Rohrabacher’s Balochistan Resolution Provokes Massive Anti-US Demonstrations in Pakistan

King, Rorhabacher and Gohmert negotiate the final wording of their Balochistan resolution. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

At a time when US relations with Pakistan were already on edge but potentially moving back toward cooperation on pursuit of terrorists and transport of NATO military supplies, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on February 8 dished out a stellar performance during his stunt hearing on Balochistan, where he mispronounced the name of the region so badly that one Pakistani press account decided to refer to him as Donna Rohrbacher. Rohrabacher now has teamed up with intellectual titans and foreign policy experts Steve King (R-IA) and Louis Gohmert (R-TX) to submit H. Con. Res. 104 on Friday, calling for an independent Balochistan. The arrogance inherent in this action has produced massive anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan that threaten to deteriorate relations even further.

Rohrabacher’s resolution, which is co-sponsored only by King and Gohmert, ends:

Whereas it is the policy of the United States to oppose aggression and the violation of human rights inherent in the subjugation of national groups as currently being shown in Iran and Pakistan against the aspirations of the Baluch people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the people of Baluchistan, currently divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status among the community of nations, living in peace and harmony, without external coercion.

Never mind that the US is coercing many countries and cultures in the region at the current time, Rohrabacher wants Pakistan’s “coercion” of Balochistan to stop now.

Today’s rally against the resolution was large. From the Express Tribune:

As several quarters in Pakistan join the chorus to condemn a bill on Balochistan moved in the US Congress, thousands of Difa-e-Pakistan Council supporters rallied in Islamabad against American intervention in Pakistan.

“Today, we have gathered here to raise a voice of protest against US intervention in Pakistan,” DPC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq told the participants who had gathered at Aabpara Chowk in the federal capital on Monday.

“America wants to break Pakistan into pieces,” Haq said, in reference to the resolution in America, introduced by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher which calls upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self determination. “Our protest is against the possible resumption of Nato supplies, US and Indian occupation and to strengthen the country’s defence.”

The official response from Pakistan’s government is no better:

US Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoaglan was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday and a strong protest was lodged with him with regard to the tabling of a resolution on Balochistan in the US Congress.

Ambassador Hoagland was told in clear terms that the move in the US Congress was contrary to the spirit of friendly relations and violates the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the recognised norms of inter-state conduct.

He was asked to convey the serious concern of the Government of Pakistan to the US Administration, said a statement of the Foreign Office.

Note: In the Pakistani press, Rohrabacher’s motion is described as being “tabled” in the British sense of being submitted for consideration rather than the US sense of postponing consideration. The bill has been submitted to the full House Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration according to Thomas.

Adding to the chorus of disapproval from Pakistan, their Embassay in Washington quickly issued a statement after the resolution was submitted. The Embassy pointed out that the Balochistan province in Pakistan has elected representatives to Pakistan’s Parliament, just as the other provinces do:

“We reject this ill-informed move and the Congressman’s misplaced concern on Balochistan, which is a part of the Pakistani Federation,” the Embassy said, commenting on Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s move in the House on the rights of the people of Balochistan.

A statement issued by the Embassy reminded sponsors of the move that Balochistan has a “directly elected provincial assembly of its own and has due representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan.”

“The resolution seeks to cast doubt on the territorial integrity of a member of the United Nations and a friend of the United States, and is totally unacceptable.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also spoke out against the resolution on Saturday. From Dawn:

The prime minister said he was dismayed to learn about the bill since it constituted challenging Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Oh, and just what were they saying at today’s massive rally? From Pakistan Today:

Several thousand Pakistanis poured onto the streets of Islamabad Monday, chanting “death to America” and demanding holy war at a rally whipped up by right-wing, religious and banned organisations.

It would appear that the good Congressman has been speaking directly to his right-wing counterparts in Pakistan. If only the rest of us weren’t dragged into the fight when these hot-heads go after one another.

 

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
10 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    picture: funny as hell. inspired.

    story: sad. arrogant. embarrassing.

    question: what motivates rohrbacher? animus? money?

  2. PeasantParty says:

    “foreign policy experts Steve King (R-IA) and Louis Gohmert (R-TX)”

    Muhahahawwwwwww! (Eyes watering, snorts, slapping knees)

    The Three Stooges, Indeed!

