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Balochistan Freedom Charter: compiled feedback and suggestions for discussion

The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs is holding an open hearing on February 8, 2012, related to human rights abuses in Pakistan. We are reposting this document because those who hold dearly the status quo will, no doubt, double down on efforts to dissuade people from contemplating change. We wanted to remind people that Baloch youth want to join the developed world--and that they have a few suggestions of their own for improving it.

This document represents a compilation of feedback and suggestions from Baloch youth following the publication of the Balochistan Freedom Charter of June 15, 2011. This document has been compiled for the purposes of discussion only--it is not official, represents a wide range of viewpoints and is only a small sampling of opinion and thoughts gathered through emails and social media exchanges. It contains some very progressive solutions for the management of resources and we hope this document can help stimulate discussion.

Introduction

Edited August 24, 2011: Balochistan is an occupied land and the Baloch people have a right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.

This document sets forth a number of principles under which a constitution for a new independent state of Balochistan can be written and outlines innovations suggested by Baloch youth for incorporation into a new constitution.

This constitution would ensure that citizens will have the rights, privileges and protections enjoyed by the citizens of the Western democracies, rights and privileges and protections which have been denied to them for half a century.

A new Balochistan:

1. Boundaries

Edited August 24, 2011: the boundaries of Balochistan should include all Baloch land under Pakistani occupation since 1947, as well as land once leased to the British which was historically and culturally a part of the Baluchistan confederation. Present-day Balochistan province includes part of Pakhtun lands that the Baloch do not claim sovereignty over. That land would be returned.

2. The State

2a. Balochistan will be a secular state where people of all faiths, and none, have equal legal status and where no religion is privileged in law, government or public institutions.

2b. Baloch will enjoy the free exercise of every religion so long as that causes no harm or threat to persons or property. There will be no established religion. All religions will be treated equally under the law. Balochistan will have no blasphemy law. Religious tolerance is a hallmark of the Balochi ethos. (Note for ex., the Hindu population living within the borders of Balochistan since before the time of Alexander the Great, thriving and prospering in the region of the Kali temple.)

2c. The state will set as its priorities:

1) the physical security of the Baloch people
2) the use of Baloch natural resources for the benefit of the Baloch people
3) a system of civil and criminal justice that applies equally to all Baloch
4) a taxation regime which adheres to the motto: “Where few have too much, and fewer have too little.”
5) the development of education
6) establishment of a universal healthcare system
7) job creation and economic development, including efforts to maximize tourism*
8) the development and rehabilitation of infrastructure
9) environmental protection and
10) the promotion of arts and culture.

(*A Hindu pilgrimage site of major importance, Hinglaj Mata, is located in Balochistan. Additionally, Balochistan is home to some of the oldest, most slowly growing and increasingly endangered forests in the world (Channar near Quetta), mud volcanoes and at Mehrgarh, the site of the world’s biggest mammal, the Paraceratherium, etc. Balochistan has wild landscapes, unmatched on the planet, unique and striking geological formations and kilometers and kilometers of beaches. These form an immediate attraction to intrepid tourists and the basis to develop resorts suitable for visitors from all economic strata.)

2d. Balochistan will actively support efforts to stop nuclear proliferation and the spread of chemical and biological weapons.

3. Right of Return

The people in the Baloch diaspora are welcome home. The government of Balochistan shall promote and facilitate the safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons and assist them in recovering their property and possessions.

4. Citizenship

Every Baloch who can prove that at least one parent is ethnically Baloch will be entitled to the rights, privileges and immunities accorded to citizens under the new constitution, as will every person who can establish that he/she has resided principally within Balochistan for 25 years or longer. All non-Baloch currently living within Balochistan will be entitled to full protection of the laws and all rights of citizens other than the right to vote and hold public office. A mechanism will be put in place whereby resident non-Baloch and non-Baloch permitted to immigrate into Balochistan can achieve citizenship.

5. Powers of the Executive

5a. Law Enforcement

Protection of citizens and residents: Among the military and police powers of the executive will be the authority to enforce laws as necessary to protect the citizens and residents of Balochistan and their property.

The government will be empowered to limit the ownership of firearms by individual persons, including possession of concealable weapons and automatic weapons. It may choose, in the interest of peace, to not enforce this right, but it may do so at a time of its choosing.

5b. War Powers

The government will be empowered to declare itself at war with an agency, or other organized entity, and to deal with its members as enemy combatants under the laws of war. This enables a state of war against an agency, without being at war with the entire country of the agency’s origin. It would be invoked, for ex., if it were discovered that Pakistan’s Frontier Corp or ISI were systematically killing Baloch citizens. This principle is unprecedented in history, but is an obvious and necessary adaptation to the conditions of the modern world.

