For two ostensible allies, Pakistan and the US sure do spend a lot of time complaining about each other. The outrage of the week is the resolution, unlikely to pass, introduced by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, asking for the Baloch people to be given the right to self-determination and independence. This was after Rohrabacher held hearings on the plight of the Baloch in Pakistan. For the second time in a week, the Foreign Office has issued a notice to acting US Ambassador Richard Hoagland to give him a tongue-lashing over the issue. Doing so is little more than a public relations move designed to appease anti-American voices in the country. The Obama Administration has repeatedly distanced itself from Rohrabacher’s actions and even refused to send anyone to testify at his hearings. The separation of powers in the US between the executive and the legislature means it can do no more. Rohrabacher is clearly operating in bad faith. He has been an outspoken critic of Pakistan, calling for all aid to be cut off to us after the Osama bin Laden raid. Last month, he tried to introduce a bill to give the Congressional Gold Medal to Dr Shakil Afridi, who was arrested in Pakistan for helping the US run the fake vaccine programme that helped catch Osama. He even used the derogatory term “Pakis” when bringing up this bill. Just how radical Rohrabacher is can be gauged by the fact that he called Ralph Peters, a former army man turned analyst, to testify at the Balochistan hearings. In 2006, Peters had written an article for The Armed Forces Journal, calling for the break-up of Pakistan, including an independent Balochistan.
Just because one renegade congressman has decided to cruedly insert himself into the debate over Balochistan does not mean that the Pakistan government, and especially the military, can play the aggrieved victim and wash its hands of the matter. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that the future of Balochistan will be decided by its elected representatives. But she had nothing to say on whether those left out or disillusioned by the electoral process would have a say or whether the army would withdraw from the area and stop killing and detaining separatists. The future of Balochistan will be decided in Pakistan, not the US Congress but the government and military have to stop pretending they are on the side of the angels.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.