UNPO Side-Event to the 36th Session of the UNHRC Highlights Systemic Economic Exploitation and Oppression of Balochistan
On 18 September 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in cooperation with the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational Transparty (NRPTT) and the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), convened a side-event to the 36th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Entitled “Scaling the Abyss: CPEC, Economic Exploitation and State Oppression in Balochistan”, the successful conference brought together high-level international speakers to discuss the rampant human rights violations and legacy of oppression and economic exploitation in Balochistan, amplified by the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The conference was opened by Ms Nicoletta Enria, UNPO Project Officer, who reminded the participants of UNPO’s commitment to ending the enduring silence on Balochistan, especially due to the escalating human rights crisis taking place with the ruthless implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Ms Enria also underlined how the crackdown on freedom of expression, compounded by the severely limited access to the region make obtaining reliable information on what takes in Balochistan, highlighting the increasing urgency of such events to raise awareness for the Baloch cause.
Mr Fernando Burges, UNPO Programme Manager, who moderated the event, took the floor to introduce the distinguished panel of speakers and their different areas of expertise regarding the matter at hand. Mr Burzine Waghmar of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) introduced the audience to the legacy of oppression at the hands of the Pakistani authorities, highlighting the difficulties faced by the indigenous Baloch people to make their plight heard. Mr Waghmar underlined how the CPEC project entails the colonisation of the region, significantly increasing foreign investments but completely shutting out the autochthonous population from any employment and development prospects the project may bring.
This was then followed by University of Cambridge’s Ms Mahvish Ahmad who opened her intervention with a touching account of the many Baloch friends she has lost over the years targeted for their nonviolent struggle for justice and equality. Moreover, Ms Ahmad reminded the participants of the vital role foreign powers have had in Pakistan’s violent campaign, shedding considerable light on the long history of British exploitation and US military and financial support in the region. Ahmad also pointed out the pivotal support the United Kingdom still lends to Pakistan, such as advanced technology and military support, and the role it plays in the oppression of the indigenous Baloch people.
Mr Shah Jahan Baloch of the World Baloch Organisation (WBO) expanded on Ms Ahmad’s tribute to the loss of peaceful Baloch activists over the years, thanking her for her solidarity with the Baloch people. Mr Baloch outlined the extensive practices of the Pakistani authorities in executing the cultural, social and political genocide of the Baloch people. Furthermore, Mr Baloch brought to the participants attention that Balochistan is not just a plot of land that Pakistan may sell to China, and that no matter how much construction the renewed partnership of China and Pakistan plan in the region, it will not diminish the Baloch’s peaceful and democratic calls for their fundamental rights to be respected. This was then followed by some concluding remarks presented by Mr Mehran Baluch, Representative of Balochistan at the UNHRC and EU.
The side-event brought together high-level speakers who shared exchanged their diverse insights onto the Baloch cause, bringing forward a long-term campaign to raise awareness at the Human Rights Council, of the ill-treatment of the Baloch people – subjected to extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, economic and social marginalisation and exploitation of the region’s plentiful natural resources. The event touched upon a variety of factors that actively marginalise and oppress the Baloch people, with a particular focus on the CPEC project looking closely at its brutal implementation and colonial significance. The distinguished panel of speakers and their enlightening contributions served as a stark reminder for the international community stand up for the Baloch people, helping to amplify their voice when theirs is systematically silenced.