Analysts discuss oppression of Pakistan’s indigenous minorities during COVID-19

Senior analysts, academics and experts came together for an online panel discussion titled “Oppression of Pakistan’s Indigenous minorities during COVID-19 “, to contemplate on the challenges, discrimination and religious and cultural ignorance that the minorities in Pakistan have had to face during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tariq Fateh, a Pakistani-Canadian journalist and author, well-known for his outspoken views on Pakistan, stated that the people, including the minorities in Pakistan would continue to suffer until the country breaks into contiguous independent parts.
“Sooner or later, Pakistan has to collapse and break away. And until Pakistan breaks away into four or five of its contiguous parts, it’s not that the minorities will suffer, it’s the people who will suffer. Their destiny will suffer”, he added.
Fateh’s arguments was based on the point that inferiority complex due to difference of language and a forced imposition of Urdu language, has played pivotal role in the ongoing oppression, discrimination and identity crisis in the country.
The online discussion was organized by Alliance for Persecuted People WorldWide (APPWW), a non-profit government organization, working with the oppressed groups around the world through education and outreach.
Senge Hasnain Sering, Director of Institute of Gilgit-Baltistan Studies, who spoke after Fateh’s analysis, talked about the challenges that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) have faced during the coronavirus outbreak.
Sering said the basic issue that is a serious challenge for the people of GB is “lack of medical benefits and facilities”, which he said has come under pressure during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Lack of medical benefits and facilities is the first major issue for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. And it is there because of two reasons”, he said.
Sering said that the reason why Gilgit-Baltistan suffer from oppression by the Pakistani state is because there is “no presence of strong economic or political foundation that could enable Pakistan in the last 60 to 70 years to lay down a structure, to help local people cope with pandemics like these”.
“GB being at the bottom of cash strapped Pakistan, which is struggling to cater to its own people with provision of equipment for coronavirus pandemic. Pakistan military does not have minority and governed states like GB in its priority list for provision of resources to fight the pandemic,” Sering said.
Pakistan, he said, is making use of the coronavirus lockdown to make demographic changes through land grabbing from the locals and trying to bring in more Pakistanis there.
Pakistan is abusing the situation of coronavirus by opening GB for tourism, ignoring the ethnic and religious minorities of the area and allowing international and national tourists to use their land resources, to earn money,” Sering said.
US Representative for Baloch National Movement (BNM) Nabi Baksh Baloch, spoke about the challenges of Baluchistan, stating that the prime challenge for the people is their identity, accusing Pakistan of harboring and arming Baloch nationals.
Speaking in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, Nabi said that mishandling of the pilgrims from Iran, who entered Baluchistan from the Taftan border, created serious problems for the people of Baluchistan.
“There is no quarantine shelter in Baluchistan. There is no medical facility in Balochistan. The cases are getting higher every day”, he said.
“The basic essential medical equipment required to treat the coronavirus patients is not present in hospitals or the lone quarantine center in Baluchistan”, he added.
Nabi said that Pakistan is the only country in the world that persecuted and arrested nurses and doctors of Baluchistan for demanding coronavirus testing kits and basic necessities.
He also raised the issue of missing persons or enforced disappearances.
Nabi said “thousands of people have been missing in Baluchistan for many years. Thousands have been killed by the Pakistani army”. He said that Pakistan has been keeping and treating the people of Baluchistan as slaves as they want to keep their occupation there.
Nabi cited his argument on the recent incident in which at least three armed men entered into a house in Baluchistan. A female in the house, Malik Naz resisted the alleged robbers, due to which, she was killed and her four year old daughter was injured.
Meanwhile, Zafar Sahito, US Representative for Jeay Sindh Mutahida Mahaz (JSMM), spoke about the challenges people of Pakistan’s Sindh province face.
Sahito maintained that Pakistan has not recognized the identity of Sindh in its history, highlighting that Sindhi people are always told that they either belong to a history of Arabs, Iranians, Turks or Persians.
“Pakistani is trying to demolish our identity”, he asserted.
Sahito said there is no community ranging from the Baloch, Pashtuns Gilgit-Baltistan to Sindhis in Pakistan that are living in prosperity, adding that oppression of minorities is not only limited to the time of coronavirus.
“Sindh province contributes 65 percent of Pakistan’s revenue, yet it is among the provinces and areas that are under severe poverty and hunger”, he said.
“Out of the revenue Sindh province earns for Pakistan, it gets only 15 percent in return, which is also distributed among the thugs of the Pakistan People Party (PPP) and engineered bureaucrats of Pakistani establishment”, he added.
Sahito criticized the Imran Khan led government for allegedly handing over at least 13 lac acres of land to China for the CPEC route, while the Karachi port, he claimed, has also been handed over to the Chinese government.
“I think Pakistan has already sold the country and Sindh to China. It is time for the world to come forward and help us because its not only our war, but is the war for the whole world”, he asserted.
Rehan Ibadat, Central Organizer for Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) USA shared on the injustices he witnessed being committed deliberately against the migrants along with the other minorities in the region during his college days of the early 90s.
“Lack of opportunity in education, availability of jobs, sports and in all other areas, migrants suffered severe discrimination and persecution”, he said.
Ibadat maintained that in Pakistan, Punjab province has been ruling the country’s progress while the Sindh province, whose population is much higher, has been victimized and oppressed.
“The number of cases in Punjab and Sindh of coronavirus are similar. However, hospitals in Sindh are at least 50 per cent less than that in Punjab”, he said,
Ibadat said other than the Punjab provinces; all other provinces are oppressed and can be considered as minorities.
The panelist discussion concluded with an observation that the Imran Khan led government of Pakistan is not capable to take steps towards curbing the coronavirus outbreak and that the powerful military establishment is dictating terms to Imran Khan.