Posse Comitatus: The executive will command and control the army, navy, air force, coast guard and marine corp. It will be empowered to use and direct these forces in the pursuit of goals authorized by the legislature, and for short periods during time of extreme emergency until authorization by the legislature is practical. These armed forces may only be used outside the borders of Balochistan and in areas within Balochistan only where civilian government has lost control. Violation of this provision shall be an impeachable offense and subject to such criminal sanctions as the legislature may promulgate.

5c. Treaties

The government will be empowered to negotiate treaties and assume membership in organizations and associations of governments, such as the International Criminal Court, and international organizations supporting national security, economic advancement and environmental protection.

The government may form alliances with other nations to forestall the migration of jobs to locales which offer the lowest wages, the fewest protections of worker safety and the most lax environmental standards.

(Balochistan is essentially largely the same beautiful and unspoiled landscape of as it was in the time of Alexander the Great 2,000 years ago. We hope that it will be no less beautiful for our descendants 2,000 years from now. We are outraged at the despoilations of our countryside by greedy and cynical foreigners taking mineral resources and leaving a polluted and ruined landscape behind. We commit to adhere to the highest environmental and conservation standards as we extract benefit from the land’s natural resources.)

5d. Tax Power and Purpose

5d-1. Land

To forestall the development of an endemic culture of corruption and to prevent the unjust enrichment of the well-connected, the new Baloch republic will be committed under its constitution to a policy of “No Windfalls.” Land will be taxed on location value and proven mineral reserves. The government has the right to tax land based on minerals in the ground with the objective of encouraging mining of those minerals to the benefit of all. Rationale: The landowner did not put the diamonds or oil or platinum in the ground. Its presence there is none of his doing. However, if he establishes and operates a mine, he is entitled to be rewarded commensurate with his risk and effort.

The value of the minerals in the ground properly belongs to the people. Only the difference between their value at the surface and their value in the ground properly belongs to the mine operator who has brought them to the surface. The profits of the mining enterprise will be taxed like any other enterprise.

Furtherance of this policy will encourage the highest and best use of the land. The policy will discourage private persons from acquiring unearned wealth from public works, such as the purchase of land adjacent to the exit ramp on a new highway. This policy will apply to all infrastructure: roads, water supply, sewers, rail, ports, mineral deposits, etc. The discoverer of new mineral deposits is entitled to reward commensurate with the risk and expense of the discovery.

For example, if the government builds a freeway exit next to land you happen to own, you have done nothing to earn anything. You should not be enabled to realize a benefit from an increase in the value of your land generated by public effort and investment. By taxing location value of land, the government forestalls not only the injustice of such unearned benefit, but also the corruption that inevitably surrounds government projects that foreseeably increase the value of some properties.

The legislature will be empowered to tax such windfall increases, not exceeding 100%, but a wise legislature should tax it at a somewhat lower rate in order to encourage the development necessary to fully realize the new value (to encourage the investment necessary to, for example, build a truck stop at the new exit).

5d-2. Wealth taxation

The government will be empowered to tax a person’s wealth. This power is in addition to any and all other forms of taxation, including taxes on income, VAT, etc. Wealth must be reported. The government will be empowered to require wealth returns, and to tax based on the wealth indicated in the returns. In order to discourage inaccurate returns, the return will be comparable to that of an estate return filed for probate. The tax rate can be progressive, increasing with increased wealth reported.

This power can be exercised to preclude the emergence of oligarchs at the time of independence.

5d-3. Minerals

We commit to the highest environmental and conservation standards as we extract benefit from the land’s natural resources and will invite in experts like Greenpeace and others to help us steward development.

5d-4. Capital expenditures and expenses

Government budgets will distinguish between capital expenditures and operating expenses. Some items ordinarily treated as operating expenses will be treated as capital expenditures when calculating debts and deficits. Foremost among these is education. A dollar paid to a teacher is a dollar invested in a child.

5d-5. Education

The government will be empowered to create and maintain a system of public schools available to children independent of their tribe or ethnicity. Because English has become the lingua franca of our time in commerce and science and diplomacy, all school children shall have a rigorous course in English language beginning in first grade and continuing throughout. Courses other than English, and other language courses, shall be conducted in the local language where the school is located.

Private Schools shall also conform to the English requirement.

There are to be no religion classes in the public schools.

The government will be empowered to inspect private schools to ensure that they are not fostering religious intolerance, and to penalize violators.

Corporations and other businesses benefit enormously from secondary and post-secondary education. This private benefit from a public expenditure shall be taxed like any other windfall. This eliminates the unfairness of businesses free-riding on a burden born by the student, his/her family and the state. It also limits the role of student debt as a source of intimidation and self-censorship.

