tradition of allowing the free exchange of ideas. Pakistan’s iron-fisted rule in Balochistan is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter the region. These adverts are much needed to defend the human rights of the Baloch people and to expose the atrocities of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.”

Noordin Mengal, another leading WBO human rights campaigner, added:

“Tens of thousands of Baloch people have been murdered or disappeared by the Pakistan security forces. The killings are happening right now and are sadly aided by American weapon systems that are being diverted to attack the secular and progressive Baloch people, including the misuse of US supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters.

“Balochistan was previously a British protectorate that was granted independence in 1947. It was forcefully annexed by Pakistan in 1948 and has been militarily occupied ever since. The people of Balochistan have been denied the right to self-determination, contrary to the UN Charter.

“The World Baloch Organisation is a peaceful, lawful lobby against Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in Balochistan,” said Noordin Mengal.

Posted by WBO Media Team
UK Media Denounces Pakistan’s Attack on WBO Campaign

UK Media Denounces Pakistan’s Attack on WBO Campaign

On the 2nd of November, the World Baloch Organisation (WBO) launched the #FREEBALOCHISTAN campaign in London, focusing on the dire situation of the Baloch people and urging for the end of enforced disappearances in Balochistan. The campaign kicked-off with a series of banners advertised on cabs, which circulated around the city of London getting the attention of pedestrians and drivers. In a clear attack to freedom of expression, the Pakistani government pressured local authorities to shut down the campaign and, shortly after, Transport for London (TfL) ordered the removal of the banners from the cabs. Since then, articles have featured in some of the major British newspapers denouncing Pakistan’s attack on the WBO campaign, a clear offense to freedom of expression. However, WBO has moved forward to the second phase of the campaign, which includes billboards on some of the main roads of London and its surroundings (see photo above), and will remain committed to raising awareness of the human rights violations committed against the Baloch people.

 

Below are extracts of the articles published, respectively, by The Guardian and The Independent:

“Transport for London appears to have caved in to pressure from the Pakistan government and banned London taxi advertisements that draw attention to its human rights abuses in the war-torn disputed province of Balochistan […] Pakistan’s high commissioner in London, Syed Ibne Abbas, requested the Foreign Office ban the adverts. The UK high commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, was summoned by the government of Pakistan and told that such adverts ‘should not be allowed’. Within 24 hours, TfL ordered the adverts to be pulled, ostensibly on the grounds that they were ‘controversial and sensitive’ in violation of clause (h) of its advertising policy. However, the advert organisers, the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), argue that most reasonable people would not regard the wording as controversial or sensitive. They note that clause (h) states that adverts promoting humanitarian-type causes will “not normally be disapproved”, even if they are controversial or sensitive […] WBO activists allege that Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. It’s iron-fisted rule is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter Balochistan. These adverts are necessary to expose the crimes of Pakistani forces, they argue […] TfL needs to rethink its decision. The appearance of kowtowing to a government that is committing daily atrocities is a bad look. I hope the mayor of London will intervene to get WBO’s adverts reinstated.” (Peter Tatchel for The Guardian)

“Transport for London has said ‘Free Balochistan’ adverts put up by a human rights charity must be removed from black cabs in London. The move follows an attempt by the Pakistani government to have the adverts removed, though TFL told The Independent the advert did ‘not comply with our advertising guidelines’.  The World Baloch Organisation, which advocates for rights of the ethnic Balochs who live in the Balochistan regions straddling Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, launched its campaign on London’s black cabs on Monday highlight the ‘war crimes and human rights abuses’ of the Islamabad government. It said the Pakistani government has put unfair pressure on the Foreign Office and Transport for London, which regulates black cabs, to remove the adverts. The #FreeBalochistan adverts, which also carry slogans saying ‘Stop enforced disappearances’ and ‘Save the Baloch people’, were launched as part of a campaign to increase awareness of the conflict in south-west Pakistan which has periodically flared up since Partition in 1947 […]” (Caroline Mortimer for The Independent)

 

Posted by WBO Media Team
Pakistan Demands UK Ban Adverts Urging to #FreeBalochistan

Pakistan Demands UK Ban Adverts Urging to #FreeBalochistan

Pressure on Foreign Office, UK ambassador summoned in Pakistan

Attack on freedom of expression. Bid to censor and intimidate

London, UK – 6 November 2017

The government of Pakistan is demanding that the British government and Transport for London remove “#FreeBalochistan” adverts from the sides of London taxis (photos available or see the link below).

