Democracy News Live's Editor in Chief Rohit Gandhi was in conversation with Balochi human rights activist, Lateef Johar in Toronto, Canada.
They discussed an array of issues surrounding the relationship between Balochistan and Pakistan and also the state of democracy in the South Asian subcontinent. Rohit Gandhi was in conversation with Balochi human rights activist, Lateef Johar in Toronto, Canada.
They discussed an array of issues surrounding the relationship between Balochistan and Pakistan and also the state of democracy in the South Asian subcontinent.
Rohit Gandhi: We are here in Toronto today talking to Lateef Johar. He is a Baloch freedom and human rights activist. He has been fighting against the Pakistani government for the rights of the Balochis. This is happening in the light of India abolishing Article 370 and a lot of people have been talking about how India may have overstepped its boundary constitutionally.
Now the Pakistani Prime Minister talked about how India was carrying out a genocide against the Kashmiris but here are the Balochis who talk about a genocide which the Pakistanis have carried out for decades now. Their leadership Nawab Bugti was assassinated by the Pakistani army in a 17 helicopter configuration, where they went in, took out the leadership and have been on an onslaught to kill the Balochis but they've been asking for independence.
So Johar tell me a bit about what happens in Pakistan against the Balochis? How bad is the situation?
Lateef Johar: For Baloch people in Balochistan especially, the situation has been very difficult, has been very disturbing especially because they are on war since Pakistan occupied Balochistan so people are facing different discrimination, different injustices especially, people are being killed, abducted and their houses being burned down and in terms of development there is nothing for Baloch people! They don't even have drinking water.
Rohit Gandhi: When you say Pakistan occupied Balochistan, what do you mean? How did they occupy?
Lateef Johar: Balochistan was not a part of India at the time when Britishers left India. Sub continent especially India was divided into two parts. So one they created Pakistan and three days before the partition, British, Pakistan and India accepted Kalat state. But after 8 months in 1948 Pakistan invaded Kalat and occupied it that's why our people, Baloch people believe that they were attacked and their country was occupied and since then Pakistan has just been exploiting their everything!
Rohit Gandhi: So there was no treaty of accession that was agreed to, that Balochistan will be a part of Pakistan at all?
Lateef Johar: No not at all. Because we had two Parliaments that time and both the parliaments rejected to join Pakistan because Pakistan was trying to convince our people that we are Muslim and we should be together.
Rohit Gandhi: So why is Pakistan so interested in Balochistan? Is there a specific reason that the Balochis feel that the Pakistanis want to occupy and keep it?
Lateef Johar: Ofcourse because Balochistan is resource rich area and country and we have lot of natural resources and sea, and our land is also important because it lies between Afghanistan, Iran and now they need it. There was a leader as i told you, during his speech in the parliament he said that, if it is a matter of religion then
Afghanistan should also join Pakistan. It means that they were not agreeing and they were not happy. But you know that time Pakistan sent these troops and invaded the palace of Afghan and then occupied everything.
Rohit Gandhi : Is there a way for the Balochis to ask for independence and for the Pakistanis to give them that independence, based on possibly a referendum?
Lateef Johar : Ofcourse, like any nation in the world, they love freedom and they need freedom like I'm a person from an occupied nation and i know how it hurts, how it damages and it destroys not only the individual but the entire community and entire culture. That's why Baloch people feel and its also their right. And when we see it in the international laws, that they have the right to ask for their freedom. That's why Baloch people, despite of international laws they allow us to fight, but they have been experiencing very bad situation under Pakistan occupation.
Rohit Gandhi : When you see the Pakistani Prime Minister talk about the freedom of Kashmiri people and genocide, what is your reaction to it, how do you look at it?
Lateef Johar : I think they are not honest, and they really don't mean it. What is freedom and freedom for people, for Kashmiri people. Because if they are so attached to people and concerned about people's freedom then they should listen to Baloch people. How they can give freedom or support to freedom movement of any other nation. I don't think they are serious and they just use Kashmiris for their own interest.
Rohit Gandhi : How mature is South Asia from your perspective when we talk about democracy?
Lateef Johar : There is no good democracy in South Asia specially. We can see a little bit better in India but in Pakistan's history there was no democracy, democratic government, and also in Afghanistan and Iran. In a democracy the public has the power, public has the right to ask, the right to vote, the right to select leaders but specially in Pakistan its missing.
Rohit Gandhi : Democracy in South Asia continues to be a challenge, whether its one country or the other. The Balochi people have been fighting for their independence.They say they have been invaded, and they're occupied and they've been asking for their freedom. The world continues to look on. With a weak United Nations, I think its going to be an uphill climb and democracy is possibly not going to sustain if this continues.