5d-6. Economy

Every citizen has the right to a reasonable minimum standard of living. And it is a legitimate role of the government to enable the achievement of such standard. To the extent that limitations of infrastructure and education are the obstacles to that, it is the duty of the government to overcome them as quickly as possible.

5d-7. Legalize drugs

We recognize that prohibitions against psychoactive drugs tend to create and advance dangerous criminal enterprises which are capable of irretrievably corrupting law enforcement and undermining government. We will not adopt such a prohibition. We will do everything possible internationally to encourage other countries to do the same. We shall be committed to educate the public about the dangers of such drugs, and to the treatment of those who nevertheless become addicted to them.

A major funding source for the jihadists and their ilk is the illegal drug trade. Legalizing the sale of opiates, cocaine, marijuana and other prohibited drugs will deprive jihadists of this source of funding and cripple their ability to wage war on the Baloch and the Americans. (The Americans, by adopting such a policy, could save billions in defense expenditures, as well as domestic police expenditures. A small part of those savings would more than suffice to deal with the social effects of legalization.)

6. Democratic and Personal Freedoms

A bill of rights will be introduced which will adhere to the values set forth in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

6a. The constitution will ensure democratic and personal freedoms, including the right of natural persons to protest for the redress of grievances, freedom of speech, the press and electronic media - values enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It shall protect persons from discrimination against them based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and/or political affiliation. It shall guarantee the right of workers to form unions to advance their interests in matters of pay, benefits, working conditions and other issues affecting their employment.

6b. Three-verdict system

We strongly suggest the adoption in criminal matters of the three-verdict system: guilty, not proven, not guilty. This allows the liberation of individuals against whom a prosecution has not met its burden of proof, but distinguishes those whom the defense has established to be innocent of the charge, removing the stigma of suspicion that invariably accompanies mere acquittal under the two verdict system.

Under the two-verdict system juries that are in doubt about a defendant’s guilt frequently convict the defendant of a lesser charge as a compromise. Under the three verdict system, such doubts are properly resolved by a verdict of “not proven.” No one should be convicted of a crime unless a jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. A conviction should never be a compromise.

6c. Courts – Federal

The federal courts shall have jurisdiction over lawsuits between members of different tribes or ethnicities and over crimes where the alleged perpetrator and victim are of different tribes or ethnicities, over lawsuits to which the government is a party, and over criminal cases where the accused with violation of federal laws.

The federal courts shall have jurisdiction over contracts involving foreign principles/nationals to prevent local leaders from being induced to agree to contract terms that are against the public interest

Federal courts may establish a financial minimum for access in civil proceedings, below which they go to municipal or local courts.

6d. Courts – Judges

Judges will be required to fully disclose their family assets and sources of income and the sources of their campaign funds and to recuse themselves from matters which can materially affect their family fortunes or those of their major contributors.

Tax returns that judges will be required to disclose shall be comparable to those of estates in probate.

6e. Crime and Punishment

The government shall have the authority to define and punish crimes.

The government’s right to punish a person for crime can only be justified by at least one of the following: incapacitation from future criminal action, deterrence of others from similar criminal action, effective rehabilitation to reduce the likelihood of a repeated offense by the offender, restitution to the victims of the crime, insofar as practical, and in rare cases, retribution necessary to prevent feuding and private vengeance.

The people shall be safe from unreasonable searches and seizures and no warrant shall issue without probable cause.

Irrespective of whether evidence was properly obtained, it may be introduced into court for its probative value. The determination of whether the evidence was improperly obtained shall be made by a body independent of the alleged offending officers’ government or agency which body shall also affix the punishment of the offending officers if a violation is found to have occurred.

The people shall be safe from coerced and fabricated confessions. To ensure this protection, interrogations shall be videotaped or audiotaped. Unless there is compelling justification for an interrogation to have not been electronically recorded, the alleged results of that interrogation shall be inadmissible in court.

Further protection shall be offered via a limited protection against self-incrimination.

Suspects in criminal proceedings shall be given the following warning: “You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defense if you do not mention now something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Allegations of police misconduct shall be made in advance of a criminal defendant’s trial. If the accusations are found to be frivolous, that finding can be introduced against the defendant at trial.

The concept of freedom is very often a trade-off, one person’s freedom means a restriction on another person’s freedom. Private, uncontrolled unaccountable impositions on freedom have been rampant in Balochistan and it is a proper function of government to expose and limit the imposition by some private persons on others. More dangerous and more pervasive are private impositions by powerful private interests than by government and that among the duties of government is to counterbalance them. The new constitution will empower the government to limit the ability of private power to affect the public good through bribery, exercise of monopoly power, manipulation of markets and influence on elections and otherwise.

7. Free, multi-party elections

Any political party is eligible to participate in elections so long as it is pledged to uphold the values of the constitution of the Republic of Balochistan and does not, notwithstanding, advocate specific policies that would violate the constitution.