The adverts also say: “Stop enforced disappearances” and “Save the Baloch people”.

In response to Pakistani government requests, Transport for London has ordered the adverts to be pulled from taxis on the grounds that they violate its advertising policy but it has not said which specific rule has been violated. The Baloch campaigners plan to appeal the decision of the transport authorities.

A parallel billboard campaign has gone ahead on London roads today as planned. 

(see the photo above)

The adverts seek to highlight Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in occupied Balochistan and affirm the right of the Baloch people to govern themselves.

Pakistan has denounced the advertising campaign as “malicious”, “anti-Pakistan” and an attack on the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Syed Ibne Abbas, has called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to order the banning of the adverts. The UK Ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, has been summonised by the Goverment of Pakistan and told that such adverts “should not be allowed.”

https://dailytimes.com.pk/134135/pakistan-summons-uk-envoy-lodge-protest

Bhawal Mengal, spokesperson for the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), which organised the advertisements, said:

“The bullying tactics of Pakistan are an attack on freedm of expression. They are an anti-democratic bid to censor the voice of the Baloch people and cover up the war crimes of the Pakistan army in Balochistan.This is a peaceful adverstising campaign. Pakistan’s aggressive reaction is a bare-faced attempt to intimidate the UK govenment and Baloch human rights defenders. We do not believe the adverts violate any Transport for London policies. They are not political. Our advertising has a human rights theme similar to the adverts of Amnesty International in 2016 in support of the Human Rights Act, which were accepted by Transport for London. We will appeal against the ban.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a long-time supporter of human rights in Balochistan and is backing the advertising campaign:

“Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. This is an outrageous bid to subvert our democratic tradition of allowing the free exchange of ideas. Pakistan’s iron-fisted rule in Balochistan is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter the region. These adverts are much needed to defend the human rights of the Baloch people and to expose the atrocities of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.”

Noordin Mengal, another leading WBO campaigner, added:

“The World Baloch Organisation has today (Monday 6 November) launched a “#FreeBalochistan” advertising campaign on London taxis and billboards, to alert the British public, media and politicians to Pakistan’s secret, dirty war in  Balochistan. This war of terror involves the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Baloch villages, and the kidnapping, torture and assassination by the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies of anyone who peacefully opposes the military occupation and human rights abuses by Islamabad.

“Tens of thousands of Baloch people have been murdered or disappeared by the Pakistan security forces. The killings are happening right now and are aided by British and American weapon systems that are being diverted to attack the Baloch people, including US supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters.

“Balochistan was previously a British protectorate that was granted independence in 1947. It was forcefully annexed by Pakistan in 1948 and has been militarily occupied ever since. The people of Balochistan have been denied the right to self-determination, contrary to the UN Charter.

“The World Baloch Organisation is a peaceful, lawful lobby against Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in Balochistan,” said Mr Mengal.

 

Further information:

Follow our twitter page @WorldBalochOrg

Posted by WBO Media Team
House of Lords Conference Highlights Human Rights Situation in Balochistan

House of Lords Conference Highlights Human Rights Situation in Balochistan

Find below a press release by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization:

On 19 July 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), together with the World Baloch Organization (WBO), organised the conference “Wall of Silence: Human rights in Balochistan”, at the House of Lords in London. Hosted by Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb (Green Party for England and Wales), the event discussed Pakistan’s suppression of human rights in Balochistan, focusing on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and on the shutdown on journalists and international organistions. Distinguished experts from various backgrounds presented their experiences and ways forward, in a fruitful exchange of ideas at the British Parliament.

