Pakistan's nukes haunt the world; DC meeting on 29th
Almost eleven years ago I was angry and cried like an infant as Islamists were celebrating outside the Seaview Apartments on the Arabian sea in Karachi, rejoicing Pakistan's testing of nuclear weapons in my ancestral Baluchistan.
They were chanting Allahu Akbar -- Allah is Great --, or in other words, Muslims will rule over the world.
My concern was not only over the destruction of Baluchistan, also spelled Balochistan -- the first victim of Pakistan's nuclear weapons -- but entire humanity as I am fully aware of Pakistan army generals insecurities: non-Muslims are enemies of Pakistan and there is a Zionist-Hindu-Christian conspiracy afoot since 1947 to dismember Pakistan.
A recent report in the New York Times, one of the most objective of U.S. newspapers, once again highlighted the dangers emanating from Islamabad's nuclear weapons. The report said Pakistan army was feverishly multiplying its nuclear arsenal and at least 2,000 Pakistanis now know how to assemble a nuclear device.
But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.
As a Buddhist who believes in Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence - an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind and condemns all terrorism --, I am at a loss to understand how to get peace, freedom and environmental justice without bloodshed for Balochistan.
My people are extremely poor, they have one of the highest levels of illiteracy anywhere in the world and as a nation they are stateless, with a significant chunk of the population still nomadic. In their psyche and political outlook, they resemble the Kurds further to the West, who also are stateless.
Over the last six decades they have faced two of the most ruthless armies in the world: Pakistan and Iranian. Thousands have perished, dreaming freedom. More than a thousand are still missing and just last month in Pakistan three activists working on this critical issue, Ghulam Mohammed Baloch, 45, Lala Munir Baloch, 50, and Sher Mohammed Baloch, 35, were abducted, shot in the head and their bodies thrown from a military helicopter outside the town of Turbat in coastal Mekran Division. For the first time in history, both the UN and the U.S. condemned the killings.
Two of the victims were my friends.
Living in the opulence of the United States, I shudder to think about the abject poverty of the people of Balochistan despite the richness of their land in southwestern Pakistan. The majority is suffering from malnutrition, and many of the Baloch folks in the countryside have never watched television.
Balochistan has the world's top gold and copper reserves that were discovered in the Chagai District, on the Afghan border. Chagai is the nation's nuclear testing ground. On May 28, 1998, Pakistan conducted five nuclear tests at Chagai. Generals of the Pakistan Army used Chagai though they very well understand the sentiments of the local Baloch population against Pakistan.
The testing in the area was all the more abominable as residents of the arid Chagai District lack electricity and other basic services.
Though no scientific evaluation was ever carried out on the specific effects of the nuclear tests on the local populace, there were news reports of an unusually high number of deaths of both camels and nomads.
Baloch locals allege that the nuclear tests have devastated the ecology of the area and their fruits do not taste as sweet as they used to prior to the nuclear tests. Water has been contaminated by radiation caused by the nuclear tests, press reports have suggested, saying that skin diseases, and mental and physical disorders have been recorded in Chagai and surrounding areas.
Most Americans seem never to have heard the name Balochistan, a Texas sized region divided among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Some who have heard the name mispronounce the "ch" in Balochistan as "k," though it should be pronounced like the "ch" in the word China.
Still, Balochistan is a vast territory - 43 percent of Pakistan's land mass - and it is very rich in oil and gas. According to Frederic Grare, a Balochistan expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Balochistan has an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and six trillion barrels of oil reserves both on-shore and off-shore.
The area under Pakistani army occupation is slightly bigger than New Mexico. The area under Iranian mullahs is the size of Nevada, and that under Afghan control is the size of West Virginia. The total Baloch population in these areas is eight million, and at least seven million Baloch live elsewhere in the world. Otheraccounts put the global Baloch population at 20 million.
Since 1980s, several hundred Baloch have made North America their home.
A severe drought descended on the region after the May 28, 1998 nuclear tests, sending tribesmen to relief camps. Sardar Akhtar Mengal, a former chief minister, insisted the drought had a connection to the nuclear explosions.
"Even in the world's top industrialized countries, any atomic blast is never entirely safe," Mengal told this correspondent at the time. "How can these blasts be safe in Pakistan or India?"
Balochistan has been completely ignored in the Western media amidst Nazi-style atrocities perpetrated on its people. For almost six decades, the cries of anguish of the Baloch people as they struggle to become masters of their own destiny have gone unheard. Over the years, 10,000 Baloch tribesmen and 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed.
In fact, when the British granted independence to India and Pakistan on August 14, 1947 Balochistan got its independence as a separate entity from Pakistan as it was never a part of the British Indian Empire. Both houses of the Balochistan Parliament unanimously rejected the idea of joining Pakistan.
