Happy Independence Day, Balochistan!
Actually, not so happy--Basque journalist Karlos Zurutuza explains why in his newest dispatch from the stormy province in western Pakistan.
Zurutuza had to sneak into Balochistan, because Pakistan does not allow journalists in there without a permit.
One of the reasons they don't want journalists poking around is that they might investigate what's happened to the Baloch who live in and around the mountain where Pakistan's been testing its nuclear arsenal:
In Chagai, very few people can read, and fewer still are untouched by the pain of hunger, unemployment, the "disappearances". But without a doubt the major worry in this mountainous region on the Afghan frontier is water. Not the scarcity of it, as is the case in so many other regions of Balochistan where it seldom rains. Chagai is lucky to have a lot of underground water. There's only one problem: it causes cancer. In order to acheive a balance of power with India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, Islamabad exploded five nuclear detonations here in 1998. The villages close to Raspoh mountain, where the nuclear tests were conducted, were evacuated. But,the last few years have seen a spike in spontaneous abortions, foetal malformations, and many cases of cancer.
Before moving away from Raspoh village, Wazeer went to live with his brother in neighboring Dalbandid. He says that the water came out yellow from the taps, although for some time now Wazeer has forgotton what colors are. Like many in the area, eye cancer has left him blind. Nobody told him not to wash his face with this water.
Incidentally, as Ahmed Rashid points out, the Bush administration poured 11.9 billion of our tax dollars into Pakistan, and 80 percent went straight into the coffers of the military. The Obama administration has promised Pakistan 1.5 billion a year for each of the next 5 years.
Our tax dollars at work--paying off the Pakistan Army so that the Taliban won't get its hands on the nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile the Pakistani Army takes the $$$ and funnels some of it to the Taliban to make sure they are an ever-present "threat".
And the Baloch get nuked, disappeared, and pushed to the margins of Pakistan.
Extortion, global style.