BARRICK GOLD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FUELING THE CONFLICT IN BALOCHISTAN AND DEATH OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE,
April 28th, 2010
Rights Council of Canada is grateful for this opportunity to speak on
behalf of the people of Balochistan and to express our solidarity with
the oppressed people and nations of the world in their struggle for
justice and freedom.
There is a
saying in Balochistan that a Baloch child may be without socks, but
when he grows up every step he takes will be on gold.
the southwestern province of Pakistan, is rich in mineral deposits and
is the energy hub that supplies 30% of the country’s need for natural
gas. It is also 44% of the total landmass of Pakistan. And yet the Baloch
nation for the last six decades, since their forceful occupation by
the Pakistani military in 1948, is systematically being marginalized
from society and from their ancestral lands. At present, as we speak,
there is a brutal military operation being conducted by the Pakistani
army to crush the indigenous movement for sovereignty over their lands
and natural resources.
More than 8000
Baloch political activists including 141 women and 168 children have
been forcefully disappeared by the Pakistani military secret services.
Hundreds of youth have been tortured to death and their bodies dumped
in the wilderness dropped from military helicopters. This is a land
where secret military death squads are involved in targeted killing
of Baloch political leaders including the former Governor and Chief
Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, also the chief of the
Bugti tribe who was assassinated on August 26, 2006. Balochistan is
a land where gross human rights violations and slow motion genocide
is an everyday reality.
Such are the
circumstances of political turmoil and civil strife in Balochistan today
where Barrick Gold is investing in gold. Let me tell you, the gold from
Balochistan is not yellow anymore; it is the colour of the blood of
our martyrs and national heroes. This is simply unethical, illegal,
and against international law to invest in business ventures in a zone
Reko Dik is
an ancient volcano in the Chaghi district of Balochistan, which literally
means sandy peak or sand dune in the Balochi tongue. This is the place
where we have world’s fifth largest copper and gold deposit and where
Barrick Gold is involved in digging and polluting the earth for riches
that do not benefit the local inhabitants.
the district of Chaghi in Balochistan is also the site to Pakistan’s
1998 nuclear test that ended all livelihoods for the inhabitants and
their livestock. Local tribesmen and their families were hauled in military
trucks on short notice and displaced into the remote desert without
any compensation. Pollution and illnesses from the radiation have never
been investigated because it has been declared as a sensitive military
is not only guilty of investing in a zone of conflict; they have also
officially appointed military personnel of the Pakistani army, Colonel
Sher Khan as the security director of the company’s site in the area.
This man has personally commanded military operations in Balochistan
and has openly threatened in media and news blogs that resistance to
the state control of Balochistan’s resources shall be crushed at all
The other shadowy
person involved in the Barrick Gold racket is a Pakistani businessman
living in the U.S., Mr. Muslim Lakhani who made millions by arranging
and facilitating deals at the highest level for the Canadian company
that includes not only the top brass in the army but the President of
Pakistan, Mr. Asif Zardari. Muslim Lakhani contributed generously to
the Obama campaign in the recent U.S. elections. He is also on the Council
of the prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars
in Washington D.C., where he is mentioned on the Center’s website
as the man who was able to bring to the market a discovery of one of
the world’s largest reserves of copper in remote Balochistan. Mr.
Lakhani is also a very close buddy of Pakistan’s former military dictator,
retired General Pervez Musharaf who has been nicknamed by the Baloch
people as the butcher of Balochistan.
Well, so much
for the track record of violations of human rights and international
law by Barrick Gold and its partners in Pakistan and elsewhere in the
world. In a recent unanimous decision by the Chief Minister of Balochistan,
Nawab Aslam Raisani and his cabinet ministers on December 24, 2009 cancelled
the agreement with Barrick Gold for exploration of gold and copper in
Reko Dik despite the pressure from Islamabad and warnings from the U.S.
Ambassador and the Canadian Government. Chief Minister Balochistan stated
that this is according to the wishes of the people of Balochistan and
that any agreement, which undermined the rights of the indigenous people,
would be cancelled.
Reko Dik, the
sandy peak is indeed a symbol of our national pride and resilience of
a people who know the price of freedom. Below this sandy peak lie 12.3
million tons of copper and 20.9 million ounces of gold and along the
dusty paths of this remote land you will always witness a shepherd boy
walking without socks on his feet.