  3. Bob Schacht says:

    What comes to my mind is the division of the Kurds among Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Is Rohrbacher campaigning for an independent Kurdistan, too? After all, they’ve shown leadership in the past (Dude named Saladin). Oh, wait…

    Bob in AZ

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    In fact, Balochistan should be independent, but the demagogic intervention of the Americans is not aimed at independence, but leveraging legitimate national aspirations for their own political-military purposes. One would hope that, unlike, say, the Kurds, the Balochi independence leaders will not fall for overtures from the CIA, DoD, State, etc. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be happening, as this article explains. (The president of the Balochistan National Party is asking for UN intervention; other leaders have met with Secty of State Clinton.)

    Re how the Balochistan issue is perceived by some groups within Pakistan, see this article about calls by the Womens’ Action Forum in Pakistan for the independence of Balochistan:

    The WAF demanded the government to solve the issues of the Balochistan in accordance with their aspirations and rights. The WAF also said being the champions of the rights 90 million women across the country would also disseminate messages of awareness among women about the critical situation of Balochistan. WAF also reiterated its earlier stance for keeping on struggle for secular state in Pakistan besides highlighting the biased outlook of religious clerics towards women on the name of Islam.

    Two social workers hailing from Balochistan lamented the stone-heartedness of Punjabi and media as a whole for ignoring the incidents of killings, maiming of innocent citizens, detention, disappearance and ethnic targeting of Balochi people at the hands of security forces and outlawed groups.

    Kawish Mehboob, a social worker hailing from Khuzdar Balochistan, said Balochi women always played a positive role to restore peace in the province but now after seeing the dead bodies of their beloved ones they also stood against the atrocities committed by the security forces and outlawed religious parties. She said women did not like to see weapons at the hands of their sons or husbands but when they were being disappeared or killed how could then women stop them from raising weapons against the state. She said the Punjab and media were ignoring Balochistan and she feared if steps would not be taken to redress the complaints of Balochistan’s people, it would be very difficult for them to stick with the federation of the country.

    Let’s not forget that the Baloch region spills over into southeastern Iran and Helmland province of Afghanistan. Independence movements and fighting for Balochistan goes back to the creation of the Pakistani state.

    The different tribes in Balochistan got caught up in both the US actions against Iran and the anti-Soviet CIA-supported jihad in Afghanistan. The tribes split between support for the USSR and the US (see this history). So the region has been a matter of contention and great power maneuvering, not to mention Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India politics for decades now.

    Balochistan has considerable strategic importance for the US for various reasons: Most of Pakistan’s oil and gas resources are located in Balochistan and about 30 percent of these are controlled by American oil companies, many of them from President George W Bush’s home state of Texas. It is an important window on Iran. If the US decides to overthrow the Iranian regime after getting rid of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the pro-US Balochi tribes, particularly the Jamalis, could be as useful to Washington DC as the Kurds are expected to be against Saddam Hussein. Balochistan is an escape route for the dregs of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) trying to get away by sea to Yemen.

    For the same reasons, Balochistan has become an important operational area for al-Qaeda and IIF remnants in their attempts to hurt US economic interests in Pakistan in retaliation for the US war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and its campaign against the Saddam regime. They have been receiving assistance in their endeavors from the pro-Iraqi and anti-US segments of the Balochi tribals on both sides of the Pakistan-Iran border.

    As I said, Rohrabacher’s posturing is not actually for the good of the people in that region, but to position the US to possibly make clandestine or military moves in the region, especially given the conflict with Pakistan. This has of course already occurred (see this article). However, we should remember this does not mean the complaints of the Balochis are not without validity.

    The “sense of Congress” bill is meant to tweak the Pakistani government. But not only them, but perhaps even more (since US military intervention in Iran is at issue these days) is the rationale for movement against Iran. From the bill’s language: “… Whereas a popular insurgency is also under way in Sistan-Baluchistan and being met by brutal repression by the dictatorship in Iran which has added religious bigotry to tyranny…”

    The US and its allies uses humanitarian language as a cover for military intervention and imperialist goals.

  5. Bob Schacht says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Thanks, Jeff, for a very cogent series of observations. One minor nit:”…Helmland province of Afghanistan”- –delete the second L (viz, Helmand). Helmand is the name of the river that flows into the inland lake in that province.

    “… Whereas a popular insurgency is also under way in Sistan-Baluchistan and being met by brutal repression by the dictatorship in Iran which has added religious bigotry to tyranny…”

    Sistan also names an ancient city in the area discovered only in the last 50 years or so, on or near the Helmand River and lake. Although the area is currently a backwater, several millenia ago it had, in Sistan, one of the major urban centers between Iraq and India.

    Bob in AZ

  6. blowback says:

    Perhaps Donna will now start to support the aspirations of the Palestinians to a national home and the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo to be recognized as part of Serbia.

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