Media Cell, Washington D.C, 6th September 2018;
U.S. lawmakers have urged Pakistan to treat its ethnic and religious minorities with the respect and dignity they deserve and grant them rights as equal citizens of Pakistan. They have also urged Pakistan government to treat people of strategically important city of Karachi justly and stop human right violation in Karachi as well as other parts of the country, including Balochistan and KP Province. They said this while addressing The Minorities Day on the Hill organized by South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF) and Voice of Karachi (VOK) in US capital city, Washington DC. An exceptionally large number of US lawmakers showed up at the event and expressed their support for the cause of ethnic and religious minorities. Those who attended the event included: Rep. Tom Garret, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Scott Perry, Rep. Adam Kizinger, Rep. Rob Wittman, Rep. Dave Brat, Rep. Morgan Griffith, Rep. Jeff Duncan, Rep. Raul Labrador, Rep. Gary Palmer, Rep. Rod Blum, Rep. Randy Huttgren, Rep. Jodz Rice, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Tom Rice, and Rep. Alex Mooney. A high-level representative on behalf of Ambassador at Large, Sam Brownback and Puneet Ahluwalia, member of President Trump’s Asian advisory board and South Asia expert also attended the event.
In his speech as the host of the event, US Congressman Thomas Garrett Jr. urged all countries in the world to treat their minorities with respect and dignity they deserve and grant them equal rights. He added that Mohajirs (Muslims who migrated to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947) left their homes hoping for a better life but they weren’t welcomed in their new homeland. US lawmaker from Virginia said that he took the cause of persecuted minorities because he wanted to believe that he had made a difference while serving as a member of Congress. He said that there are ideas that transcend time, ethnicity and religion. Some of them are global in nature and among them is the idea that all humans are created equal.
“I clearly understand the plight of Mohajirs who the product of post-independence ethnic cleansing are. They were forced to leave their homes hoping they are going to somewhere they’d be welcomed, but they weren’t. They have a story that needs to be told. I am not advocating on behalf of any group to demand a radical change in policy except that we expect our allies to treat their minorities with equality and dignity they so much deserve”, US lawmaker concluded.
Speaking at the event, US Congressman Scott Perry said that “we in the United States see and treat all ethnic and religious minorities equally and we demand that our allies do the same. We can all live together and practice our faith in peace and harmony. This is the way it is now in America, but that should be everywhere. The US Congress member from Pennsylvania said that America should take lead on this and demand all those countries we do business with us or have relations with us to treat their citizens equally, so everyone could realize their full potential. He congratulated Rep. Tom Garrett and SAMAF and Voice of Karachi leadership for taking initiative in support of minorities’ cause and hoped that their work would not only continue but would gather more momentum in coming months and days. He reiterated his support for the SAMAF and VOK cause by saying that “we could not remain silent and we have to stand up to exercise the power and the authority to stop injustices, and we would do what we are expected to do.”
Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman highlighted in his speech the geo-strategic importance of Karachi, particularly in the wake of the CPEC plans, China’s One Belt, One Road plan and Karachi port’s importance in providing logistical supplies to Afghanistan. He assured minorities in the region his full support and promised that he would continue to work in this direction as a member of the influential Armed Services Committee.
Addressing the event, Congressman Andy Harris from Maryland said that “practicing one’s religion is a basic human right, and as humans we should share this right. It doesn’t matter which part of the world we live in, or which ethnic or religious group we belong to, we have the right to exist peacefully and enjoy our basic human rights”.
The coveted Pulitzer Prize winner journalist Pir Zubair Shah said in his address to the event that “Pakistan has not taken any meaningful action against any terrorist, whether it is the so-called ‘good terrorist’ or “bad terrorist”. The lack action is because of lack of interest. Pakistan Army decides such policies. Civilian government and civilian institutions have no say even in drafting Pakistan’s foreign policy, let alone its implementation. He said when the US launched action in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 tragedy, many in Pakistan, particularly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region, had hoped something good could come out this tragedy, such as removal of terrorist’s groups operating in the region and introduction of a plan similar to the Marshal Plan. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. People of Pakistan, people of KPK in particular, have suffered enormously mainly due to the way Pakistan has conducted its role in the War against Terrorism. Millions of people have been displaced, tens of thousands have died in terror attacks, tens of thousands have gone missing, and yet the terrorists continue to operate in the region. It is because of the current state of miseries that the people of KP are facing that Pashtun Tahffuz Movement (PTM) has emerged and is enjoying massive grassroots support”.
Pir Zubair Shah, who is also an expert on Af-Pak region, congratulated SAMAF and VOK chairman Nadeem Nusrat for making effort to highlight plight of all persecuted ethnic and religious groups in Pakistan, including the people of KPK.
Baloch activist Nabi Bux made it clear in his speech that “Baloch are not a minority but a nation under brutal, forced occupation by Pakistan since 1948. Sovereign state of Balochistan won its freedom on August 11, 1947 based on the treaties between the British crown and the rulers of Kalat. But, on March 27, 1948, Pakistan Army invaded Kalat, the seat of Baloch rule on Balochistan and the Baloch people, were forced to accept Pakistan against their will.”
He added that Balochistan is 44 percent of the Pakistani land mass and is strategically located at the sea and land routes linked to the critical oil flow to the world. CPEC, the China-Pakistan strategic alliance and the Chinese control over the port of Gwadar in the Makran division of Balochistan is not only an economic plan of plunder in the name of development but in reality it is a military strategic expansion using Balochistan territory to challenge the western nations and the neighboring India.
He concluded that “nothing has changed for Balochistan after the general elections 2018 in Pakistan, dubbed in the local and international media as the military coup through ballot.”
Gilgit-Baltistan rights activist Sange Sering applauded the initiative taken by SAMAF chairman Nadeem Nusrat by saying that every ethnic and religious group in Pakistan is suffering at the hands of Punjabi-dominated military elite, and Nadeem Nusrat “gets it” how to stand up to it. Lamenting over the lack of tolerance in Pakistan for minority ethnic and religious groups, Sange Sering said that Pakistani ruling elite does not believe in co-existence at all and is taking away everything away from minority groups. He commended all other groups who now have decided to stand up together against injustices they are facing and assured them personal support as well as support from people of GilgitBaltistan as well.
SAMAF Executive Director Puneet Ahluwalia moderated the event and summed up the challenges ethnic and religious minorities are facing South Asia in his concluding remarks and thanked all participants and guests.