Malik Siraj Akbar Headshot

America and Balochistan

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Rep. Louie Gohmert made a passionate speech in the U.S. House of Representatives about the recently found mass graves in Balochistan. While reading from an article published in the Toronto Sun, Mr. Gohmert criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for welcoming a high-level delegation of Pakistani officials in Washington D.C. days after the discovery of mass graves for which the Amnesty International has blamed the Pakistani State.

He informed the House that Pakistani had been mercilessly killing the Baloch for decades in order to control the region's natural resources. Since most of the supplies to NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan pass from Balochistan, Mr. Gohmert proposed that the United States should support a free Baloch state. He made this demand days after meeting with exiled Baloch leaders Hairbayar Marri and Suleman Dawood, the Khan of Kalat, in London. According to one report, State Department officials also accompanied Mr. Gohmert during his meeting with the Baloch leaders.

Mr. Gohmert made some very important remarks in his speech which the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon should pay attention to. "We don't have to pay people to hate us," he said while referring to Pakistan, "they'll do it for free." This statement perfectly fits in Pakistan's context which willingly provides support and protection to dreaded terrorists that aspire to destroy the United States. According to Daniel Wickham of Left Foot Forward, a British blog that provides evidence-based analysis, Pakistan ranks No. 4 in an index of countries that receive American assistance yet routinely practice torture.

Since the landmark hearing at the U.S. Congress in February 2012 about Balochistan, members of the Congress such as Mr. Gohmert, Dana Rohrabacher, Steve King, all Republicans, have frequently spoken up against Pakistan's torturous methods against the unarmed Baloch civilians.

The support for the Baloch from a few congressmen is deeply laudable although insufficient considering American's influence on global politics. Democracy and human rights should be taken in a bipartisan manner. The Democrats, on the other hand, have unfortunately not spoken up in support of the Baloch people. America's liberal congressmen and voters have an obligation to know where their tax-payers' money is going and how it is being spent. Providing American assistance to abusive and repressive States such as Pakistan absolutely contradicts the American values of democracy, human rights and freedom.

It is hard to fathom what prevents the State Department from either conditioning aid to Pakistan in spite of widespread evidence that Pakistan uses American assistance to further arm Islamic extremist groups and crush the freedom-loving people such as the Baloch. While we are mindful of American interests, concerns and limitations while dealing with Pakistan in the wake of the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan, it is important to cultivate relations in the region with the Baloch people who believe in secular, democratic values. Pakistani authorities have been tightening their grip over Balochistan. Even democratic governments apply a dictatorial method to deal with the Baloch. For example, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government recently passed a highly objectionable law, Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, which legalizes, instead of criminalizing, enforced disappearances. Pakistani military and s0-called democratic governments have subjected thousands of political opponents to forced disappearance in Balochistan.

We deeply admire Mr. Gohmert for condemning Pakistan's treatment of the Baloch. He did what would generally be expected of an American Congressman whose country is perceived across the world as the epicenter of democracy, human rights and freedom. The current U.S. policies clearly indicate that policymakers in Foggy Bottom are utterly disconnected from the ground realities in places like Pakistan. They are providing financial assistance to people who are engaged in torture and murder without the fear of ever being held accountable for their actions. Ignoring an ally's [Pakistan] involvement in human rights undermines the very core values of democracy. We hope that more members of the U.S. congress, irrespective of their party affiliation, will join Mr. Gohmert's ranks to express zero tolerance for the misuse of American assistance; use of torture to deal with political dissent by all countries, particularly the ones that are viewed as "allies" in Washington.

This article originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan's first online English newspaper