Editorial: Rohrabacher is Back

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is undeterred despite Pakistan’s vocal diplomatic protests over his consistent and extraordinary support for the Balcoh right to self-determination. After convening a landmark congressional hearing on Balochistan and then introducing a bill to support the Baloch right to self-determination, today (Tuesday), he is going a step further by addressing a press conference at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, DC, to keep the debate on Balochistan alive.

Mr. Rohrabacher has (probably deliberately) chosen a controversial date for his press conference. Balochs mark March 27th as a black day and remember it as the day when Pakistan forcefully usurped their sovereignty in 1948. This is the best date from a Baloch point of view to create awareness among the US intelligentsia and lawmakers about the history and current state of affairs in Balochistan. On its part, Pakistan has already protested so many times on Rohrabacher’s pro-Baloch initiatives that more official protests are very unlikely to gain much attention.

One reason why Islamabad’s protests are no longer taken very serious because its parliament, ambassadors to the US, UN and provincial assemblies have brazenly defended torture and human rights abuses against the Baloch people after the hearing. On its part, the international community and the civilized world believes torture and human rights violations are not a country’s internal matter. They need international attention until abusive governments bring a complete end to such practices and punish elements responsible for mass murders and disappearances. In Balochistan’s case, it gets further complicated because the Pakistani state is directly blamed for these killings.

In Zenger Room of the NPC, Mr. Rohrabacher will be joined by Louie Gohmert for the Newsmaker event. Mr. Gohmert had also spoken at the Congressional hearing on February 8th and backed the idea of an independent Balochistan.

Mr. Rohrabacher and congressmen who have continuously spoken for the rights of the Baloch deserve utmost admiration. They have reaffirmed the ideas and values what American founding fathers stood for. The Obama administration has, unfortunately, done too little to force Pakistan to stop human rights abuses in Balochistan. Yet, the role of these US congressmen is highly reassuring for the oppressed people of Balochistan. The Balochs are convinced that at least some sections of the US society care for them and view their struggle as legitimate.

Last week, Mr. Rohrabacher also wrote a letter to the president of Radio Free Asia proposing the launch of Balochi language program. This is another important suggestion which will ultimately serve US interests  and promote democratic values in Balochistan region. For many decades now, Iran has been poisoning the minds of Baloch population with its radical transmission in Balochi language through Radio Zahedan.

The Balochi service of Radio Free Asia, if ever started, will cater to a larger audience in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. This is further important for a secular nation that possesses its own language but faces culture persecution inside Iran and Pakistan. Iranian and Pakistani authorities are determined to replace Balochi language with Persian and Urdu respectively. The Baloch, a people with their own language, will end up losing their cultural heritage in the hands of two Islamic republics with totalitarian tendencies if they are not helped by the free world.

What Mr. Rohrabacher did not notice, however, was the discriminatory policies of the Voice of America (VOA) Urdu service toward Balochistan. While US taxpayers’ money is lavishly spent on Urdu radio and television channels, the organization does not represent the whole of Pakistan in its staff composition. Its staff is mainly recruited from one or two major provinces, keeping rest of Pakistani talent deprived of job opportunities.The doors of employment are still shut for Baloch youths because of the dominance of a certain group of people who dislike the induction of Baloch professionals in this key organization.

Despite all budgetary limitations, VOA intends to launch its service in Sindhi language. We believe there is a greater need to serve American interests in broadcasting in Balochi language so that the message reaches to Iran and Pakistan where the population faces state-sponsored religious propaganda.

Tuesday’s press conference is a positive initiative which will create greater awareness in Washington DC about the situation in Balochistan. The  situation in Balochistan needs more international attention and media coverage so that Pakistan does not continue its dirty war with absolute impunity.