Geneva: The Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) convened a conference “State-sponsored religious extremism in Balochistan” to explore the various aspects of the menace of Islamist extremism in Balochistan and its regional and international implications. The conference was chaired by the Secretary-General of the BHRC Samad Baloch while the Informational Secretary of the BHRC, Qambar Malik Baloch provided a detailed presentation on the rapid expansion of Madrassas, and systematic penetration of the Islamist militants in Balochistan under the supervision of the state that is engaged in targeting the Baloch nationalists and minorities including Christians, Hindus, and Shia Hazaras. He believed that the state of Pakistan is making concerted efforts to promote religious extremism in Balochistan with the aim to counter the Baloch national struggle for the right to self-determination and to replace the foundations of a secular and democratic Baloch society with a fundamentalist Islamic social outlook.
Speakers from various backgrounds and with an extensive experience in the area of their work spoke on the subject matter. The speakers included Nicholas Evans, a Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Martin Weightman, the director of the All Faiths Network – a national member body of the UK’s Interfaith Network. Senge H Sering, director of Institute for Gilgit-Baltistan studies in Washington DC, and Sufi Laghari executive director of Sindhi foundation.
It was agreed by the speakers that religious extremism is not a domestic threat instead it concerns the lives of all of us irrespective of our beliefs, ethnicity, geography and backgrounds and its rapid rise demands an equally strong response. This threat they believed needs to be contained which requires concentrated efforts on the international level and Pakistan must be pressurized to abandon its policies that threaten the current global order. The conference believed that this shortsighted policy of the religious state will not only be devastating for the people of Balochistan but it also threatens the current regional order with impacts on international peace and security.
Nadeem Saleem Baloch, a human rights activist from Germany read the conference declaration concluding the conference. In the face of the exponential growth of religious extremism in Balochistan with the complicit support of the religious state of Pakistan, this conference while expressing grave concerns, demanded that:
- The state of Pakistan must immediately and unconditionally abandon its policies of sheltering and mushrooming the individuals and organizations designated as “international terrorists” by the United Nations.
- Pakistan must terminate its financial, moral and material support to the terrorist organizations including the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, ISIS, splinter groups of Taliban and the Pakistani army’s death squads involved in the abduction and extra-judicial murders of Baloch socio-political activists and human rights defenders.
- The conference expresses its grave concern over the expansion of over 14 thousand Madrassas in Balochistan and the attacks on schools and universities in Balochistan by the Islamist militants.
- The conference demands that Pakistan should be enlisted in the “state sponsors of terrorism” by the state department.
- A UN fact-finding mission must be sent to Balochistan to ascertain the extent of the involvement of the state in sponsoring religious terrorism in Balochistan.