Baloch activists on Wednesday gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City, to protest against what they consider to be Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Balochistan. This move comes less than a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the Balochistan issue in his widely viewed Independence Day speech.
“Balochistan is not Pakistan,” and “Stop human rights violations in Balochistan,” were two of the messages displayed on banners during the protest. Participation in the event was open to all pro-Baloch freedom activists, and other human rights activists, and it has learned that a few Indian human right activists who weren’t affiliated with any particular organization took part.
Wednesday’s protest was spearheaded by Free Balochistan Movement (FBM), a collective of Baloch activists lobbying for freedom and secession from Pakistan. Their protest coincides with the beginning of the meeting of the United Nations General Embassy, and is aimed at highlighting human rights violations, alleged political killings and violence in Balochistan by Pakistani forces.
Pakistan’s ‘state-sponsored terrorism’: The FBM has pointed out that the UN has a history of interventions in favour of separatist movements, such as Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan. “We expect the UN to recognise Balochistan as an occupied territory and urge Pakistan to end the illegal occupation of Balochistan. After the independence of Balochistan we want the UN to bring Pakistani war criminals and army generals to the International Court of Justice,” Faiz Baloch, a London-based FBM activist said.
FBM also wants the UN to take notice of “state-sponsored terrorism” in Balochistan, and send a fact-finding mission to investigate the “Pakistani state’s aggression against Balochs,” Faiz said. The organization claims over 5,000 Baloch people have been killed in custody by Pakistani forces, allegedly as part of a ‘kill-and-dump’ policy. They also claim that 20,000 Baloch have been abducted, of which many continue to face torture.
On Tuesday, In addition to displaying banners and slogans, the protesters in New York also carried dolls painted with blood – “to show the world that Pakistan is killing our innocent children and women,” said Faiz
Prime Minster Modi’s influence: When asked whether pro-Baloch freedom activism has intensified since PM Modi highlighted the plight of the people of Balochistan, Faiz had this to say: “No doubt Prime Minister Modi’s mentioning of Balochistan in his speech has given exposure to Balochistan issue on international level including in India. But, the issue of Balochistan is much larger and we have a history of struggle against Pakistan.”
“We have been organising protests in London, America, Geneva, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany for a long time but there was no media coverage for our activities. Now the media-especially the Indian media-is giving more coverage to our protests which we appreciate,” he added.