The US Congressional Committee, chaired by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, which held a hearing on Balochistan must not have heard about a few areas such as Kashmir and Palestine. Why the sudden debate surrounding human rights issues in Balochistan? How did these congressmen vote on a recently passed US security bill that allows the military to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial? Strangely enough, they all voted in favour of detaining their own constituents without due process. What about the human rights of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan? Needless to say, the grievances of the Baloch are urgent and need to be addressed, but the timing of this interest in the plight of Balochistan by three US Republican politicians is suspicious.
Although this bill has little chance of going anywhere in Congress, it effectively riled up politicians within Pakistan. With any hope, it will result in a grand bargain with the Baloch to provide them their fair share of political representation and economic development. That would be the most positive possible outcome from this unwelcome intrusion. American politicians, such as Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, should refrain from meddling in affairs the result of which they cannot even begin to fathom.
Dana’s unfamiliarity with the region was on clear display as he consistently transitioned between the correct pronunciation and ‘Biloke-istan’, while reading from prepared notes. The Representative also left out some important facts in his opening remarks. Painting Balochistan as a single united entity seeking independence is misleading, since the Pashtuns and the Hazaras also inhabit the province. Balochistan’s troubles are not black and white, but severely complex and certainly not suitable for intervention by low-level politicians on the other side of the world. The fact is that, this man is only one of 435 elected members of the House and represents one-fifth of one per cent of US citizens. His views do not represent those of the US government and should hold just about zero weight among the international community.
As far as the third co-signatory of the Balochistan bill is concerned, Steve King, he stated in 2008 that if Obama becomes the president of the US, then al Qaeda and its supporters will be dancing in the streets after declaring a victory on the war on terror. He also inferred that Obama’s middle name, Hussain is troublesome. His intolerant views are a good indication of his intellect level. If Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King are truly sincere about human rights then they should begin by giving up obstructionist antics at home and promote greater human rights for their fellow citizens in the US. These Tea Party lawmakers have systematically voted against universal healthcare, women’s rights, and minority rights while demanding harsher immigration laws.
In the end, it is clear that addressing human rights violations was never the intention of the hearing. This was just perceived as a good opportunity to kick the hornet’s nest for political gain and to antagonise Pakistan further in its current state of fragility. All three signatories of the bill belong to Obama’s opposition party and are motivated to damage the administration’s efforts to mend relations with Pakistan, even at the detriment of their own nation. Rohrabacher and his pals are calling for a separate Balochistan, at a time when Israel is threatening to attack Iran and the coalition forces are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, does not show much geopolitical judiciousness. As public servants, these lawmakers should put more thought into the consequences of their actions. The US State Department is now busy with damage control and has made it very clear that they continue to view Balochistan as part of the Pakistani state. However, the issue has been brought to light. Pakistan would be wise to step up and earnestly make an effort to appease regional concerns if it intends on securing Balochistan as an integral part of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.
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