Thursday, February 10, 2005

Peaceful demonstration in UK by Baloch Action committe, Copy of petition to Tony Blair

A peaceful demonstration organized By Baloch Action committe held infront of prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence on 6 Feb2005 Between 12 to 2pm against Paki army operation on Balochistan and converting Balochistan to an army Garrison by constructing more cantonesments.The Demo was suported by MQM, ppp, World Memon Organization,World Sindhi Congress as well as World Sindhi institute. The demo was succssesfull as it was the biggest demo ever held by Baloch in uk. At the end of the demo a petion was handed to prime minister' official residence, A copy of the Petition is attached.

Right Honourable Tony Blair
6 February 2005
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Sir,

On behalf the people of Balochistan, we would like to bring a most pressing matter to your kind attention. The military top-brass in Pakistan has launched full-scale army operations in the province of Balochistan, killing and maiming innocent people. In addition to the loss of precious lives, hundreds of people have been left homeless and tens of scores of political activists have been imprisoned and tortured by the authorities.

As the reports from your diplomatic and intelligence services bear witness to, the people of Balochistan are merely exercising their democratic right to demand greater autonomy, to have control over their own resources and to have a say in the development projects of their province. However, they are not only being denied these rights in contravention of the constitution, but they are being punished for daring to raise their voice.

Pakistan, like its neighbours Iran and Afghanistan, is a multi-national country. It is composed of four provinces of which Punjab is the most populous and uniquely powerful due to the fact that 80% of the Pakistani army hails from this province. The three other provinces – Sindh, North West Frontier and Balochistan – are in the minority. These provinces have been historically neglected by successive Islamabad governments and denied of their lawful democratic, economic and cultural rights. Of these, Balochistan is the most deprived and therefore the least developed.

It is worth recalling that every head of state and government in Pakistan, when assuming power, admitted that Balochistan had been treated unfairly by their predecessors and invariably pledged that they would ensure that its sense of deprivation was justly addressed. However, these promises never came to fruition, and the people witnessed even more deprivation and suffering. In the fifty-eight year history of Pakistan, Balochistan has been invaded by the Pakistani army no less than four times, as if it were an enemy country. These invasions took place in 1948, 1958 (lasting for nine years), 1974 (for five years), and again in 2004, which is still continuing.

Over the past three years, General Musharraf’s government decided to implement some so-called ‘mega-projects’, which included the exploitation of the gas and petroleum resources in the province and developing the port of Gwadar, a small coastal town, into a modern naval and commercial centre. The Baloch people do not trust the rulers. They are sceptical about any project put forward by the government. Contrary to what the rulers claim the people want complete involvement in these projects and a sizable share of the revenues spent on their province.

However, the rulers are adamant not to give people any concessions. For instance, for the past fifty years Balochistan’s gas resources have been used to power the homes and industries of the entire country; whilst the province itself has been unable to benefit from it. Its capital city Quetta had to wait for thirty years before it received the first supply of gas, but the rest of the province has to this day no access to this resource. Similarly, when the rulers started the Gwadar project, they promised that they would first establish a centre to train the local people for various skilled jobs. However, once the project commenced, this promise was conveniently forgotten. The overwhelming majority of the work-force, as the people had feared, was brought from Punjab and Karachi and project officials were either co-opted from the same parts or appointed from the army. Virtually all commercial contracts were allocated to the businesses which had connections with the army establishment. Apart from a handful of unskilled labour, local people were, and are still, denied any job opportunities.

Certainly people want development; however, they are convinced that they will not benefit from these projects. Until such time as there is a constitutional agreement with the Islamabad government and concrete assurances are given that their rights will be respected, the Baloch people will continue to oppose these schemes. However, the Islamabad government have closed all avenues for negotiation. Only three weeks ago, the Baloch leaders and activists were warned by none other than General Musharraf himself, by saying: “Do not push us… it is not 1970s when you can hit and run and hide in mountains. This time you won’t even know what has hit you”. General Musharraf was actually referring to the army action in Balochistan in 1974, when the Islamabad government had unconstitutionally dismissed the democratically elected provincial government in Balochistan. As a consequence of this, people organised widespread protests throughout the province. To crush these protests, Islamabad once again sent several army divisions into Balochistan to terrorise the people. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed, thousands others made homeless, and tens of hundreds were put behind bars. As is evident, General Musharraf is acting in precisely the same manner as his predecessors did in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, the rulers had always displayed a complete lack of respect for the country’s constitution. A former dictator, General Zia-Ul-Huq, once described this fundamental document of law as “just a piece of paper”. General Musharraf is as much responsible for brutalising the constitution as all the previous dictators. Human rights violations are as rampant as in the past, and provincial autonomy is non-existent. The generals are the supreme rulers of the country. They only think in terms of military solutions, and have the utmost contempt for political negotiations and compromise. They have turned Balochistan into a large army camp. In fact, there are more military cantonments in the province than there are high schools and medical centres. Army officers have been given a free reign to do what they please to harass the population. A simple example here will suffice to demonstrate how blinded they are by absolute power. Recently, a lady doctor was gang-raped by some high-ranking army officers in the town of Sui; however, despite persistent protests from local people they still remain at large. Instead, the rulers have sent an entire division of the army to crush any manifestation of protest. The entire town has been declared as an army base and eviction orders have been served on the town’s people to vacate their ancestral homes and lands.

The Pakistani army must be stopped before it commits mass scale genocide of the Baloch people. We, therefore, appeal to you as the head of the government of a great democratic nation and as leader of the G8 countries, to kindly use your good offices and influence to urge General Musharraf to cease army action in Balochistan and enter into dialogue with the popular leaders of the province in order to find a political solution. What Balochistan, indeed Pakistan itself, needs is for democracy to be restored to ensure genuine provincial autonomy and the rule of law. Because of the undemocratic and militarist policies of the regime the situation in Balochistan and other minority provinces such as Sindh and North West Frontier is deteriorating rapidly. There is an imminent threat of civil war in Pakistan which could destabilise the entire region. The onus for this worsening situation will fall entirely on the shoulders of the Pakistani military establishment. Unfortunately, the generals are very much part of the problem. They have proved time and again to be incapable of offering any solution. It is therefore vital that they go back to their barracks. The sooner they go the better for the country, the region and the world as a whole.

Thank you very much for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Balochistan Action Committee


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