Balochistan was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan in 1948, without any public agreement or consent. It is a colony of Pakistan, in all but name, and remains part of Pakistan by armed force.
The Baloch people have been denied a referendum on self-determination for nearly seven decades.
Pakistan’s grave human rights abuses in Balochistan are independently corroborated by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Asian Human Rights Commission.
These abuses include thousands of indiscriminate military attacks, kidnappings and forced disappearances – plus detention with trial, torture, assassination and extrajudicial killings by Pakistan’s Military and intelligence services.
Over the decades, tens of thousands of Baloch people have been killed, wounded or displaced. What is happening is often seen by the victims and their loved ones as slow motion genocide.
Far from easing over time, human rights groups confirm Pakistan’s intensified repression in annexed and occupied Balochistan, especially as Islamabad seeks to impose the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the people there, without consent.
Here I suggest setting out a tentative, provisional eight-point action plan, to pressure Pakistan to end its subjugation and human rights abuses in Balochistan:
1. A halt to western arms sales to Pakistan, which are being diverted from the intended fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban to repress the Baloch population. The weapons include US-supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters. They have been used to bomb Baloch villages, destroying crops and killing civilians and livestock. US arms deals with Pakistan violate the Leahy amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act. It prohibits Washington from providing weapons to foreign armed forces that contravene human rights.
2. The UN should appoint a Special Rapporteur on Balochistan, to monitor and report to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on human rights abuses and ethnic discrimination.
3. A UN fact-finding mission is urgently needed to independently assess the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Balochistan.
4. Pakistan should be pressed to lift entry restrictions and permit aid agencies, journalists, and human rights defenders free access to Balochistan, in order to ensure the delivery of aid to the impoverished population, enable free media reporting, and allow the documentation of the effects of military occupation.
5. Military and intelligence chiefs in Pakistan should be prosecuted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international humanitarian law, including via the International Criminal Court or via UN Special Tribunal. In particular, prosecutions should be initiated against the former Military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, and the ex-head of the XII Corps, Lt. General Nasser Janjua. In the interim, international arrest warrants should be issued for all Pakistani Military leaders who have been involved in, or colluded with, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Balochistan.
6. The bringing of civil claims in US courts by Baloch victims of human rights violations committed by Pakistani State officials, using the Alien Tort Claims Act.
7. Make western aid to Pakistan conditional on the ending of human rights violations. Until Islamabad complies, all aid should be withdrawn from the Pakistan government and switched to local and international aid agencies that conform to international human rights norms.
8. A boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions campaign targeting Pakistani government, Military, and intelligence officials implicated in human rights crimes in Balochistan.
What is urgently needed is a road map for peace and self-determination in Balochistan, to de-escalate the military conflict and secure a negotiated political settlement.
How do we get from here to there?
I am proposing this six-point road map:
1. Ceasefire and cessation of all Military operations, withdrawal of Pakistani troops and paramilitaries to barracks, and a halt to the construction of new Military bases and outposts – with independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peacekeepers.
2. Release of all political prisoners and a full account of the fate of all disappeared persons.
3. Open access to all parts of Balochistan for journalists, aid agencies, and human rights organisations.
4. Right of return for displaced refugees, restoration of their property, and compensation for losses caused by the conflict.
5. End internal colonisation of Balochistan by non-Baloch settlers.
6. UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, which includes the option of independence.
Whether my proposals are the right ones is a matter for debate. But it is crucial that there is some kind of specific, credible road map, which the Baloch people, together with the UN and the international community, can press Pakistan to accept.
Some critics say that Balochistan can never win against its all-powerful, over-bearing occupier. But from my knowledge of history, David can defeat Goliath, as the US learned to its cost in Vietnam.
Like all people everywhere, the people of Balochistan have a right to self-determination. It is enshrined in the UN Charter. Pakistan can delay Balochistan’s right to self-determination – at great financial, moral, political, and reputational cost – but the freedom of Balochistan cannot, must not, and will not be denied.
The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.
About the Author: Peter Gary Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org