Francesca Marina (right) speaking at the function in New Delhi. Capt. Alok Balsal (left) is also seen
New Delhi: Francesca Marina, an eminent Italian scholar and editor in chief of ‘Stringer Asia’, who has visited Balochistan several times and regularly keeps a close watch on the happenings there, said what is happening in Balochistan today is not simply the human rights violation, it is systematic pogrom being carried out by Pakistan and a war leading to extermination of a culture. She said the conditions in the region are akin to the happenings in Bosnia. “What is happening in Balochistan today is not the problem of simple human rights violations. It is genocide by Pakistan army. It is a pogrom undertaken by Pakistan against the Baloch people. More than 18,000 people have just disappeared and some of them have been founded killed or inhumanly tortured in the streets,” she said while joining a discussion on Balochistan at Nehru Memorial Library and Museum on November 24.
The discussion was organised by Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum (AEHRF), a think tank dedicated to human rights issues, in collaboration with the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library. The topic of discussion was “Human Rights in Balochistan: European Perspective”. Noted scholar Shri KN Pandita presided over the discussion. The discussion was also joined by scores of Indian and foreign intellectuals, researchers, academicians.
Francesca Marina, an avid South Asia watcher, appreciated the fight by Baloch against the cruelties by Pakistan. “Even after the systematic genocides taking place there, the people of Balochistan are fighting against the cruelties by Pakistan,” she said while tracing the history of the occupation of Balochistan by Pakistan also clearly outlining the way in which Pakistan took over an independent province in 1947. She also outlined how over the years Pakistani Frontier Corps and the ISI have brutally put down a peoples movement for independence in Balochistan. Pakistan has been able to escape international condemnation over the issue because of the Chinese support. Citing her own case, she explained in detail how Pakistan bans the travel of international media to the province and hence horrors of mass graves, rapes and war crimes against the Baloch go largely unreported. Responding to the queries from the audience about the role of India in this situation, she said: “India can do what the international community is to do. It should join hands with the world community to highlight the problems of those people and force Pakistan to stop it.”
Joining the discussion, Baloch and Sindhi scholar Zulfiqar Ali supported Marina. He said: “Human rights violation is a general term for what is happening in Balochistan. It is indeed ethnic cleansing. Massacres of Baloch and Hazara people are there. Whole Balochistan is a victim of the interests that are invested in Gwadar and the natural resources in Balochistan. We, Bloch, reject and condemn them for the atrocities. We surely demand the international community to intervene and force Pakistan to stop this crime against humanity. No doubt, the people of Balochistan are expressing their opinion through peaceful or other means. It is heinous criminality in Pakistan that we the Baloch and Sindhis have witnessed after whatsoever happened in Bangladesh when billions of women and men were raped and murdered. If we have to live in Pakistan, we have to live with dignity.”
Noted scholar and author of “Gilgit-Baltistan and its Saga of Unending Human Rights Violations” Capt. Alok Bansal said the prime objective of the discussion was to apprise the people of the human rights violations taking place in Balochistan. “Very often some people say that Indian perceptions on Balochistan are probably biased. So, to get an independent viewpoint from a European scholar who has visited Balochistan several times, this discussion was organised. We want to know the problem and understand the issues from a wider perspective because anything and everything can be done once we know the facts. Awareness is essential, as without awareness nothing can be done,” he added. He outlined how Pakistan has tried to use radicalisation and has sectarian conflicts in the region to deflect the Baloch insurgency. This strategy is similar to the one used by Pakistan since 1947 to dilute and deflect Pashtun restiveness and nationalism.
Presiding over the discussion, noted international scholar on Jammu & Kashmir affairs, Shri KN Pandita reminded the people that the Baloch insurgency has historical roots in the aspirations for independence of the Baloch ethnic people. Pakistan is dominated by Punjabi Muslims who have oppressed all other ethnicities like the Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhis and Bengalis. It is to be noted that under British rule, Balochistan was divided into four princely states: Kalat, Makran, Las Bela, Kharan. The Khan of the biggest princely state, the state of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, respected his people’s sentiments and decided against a merger with Pakistan. The state of Kalat was declared independent on August 11, 1947, as the people of Kalat were completely against the idea of joining Pakistan. Kalat functioned as an independent democratic country for about eight months. Jinnah ordered Pakistan army to invade and annex Kalat. The army forced/coerced the then ruler Ahmadyar Khan to sign a treaty of accession against the will of the majority. Ahmadyar Khan tried everything possible to prevent the accession to Pakistan.