Some people are touting it as one of the biggest diplomatic achievements for the Baloch cause at an international level. Others are calling it another photo session of a Baloch leader with some white politicians.
In the photos, Hammal Haider Baloch, the foreign spokesman for the Baloch National Movement, is surrounded by a bunch of European parliamentarians who seem to be keenly listening to what Mr Baloch is saying.
On April 13 and 14, the BNM leader attended an annual session of the European Union Parliament at Strasbourg, France, as an observer and was allowed to give a presentation about the human rights and political situation in Balochistan.
A BNM press release later claimed that the parliamentarians had pledged to present a resolution on Balochistan during the next session.
“Yes, it’s at least my party’s biggest diplomatic achievement since I came to Europe in November, 2012,” Mr Baloch told Balochistan Times.
He said it took him and his colleagues years of lobbying to get access to such an important forum.
“It doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been desperate. Sometimes, you feel helpless. Your people are being killed and bombed and tortured and I’m one of those guys who’s responsible to raise voice for them. But after a while you think no one is listening. But if you keep working, it pays off,” he said.
Pakistan’s military is trying to ruthlessly crush a separatist insurgency in Balochistan since 2005. Hundreds of political activists have been “disappeared”, tortured and killed. Hundreds still languish in secret military detention centers. Some for years and some for over a decade. Unidentifiable bodies have been found in mass graves. Hundreds thrown in the hills of Balochistan had a chit in their shirt’s pocket with their name written on it, a kindness often shown by the military to the relatives so that they identify their loved one and stop searching for him.
Hammal Haider was sent by his party in 2012 to London to highlight these issues and help bring in world pressure against Pakistan’s military establishment.
“I won’t say that this session with the European parliamentarians will solve all our problems, but it’s definitely a big step ahead,” said Mr Baloch. “They were serious. They told me they had heard vaguely of Balochistan but didn’t know the details. The next day of our meeting, Alberto Cirio, a member of the EU Parliament talked about Balochistan in a very passionate way.”
He said he was invited to the session by member Fulvio MARTUSCIELLO, whom he knew through a mutual friend. He met with around 40 to 50 parliamentarians and a vice president who handles minorities’ issues in Pakistan. “They told me – and they were serious – that they would present a resolution during the next session of the parliament.”
Apart from attending the session and briefing the EU parliamentarians about Balochistan’s affairs, he was invited at a lunch and then a dinner meeting by them to enquire him more about the situation in Balochistan and Pakistan. He also had a one-to-one meeting with vice-president Antonio Tajani.
“They were specifically concerned about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and spread of radical Islamism.”
So what’s next? I asked him.
“They have invited me for a dinner meeting here in London in mid-June this year. They have exchanged business cards with me and we’re in contact through email. It’s just the beginning. Our party is going to follow it up.”
International diplomacy has been one of the weakest sides of the Baloch movement for an independent state. Mr Baloch’s meeting with such a great number of European parliamentarians is, of course, a huge achievement. But he is right to say that it’s just the beginning. If things don’t go further ahead, it’ll prove to be another photo session with some white politicians.
Sajid Hussain (1981-2020) was a writer and senior journalist from Balochistan. He had a degree in Economics, International Relations and English Literature from Karachi University. He had the experience of working with Pakistani newspapers Daily Times and The News International. Sajid Hussain was also the founding editor of this online magazine.