Is she an army of one woman?
All her life she struggled to get justice done, putting her neck out for those in need. A fierce critic of US military foreign invasions, Jane Eastwood Weisner is highly concerned over Chinese forays in the warm waters of the Straits of Hormuz and has been a strong voice for Balochistan’s independence. As general secretary of the American Friends of Balochistan, she is incensed by Pakistan army, Military Intelligence and Inter Services Intelligence agencies kill and dump policy, enforced disappearances, custodial killings, degrading torture, burning of homes of Baloch freedom activists in France-sized Balochistan. The Catholic woman from Amherst, Mass., who is married to a Jewish professor and espouses progressive causes, has adopted Balochistan’s freedom as one of the main missions in life.
On Monday, Weisner wrote an impact letter to two very important ambassadors stationed in Washington DC. Her letter was addressed to Hunaina bint Sultan Al Mughairy, ambassador of Oman, who got her Master’s degree in Economics from the New York University, New York, is and one of the most important woman leaders from the Middle East, and Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassadors of UAE, who is well-known in Washington DC as he graduated from the Georgetown University in Washington DC and was an international fellow at the Industrial College of Armed forces’ National Defense University in Washington DC.
In her letter to the two ambassadors, Weisner pleaded sovereign and independent Balochistan did not only serve the vital interests of the US but was also in the long-term national interests of Oman and UAE. Not many know, but hundreds of thousands of Baloch are natives to both Oman and UAE. “As much as I understand the history of the region, the Baloch have centuries old ties with your countries as they have served your military and in police and have also contributed to business and commerce as loyal citizens,” she said.
Oman king Sultan Qaboos has always held Baloch, who are nearly 40 percent of Oman, in high esteem. Commander of the Royal Oman army is a Baloch named Maj.Gen Mattar bin Salim Al Balushi, while noted Omani businessman Yahya Nasib, chairman of the Yahya Group Holding and owner of the prestigious Dolphin Village, a distant relative of this scribe, was awarded the Order of the British Empire last year by Prince Harry. Tens of thousands of Baloch serve Oman army and police. Gwadar was part of Oman for nearly two centuries and Pakistan claims it “purchased” it from Oman in September 1958. However, the Baloch are asking Oman to have the sale declared null and void.
Likewise, Baloch command respect in the eyes of UAE rulers so much so that only Baloch are trusted by the shaikhas or wives, daughters, sisters of the shaikhs as family members. Baloch have long served not only as caretakers of the shaikh camels, but served in large numbers in police and army. One of the prominent families is called the Sharaf family who hold high position in banking and business. A noted member of the family is retired Maj. Gen. Sharafuddin Sharaf, who serves as the Chairman of MAC Sharaf Securities (U.A.E), is a former Dubai police intelligence chief.
Weisner’s letter is quite timely in the sense that Pakistan army is planning a bloodbath in Balochistan on the lines of what the Sri Lankan army did with Tamils few years ago to serve Beijing’s commercial and strategic interests and counterbalance common arch foe India. The army’s plans comes in the wake of chief of army staff General raheel Sharif’s visit to Sri Lanka last week. Earlier in April, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Islamabad and signed 50 memorandums of understanding. Xi’s vision to connect Gwadar with Kashgar through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of his Maritime Silk Road plans. and China’s ambition to augment its “string of pearls” naval bases by developing a naval base in Gwadar. According to London-based news web site Baloch Warna, Pakistan has provided 2,281 acre of land to China on a 40 year lease where China will build a ‘free trade zone’. Nearly a third of this huge area or 654 acre have already been approved for a Chinese naval base. Weisner said the Gwadar port sits right on the Straits of Hormuz and is a perfect place for a Chinese naval base.
Weisner believes since the ISI has long worked with Islsmist extremists in both India and Afghanistan and has promoted such outfits in Balochistan, “Pakistan’s occupation of Balochistan has put the strategic Gwadar port in the precarious situation of possible terrorist control?” She said Pakistan’s cozy relationship with the Al Qaeda and ISIS could be problematic for the port’s security. “At present, the port’s operations are in the hands of China. The Chinese continue to grow more powerful in Central Asia as they expand their sphere of influence,” Weisner pointed out. “Is Islamabad a satellite of Beijing? Has the balance of power already shifted in favor of a Chinese government whose ever growing political and economic power is swallowing up Central Asia?” she asked.
Weisner said the economies of the UAE and Oman depend on free access to the Straits of Hormuz. “Your tankers of oil are the lifeblood of your countries’ economies and must never be jeopardized. China’s control might appear to be stabilizing in the short run. But never forget the goals of China’s Navy to be more of a presence in the area,” she said. Weisner said the Gwadar Port is a deep water port capable of docking a battleship. “Could China’s sphere of influence include a battleship within miles of the UAE’s and Oman’s shores? At this time, not a possibility, but what about 20 years from now? The world must look beyond the present,” she said.
She emphasized economic growth and stability in the region must be autonomous to the nations of the Arabian Gulf of Central Asia. “Foreign control of strategic waterways cannot be left in the hands of China. Pakistan has chosen to let China suck the economic marrow of the Gwadar Port into her coffers, ever enriching the economic power of China against Baloch wishes.” She said the question remains, do the UAE and Oman leave their countries’ economies at the mercy of an ever growing, greedy China or support sovereignty for Balochistan?
Weisner emphasized a free and sovereign Balochistan would be an ally not an adversary. “Gwadar must remain a commercial, free trade port. It must not be allowed to be part of China’s strategic growth plans.” Just five weeks back, Weisner repeated her appeal to the US government to provide arms and training to the Baloch freedom fighters or sarmachars to counter the Chinese designs in Gwadar. “The US government must stop China’s influence in Pakistan. In truth it is the oppressed and occupied country of Balochistan that China has sunk her long claws into,” she emphasized. “The reason: natural resources that China desperately needs. China is poor in natural resources but has money to expand its sphere of influence.”
The Amherst-based activist said she believes the US must support the Baloch whole nine yards. “To do that the US military must aid the Baloch Sarmachars (freedom fighters) with advisors, and equipment. Not just automatic weapons, but rocket launchers, tanks, IEDs and armor played vehicles.” However, she opined the US need not send boots on the ground as the brave Baloch Sarmachars will fight their own battle for freedom. Supporters of the freedom movement say the same thing that the Baloch people are fully capable of defeating Pakistan in Balochistan, but that the US military aid helps Pakistan army. In April Marie Harf, spokesperson for the State Department, defended one billion worth of new arms sales to Pakistan while the US also handed over a huge stockpiles of weapons it used in Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Weisner is concerned US support to Pakistan may in fact help China. “The US government must open its eyes to China’s building a port large enough to support a Naval base. China has a long term plan to build 8-10 battleships in the next 10 years,” she said. In defense of Balochistan rights, the Baloch unofficial representative to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mehran Marri, who is the new chief of the Marri tribe, has often clashed with the Chinese representative. Just last week, Pakistan and China ganged up to shut the door on two African NGOs, African Technology Development Link and African Technical Association, that were helping highlight Balochistan woes at the UN Human Rights Council.
Weisner wants US to act in defense on Balochistan. “Does the US want to see China overseeing and possibly controlling all the oil that travel through the Straits of Hormuz? I do not think so. To prevent China from achieving its goal of a naval port in Gwadar, the US government must act and support the Baloch Sarmachars,” Weisner concluded.