Balochistan campaigners framed in London

The British government, security services and police have been involved in high-level collusion with the ousted dictator of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, according to human rights campaigners in Pakistani-occupied Balochistan.

They claim British authorities bowed to Musharraf’s demands to arrest, on false terrorism charges, leading Baloch nationalists exiled in the UK.

It is alleged that last year Musharraf threatened to cut all cooperation with Britain in the "war on terror" unless the UK government arrested Baloch activists based in London. The UK authorities appear to have complied with the former Pakistani dictator’s demands.

Acting on tip offs by Musharraf’s regime concerning an alleged terror plot in Pakistan, two leading Balochistan human rights campaigners, Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch, were arrested by police in London last December, on charges of preparing acts of terrorism abroad.

Their trial began in London on 3 November and is set to become a cause celebre lasting last several weeks.

The police and security agencies in the UK have pursued the terror charges based on evidence provided to them by Musharraf’s dictatorship — a dictatorship that the arrested men campaigned against — ignoring the fact that Musharraf’s henchmen in the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, are notorious for framing political opponents, especially Baloch activists.

Human rights campaigners believe Marri and Baluch have been set up by Musharraf’s agents because of their highly effective exposure of Pakistan’s war crimes and crimes against humanity in annexed Balochistan.

This belief has been reinforced by the acting Interior Minister of the new democratic government of Pakistan, Rehman Malik. He has announced that all terror charges against Marri in Pakistan have been dropped; stating that the case against him had been politically motivated. This discredits the whole basis on which Marri and Baluch are being tried in London.

Marri’s and Baluch’s detention came just a few months after Musharraf demanded that the British government arrest Baloch activists in London. In exchange, Musharraf offered to hand over Rashid Rauf, implying that action against the Baloch activists was a condition for surrendering Rauf to the UK. Rauf is wanted in Britain in connection with the 2006 Islamist trans-Altantic airliner terror plot involving liquid explosives, which resulted in the conviction of three men in London in September. 

The arrest in London of Marri and Baluch took place two weeks after Pakistani government agents assassinated Marri’s brother, Balach Marri, a prominent Baloch nationalist leader, in Balochistan.   

Prior to Marri’s arrest, Musharraf’s regime made repeated representations to the UK government that he was wanted on terrorism charges in Pakistan — charges that have now been dropped.

Immediately after Musharraf met Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London in January this year, he held a press conference for Pakistani journalists where he allegedly denounced Marri as a terrorist and praised the British government and police for cooperating with his regime.

Claims of connivance are credible. For nine years, the UK’s Labour government supported Musharraf’s dictatorship politically, economically and militarily, despite him having overthrown Pakistan’s democratically-elected government in 1999.

Alongside the US, which supplies Pakistan with F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters, Britain sold Musharraf military equipment that his army has reportedly used in indiscriminate attacks that have killed innocent Baloch civilians.

Marri is an unlikely terrorist. He is a former Balochistan MP (1997-2002), and was the Minster for Construction and Works in the provincial assembly in 1997-1998. He fled to Britain in 2000, fearing arrest, torture and possible assassination by Musharraf’s men.

Marri comes from a distinguished Baloch family. His father, Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, a renowned Baloch national leader, attended Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 as a guest of the British government.

His uncle is Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the UN Special Representative to Sudan and the former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, and his wife is the great grand daughter of the first Prime Minister of Iraq (1920-1922), Abdul Rahman al Gillani.

One of his brothers is Mehran Baluch. Also exiled London, he is the Baloch Representative to the UN Human Rights Council. He was the subject of an attempted extradition plot last year by Musharraf’s regime, on trumped up charges.

The arrest of Marri — together with the murder of one brother and the attempt to frame another brother — looks like a systematic attempt to target his family and crush three leading voices of Baloch dissent.

A former self-governing British Protectorate from 1876, with its own parliament, Balochistan secured its independence from Britain in 1947. The following year it was invaded and forcibly annexed by Pakistan. The Baloch people did not vote for incorporation. They were never given a choice. Ever since, Balochistan has been under military occupation by Islamabad. Baloch demands for a referendum on self-rule have been rejected.

Pakistan, a former victim of colonialism, has turned into a colonising power, subjecting the people of Balochistan to political, economic, cultural and military subjugation.

The Asian Human Rights Commission reports that Pakistani army raids have resulted in 3,000 Baloch people dead, 200,000 displaced and 4,000 arrested. Thousands more have simply disappeared. In one of the most gruesome recent abuses, human rights campaigners allege that Pakistani soldiers boiled to death four Baloch prisoners in April this year.

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