Pakistanis should speak up for Baloch people who are facing mass “oppression and injustice” from the establishment otherwise the international community will start speaking up for them, a former top Pakistani diplomat warned on Friday.
“Either Pakistanis speak up for Balochistan or others would speak up for the Baloch,” the former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said at an event to pay homage to Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was killed by Pakistan forces 10 years ago.
“Our greatest tribute to him and other Baloch killed for raising their voice would be to speak out against oppression and injustice in Balochistan,” he said in his address to the event organised by the American Friends of Balochistan at the National Press Club. “At the same time, we should not let Balochistan become a battleground for rival external powers. The people of Balochistan deserve better than being oppressed by Rawalpindi and Islamabad or being used as pawns in international great games,” he said.
“Instead of attacking and destroying the Baloch, Sindhis, Pashtun, or Muhajirs, the Pakistani military establishment should focus on eliminating safe havens for international terrorists like al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban,” Haqqani demanded. Understanding the sentiments of the Baluch, some of whom are now completely disillusioned with Pakistan, the former diplomat said instead of using force against the Baloch it would be best to recognise the sentiments and aspirations of the Baloch people.
“It is tragic that those who advocate talks with globally recognised terrorists such as the Taliban, have an intransigent position when it comes to engagement with the leaders and people of Balochistan,” he said. Only a few days ago, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Bizenjo acknowledged that “if a referendum were held in Balochistan today, the militants would win”.
He added that there will be no referendum, implying that the status quo would prevail through force, Haqqani observed. Asserting that Pakistan’s history is replete with mishandling of various ethnicities and nationalities, Haqqani warned that the transformation of erstwhile East Pakistan into Bangladesh should be a lesson in the limits of military power in building a nation or keeping a country together.
“Starting from the 1970s the Baloch have been fighting for more autonomy within Pakistan. Their struggle has been brutally suppressed by the Pakistani state,” he alleged.