Amidst the flashes of cameras and inquisitive journalists, a governmental convoy from Pakistan stands proud, sporting expensive suits and flashy watches, bringing forth their announcement: Pakistan will be inducted into the United Nations’ Human Right’s Council. As people in their vicinity and around the world read about this announcement on their phones and computers, their reactions are as varied as the clouds in the sky. Amongst the more accepting of the crowd, we find the sentiment that maybe it is time for Pakistan to join the spheres of progressive and tolerant forums. For after all, in news reports and blogs alike, one finds the Hijabi-students of Islamabad talking about the developments Pakistan has made in recent years, both materially and morally. In their hands, one witnesses iPhones – In the background, people walk around in jeans and decorative T-shirts. It definitely seems that Pakistan is ready to step into the modern world – but beneath the green and white of their flag, and the peculiar Pakistani mixture of conservative Islam and modernity, a rumbling occurs. In the midst of teenagers in the capital donning sunglasses, Hijabs and a perfect American accent, and cinemas showcasing upcoming western movies, something is trying to break out from beneath the ground. Screams, shell-fire and the steady, emotionless roll of a machine gun can be heard in the distance.
What is truly going on Pakistan? What can be found, when scratching the surface of materialism and progressiveness, found in the northern capital Islamabad? In order to find out, we must be willing to step into a world where more blood than pure water flows, where radical Islam is more prevalent than even a high-school education, and where children are lucky to live past the age of five. We must investigate the minority provinces of Pakistan, the workings of the security department, and the foreign relations of this Islamist regime.
In the minority provinces, you wouldn’t be as likely to find IPhone’s, to find cinema’s where western movies are showcased, and where university students can explore the literary world without having to look over their shoulders in fear. Here, in the occupied countries of Pakistan, you will find stories of tragedy, lost dreams and a total disenfranchisement with the northern government in Punjab. Walk in the streets of Sindh, and ask the men, walking in streets packed with beggars and waste, why they are unemployed. They will most likely tell you that they were once wealthy farmers, but that the watering projects of the Islamabad government in the north has led to the Indus river, the main source of water to millions in Sindh, almost completely drying out, leaving 12 million farmers in the lurch.
Walk into the green yet impoverished lands in the West, amongst the Pashtun, and ask them where their children are, where their young men are working. A grim look will pass through their faces, as only a few will be willing to tell you that their sons, uncles, and fathers have joined the Taliban. The reason? There is nothing left for a young man to do in occupied Pashtunistan (now known as the two provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA), for the projects of the northern Punjab government has completely destroyed their lands, the military raids of the army has destroyed any hope for reconciliation with the government, and so their men are left to the evil influence of Al-Qaida and the Taliban – people who can actually give them food, a way to live, and weapons, a way of gaining self-respect amidst poverty and desperation.
And finally, walk into the southern, arid and unforgiving deserts of occupied Balochistan, where native Baloch resistance against the government is not only widespread; it is part of their culture. Take a cab and ask the driver to show you the districts and cities of Balochistan, and listen to his stories of what has happened here. Driving past Baloch children who don’t even speak the national language, Urdu, he will tell you that ISI (the security department of Pakistan) kidnaps on average 3 innocent Baloch every day, a process which has accumulated to the disappearance of up to 18,000 people in the 21st century. These kidnappings often end in the torture and executions of students, political activists and separatists (similar developments have been seen in Sindh). He will tell you that multiple times each year, Pakistan conducts military operations into the heartland of Balochistan, where tribal leaders still reign over the local populations, and where the military has executed thousands of innocent people. Ask him what in the world is going on in Balochistan, and why Pakistan is repressing the population. Listen closely, and you will find the answer booming out from his radio, “Wake up Baloch, we are at war.”: The most popular song of the native people. Ever since their occupation 1948, the Baloch has led an independence-struggle, and in reaction, Pakistan has done all it can to repress the aspirations of the Baloch, killing their educated peoples, executing innocent students and demolishing villages – all, to make sure that the Baloch are unable to rise up against the tyranny of Islamabad.
And so, as we list the countries of the Human right’s council, maybe we should reconsider calling Pakistan “Pakistan”. For while the Punjabis in the Northern Province enjoy material wealth and a near-western lifestyle, the minority provinces have to deal with the terrorist underpinnings of their state. Instead, we should consider renaming Pakistan “The Punjab Empire”, as it would aptly summarize the state of the country. And of course, maybe we should also reconsider their membership in a human rights council.
Many here would argue that even though Pakistan is performing atrocities against their occupied peoples, granting them membership in the HRC will enable us democratic nations to pressure Pakistan into modernity. This country, one of only two states to acknowledge the Taliban government of the early 21st century, is supposed to walk in the light of democracy. This regime, which exchanges military armaments with the equally brutal Myanmar regime, we are supposed to expect, will change their dictatorial ways. We expect that a country where the Taliban are allowed to roam free, where the Taliban are even supported, where ethnic and religious minorities alike are slaughtered by “security forces”, and where honor-killings spell out the daily lives of many – we expect that such a country, which received Black-Hawk helicopters to fight the Taliban and immediately sent these to attack civilians in Balochistan, will be able to understand the meaning of Human Rights.
I will only say this to the people of the HRC: You are making a grave mistake. By granting Pakistan membership in your organization, you are showing the villains of the world that they can get away with anything. If you truly wish to mould Pakistan in the ways of freedom and democracy, you will raise a campaign for its trade-partners to put embargoes on them, for the USA to continue refusing them military aid, and finally, for all UN-member ambassadors to leave their country. All this, will be done with the clear demand, that as long as they keep slaughtering their minority ethnicities, as long as they don’t listen to the wishes for independence of the Sindhi, Pashtun’s and Baloch, and as long as they keep insisting on colluding with terroristic elements, the international community will freeze them out, and leave them to rot in their own corruption. This is the only way to ensure that the meaning of Human Rights is recognized by the government in Islamabad, for they only understand the language of repression. As long as we keep paying lip service to the supposed democracy & tolerance of Pakistan’s leaders, they will continue to suck dry the resources of minority provinces to feed their own material wealth and keep up their ways of genocide and racism. In conclusion, my message to the UN Human Rights Council is this: stop colluding with terrorists, and for once, stand for the values you are supposed to protect.
For information on the relations between Islamabad and the minority provinces: Selig Harrison “Pakistan: The state of the union”.
For further sources on military operations in Balochistan:
Are you a Baloch who has experienced oppression at the hands of the military? If so, please send us your story. We at the Organization of Baloch Youth in Europe are collecting testimonials for project Baloch Voices, to be presented to the UN and EU. Contact: Organizationofbalochineurope@gmail.com
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Executive Director: Nohan Zainudini