Baroness Jenny Jones de Moulsecoomb opened the event with an overview of the situation in Balochistan, from extrajudicial killings to economic exploitation and the persecution of those who oppose the implementation of CPEC. The Baroness talked about the importance of raising awareness about these issues and of gathering international support to bring peace to the Baloch people. Mr Noordin Mengal, human rights campaigner (WBO) and moderator of the panel, gave the floor to the first speaker, Mr Burzine Waghmar, Senior Teaching Fellow and PhD candidate at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Mr Waghmar focused on the impact of CPEC in Balochistan, presenting a historical overview that showed how China’s regional ambitions have affected disadvantaged groups in Pakistan for decades and how the Pakistani government has collaborated with these ambitions even before the Indo-Pakistani deal in 1947. According to him, CPEC represents the colonization of Pakistan for the enrichment of China, and highlighted with concern the fact that China is unlikely to take into the consideration the contexts of the various ethnic groups in the country while pursuing the implementation of the Economic Corridor. Furthermore, Mr Waghmar noted that Pakistan’s statehood is based on a fragile framework with no national basis, in which Pakistani military acts with no legitimacy and with violence against local populations.

Before giving the floor to the second speaker, Mr Mengal reminded the audience that CPEC is not the first project of exploitation of natural resources by outsiders in Balochistan: natural gas and copper are key resources that have been exploited by Punjabis and Chinese, while the government denies the local population their rights to partaking in the richness that results from the use of the resources of their own land.

Ms Angela Stanzel, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, highlighted the centrality of Balochistan in Pakistan-China relations, considering the amount of investments dedicated to the region by the Chinese, mainly for the Port of Gwadar. According to Ms Stanzell, CPEC has been fueling conflict in Pakistan and particularly in Balochistan, as it became a target for political opposition and extremist groups. She noted that the feeling of Baloch people of being neglected and left behind was not born with CPEC, having been consolidated throughout history while Balochistan was subjected to exploitation and while its inhabitants were denied their rights. Ms Stanzell also drew attention to the fact that CPEC seems to be a model for the projects that China intends to implement worldwide, which must be regarded with concern considering that no investment is directed to local communities, increasing tensions in regions that are already unstable and raising censorship and violence against those who dare to oppose the project.

Ms Carlotta Gall, who spent ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, talked about her experiences under the intimidation and the violence to which both foreign correspondents and local journalists are subjected by Pakistani intelligence officers and military in Balochistan. According to Ms Gall, journalists are followed by Pakistani intelligence officers from the moment they touch ground in the region and are intimidated not only with physical violence, but also with threats to the safety of their loved ones. Local journalists are instructed not to work with foreigners, which make reporting on the region even harder. She affirmed that her experience proved to her that Pakistan is not interested in allowing the Baloch people to have a voice – their focus is solely allowing military plans and economic projects such as Gwadar to move forward. Approaching the fact that journalists, students, political activists are often arrested, tortured and murdered, she concluded that people are given little choice to be active in helping their communities, which fuels the rising of groups that resource to violence in order to fight for survival and dignity.

Mr Peter Tatchell, from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, focused on the possibilities for Baloch people to succeed in their struggle for peace and respect for their rights. Mr Tatchell reminded the audience that Pakistan is widely dependent on Western support, which means that raising international pressure in the context of IOs and CSOs is likely to have a strong impact in reducing the military pressure on the Baloch people. He highlighted the importance of a well-delineated plan that gathers different Baloch organizations and groups, based on principles of social justice, human rights and democracy. According to Mr Tatchell, by uniting around some central demands – such as the release of political prisoners, a UN-sponsored ceasefire and a referendum on independence, and free access to the region for human rights organizations and journalists – Baloch people will be able to mobilize a comprehensive international solidarity movement to support their struggle.

Mr Fernando Burgés, UNPO Programme Manager, noted that the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Pakistan stand out as particularly dire and noted that events such as “The Wall of Silence” are of paramount importance to give a platform for these peoples’ voices to be heard, while they are silenced in their own countries. The conference came to an end with Mr Mengal urging states such as the United States and the United Kingdom to revise their policies regarding Pakistan, taking in consideration the situation of disadvantaged communities that have been suffering with human rights violations for decades.

 

Here you may find all the photos of the event, courtesy of Mick Morgan Photography

Watch the World Baloch Organisation’s live stream of the conference here.

