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Buried Human Rights, Global Geopolitics and Regional Repercussions: Balochistan in the Shadows

March 20, 2015:

With the aim to foster better understanding of and provide a platform for dialogue on the human rights, global and regional challenges related to Balochistan, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization will be co-hosting a side-event to the 28th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The event will take place in room XXI, Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 20 March 2015, from 15h00 to 17h00.

While a crucial factor when trying to understand the geopolitical complexities of South Asia, Balochistan, which covers part of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, receives very little international attention and is often overlooked in political analyses of the region. Rich in resources, Balochistan occupies an increasingly vital geo-strategic position, and has become the target for massive infrastructural projects, with Iran and Pakistan developing competing port, rail, and highway networks, in an attempt to further Central Asian trade through their own national territories. The heavy costs and technical challenges this entails has been encountered by investment from other states, including China, which in turn has led to mounting rivalry in the region.

At the same time, the human rights situation in Balochistan is drastically deteriorating, with the region’s respective governments failing at their most basic duty — to protect the safety of their citizens and enforce rule of law. In Iran, a state driven systematic assimilation policy threatens the continuation of the Baloch identity, and the increased number of executions since President Rouhani’s tenure has disproportionally affected Baloch prisoners. In Pakistan, where Balochistan makes up the largest of four administrative provinces, the relentless campaign by the state’s covert agencies to target and suppress innocent Baloch civilians and political activists intensified throughout the year 2014: in July, the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) was passed, indirectly representing a legal waver for law enforcement agencies and the military to conduct enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and torture, as well as to further restrict the freedom of the press. Moreover, due to a recent constitutional amendment military courts, instead of civilian ones, are now allowed to handle terrorism cases, raising fears that this will serve as a pretext to try Baloch civilians without respecting their fundamental freedoms. Also, the discovery of mass graves and several reported cases of acid attacks against young women and girls in Balochistan further point towards an escalating spiral of violence in the region. Worse still, these gross human rights violations are taking place at a time when Britain and USA are still supporting Pakistan financially and militarily.

Moderator:

Paulo Casaca, Founder and Executive Director of the South Asia Democratic Forum, former MEP

Confirmed speakers:

Athar Hussain, Director of the Asia Research Centre, London School of Economics

T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director, Amnesty International USA

Abubakar Siddique, Senior Correspondent for Afghanistan-Pakistan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Burzine Waghmar, Senior Teaching Fellow and Academic Member, South Asia Institute and Centre for the Study of Pakistan, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Russ Hiebert, Member of the Canadian Parliament

Peter Chalk, Senior Politcal Scientist, RAND Cooperation, USA

Karlos Zurutuza, Freelance Journalist for Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Vice, The Middle East Eye

* * *

ALSO see:

On the occasion of the 28th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Nonviolent Radical Party (PRNTT) will present the short movie ‘The Line of Freedom’. The film screening will be followed by an expert discussion on enforced disappearances, aimed at analysing this core human rights abuse and offering a stimulating debate with the audience.

Thursday 19th March, 17:00 – 18:00 at the Palais des Nations, Room XXVII, Geneva

Directed by David Whitney ‘The Line of Freedom’ is a short film that sheds light upon the horrendous practice of enforced disappearances and killings of ethnic Baloch, which continue to take place in Balochistan. The storyline is symbolic of the fate of thousands of Baloch over the past years.

Background information:

Balochistan, which covers part of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, receives very little international attention and is often overlooked in political analyses of the region. At the same time, the human rights situation in Balochistan is drastically deteriorating, with the region’s respective governments failing at their most basic duty — to protect the safety of their citizens and enforce rule of law.

In Iran, a state driven systematic assimilation policy threatens the continuation of the Baloch identity, and the increased number of executions since President Rouhani’s tenure has disproportionally affected Baloch prisoners. At the same time, since 2003, thousands of ethnic Baloch have been abducted by the Pakistani military in Balochistan, the majority being students, human rights activists, doctors, journalists, teachers, musicians and lawyers. Today more than 10 000 are still missing.

Expert Discussion:

Moderator:

Susann Nowack, UNPO

Experts:

Nasser Boladai, Spokesperson of Balochistan Peoples Party, Sweden

Wendy Johnson, Writer and Publisher, Crisis Balochistan, USA

Tony Hasnath, Actor in the movie 'The Line of Freedom', United Kingdom

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