7a. Legislature – Congress

Legislators will be required to fully disclose their family assets and sources of income and the sources of their campaign funds, and to recuse themselves from voting on matters which can materially affect their family fortunes or those of their major contributors.

Returns that legislators will be `required to disclose are comparable to those of estates in probate.

7b. Elections

Elections should be held on the day or days that the largest number of people don’t work.

Instant run-off: People get to choose their first, second and third choice and the candidate that is acceptable to the largest number of voters is the winner. (Among many other virtues, this would have prevented Hitler from winning elections in 1933 with less than 40% of the vote. That virtue alone is a reason to have it everywhere.)

All voters may choose to vote either on a geographic basis or on the basis of ethnicity, religion or other preference. Seats in the legislature shall be assigned to these non-geographical groups based on the registered numbers of those who have chosen to vote on that basis, e.g., Christians, Hindus.

Rationale: Where a minority is scattered through a country, even though it may constitute a significant fraction of the national population, it may not be a majority in any geographical area, and even where it is, the majority might gerrymander districts so as to deprive the minority of all or adequate representation in the legislature. This will assure minorities the representation that their numbers entitle them to in a democratic legislature.

***

Appendix I

Grievances (to come)

Appendix II

Legal justifications under International Law (to come)

Appendix III

Historical and Academic Support (to come)

Appendix IV

Allies (to come)

***

For reference:

The Balochistan Freedom Charter

A programme for freedom, democracy, justice and secularism in Balochistan

Draft only - for debate, amendment and revision - 15 June 2011.

We appeal to all Baloch people to unite in support of the Baloch Freedom Charter, for the liberation of our oppressed and occupied nation and for the empowerment and welfare of our people.

We urge:

End the conflict:

1. A ceasefire and the cessation of all military operations, withdrawal of troops and paramilitaries to barracks and a halt to the construction of new military bases and outposts – with independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peace-keepers.

2. Release of all political prisoners and a full account of the fate of all disappeared persons.

3. Open access to all parts of Balochistan for journalists, aid agencies and human rights organisations.

4. Right of return of displaced refugees, restoration of their property and compensation for losses caused by the conflict.

5. End inward colonisation of Balochistan by non-Baloch settlers.

6. A UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, offering the people of Balochistan of the option of independence.

A new Balochistan:

7. Social justice, equality and human rights for all Baloch people.

8. Land reform – The right of every adult Baloch person to have a share of land ownership.

9. Redistribution of wealth and power to all the people of Balochistan.

10. A secular state, where people of all faiths and none have equal legal status and where no religion is privileged in law, government or public institutions.

11. Democratic and personal freedoms, including free, multi-party elections, the right to protest and freedom of speech and the press, as enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

12. A UN Commission of Inquiry into disappeared persons, and the victims of detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial killings, including the victimisation of both Baloch national leaders and ordinary Baloch citizens.

EXPLANATORY NOTES:

This draft Baloch Freedom Charter (BFC) was drawn up by a dozen Baloch nationalist and human rights activists, with the assistance of UK human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

It is only a proposal, for discussion and amendment as others see fit.

The idea is to set out a clear agenda of what Baloch nationalists want, and the policies they would pursue in a future free and independent Balochistan.

The BFC is similar to, and modelled on, the ANC's Freedom Charter, which successfully mobilised the South African people and international public opinion against apartheid and in support of the ANC.

For the Baloch people and nationalist cause, the BFC could become a very useful and effective focus for national and international campaigns, helping build domestic and international support.

The current absence of a concrete, specific liberation programme is a major weakness.

There is an urgent need for an explicit set of proposals to deescalate the conflict and lead to Pakistani disengagement and withdrawal.

The BFC is important for four reasons:

1. The people of Balochistan have a right to know what the nationalist movement stands for. They are more likely to rally around and unite behind a clear, practical liberation programme.

2. The BFC could become a focus for uniting the diverse Baloch factions. It is worded with broad appeal, to unite the largest possible number of Baloch people, despite whatever other disagreements they might have. Maximum unity has been the key to every successful national liberation struggle. Division weakens and undermines the Baloch freedom movement.

3. Pakistan needs to be put on the spot with specific demands to end militarisation, occupation and the denial of human rights - and to secure the right to self-determination, in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.

4. The UN and governments worldwide are more likely to support the Baloch national liberation struggle if they know what Baloch nationalists are seeking and the proposed character of a future independent Balochistan. The BFC's statements about democracy, human rights and secularism are particularly important and will resonate with democratic governments, human rights organisations and UN/EU.

Please distribute to your Baloch and Pakistani contacts for discussion.

Solidarity! Peter Tatchell


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