Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

Updated 20 September 2014

Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

QUETTA, Pakistan: Baluch separatist leaders on Friday called on Pakistan to follow in Britain’s footsteps by holding a referendum similar to Scotland’s on granting independence to the insurgency-wracked province.
Scots rejected independence in a vote that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact despite a surge in nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign.
Asked whether a similar poll should be held in Baluchistan, Dr. Bashir Azeem, secretary-general of the outlawed Baloch Republican Party, told AFP: “The Baluch have been struggling against the excesses and tyranny of Punjab-dominated establishment of Pakistan for decades.”
Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and influential province.
“If a fair referendum is conducted after creating an atmosphere for it, providing the opportunity to Baluch population for deciding their future, it is welcomed,” he added.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
But rights groups allege security forces are also responsible for picking up non-militant separatists, including academics and students, torturing them and dumping their bodies on the streets.
The current insurgency gained in intensity after the 2006 killing of 79-year-old Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a revered figure for many rebels.
Azeem’s son Jamil Akbar Bugti said: “I stand for a free and fair referendum in Baluchistan under the United Nations.
“Let Baluch people who are struggling for their independence decide their future whether they want to stay with (the) federation of Pakistan or break away.”
The desperately poor province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence in its northern Pashtun belt, with middle-class Baluch increasingly viewing independence as their only hope for a more liberal and secular state.
Pakistan accuses neighboring India of funding and arming the rebels — a charge analysts believe is true and payback for Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir.


Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

Updated 5 min 24 sec ago

Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

JUBA: Sudan peace talks stalled before they began in Juba on Wednesday as a key rebel grouping said it refused to negotiate with Khartoum, claiming government forces were still bombarding its territory.

Juba is hosting talks between the government of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives from two umbrella groups of rebels that fought forces of now ousted President Omar Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday in the presence of heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The first face-to-face meeting between the adversaries was to take place in the South Sudan capital on Wednesday.

But Amar Amoua, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), told journalists his group would not continue unless the government withdrew from the area of the fighting, in the Nuba Mountains.

“Our coming back to negotiate ... is bound by government decisions to clear all these things,” Amoua, who is representing three different rebel movements, told journalists.

He said that for the past 10 days government forces had continued to attack their territory despite an unofficial cease-fire.

A chief was killed in the Nuba Mountains and several businessmen had gone missing, he charged.

“The government should withdraw its forces and stop ... occupying new areas, we will not allow that,” he said.

Dhieu Mathok, a member of the South Sudan mediation team, told AFP they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints.

“We are still investigating it whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process. Usually in a negotiation these things happen but we are here to resolve the problems.”

Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudan delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.

“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.

“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole of the region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”

The new peace initiative comes after Bashir was toppled by the military in April.

Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end Khartoum’s conflicts with the rebels.

The years-long bloodshed has left hundreds of thousands of dead and forced millions to flee their homes.

The movement led by Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu says it will not resume talks unless the government releases the detainees, withdraws from the area where they were seized, and declares a documented cease-fire. 

The SPLM-N is a rebel group in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which had ceased all hostilities as a “goodwill gesture” after the overthrow of President Bashir. Al-Hilu’s movement controls significant chunks of territory in the region.