WASHINGTON, March 27: Repeating their anti-Pakistan mantra, two senior US Congressmen pledged to continue to press for Balochistan’s secession even if Islamabad changed its alleged anti-US policies.
Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Louie Gohmert, however, told a news briefing in Washington that they did not have the power to provide weapons to Baloch fighters as they were not in the government.
The lawmakers focused their anger on an issue that resonates with the American public --- Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad. The briefing was held the same day as President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met in Seoul to help rebuild US-Pakistan ties after almost two years of deterioration.
Both congressmen said that they would oppose any reconciliation with Pakistan.
Mr Rohrabacher, who heads a key congressional subcommittee, moved a resolution in the US Congress last month, urging American lawmakers to support the separatist movement in Balochistan.
Encouraged by his strong anti-Pakistan sentiments, a Baloch nationalist told Mr Rohrabacher that his moral support was not enough and urged him to provide weapons to Baloch fighters.
“We are not in the administration. We do not even represent the US Congress,” said the congressman, adding that he could only provide moral support.
“We are building support for Balochistan in the US Congress,” said Congressman Gohmert. “When we moved the resolution, we had only three backers. Now we have 12.”
A journalist pointed out that most of their “anger and angst” focused on Pakistan’s alleged anti-US policies and asked would they still support the Baloch if relations between the two countries improved.
“I don’t see a sea change. They have become more an ally of China against the US,” said Mr Rohrabacher. “But no matter what happens to US-Pakistan relations, the people of Balochistan should be given their right to self-determination.”
Congressman Gohmert said that if Pakistan changed its policies towards the US, “it will also become more friendly with its people”.
The news conference started with a question from a Pakistani journalist who asked Mr Rohrabacher if he would also support the people of Kashmir the way he was supporting the people in Balochistan.
The question annoyed Mr Rohrabacher who blamed the journalist for “covering up” the Balochistan issue by linking it to the Kashmir dispute.
“Yes. I introduced several legislations supporting the rights of the people of Kashmir but it is despicable” to link the two issues, he said.
Congressman Gohmert disagreed with the suggestion that demanding the right of self-determination for the people of Balochistan was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. “The sovereignty rests with the people. If you are murdering your people, talking about them is not a violation of sovereignty.”
“How do you get traction for this hot-air, freedom resolution for Balochistan when you do not have the support of more than two people in Congress?” asked a Sri Lankan journalist.
“We have started a national dialogue. The idea is not to get this resolution adopted now,” Mr Rohrabacher said.
“In this country, we do not do things very quickly. It takes years to get a resolution adopted but it does happen,” said Mr Gohmert. “This is step one.”
An Indian journalist reminded the lawmakers that both US and Indian governments were opposing Balochistan’s separation from Pakistan because they believed that it would create instability in the region and encourage extremism.
Mr Rohrabacher said he was trying to change US policies towards the region because he believed that “we should not support colonial boundaries”.
The congressman said that the US should not hesitate to support Balochistan’s right to self-determination because of the fear that it would encourage extremism in the region.
“It is like saying that you should not condemn Adolf Hitler because it will annoy hardline Nazis.”