My earliest childhood memories are watching the Evening News with my father, horrified by the images from Vietnam: a reporter standing in a burned out field, surrounded by tanks, giving updates on POWs, injuries, how many troops had died that day, everything—the landscape, the soldiers, the reporter—reduced to sepia and khaki and ash.
As that child of the Sixties I instinctively knew something I had since forgotten for years, decades: We are all, every single one of us on this planet, connected. We are all in this together. Until there is peace for everyone, there is peace for no one.
A few weeks ago, I received a LinkedIn request to connect from a young Pakistani man, Imdad Baloch. Imdad is the president of the Baloch Youth Wing, an organization dedicated to helping Balochistan, a province in Pakistan’s southwest, gain independence from Pakistan.
Before Partition (I blame virtually all the problems in India and Pakistan on Partition, but that’s a whole other essay), Balochistan was an independent territory comprised of princely states. After Partition, the entire region was folded into Pakistan. Since then, a small group of Baloch nationals have been in conflict with Pakistan’s Federal Government. While the entire world pays close attention to Pakistan’s northern conflicts with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the human rights violations in Balochistan—abduction, torture, murder, bullet-ridden bodies dumped roadside as warnings—and the plight of the Balochis remain virtually unnoticed.
Balochistan is resource rich—natural gas, coal, marble, iron, limestone, chromite (used to alloy steel), barite (used in oil drilling) and other minerals. Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest region geographically, but has the smallest population. Health, education, life expectancy and standard of living for Balochis are lower than anywhere else in Pakistan.
In 2011, the New York Times published an article entitled “Pakistan’s Bitter, Little Known Ethnic Rebellion.” That article corroborates emails I received from Imdad, requesting I spread the word about Balochistan. Obviously, I haven’t met Imdad, but the few missives I’ve received from him remind me so much of conversations I had with the Kashmiris while traveling in Gulmarg.
Balochis are asking that the United States cut off financial aid to Pakistan. Without U.S. money, Pakistan can’t fund the troops that repeatedly invade the region, killing thousands of journalists, doctors, activists, teachers and civic leaders.
It’s easy to ignore cries for help from strangers thousands of miles away. It would be easy for me to delete the emails from Imdad, shrug, and think, I can just barely deal with my own minute problems, I have no way to help you. But then I think of that little kid I used to be, that kid who cared about everyone, everywhere, that kid who, by age eight or nine, had already turned toward rampant self-interest, and I can feel her resurgence in me. I can help, if only through prayer and sending out positive energy.
Until there is peace for everyone, there is peace for no one.