As a writer, I don’t happen upon many opportunities for serious journalism. My writing career has been focused on entertainment, health, lifestyles, travel, the occasional didactic business assignment. Lately, I feel the Universe urging me in new, unknown directions.
It began last summer. A woman who remembered a travel piece I’d written for the Dallas Morning News contacted me via Twitter about a ski village project, spearheaded by an American, that was being built in the Indian Himalayas. The American, this woman claims, is a con artist who has fleeced millions from local Indian investors and the international investment community. He’s now on the lam with the investment money; the ski village abandoned. There’s a story here, but I don’t know what to do with it. Writing fluffy travel pieces and articles about how to cope with the loss of loved one has not prepared me for serious journalism. I majored in newswriting back in college, but that was several lifetimes ago, when newspapers, already fading from relevance, had not yet been dealt their death blows by digital media.
A few weeks ago, a young man who is part of a freedom movement in Balochistan, contacted me via LinkedIn. He’s reaching out to Western journalists, begging us to get the word out. The Pakistani government, in its attempt to squash the freedom movement, is slaughtering dozens of Balochis weekly, killing doctors and journalists and teachers, leaving their bullet-ridden bodies roadside as a warning. Stop advocating for freedom or face death.
I consider myself fairly well-informed. I’m a news junkie, and South Asia is a part of the world for which I feel a particular affinity. I’ve spent a lot of time in India. Pakistan, despite the Taliban and Al Qaeda, ranks high on my places to go wish list. If you Google “most beautiful places in the world,” Pakistan boasts five such destinations on one particular search result. The Karakoram mountains, brimming with glacial lakes and verdant valleys, are reputed to be the world’s most beautiful mountain range. Despite how much I’d read up on Pakistan, I’d never heard of Balochistan, a once independent province in what is now southeast Pakistan, and its struggles for freedom. I’m guessing I’m not alone in my ignorance.
U.S. House Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who represents California’s 46th District, introduced legislature in 2012 calling for recognition of the right to self-determination by the people of Balochistan. Pakistan is, of course, a thorny issue for the U.S. We provide millions in foreign aid for fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Unfortunately, our funding is also helping to fund the extermination of Balochis.
Self-determination is one of the founding principles of our country. In our war for independence, a handful of rebels defeated the mighty British army and founded what is still considered the greatest democracy in the world with freedoms and opportunities I tend to take for granted. It’s humbling to realize how lucky we are to be born in the U.S., having never had to fight or struggle for basic freedoms.
Representative Rohrabacher’s resolution died in committee. It will not be enacted. Introduction of the resolution drew massive criticism and protests from Islamabad. In a previous post, I noted the similarities between my communications with Balochis and my conversations with Kashmiris while traveling there several years ago. Rohrabacher also supports Kashmiri self-determination.
Unfortunately, the Balochis are not without blame for violence and massive destruction. The Baluch Liberation Army is guilty of actions that could be deemed terrorism.
My contact in Balochistan leads a youth group that stages protests and marches against the Pakistan government’s violence in Balochistan. As far as I know, this group’s efforts are peaceful. The truth is, I don’t know much about what is going on in that region, and I understand the issues even less. What I do know is that the Universe is calling to me, asking me to write about things that are more important than the best beaches in Bali and where to practice yoga in Goa.
Freedom should be a basic right for all. The more I learn about the world and about our own foreign policy, the more I realize how few people are actually free.
For more information on Balochistan: