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‘National Remembrance Day, Baluch Martyrs’
Speech by Desmond Fernandes, genocide scholar, member of the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities and Peace in Kurdistan (and former Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and the Geography of Genocide at De Montfort University) at the 13th November 2016 ‘National Remembrance Day, Baluch Martyrs’ meeting, held at the Cumberland Hotel, London
Thank you for inviting me here on National Remembrance Day.
I wish to extend solidarity to all peoples resisting occupation, forced displacement, disappearances, state terror and state directed genocide, whether by using proxy forces or state military/paramilitary forces or so-called 'development' forces that are responsible for 'developmental genocides'.[i]
State terror and genocidal actions must always be resisted, wherever they are practiced, be it in Kurdistan and Turkey where Turkish state terror and genocide must be resisted, Rojava where Turkish and ISIS state terror and genocidal actions must be resisted or in Balochistan, where Pakistan and Iranian state terror and genocidal operations take place. We must extend solidarity to all targeted 'Others' who are struggling against tyranny, disappearances and genocide.
In the context of what has happened and is happening in Balochistan, Lemkin's perspectives – he is the person who coined the term 'genocide', being all too aware of Nazi atrocities, and did so much to promote the Genocide Convention, also having lost many of his family members to the Nazi genocide - are directly relevant to those gathered today:
“Lemkin was effectively arguing that occupations and settlements conducted on [certain] terms - that is, without [meaningful] recognition of indigenous rights and subsequent negotiations - were bound to issue in genocide because resistance was as inevitable as its brutal suppression. In this regard, it may be significant that many of his research notes taken on Native North American conflicts and massacres begin with some kind of Indian uprising. More noteworthy still is that he observed that Hitler regarded the Russian partisan warfare as but a pretext to ‘eradicate everyone who opposes us’”.[ii]
As Peter Tatchell has documented: “The Pakistani army ... invaded Balochistan in 1948 and forcibly incorporated it into Pakistan, against the wishes of its inhabitants. Since then, the Baloch have been subjected to a quadruple whammy of military occupation, political domination, economic exploitation and cultural hegemony”.[iii]
Amnesty International and the Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances, amongst other organisations and public interest groups, have both condemned Pakistan's security and intelligence services.[iv]
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission: “The country is ranked fourth on the human rights risk index, yet State policies show no seriousness in adopting effective strategies to repair this image. Enforced disappearance and the State's ‘kill and dump policy’ has caused mistrust between the general populace of Balochistan and the Federal government, prolonging the insurgency”.[v]
In August 2013, the former opposition leader in the Balochistan Assembly, Advocate Kachkol Ali, “appealed to the UN secretary general to take notice of the 'genocide of the Baloch nation and human rights abuse'. In a statement issued from Oslo, he said that 'a human tragedy has occurred in Balochistan … Therefore, the United Nations should take notice of it and take practical steps for its immediate end'. The nationalist leader said the 'genocide of Baloch nation is ongoing for the last 13 years. So far, thousands of Baloch have been killed and their mutilated bodies were thrown away', he said and added that thousands of people had been victims of forced disappearance”.[vi]
The military, meanwhile, continues to perpetrate war crimes and a genocide even as its leaders meet with heads of governments. In early 2015, the Asian Human Rights Commission reported on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Shareef's visit to the UK and other ally states, which spoke “volumes about the army’s political ambitions … We urge western countries, in particular, to stop providing weapons to the Pakistani army unless the Balochistan issue is resolved. Otherwise, the support which Pakistan gets from the international community in the name of the 'War on Terror' is being used to kill Baloch civilians ...
“The worst kind of torture is taking place in the Pakistani Army's private torture cells … Baloch leaders have tried to engage in dialogue with the Pakistani rulers but the [latter] want to keep them as third class citizens … Baluchistan has suffered the worst form of subjugation, oppression and occupation in the past and is still suffering at the hand of Pakistan's army”.[vii] According to Asian Human Rights Commission (December 2013): “Pakistan has the highest number of forced disappearances in the world”.[viii]
Despite such urgings from the Asian Human Rights Commission, General Raheel Sharif during his 2015 trip also “visited 10 Downing Street and met with British Prime Minister David Cameron … He was presented full guard of honour and was accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff UK”.[ix] The strategic 'partnership' and 'relationship' between the armed forces of the UK and Pakistan was further reinforced in April 2016 when “the Chief of the General Staff, the Head of the British Army ... visited Pakistan ... to reinforce the close military relationship between the UK and Pakistan”.[x]
My most recent book “Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal involving UNHCR and Christian asylum seekers in Thailand” documents these shameful relationships and it also documents the ongoing genocide of the Baloch (in several chapters) and 'Others'. It has also been sent to every single member of the UK House of Lords and Commons, and every single Australian MP and member of the senate, as well as to several MEP's and public interest/anti-genocide and anti-torture and 'anti-disappearances' movements, organisations and campaigners.