Posted by WBO Media Team
WBO Seminar: “Hanging by a Thread: CPEC, Progressive Nationalism and the Growth of Religious Extremism in Balochistan

WBO Seminar: “Hanging by a Thread: CPEC, Progressive Nationalism and the Growth of Religious Extremism in Balochistan

On the 18th of July 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the World Baloch Organization (WBO) organised the seminar “Hanging by a Thread: CPEC, Progressive Nationalism and the Growth of Religious Extremism in Balochistan”. Held at the London headquarters of Amnesty International, the event brought together eminent human rights advocates and academic experts, offering a platform for constructive debates on the struggle of indigenous peoples and minorities and state violence in Pakistan, and the future of Balochistan.

Panel moderator Mr Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, opened the debates highlighting the importance of raising awareness and concern about the situation in Balochistan, neglected by the international community and even by most human rights organisations.

Mr Athar Hussain, director of the London School of Economics (LSE) Asia Research Centre reminded the audience that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – which will give the landlocked western part of China a direct link to the Arabian and Indian Sea – is part of a wider network of Chinese projects, the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), composed of six different corridors. Mr Hussain affirmed that the project is, indeed, likely to bring economic benefits, mainly regarding energy provision and considering the current energy shortage in the country. Nevertheless, he stated, the concerning matter is the way these benefits will be distributed. CPEC will not necessarily bring benefits to the regions through which it passes, being likely to bring more development to regions that are already developed, instead of poor areas such as Balochistan. Mr Hussain also noted that CPEC is designed to bring profit to China more than to other parts involved, and that structural issues in Pakistan such as corruption and tax evasion are also to be taken into consideration when analysing the prospects of local development.

Ms Mahvish Ahmad, currently a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, spoke about her experience reporting on Balochistan, where she witnessed the state and military violence and oppression against the Baloch people. According to Ms Ahmad, the situation has become more difficult because of increasing censorship by the military and fragmentation not only between tribes, but also between Baloch groups. She stressed that the silencing of solidarities among oppressed groups hinders their potential to succeed. Furthermore, Ms Ahmad shed a light on the fact that Pakistani army’s unlawful activities and cases of state violence are not reported in the country, while some extremist groups’ comparatively small actions – although not less reprehensible – are the ones more often highlighted in the media.

Mr Naseer Dashti, exiled Baloch anthropologist and the author of several books on South Central Asia and Balochistan, talked about the concerning prospects of CPEC altering demography in regions such as Balochistan, where already oppressed groups are bound to become minorities as Han-Chinese workers and – as it happened around the port of Gwadar – Punjabi businessmen are likely to settle as the corridor is implemented.

Mr Burzine Waghmar, PhD candidate and Senior Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) emphasised that “Pakistan is a failed state that refuses to fail”. Mr Waghmar poignantly conveyed how the CPEC infrastructure will in no way benefit the Baloch indigenous population, as there are no coal, solar or wind projects planned for the area. Mr Waghmar placed the challenges posed by CPEC in a context of decades of human rights violations inflicted upon the indigenous Baloch population, such as enforced disappearances – and how the US$46-billion-dollar mega project will accelerate these.

First ever Baloch Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Mr Rafiullah Kakar took the floor to discuss the future of the Baloch question and whether it can be solved within the Pakistani federal framework. Mr Kakar underlined how the Pakistan was born with tensions regarding the multi-ethnic and multinational character of its territory, and soon started to see this as a potential threat to the state unity. He lined out several changes that need to occur in Pakistan to solve the Baloch question, such as less power to the Pakistani army, creation of a plural national government and direct elections of senators. He emphatically concluded his contribution by affirming that “The state’s coercive capacity and ability to manipulate consent, even creating fragmentation and hindering solidarity between tribes, is far too strong in Balochistan”.

The contributions were then followed by an interactive question and answer session, where the audience got the chance to discuss Baloch progressive nationalism, repercussions of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on different non-Punjab Pakistani ethnic communities and what concrete measures would be most effective for the direct future of Balochistan – to effectively end the atrocities inflicted upon its people.

