Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Panel assembled for Baluch international moot

Shaheed Balaach Marri [left] with Baluch national hero Brahumdagh Bugti.
A number of international activists, scholars and human rights practitioners will be participating in the first-ever Baluchistan International Conference in Washington DC on Nov. 21-22.
The American Friends of Baluchistan, an organization that supports the independence movement, has organized the conference.

The conference has been organized to highlight the Baluch issues in Eastern and Western Baluchistan -- now under Pakistani and Iranian occupation -- and to pay tributes to slain Baluch freedom fighter Nawabzada Balaach Marri, 41, an elected member of the Baluchistan state assembly and son of legendary Baluch leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri.

Marri was killed extrajudicially by the Pakistan military on Nov. 20, 2007.

Baluch international activist Mehran Baluch, a brother of the slain leader, will preside over the two-day conference that is aimed to find ways and means to end the plight of the Baluch natives in Western and Eastern Baluchistan.

The panelists at the conference are:

Selig S. Harrison, Asia director at the Center for International Policy, has written extensively on ethnic tensions in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran , focusing on the Baluch nationalist struggle. His 1980 book In Afghanistan?s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, remains the most authoritative analysis of the Baluch nationalist movement. He is the author of Pakistan: The State of the Union, recently published by the Center for International Policy, where he directs the Asia Program. In this study, he calls on the government of Pakistan to honor the autonomy provisions of the 1973 Constitution and withdraw its armed forces and intelligence agencies from Baluchistan .Harrison served for 22 years as a Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and was South Asia and Northeast Asia Bureau Chief of The Washington Post.

His five books on Asia include India: The Most Dangerous Decades ( Princeton ) and The Widening Gulf: Asian Nationalism and American Policy (Free Press).

Annie Nocenti's writing has appeared in Details, Utne, HEEB, Stop Smiling, PRINT, The Independent, Filmmaker, Scenario, High Times, CounterPunch, Lies of Our Times, Chronogram and Prison Life. Her story The Most Expensive Road Trip in the World was published in the Best Travel Writing 2008, editor Anthony Bourdain. She has edited books for The Nation and Her interviews with film directors have been published and anthologized. Her comics include Daredevil, Longshot, Typhoid Mary, and Spider-man. Nocenti made a film with Wendy Johnson called The Baluch and wrote a story about her trip to Baluchistan: Nocenti currently teaches film in Haiti.

T. Kumar is the Advocacy Director for International Issues for Amnesty International USA. He has served as a human rights monitor in many Asian countries as well as in Bosnia, Haiti, Guatemala, and South Africa. He has also served as director of several refugee ships and refugee camps. Kumar often testifies before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and frequently lectures at the Foreign Service Institute. A former political prisoner in Sri Lanka for more than five years, he has been interviewed by CNN, BBC, and NPR. He is also a Professor at Washington College of Law's Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Andrew Eiva was born of refugee parents who fled tyranny in Lithuania, and learned early on that resistance warfare could help his homeland Lithuania regain independence. His quest took him to West Point -- where U.S. generals are trained -- and the Green Berets. He is best known for his impact on policy and the selection of effective weapons systems during Afghanistan's struggle against Red Army occupation. Later in Lithuania, he led the volunteer pro-independence forces in a showdown with Soviet occupation forces. During the Serb ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, he lobbied for military support for the Bosnians and Kossovars. Currently, he is working on a concept for the Sudanese resistance to use their oil and gas reserves as a tool for unity and victory. Eiva thinks a similar approach could benefit the Baluch drive for independence.

Saghir A. Shaikh, Ph.D, is based in California . He is the former chairman of the World Sindhi Congress -- a Sindhi advocacy and educational organization with chapters in UK, USA.. Dr. Shaikh has been active in different social and political forums since he was five. He is one of the founding members of Sindhi Baloch Forum, G M Syed Memorrial Committee, Sojhro.Org (an education and career abroad web portal), and a life member of Sindhi Association of North America. Dr Shaikh speaks regularly at Seminar and Conferences highligting the Sindh and Balochistan struggle for National Self-determination.

Munir Mengal is the managing director of Baloch Voice based in Paris, France and hails from the remote Mashkay area in Awaran, Occupied Balochistan. He had planned to launch a Balochi and Brohi language Satellite TV channel called "Baloch Voice." But Pakistani intelligence agencies abducted him on April 4, 2006 and he was held incommunicado and faced worst torture in Pakistan military dungeon for 16 months. After being freed on 23 rd April 2008, he came to France with the help of and Reporters Sans Frontieres. He has attended two UNHCR council sessions and made speeches at events organized by the UNPO and Interfaith International.

