In the second such instance in less than two months, ‘Free Balochistan’ posters appeared on several London vehicles this week. The message has infuriated Pakistan and the British High Commissioner in Islamabad was promptly summoned on Friday and a protest was registered with him.
Several vehicles were seen with the ‘Free Balochistan’ posters embossed on car frames. These also urged for the rights of Baloch people to be safeguarded. World Baloch Organisation took to Twitter to claim that it was their way of highlighting human rights violation in Pakistan. “Our peaceful awareness campaign in the great city London aims to highlight human rights abuses in #Balochistan by Pakistani authorities,” read a message on what appeared as their official Twitter handle.
Pakistan reacted sharply and the Dawn reported that British High Commissioner Thomas Drew ‘was informed that Pakistan, in line with the UN Charter, rejects actions and advertisements with malicious content that impinge on our sovereignty and territorial integrity.’
Balochis have been demanding freedom for Balochistan – a resource-rich region within Pakistan. They allege that Pakistani authorities are guilty of violating basic human rights and that the region has been deliberately kept away from economic development. “We will approach parliaments of the world and make our issues known. We are an occupied land; we did not accede,” Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud, one of the key voices demanding freedom for Balochistan, said in an interview recently.
While Pakistan has attempted to crack down on those involved in the freedom struggle in the Balochistan region, not every attempt from exiled Balochis have worked. In September, diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and Switzerland rose after ‘Free Balochistan’ posters emerged in Geneva’s public space. The poster campaign was apparently orchestrated by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a banned entity in Pakistan. Islamabad said not enough was done to prevent such an occurrence. Ambassador-designate Thomas Kolly was summoned and some senators even demanded that he be expelled from the country.