Posted by WBO Media Team
Plight of Baloch People Receives Much-needed Attention in Washington DC: UNPO Conference and Congressional Briefing Address Human Rights, Conflict and US Interests in Balochistan

Plight of Baloch People Receives Much-needed Attention in Washington DC: UNPO Conference and Congressional Briefing Address Human Rights, Conflict and US Interests in Balochistan

On 10 May 2016, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) convened a conference on the deteriorating human rights and security situation in Balochistan and the geopolitical complexities affecting the region. The conference entitled “Land of Forsaken Voices: The Geopolitics of Justice, Impunity and Human Rights in Balochistan” took place at the Carnegie Endowment Conference Center, and was followed by a Congressional Briefing hosted by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The conference heard speeches from, among others, Nasser Boladai (President of UNPO), Sen. Paul Strauss (District of Columbia, Shadow), T. Kumar (Amnesty International USA), Bob Dietz (Committee to Protect Journalists), Malik Siraj Akbar (Baloch Hal), Waheed Baloch (Baloch International League), Michael Hughes (journalist), and Paulo Casaca (South Asia Democratic Forum).

Opening the conference, Nasser Boladai welcomed the participants and gave a brief overview of the history of Balochistan, highlighting the region’s geopolitical importance. Senator Paul Strauss (District of Columbia, Shadow) then commended the platform provided by UNPO for unrepresented nations and peoples to raise their concerns at the international level and to learn from each other’s struggles, for “none of us is free until all of us are free” (watch a video of his opening remarks here). UNPO Programme Manager Johanna Green, delivered an introductory statement on behalf of Noordin Mengal (human rights activist), deploring the situation in Balochistan, caused partly by the problem that “Pakistan is a country, where the military is the judge, the jury and the executioner”.

The first panel looked at the human rights situation in Balochistan, and in particular at the state of press freedom and the systematic persecution of journalists in the beleaguered region. All speakers highlighted the need to combat impunity given that – even though it is common knowledge that state officials are involved in blatant human rights abuses – none of the perpetrators are ever held accountable for their transgressions. As T. Kumar put it, “they just kill people”, in an attempt to break the backbone of Baloch society. Bob Dietznoted that Pakistan is the 6th deadliest country in the world for journalists, with Malik Siraj Akbar adding that “selected, biased and distorted journalism has become the new normal in Balochistan”.

The second panel looked at the geopolitics behind the Balochistan-Pakistan conflict. Waheed Baloch, President of the Baloch International League for Peace and Justice, raised the point that it is of utmost importance to not look at the case of Balochistan exclusively through a ‘human rights lens’, but also analyse the geopolitical framework informing the situation there; the actual conflict between the occupier and the occupied. Journalist Michael Hughes added that the US State Department, unfortunately, shows only marginal interest in the severe situation the Baloch find themselves in because of Islamabad’s reckless behaviour in Balochistan. Explaining the EU’s perspective on the situation and harkening back to the topics covered in the first panel, British MEP Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia) in a video statement reiterated the need to pressure the Pakistani government to conform with international human rights standards.

The third panel focused on possible ways forward to address the Balochistan question. Paulo Casacapresented a five-point road map which, if implemented, could help solve the imbroglio by first implementing a ceasefire, thereby paving the way for open and sincere negotiations, to then initiate reconciliation processes and enshrine cultural and self-determination rights for the Baloch in the Constitution.

Following the conference, some of the participants and speakers headed up to Capitol Hill, where U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) presided over a Congressional Briefing co-organised with UNPO. During the briefing Rep. Gohmert reiterated his support for an independent Balochistan, saying that it would not just be in the interest of “our friends, the Baloch people”, but would also help the US “immeasurably”. He added that the West must help the Baloch, a “people who are being suppressed, terrorized and being driven out from their homes”, and pointed out that US policy-makers need to be educated about the severity of the Baloch peoples plight.

Noordin Mengal, in a written statement given on his behalf by Johanna Green, reiterated the need for the US and the international community at large to take action and pressure the Pakistani government into putting an end to the atrocities committed against the Baloch people. Nasser BoladaiWaheed Balochand lawyer and author Dr. Hossein Bor also elaborated on the detrimental effects of Iran’s and Pakistan’s policies vis-à-vis the Baloch populations in the respective countries.

 

You can find videos of the participants’ contributions on UNPO’s Youtube Channel.

If you wish to view more photos of the conference, please visit the album we published on our Flickr account.

Posted by WBO Media Team