From left to right Peter Tatchell (Human Rights Activist), Dr Lahku Luhana (Secretary General of World Sindhi Congress), Chaired by Saleh Mamon (CAMPACC), James Nichols (Lawyer), Hyrbyair Marri (Baloch human rights activist and political leader), Wilson Chowdhry (BPCA)
A packed room of around 40 people listened to reports of the tyranny that is prevalent in Pakistan
Questions from the audience were well informed a number of Humanitarian groups were represented.
Geo TV and the Jaang Newspaper were present.
I handed out protest flyers at the end of the meeting and encouraged a joint up approach to tackling our concerns.
People listened to the collective concerns and expressed disdain for the existing persecution.
The conference was a very positive and informative event. A strong focus was the situation regarding Baluchistan of which reports describing a systematic attempts to remove the lead political figures and dissenters focused on freedom from a reported forcible annexation in 1978 by a hegemonic Pakistan. Under the partition agreement administered by the British the Princely state of Kalat an area that comprises 23% of modern day Baluchistan, originally proposed to hold independent national status. On the 27th March 1948 the Khan of Kalat signed an "Instrument of Accession" that has been the cause of an ongoing feud between Baluchi nationalists and who insist that duress was applied on the Khan. The first revolt against the Government of Pakistan was lead by Prince Abdul Karim in July of the same year.
Reports of political victims incarcerated, tortured and killed painted a dire picture of Pakistani Government and their secret service agencies. There are more than 5,000 cases of ‘forced disappearances’ in Baluchistan. In an interview with the Express Tribune in February 2011, The chief Justice of an apex court of Pakistan asked about the situation and said"the situation was going out of control in Balochistan".
I am not an expert on the Balochistan or Sindhi secessionist movement but recognised at the seminar that it is a cause that emits passion in it's members. There is a distinct desire for self rule along an aged and historical cultural divide.
My role at the seminar was to describe the blasphemy law's of Pakistan and I expanded my talk to include a much wider set of injustices and inequalities, such as lack of employment and educational opportunity. The audience was both receptive and supportive.
Peter Tatchell described the need for Baluchi's and Sihdhi's to find evidence supporting Government involvement in the torture of their political figures. This would allow prosecutions for perpetrators under international law and would create much wider international support. He also described the need to lobby MP's, MEP's and the need to set out a constitution for the Nation of Baluchistan that would be used to create a more palpable image of a nation in the making.
A member in the audience spoke of the need to create a government in exile as this to would give credence to the formation of a new state.
I am not clear on how I feel about a separate Baluchistan or Sindh, however, if any new Governments for the Sindh and Baluchistan were to support and bolster a more egalitarian approach to taking care of their citizens, then the current oppressive regime existing in Pakistan - they would gain my backing. Moreover, unless the ruling Pakistani Government takes steps to eradicate persecution of Baluchi/Sindhi people and the significant amount of inequality and poverty in the region, there will be no other course available. Polarisation and schism against the existing government will increase if the basic needs of it's people continue to be ignored and their human rights eroded. Pakistan was founded as a Muslim nation and although Jinnah had a more equal vision for the people of Pakistan, the fact remains that subsequent military dictators and elected governments have created an unstable nation with strong religious bias and consequential minority intolerance. A common theme form leaders at last nights meeting was the references to Baloch people being of a particular ethno-linguistic group. Ethnic loyalty is strong driver for the movement surpassing religious loyalty which is contradictory to the concept behind the creation of Pakistan. This could work and is very similar to the concept of modern Britishness which allows for the pluralistic society we have in the UK.
Baluchi's are know for strong tribal allegiances which have their own problems and can be stifling restricting economic, cultural and societal reform. They can also be a precursor to the of fascism, however, the visitors and panel members at the meeting expressed very liberal and progressive views.
I cannot speak on behalf of the BPCA on potential secession of any province and confirm thay have no view on this matter. However I can confirm that the BPCA is against the unlawful murder and torture of any people and fully uphold the right to a fair trial for all citizens of Pakistan and more global communities. We were grateful to be invited to the meeting and for the opportunity to describe the dangers Pakistani Christians face on a daily basis.
Here is what the "The News" Said: