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Imran Khan’s Balochistan Lies

By Malik Siraj Akbar

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan’s recent remarks during his visit to India regarding the latter’s support for the uprising in Balochistan are not only regrettable but also totally misleading. Mr. Khan followed the oft-repeated propaganda manufactured by the Pakistani military establishment about the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan without backing his allegations with any evidence. His statement is a clear diversion from the actual ground situation and an attempt to provide a cover-up to the atrocities of the Pakistani army and security forces against the Baloch people.

While the Pakistani rulers, both civilian and military, barely have reproduced any evidence of a foreign country’s involvement in Balochistan, the Baloch people, on the other hand, have hundreds of eyewitnesses to prove the involvement of the Pakistani troops and and intelligence agents in forced disappearance of Baloch people, military operations and the torture of young political activists. The Baloch version of the story has even been authenticated by the Pakistani Supreme Court and numerous international human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International.

It is true that the Baloch see ‘foreign involvement’ on their land but that ‘foreign’ force, according to the Baloch, is none other than the Pakistani army and the Frontier Corps, which almost entirely comprise of troopers from the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Balochs want an immediate end to such ‘foreign involvement’ from their land they do not blame the United States, India or Afghanistan for the wounds inflicted upon them. If the Baloch consider the conflict absolutely homegrown and can also identify their ‘enemy’ within Pakistan, why should Mr. Khan feel the need to go to India to find the murderers of the Baloch people? We know that Balochistan’s culprits roam inside Pakistan, sometimes with uniforms and sometimes in plain clothes, with unquestionable impunity.

Considering Mr. Khan’s dramatic rise as the country’s third major political force during this year’s general elections, one expects him to at least demonstrate more maturity while speaking on critical issues like Balochistan that involve the lives of millions of people. He should craft his statements responsibly and accurately. It is unfortunate that Mr. Khan has has become sort of a spokesperson for the Pakistani military establishment on drones; an apologist for the Taliban and demagogue to promote hatred against the United States among an apolitical generation of young Pakistanis. He has to understand that Balochistan is a different place where the people would not easily subscribe to his demagogy and conspiracy theories. Balochistan may be the country’s least educated province but it is politically very conscious. It is this reason that Mr. Khan’s party failed to win even a single seat from Balochistan during the general elections of May. Maybe Mr. Khan is playing dirty politics on Balochistan to punish its people for not voting for his party.

Mr. Khan has remained absolutely indifferent to the plight of the Baloch people whereas he has emerged as a crusader against the drone strikes that have killed the top leadership of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Instead of squandering his time in support of the Taliban, Mr. Khan should pick up holier causes such as Balochistan where excessive use of military force has jeopardized the integrity of the federation. If leaders like Mr. Khan lie about Balochistan, they will only deepen the crisis in Balochistan and give the Baloch separatists a reason to ask for separation.

As far as the Baloch position on the alleged Indian support is concerned, there is every reason to be disappointed with New Delhi for not even uttering a word in support of the Baloch people. Every single day, the Balochs are brutalized by the Pakistani military and the security forces for allegedly receiving funding from India. On its part, the Indian parliament, media and civil society have never passed a parliamentary resolution or issued a media statement to express support for the Baloch. As the world’ largest democracy, India has a moral obligation to stand with the people who believe in democracy, secularism and human rights in South Asia. Even Pakistan does a far better job than India when it comes to speaking up on the rights of the “oppressed Muslims” anywhere in the world starting from Palestinian to the Burmese Rohingya Muslims.

Balochistan is a homegrown issue but the Balochs do feel that the international community, including the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and India, have done nothing to help them during these hard times. Do the Balochs need international support? Yes, why not? Are they receiving any foreign assistance right now? No; only Iman Khan knows about it. Would they welcome foreign assistance if ever offered to them? Well, why shouldn’t they?

Editor-in-chief The Baloch Hal; Huffington Post writer; Former Hubert Humphrey Fellow; ex-Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at National Endowment for Democracy. Washington DC.

Faiz Baluch