Hairbiyar Marri, brother of the slain leader, faces 10 years in U.K. jail
Baluch activist Nabi Baloch, who befriended the Baluch Che Guevra after meeting him in London in 2001, said Marri had shunned worldly comforts to adopt the path of struggle so that the Baluch people could live their life in freedom.
“He could have gotten the chief ministership or the governorship handed to him on a silver platter,” Baloch said at the Busboys and Poets memorial meeting organized by the American Friends of Baluchistan. He said the slain leader and his father, legendary Baluch leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, had for decades challenged the Pakistan army injustices in Baluchistan.
On th occasion, the A.F.B. demanded a Congressional Fact Finding Mission to Baluchistan.
Selig S. Harrison, Asia Director of the DC-based Center for International Policy, in his message to the American Friends of Baluchistan, said, “Americans should be ashamed that U.S. military equipment supplied to Pakistan in the name of the “war on terror” has been blatantly diverted and misused to inflict widespread human rights atrocities on ethnic minorities fighting for their legitimate rights.”
Harrison, who could not attend the meeting because of his wife's sickness, congratulated the A.F.B. for commemorating Marri's passing, and said the struggle of the Baluch people for their rights in the face of repression bu successive regimes that have been directly, or indirectly, controlled, by the armed forces, deserves the admiration and support of the United States and the international community.
The Baluch in Texas-sized Baluchistan province in southwest Pakistan have repeatedly risen up in arms against the annexation of their land in March 1948—seven and half months after the British left India divided in August 1947.
“Bala'ach Marri personified this struggle with his courageous leadership of Baluch resistance forces against the might of the Musharraf regime's U.S.-supported Army and Air Force,” the U.S. scholar said.
Harrison, in an oblique reference to friction in the Baluch nationalist movement, said to the extent that Baluch leaders are able to cooperate and resolve their internecine factional and personal conflicts, the Baluch movement will merit the respect and support of the international community, adding he will continue his own efforts to help build that support.
Personal rivalry was a major contributing factor in the Baluch losing their statehood in March 1948 and remains a bane of Baluch politics to this day. The De Jure Ruler of Baluchistan, Khan of Kalat Beglar Begi [Prince among Princes] Suleman Khan Ahmedzai appeal for asylum is still pending in a U.K., while Nawabzada Hairbiyar Marri, a brother of the slain leader, faces a terror trial in the U.K. for trying to repulse the Pakistan army. But the two are not on talking terms.
“Bala'ach symbolized a Baluch national movement that has been led with remarkable determination for five decades by his father Khair Bux, Attaullah Mengal and other Baluch patriots. This movement will undoubtedly be broadened and deepened in the years ahead as part of the larger unfinished struggle of all the ethnic minorities to win justice in Pakistan,” Harrison said.
Baluch nationalists say historically they had no truck with Pakistan, as the word itself was coined barely 70 years ago while Baluchistan, or the land of the Baluch, has a history of many centuries. Marri and his father Nawab Marri have long demanded the Baluch right to self determination.
London-based human rights activist Peter Tatchell, in his message, said Baluchistan is where Pakistan is waging a war against the Baluch people – a war that has been condemned for its widespread human rights abuses by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
"For 60 years, Baluchistan has been under military occupation and its people crushed by five bloody wars launched by Islamabad,” Tatchell said. He said Pakistan's illegal war in Baluchistan is a war that has involved the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We remember with pride and honor Bala'ach Marri and all those people who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of justice and freedom. Their courage and ideals live on, in the hearts of all people who seek a better, fairer world,” Tatchell said.
He added, “Freedom for all nations and peoples struggling for their liberation from tyranny. Their victory has been long delayed, but it can not be denied.”
Iqbal Tareen, coordinator of the Forum for Justice and Democracy in Pakistan, recalled the humble beginnings of the Pakistan army and its growth into a virtual empire that dominates all facets of Pakistan society. “The army today owns one-third of the national assets, from gas stations to sugar mills,” he said.
But he said the most ominous aspect of politics in Pakistan was the shadowy political wing of the Inter Services Intelligence who are in plainclothes and answerable to none.
Fauzia Deeba, an activist of the World Sindhi Institute, said the question of Baluchistan was basically a human rights question where Baluchistan is one of the richest lands in the world, but its people live in abject poverty.
“I saw a family in Baluchistan which had just one bag of dates to survive the entire year,” Deeba said. "The elders were not letting children play as the kids would then feel exhausted and demand food.”
Baluchistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, the A.F.B. hoped the new Obama administration would undo the wrongs done to Baluchistan by successive U.S. administrations.
“The first baby step is to send a high-level Congressional Fact Finding Mission to investigate the killing, tortures, the case of 900 missing Baluch, the loot and plunder of Baluchistan resources over the last 60 years, the forcible annexation of Baluchistan in March 1948 and the horrific nuclear tests of may 1998 that left thousands of Baluch lands destroyed,” the A.F.B. said.
In an oblique reference to the I.S.I. role in the Mumbai mayhem, the A.F.B. said, “Whether it is the Deccan Mujahideen, Kashmir Mujahideen or Afghan Mujahideen, the source of these jihads are one. Whether it is Mumbai on November 26, 2008 or Sarlath in Baluchistan on November 20, 2007 and whether it is Nawabzada Bala'ach Marri or the more than 150 people killed in the Mumbai mayhem, there is enough evidence against Pakistan's I.S.I.”
The A.F.B. said the victims of terrorism in Mumbai included Hindus, Jews, Christians and Muslims and they were all brothers and sisters of the secular Baluch people “because we are all humans.”
The A.F.B. said it considers President Asif Ali Zardari blood and bone of the Baluch nation, but the I.S.I. and army G.H.Q. would never allow him to make peace with the Baluch or India. “There was almost a coup last July when an executive order was issued to put the I.S.I. under civilian control,” Mustikhan recalled.
Meanwhile, the A.F.B. chided the British authorities for the terror trial of Nawabzada Hairbiyar Marri and Mr. Faiz Baloch and said the only sin of the two was to defend Baluch rights against the onslaught of the Pakistan army – the fourth largest in the world and one armed with nuclear weapons.
“President Zardari has publicly apologized to the Baluch people and the new government in Islamabad has clearly said the cases against Marri and Baloch were politically motivated. The continued prosecution of the two violates the principles of fair play and simply defies human logic,” the A.F.B. said.
Peter Tatchell has organized a protest rally on Monday, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Woolwich Crown Court, to show the British government, police and public that people care about the fate of Marri and Baloch.
Tatchell has requested all people who believe in fairplay and justice to defend Balochistan and oppose this miscarriage of justice.
Court address and directions:
Woolwich Crown Court
2 Belmarsh Road
London SE28 0EY
020 8312 7000
[Journalist Ahmar Mustikhan is founder of the DC-based American Friends of Baluchistan]
Ahmar Mustikhan, Freelance Journalist