Still, under threat of being arrested by Pakistan Army as some of his ancestors had been arrested during the British era, Balochistan ruler Mir Ahmedyar Khan signed an Instrument of Accession on March 27, 1948 with Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.Before that agreement, Balochistan did exist as an independent nation on the map of the world for seven-and-half months. Even that controversial accession document promised semi-sovereignty to Balochistan, now governed as a province of Pakistan.
But the Khan's grandson, Suleman Daud Ahmedzai, who is looked upon by the Baloch people as their De Jure Ruler, is now determined to approach the International Court of Justice at The Hague to force Pakistan to honor its commitments under the 1948 Instruments of Accession.
Against the backdrop of this forced annexation, Pakistan's nuclear testing in Balochistan appears even more sinister.
The Baloch complain they are being "Red Indianized." They compare their situation to what happened when the United States broke the Treaty of Ruby Valley and took a huge chunk of Western Shoshone Indian land to turn it into the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The Shoshone now call themselves "the most bombed nation on earth."
Numbering less than five million in Pakistan-controlled Balochistan, the Baloch fear if Islamabad's plans of transferring the ethnic Punjabi population from the north are not checked, the demography of their land would be altered for good in no time and they would be marginalized much like the Native Americans in the United States.
"The Punjabis do not have to kill us, they can simply flood us," Baluch resistance leader and former government minister Hairbyair Marri said recently from London. Punjabis are the dominant ethnic group in Pakistan and control the army. Marri and his comrade, Faiz Baluch, were tried by a London court for inciting terrorism as they challenged the military operations in Baluchistan, but were found not guilty.
The Baloch feel the "trail of tears," a phrase used by the Cherokee people to describe their forcible relocation from western Georgia to Oklahoma in 1838, is being re-enacted today in Balochistan.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the key scientist who ran the Manhattan Project which created the first atomic bomb, said after the first explosion, "We knew the world not be the same... a few people cried, most people were silent."
In the same way on May 28, 1998, I cried my heart out on learning about the nuclear blasts in Chagai. I mean the forcible and illegal annexation of Balochistan, the looting of Baloch resources at the point of gun, the killing of the people and finally the destruction of their land.
For international expediencies, these injustices and the environmental rape perpetrated on Balochistan have been forgotten. Even the danger Pakistan's armaments pose to the world, and to the United States in particular, has been glossed over.
J. George Pikas, some years ago wrote in a letter to the "Wall Street Journal" that, "Pakistan is for sale to the highest bidder and is cleverly walking the line between the Taliban, Osama, China, Iran, the U.S. and India - quite a mix.", expressing fearsPakistan's nuclear arsenal may fall into the hands of 'raving Islamic fanatics.'"
The Baloch deplore lack of Western interest in their plight. Said Professor Dr. Sabir Badalkhan, a Baloch expert on folklore, "The West has no idea of what it means to be occupied by others, not being able to speak in your language, wear your national dress, celebrate your national days, commemorate the days of your national heroes, read and learn about your national land and feel proud, or sometimes be ashamed, of your forerunners.
Meanwhile, Baluch activists who escape to the West continue to receive threats.
According to Munir Mengal, who is now in Paris, France, and who had faced extreme torture in a Pakistan army dungeon that included cuts on hs penis, an army colonel recently wrote to him, "I think you haven't learned the lesson yet."
"Your American, Israeli or Indian Aaqa's (masters) are trying to disintegrate this Mumlaqat-e-Khudadad [God given country] since 1947 and they are unable to do anything. And Insha Allah, they will never ever get success," a military intelligence spook, Colonel Farhan Qureshi, allegedly threatened Mengal.
May 29 event: All welcome to attend
The American Friends of Baluchistan, a DC-based organization related to Baluchistan issues, is organizing a talk to mark the 11th anniversary of Pakistan's nuclear tests in Baluchistan on May 29 at 12 noon.
Nuclear Tests in Baluchistan: Political and Environmental Impacts
May 29, 2009 at 12 noon
276 Carroll Street
DC NW 20012
Light lunch provided
The venue is just two minutes walk or less than half block from the Takoma Park metro station on the Red Line.
The program will be presided over by A.F.B. presiding council members Laurie Deamer, Bob Selle and Waja Karim Bakhsh of Qatar.
A number of experts will talk on the environmental and political impacts of Pakistan's nuclear tests and its emergence as the lone Muslim majority country with nuclear weapons.
Please note, to make the American public aware of this ongoing conflict in a strategic area at the hub of South Asia and Middle East, Baloch activists joined hands with concerned Americans about three years ago to form the American Friends of Balochistan.
The A.F.B. calls for winding up of Pakistan's nuclear program. As the mission statement of the American Friends of Balochistan says, "Nuclear testing on the soil of Balochistan as practiced by Pakistan is against the wishes of its people and must stop."
The second point calls for making Pakistan's nuclear facilities compliant with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. "At the least, the Chagai nuclear test range should be opened for international inspections," the American Friends of Balochistan urges in its mission statement.
The A.F.B. petition: