Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director, Human Rights Watch, was one of the few people who recently gave testimony to US Congress on the issue of Balochsitan province. I interviewed him for The News on Sunday.
Can you outline your testimony to the US Congress on Balochistan?
Ali Dayan Hasan: The hearing provided an opportunity to highlight the dire human rights situation in Balochistan and was used by HRW to that end. We take no position on the issue of self-determination and I clarified that Balochistan was an internationally recognised Pakistani province and not a territory over which there was any dispute over sovereignty. That said, HRW expects Pakistan’s constitutional protections for citizens to apply to those who live in the province. I explained that while the state — through the army, intelligence agencies and paramilitaries such as the FC — was the principal abusive actor, Balochistan presented a complex situation with multiple actors involved in human rights abuse.
While the state is responsible for illegal detentions, disappearances and targeted killings, it is also true that Baloch nationalists have targeted non-Baloch settlers and Sunni extremists are killing Shias in the province. HRW also called upon Congress to examine US complicity with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in the disappearances of al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, and how that enabled Musharraf to extend enforced disappearances to the menu of human rights abuses across Pakistan generally and in Balochistan in particular. I also explained that Balochistan was not a mono-ethnic province peopled only by the Baloch but that they comprised just over half the population and that any examination of the place of Baloch nationalism had to factor in the implications stemming from this reality.
Were you surprised at the outrage over the Congressional hearing in Pakistan? Do you think it was justified?
ADH: I made clear even before the hearing that HRW was only using the hearing as a platform to highlight the human rights situation in Balochistan and we viewed the politics surrounding the hearing in the US with discomfort. However, on balance, international groups such as HRW and Amnesty felt it important that an objective human rights analysis, based in international law rather than political rhetoric, be placed on the record. While I understand why Congressman Rohrabacher’s resolution asking for self-determination in Balochistan was negatively received in Pakistan, I have said before and I repeat that it is not within Rohrabacher’s or the US Congress’s capacity to create or dismember countries. Every sane minded person understands this both in the US and Pakistan. But these events have focused attention within Pakistan on the human rights crisis in Balochistan and that is a positive development. And now, knowing that it is on the international radar, it is incumbent upon Pakistan’s political and military leaders to end an untenable policy of denial and resolve this crisis speedily and meaningfully. (more…)