Barely recovered from their last low point, the fragile relation between Pakistan and the US is under a dark cloud again – except this time Afghanistan and/or the Taliban have nothing to do with it.
In unison, Pakistan’s top leadership has strongly reacted to a resolution presented in the US House of Representatives – one that has gone as far as calling for self-determination for Balochistan.
“This resolution violates our sovereignty and we condemn it,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters on Saturday in a televised interaction with the media in Karachi.
The resolution on Friday sponsored by Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher and two fellow Republicans said the Baloch people “have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country.”
However, there was no sign of significant support in the US Congress for the proposal by Rohrabacher, a long-time critic of Pakistan’s government.
On its part, the US government has distanced itself from the resolution. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a daily press briefing, on Saturday: “We’re not seeking to interfere in their internal issues.”
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar described the proposal as an “isolated move by a few individuals”, and added it was contrary to the principles of the UN Charter and international law. “It was aimed to create distrust between the peoples of the two countries,” she said in a statement.
“This latest tendentious move will not be allowed to sail through the House by a vast majority of US Congressmen who continue to support friendly relations between the two countries,” Khar said.
He, too, expressed the belief that the US Congress would not pass the bill.
The Pakistan Embassy in Washington was also quick to condemn the move as “totally unacceptable” and warned that such “provocations” would seriously impact Pakistan-US relations.
A statement issued from the embassy said reminded the movers that Balochistan has a directly-elected provincial assembly of its own and has due representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan.
The Pakistani embassy made it clear that “it is for the people of Pakistan and our democratic institutions to address these (issues).”
“We value this (US-Pakistan) relationship, but not at the cost of our dignity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement warned.
Meanwhile, Federal Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the move was “expected” following the recent trilateral summit in Pakistan. “We were expecting such stunts in the wake of trilateral summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, as the three neighbouring countries have resolved to revive and promote their cultural, social and economic and trade relations,” she told reporters in Lahore.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani not only condemned the resolution, but also its mover. Rohrabacher, he said, has a controversial personality, according to an official statement released in Quetta.
“The so-called champions of human rights never thought to raise its voice for the self-determination of Palestine and Kashmir. They are not interested in the problem of Baloch people or seeking self-determination for them because all they want to pressurise Pakistan and enforce their influence in this region,” he said.
Rohrabacher also invited Pakistan’s ire a few days ago by convening a congressional hearing on Balochistan.
The administration of US President Barack Obama declined to send a representative to testify before Rohrabacher’s subcommittee and said it considered Balochistan a part of Pakistan.
“These hearings don’t necessarily imply that the US government endorses one view or another view,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said after the hearing. “We encourage all the parties in Balochistan to work out their differences peacefully and through a valid political process,” she had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.