Congressional hearing on Balochistan: The case of pot calling the kettle black
February 17, 2012
Pakistan’s national security has been encountering both internal and external challenges. The unending global war on terrorism has a destabilizing impact on its social, political and economic stability.
Since the United States announced its exit strategy from Afghanistan, Islamabad’s troubles have been multiplied. The last year developments, especially the attack on Pakistan’s check post on November 26, 2011, severely wear down the trust between partners in the war on terrorism.
Presently, Islamabad and Washington are revising the scope of their engagements and also rewriting their rules of engagement in their bilateral cooperation. In order to maximize advantages in their relations with Islamabad, Washington has been employing various tactics. Recently, they adopted a new tactic, i.e. to debate the Balochistan situation in their House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations. In addition, the United States Ambassador in Pakistan, Mr. Cameron Munter, in his recent interview, stated that human rights violations in Balochistan were a major issue.
The members of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations organized an exclusive hearing on Balochistan and heard human rights activists and scholars detailing human rights abuses in Balochistan on February 8, 2012. Congressman Rohrabacher (House of Representative) stated during the hearing that Balochistan is a turbulent land marked by human rights violations “by regimes that are against US values”. The participants in the hearing committee accused Pakistan’s security forces and its intelligence agencies of involvement in the enforced disappearance of ethnic Baloch. It was reported that a representative of Amnesty International even called for the Leahy Amendment to be applied to all military units operating in Balochistan.
The Leahy Law or Leahy provision is a human rights stipulation in U.S. congressional foreign assistance legislation. The Leahy Law prohibits United Sates military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. The application of this law would damage the repute of Pakistani armed forces.
Pakistan viewed the Balochistan hearing with serious concern and considers it unacceptable. Ambassador Sherry Rehman categorically stated that “It is deeply regrettable that the legislature of a country that calls itself a friend of Pakistan allowed itself to be used as a platform for advocating the dismemberment of Pakistan and provided justification to terrorists attempting to hold Balochistan, and Pakistan, hostage.”
The government strongly condemned the US Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee’s action. The US charge d`affaires, Mr Richard Hoagland, was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 13, 2012. He was officially conveyed the government`s serious concern with regard to the hearing held by the US Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations in relation to Balochistan.
The American pressure tactics also alarmed the political elite of the country. It declared this act tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of the country. The government and opposition parties in the National Assembly condemned the American’s congressmen action. The leader of the opposition moved a resolution in the National Assembly. The National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the house sub-committee`s hearing on February 13, 2012.
The Balochistan hearing disturbed Islamabad because the sovereign states jealously guard their internal and external affairs. They do not permit the external powers to interfere in their internal affairs. They do not allow even their allies to discuss or deliberate on one’s domestic situation. Nevertheless, the great powers openly deliberate on the internal affairs of the smaller states. In a few cases, they directly or indirectly interfere in the domestic affairs or even play a decisive role in changing the governments.
Although one cannot support the act of the Americans, one cannot ignore the situation in Balochistan. The worsening political and law and order situation in Balochistan encouraged the external actors to exploit the province’s internal state of affairs for their own nefarious designs. The terrorist organizations used the Balochistan territory as their sanctuaries. Indians have been involved to create a fifth column in the province. Afghan Taliban leaders also use it as their safe haven. Recently, Americans have attempted to cash the situation to indirectly increase pressure on Pakistan.
Importantly, many Baloch tribal leaders are not comfortable with the government policies. Ironically, the elected ruling elite have also failed to engage the tribal elite. The Baloch apathy certainly undermines the national security. Hence, it is imperative that the government should consult all the stakeholders and chalk out a practical strategy to resolve the Balochistan problems.