Dr. Gul Agha is a well-known Computer Scientist and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Agha grew up in, and has traveled extensively throughout Sindh and all of South Asia. He has written numerous short essays about Sindh and has lectured at many Sindhi gatherings. He was the Guest of Honor ('Mukhi Mehman') at the Sindhi New Year (Cheti Chand) celebration organized by the Bharti Sindhu Sabha in Thane in 2000 (Mumbai, India). Dr. Agha is an outstanding speaker whose expertise and personal experience enables him to speak extensively on human rights and international and domestic politics pertaining to Sindh and Baluchistan.

Wendy Johnson is a co-producer of the seminal documentary The Baluch. She has a Master's degree in Languages and Literature of South Asia from the University of Minnesota. She has lived and traveled extensively in Pakistan and India while studying Urdu on the Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Lahore, Pakistan, on two occasions, and with the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Delhi, India. She also studied documentary film at the Anthropological Film Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Wendy works as a graphic designer in New York. She and her husband Albert Larew manage website.

Asad Rahman is program director at the Sungi Development Foundation. He had taken part in the Baluch resistance against the Pakistan military occupation of Baluchistan along with the Marri guerillas in 1973-77. He was the youngest but fittest in the popular London Group, when at the age of 21, he used to ambush the Pakistani military convoys and take away ammunition from them to sustain the Baluch liberation movement. An eyewitness to the "genocide" of the Baloch in the 70s, Rahman alias Chakar Khan, still an ardent supporter of an independent Baluchistan. He recalls Pakistan military butality saying Baloch women were used as 'comfort women' in military custody and male fighters were captured and thrown from the helicopters.

Ismail Ameeri attended high school in port city of Chahbahar and college in Zahedan in Western [Iranian occupied] Balochistan . After the 1979 Iranian mullah takeover, he went to Karachi and did his Master's in Political Science in from the University of Karachi in 1985. In Karachi he was actively involved in Baloch politics and Balochi literary forums and joined the Western Balochistan-based Balochistan National Movement. He is presently a member of the central and executive committees of the pro-independence party.A writer in Balochi language, he had been a co-editor of Monthly Taptan ( Balochi ). He regularly chairs and moderates Baloch gatherings in London.

Ali Arjemandi, was born in Kishkor, Sarbaz in western Balochistan in a farmer's family. He was forced to become a refugee and arrived in Norway in the beginning of 1987. He graduated in physiotherapy from the State Physiotherapy School in Oslo in 1995. At the age of 14, was captured and imprisoned for 48 hours of notorious Savak – th seceret service of the Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pehlavi, was tortured and his leg was broken. He became a member of Baloch Raje Zrombesh from 1985. He is a brother of Ehsan Arjemandi, who was kidnapped by the Pakistani Military Intelligence on August and is still missing.

Aziz Baloch now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he represents the Baloch Human Rights Council. He is MA (Economics) from University of Balochistan and former zonal general secretary of the Baloch Students Organization [BSO], a student body engaged in securing the irghts of the Baloch people since 1967. He has associate degree in professional management and business technology management and served as lecture coordinator in the student program, inviting academics to speak on international topics. A volunteer interpreter/translator for Baloch community in Canada he is a also a seasonal writer -- his articles have been published in and other websites.

Humaira Rahman is a director of the World Sindhi Institute. A former practicing architect and lecturer, she is an environmental and human rights activist. She had laucnhed a highly successful non-profit against urban sprawl in her hometown of Karachi. Ms. Rahman belongs to a well-known family from Old Karachi, where her father and uncle were respected for their community service as educationists and jurists. Currently, she resides in Canada.

Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti has been campaigning for equal basic democratic rights of Christian people in Pakistan since 1985, he is president of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC He led numerous protests, hunger strikes, rallies and long marches with other leaders and members of PCC to condemn black and discriminatory laws in Pakistan. He was arrested many times.He contested the blasphemy law in Lahore High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan and has challenged the Hadood Ordinance. He was forced to flee to U.S. safety after the government of Pakistan registered 21 false cases of treason and blasphemy against me on February 13 1998, in Karachi, for leading a protests against the burning of Christian village Shanti Nagar by radical Muslims in Punjab.

