Nadeem Nusrat, chairman of Voice of Karachi, a US-based advocacy group, has welcomed Washington’s recent actions to pressurise Islamabad in order to stop supporting terrorist groups in their soil.
Nusrat penned a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, prior to his visit to Pakistan and said, “We appreciate the current administration’s decision to cancel $300 million in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan. The Voice of Karachi and South Asia Minorities Alliance leadership requests the US government to exert its influence over the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international lending bodies to stop them from financially bailing out Pakistan until its military leadership agrees to stop interfering in civilian affairs and refrain from supporting terrorist groups and proxies who are involved in terrorism inside Pakistan as well across the border.”
Nusrat further said, “Pakistan is not a homogenous country, and it is inhabited by many ethnic and religious groups who enjoy rich heritage, culture and are perfectly capable of running their own affairs.”
“Unfortunately, since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been run by military elite that hails mainly from only one province of Pakistan, Punjab. This Punjabi-dominated military elite has used a national institution like Pakistan Army as a means to promote and safeguard interests of Pakistan’s Punjabi-speaking people only,” he added.
He alleged that the Pakistani military forces had “forcibly annexed” Balochistan in 1948, and “brutally crushed” the separatist movements in the province.
“Pakistan’s Balochistan province had not formally agreed to join Pakistan at the time of India’s partition in 1947. It was forcibly annexed by the Pakistani military in 1948. Since then this province, which is Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area and is full of minerals, gas and other natural resources, has witnessed many nationalist uprisings and separatist movements. All these movements were brutally crushed by Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated military, leaving tens of thousands of Balochs dead and injured,” Nusrat asserted.
The Voice of Karachi chairman claimed that the Pakistani forces killed Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti for demanding more rights for the province. His death led to another nationalist uprising and subsequent military crackdown, claiming thousands of lives.
Talking about Karachi, Nusrat continued, “Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous province with an estimated population of 32 million people, is the city whose taxes run Pakistan’s economy. Karachi is home to millions of Muslims who had migrated from India at the time of partition. These immigrants are known as Mohajirs. Once Pakistan came over its initial challenges, the Pakistani military started an organised campaign to purge all state and private institutions of Mohajirs. Pakistan’s first military dictator General Ayub Khan took away Karachi’s status as being the nation’s capital and made Islamabad, a newly formed city in Punjab, as the new capital of Pakistan.”
Asserting that the Mohajirs are ‘victims of enforced disappearance’, he further said, “When Mohajirs started a political movement against these blatant injustices, a vicious military operation was launched against their representative political party in 1992. Since then, over 20,000 Mohajirs have been killed by Pakistani security forces and their sponsored groups in fake encounters and armed attacks. Thousands of young Mohajirs have become victims of enforced disappearance and many thousands are languishing in prisons, most of them without being ever produced in any court of law.”
Nusrat alleged that the Pakistani military forces were also involved in the brutal operation in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province which shares a border with Afghanistan and where the murderous gangs of the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani Network freely operate.
“Pakistani military establishment’s reckless policies and its patronage to extremist religious proxies have resulted in widespread destruction in the KPK province leaving hundreds of thousands of Pashtuns dead, injured and displaced,” he added.
Nusrat asserted that indigenous populations in the Gilgit-Baltistan region were also being subjected to state persecution. He claimed that the Pakistani military establishment’s decision to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is badly hurting the region’s indigenous populations who have been denied any say in this project.
He continued, “At the moment, many projects are underway in Gilgit-Baltistan to turn the indigenous populations into minority and vast tracts of lands have been handed over to Chinese and Punjab-based companies to house non-locals in the region.”
Throwing light on the religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan, the Voice of Karachi chairman elucidated, “Pakistan’s religious minorities are faring no better at the hands of an army that is obsessed with a jihadi ideology. Ahmadis, whose forefathers like those of Mohajirs had played a dominant role on Pakistan Movement are now constitutionally declared as non-Muslims in Pakistan. Their places of worship are routinely attacked by religious extremists.”
“Pakistan’s founding leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a Shiite, but Shia community in Pakistan is now a prime target for religious extremists. People of Hazara, whose majority is Shiite, is also a constant target of a brutal campaign of killing and intimidation. Christians, Sikhs, Ismailis, and Hindus, too, are suffering at the hands of those religious extremists who clearly enjoy Pakistani military establishment’s overt or covert support,” he added.
Nusrat further stated that there are countless reports which firmly establish how Pakistani military agencies are supporting the Taliban, Haqqani network and other extremist religious groups within and outside the country’s borders, particularly in the region bordering Afghanistan.
“All this shows Pakistani military elite’s absolute disregard for national and internal values, ethics, treaties, and covenants. This undemocratic practice must be stopped and the people of Pakistan, including its persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, be granted all those rights they fully deserve. Until this happens, all military and civilian aid and grants to Pakistan be suspended,” he asserted.
Nusrat went on to say that the persecuted groups have pinned their hopes on the US administration and expected Pompeo to forcefully raise the issue of their persecution in his bilateral meetings with Pakistani officials, particularly with the military hierarchy.
“On behalf of all persecuted ethnic and religious groups as well as all democracy-loving people in Pakistan extends full support to the current administration’s South Asia policy,” he further stated.
The Voice of Karachi and South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation will be holding ‘Day on the Hill’ event at US Capitol Hill on September 5. The event is aimed at highlighting the issue of religious freedom and minority rights in Pakistan and to show solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and US troops.