We need to oppose all forceful occupations, state terror and genocidal actions and hold those responsible, alongside those aiding and abetting such actions, to account in criminal courts.
I extend my solidarity to all those seeking justice in such contexts.
[i] In the Balochistan context, as the Asian Human Rights Commission has clarified: “Pakistan’s ambassador in China boasted earlier [in July 2016] that they had killed 3,400 people in military operations in Balochistan to protect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (C-PEC). Killing thousands of people just to assure China to invest money? What sort of state is Pakistan? And what sort of humanitarian values is the world defending if it cannot speak a word against this genocide of the Baloch people on their own homeland?”
The Asian Human Rights Commission further concluded, on 15th August 2016, that: “Baloch nationalists have been targeted in all of the operations, while the extremists and religious zealots have been allowed to operate with impunity to divert attention from the Baloch freedom movement. The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the proscribed religious militant organisations, both have a green signal from the Pakistani State to carry on without fear. Human rights defenders have time and again pointed out the vicious designs of the government to perpetuate their authoritarian writ over the people of Balochistan and gain control over the Baloch’s resources by engaging them in war. State agencies deliberately force the Baloch towards militancy, because the State is unable to defeat them on political grounds. They drag the Baloch into the battlefield to crush them. The recent Quetta blast was an attack on intellectuals, with the aim of eradicating those that give voice for Baloch people. The attack will herald another round of operations, further alienating the Baloch. The common perception amongst the people of Balochistan is that the State has utterly failed to protect them, as it is only interested in saving the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (C-PEC). The security forces wanted to punish the indigenous population that is opposing the building of C-PEC. The Baloch fear they will become a minority in their own Province. The fact that the State, instead of opting for dialogue to solve the issue, has adopted a security-centric approach to squash resistance; this has further eroded their trust in the government. Enforced disappearance and the State's 'kill and dump policy' has caused mistrust between the general populace of Balochistan and the Federal government, prolonging the insurgency. The State’s strategy of creating and supporting Islamist extremist groups to manage domestic political challenges has enormously aggravated the problem in Balochistan”.
As the Commission further pointed out: “The AHRC is shocked by the [recent] massacre of lawyers in the suicide attack in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan province … All of the attacks appear to be planned measures to silence the voices of dissent and to pave the way for the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The ferocity with which the attack was condemned by the Government and Chief of Staff of the Army fell flat when they termed the attack as 'an attempt by the enemy to sabotage CPEC'. The blood trail of the economic corridor appears to be lost on the Government. The innocent human lives lost as a result have no significance for the state which appears to be too pre-occupied with its own bourgeois. To guarantee the smooth commencement of the C-PEC project, the Federal government initiated a new phase of military operations in far-flung areas of Balochistan, where there is a general feeling that with the start of the CPEC, the Balochi people will become a minority in their own province”.
[ii] McDonnell, M. and Moses, D. (2005) ‘Raphaël Lemkin as historian of genocide in the Americas’, Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 7(4), December, p. 507, 508, 511, 513, 514 (also accessed at: www.inogs.com/JGRFullText/McdonnellMoses.pdf).
[iii] Tatchell, P. (2008) 'A Ballot for the Baloch', The Liberal, Issue 13 (accessed at: www.theliberal.co.uk/issue_13/columns/tatchell_baloch.html).
[iv] Mustikhan, A. (2011) 'Sindhis, Baloch protest Pakistan nuclear weapons, terrorism and genocide', The Examiner, 29 May 2011 (accessed at: www.examiner.com/foreign-policy-in-baltimore/ahmar-mustikhan).
[v] AHRC (2016) 'Impunity shrouds disappearances', AHRC, 17 February 2016 (accessed at: www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-021-2016).
[vi] Balochistan Point (2013) 'Kachkol Ali appeals UN to take notice of Baloch genocide’, Balochistan Point, 13 August 2013 (accessed at: thebalochistanpoint.com/kachkol-ali-appeals-un-to-take-notice-of-baloch-genocide).
[vii] Asian Human Rights Commission (2015) 'Pakistan: The army chief must be stopped lobbying against Baloch at international level', AHRC Press Release, 11 February 2015 (accessed at: www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-030-2015).
[viii] AHRC (2013) The State of Human Rights in Pakistan, 2013: Country Has Turned into a Killing Field. AHRC – AHRC-SPR-005-2013, p. 15 (Downloadable at: www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2013/AHRC-SPR-005-2013.pdf/view).
[ix] Dawn (2015) 'Gen Raheel Sharif meets PM David Camero