Meanwhile, American Friends of Baluchistan condemned Islamabad for putting one of the invitees to the conference, Prof. Naela Quadri of the Baloch Republican Party on the infamous exit control list. Prof. Quadri was recently offloaded from an aeroplane while she was travelling to Manila to attend a premier Asian Pacific NGO conference on conflict zones.

"We condemn the Inter Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence for their crimes against humanity in Baluchistan," two AFB leaders Rashid Baloch and Mailk Baloch said. "Those who conspire with them will face the popular wrath of the Baluch people," the two leaders warned.

Over the years, secular Baluchistan has been turned into a killing field by both Pakistan and Iran. The Baluch are engaged in a heroic David-and-Goliath struggle to regain their lost statehood.


Balaach Marri was born on January 17, 1966. He was the fourth among six sons of Nawab Khair Bux Marri. He was named after the great 15th century Baloch hero Balaach Gorgej of Chaker-e-Azam era. He started his primary education at Quetta Grammar School. He was only six in 1972 when the National Awami Party government was removed forcibly at the instigation of the military. The entire area around Nawab Khair Bux Marri's house in Quetta was surrounded by military and Balaach witnessed his father being arrested by the army. The seige of the house continued for many months after the arrest.

Nawab Khair Bux Marri was jailed for the next seven years for plotting to liberate Baluchistan and during this entire period, Balaach was able to see his father only a couple of times. Nawab Khair Bux was released in 1979 and went into self-exile in Afghanistan the following year with his family and thousands of Baloch people. Balaach continued and finished his secondary education in Afghanistan.

Balaach excelled in his studies. He was a keen student who really loved his school and studies. During this period Balaach started to learn and understand politics.

He attended study circles run by his father Nawab Khair Bux that included philosophy, history of Baloch people and Balochistan and about the possible options for political struggle and emancipation. The study circles and discussions also included the analysis of international situation.

At that time a lot was happening in Afghanistan, attracting many liberal activists and intellectuals from the surrounding countries. The study circles and the interactions that Balaach attended during this period had a deep mark on his understanding of Baloch issues.

He was also believed to be probably one of the closest to Nawab Khair Bux among his sons. Balaach interacted frequently with his father, whom he used to call Ada or "Elder Brother."

After finishing his secondary education in Afghanistan, Balaach moved to Moscow to finish his higher education in communication engineering. Again, he proved to be an excellent student. Balaach was very effective in interacting with people from many different countries with revolutionary ideas and enthusiasm to bring a change. He continued to maintain many of those relations that he established during this period.

Nawab Khair Bux Marri returned to Balochistan in 1992 and Balaach Marri returned in 1993 after completing his studies. He left Balochistan at the age of 14 as an adolescent and returned as a man of 27 years.

In 2000, the entire family of Nawab Marri was implicated in the murder of Justice Marri. Nawab Khair Bux was imprisoned. Balach incidentally was at that time in London. After the arest of his father, family and friends and family advised him to stay in London.

He immediately started work to raise awareness among the international community about the plight of the Baloch people. He worked tirelessly to inform international community about Baloch sufferings. He firmly believed in the combined struggle of Baloch and other oppressed nations. He was one of the founders and first secretary general of Sindhi Baloch Forum established in 2001. The purpose of this forum was to provide common platform to Baloch and Sindhi cause at the international stage. He participated in the 2002 elections in absentia and swept the polls.

In early Nov. 2003, he went back to Balochistan. During the oath-taking ceremony he refused to take oath in Urdu and insisted on taking oath in Balochi language. He did not say the words that he shall be loyal to Pakistan, but instead he said he will be loyal to his motherland, Balochistan.

Balaach was offered seats and to join PML-Q but he turned down all the offers. Soon he realised that the Pakistani agencies were after him and filing false cases against him, thus he moved to Kahan (his ancestral town) and never attended a session of the assembly again.

He started working to develop the backbone of the current Baloch resistance. One of his greatest achievements is that he resolved long-term feuds between Marri and Bugti tribes and assisted Nawab Akbar Bugti to lead the Baloch national cause. This demonstrates his visionary and statesmanlike capabilities. He organised the Baloch struggle not on tribal but Baloch national lines.

He raised the profile of the Baloch struggle to a new level within the international community and in Pakistan. The impact was so big that on many occasions coup leader and dictator General Pervez Mushraf explicitly said Balaach Marri has to be eliminated to keep Baluchistan under Pakistan's military thumb.

Friends and political activists who were close to him described him as a perfectionist as he wanted to bring perfection in Baloch struggle.

No comments:

Post a Comment