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News :: Human Rights : International : Politics
14 May 2018
Rajan bhardwaj Uncategorized May 14, 2018 8 Minutes
Observers of the movement for Baloch human rights might have noticed a tiny but entertaining blip on their radars recently. Far away on American shores, a bit of lewd comedy was being played out by one activist ‘Ahmar Mustikhan’ who, among other things, claimed that he is at the center of an international conspiracy involving RAW, India’s alleged foreign intelligence agency. Of course, RAW is a favourite whipping-boy in Mustikhan’s native Pakistan, and his social media performances were picked up and sensationalized by the Pakistani media as intended.

Now as this minor episode loses its entertainment value, some details are beginning to emerge that give some insight into attempts to sabotage and discredit the legitimate Baloch and Pashtun struggle for human rights under Pakistani rule.

Mustikhan is currently facing criminal charges for violating peace orders issued by a district court in the US state of Maryland. In the past, Mustikhan has been prosecuted twice for tax evasion after he immigrated from his native country, Pakistan.

Ahmar Khan, who uses the name Ahmar ‘Mustikhan’ in social circles, is a Pakistani activist who sought asylum in the US on grounds of persecution because of his homosexual orientation and his political activism in his native country. Since then he has been on the payroll of various Baloch and non-Baloch parties, mostly as a public protest gadfly and small-time blogger. Observers noticed an uptick in his activism in the US since the fag end of last year, but that balloon burst rather quickly:

Last year, Mustikhan and a few younger Indian and Afghan immigrants co-founded and registered an organization by the name of “American Friends of Balochistan”. He made himself the poster boy of this organization, which depended on the charity and publicity given to it by local American, Indian and Afghan individuals and community organizations. Articles and pictures of Baloch suffering were circulated, and attracted sympathetic donors and volunteers.

Volunteers who had stepped up to help Mr. Mustikhan very quickly noticed that they were unable to network constructively with other Baloch human rights activists and groups, who seemed to keep Mustikhan at arm’s length.

Various sources say they assumed it was because of his mental illness and unstable temperament. In the past, Mustikhan has fallen foul of almost every other Baloch party he has been on the payroll of, since his personal ambitions were not fulfilled. Several Baloch also cite his part-Burmese ancestry, and disconnectedness from grassroots Balochistan.

Recently, Mr. Mustikhan began a hectic personal campaign of soliciting donations from local community members, mainly Indian Americans. Reports say that while several sympathetic individuals contributed, he expected more, and began to regularly post prurient blogs and social media messages about the “Hindu bania” mentality.

Moreover, he expected the Indian government to fund him massively, with wild claims that India has given a whopping $800 million to other Baloch groups. Needless to say, no official in the Indian government seemed to even register his increasingly shrill rhetoric.

Following this mild response, Mustikhan threatened Indian and Afghan donors that unless they dug deeper into their pockets, he would begin to court the Pakistani establishment and support their agenda. When these threats failed, he entered into negotiations with Jumma Marri, a Baloch activist who recently surrendered to the Pakistani state for the same reason. Mustikhan also made overtures to other Baloch politicians who work for the Pakistani establishment. These actions went directly against US interests and the purposes of the “American Friends of Balochistan” organization, and caused alarm among remaining members.

Mustikhan has complained that his personal finances were precarious, yet did not seem to think it necessary to find a regular job, nor was he transparent about his current sources of income. He has insisted that “India” must take care of the personal finances of its “friends” such as himself, failing which, he would turn into an enemy.

Associates noticed that Ahmar Mustikhan has been targeting certain Baloch freedom groups and their expatriate representatives in the West by vocally linking them all to militancy in Balochistan. While the armed resistance in Balochistan is directed mostly at the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps, Ahmar Mustikhan began connecting all Baloch insurgents with “terrorism” against ordinary civilians, citing stray cases reported by the Pakistani media.

The Baloch groups he has been targeting are the only ones really active on the ground on a principled stand, and are also the ones that are attracting middle-class, educated Baloch youth.

When confronted and questioned, Mr. Mustikhan threw tantrums, and began open propaganda that India allegedly only wants to use Baloch blood to needle Pakistan and is not serious about helping them – hiding the fact that all sympathetic foreign governments including India have consistently said that a prerequisite to their open support for Baloch self-determination is a unified Baloch voice that is currently split into factions.

But Mr. Mustikhan was only further exacerbating the factionalism by his relentless criticism of Baloch groups of every hue. Overall, his behaviour scuttles recent aspirations for a Baloch ‘Jirga’, where all parties sit down and make a joint statement of a common human rights charter for Balochistan.

Mustikhan also began a campaign of personal slander against the co-founders of the small organization he used as a platform. Apart from sexual slander against a female asociate and general mud-slinging, Mustikhan also began wildly accusing his Indian acquaintances and younger volunteers of being “RAW agents” – a public accusation common in Pakistan but decidedly odd in the US capital region.

Following the harrassment, two cases have been registered against him, resulting in two peace orders. As the slander continued, criminal prosecution is likely to begin for violating those peace orders. At times, Mustikhan has humorously claimed that the sordid performance was all a “joke”, but the damage done and details of his present and his past do not bear this out.
Mustikhan’s slander in partnership with an associate who is a US Army veteran could attract publicity that might land him and his friend in further and much more serious legal trouble due to certain abuses of rank and fraudulent claims. In poor journalism, Mustikhan blogged alleging that one of the co-founders of AFB was guilty of violating the “Stolen Valor Act” during a verbal spat with this associate. A basic search would reveal that the Stolen Valor Act has nothing to do with such incidents, but rather applies to abuse of rank or fraudulent claims in the military. Mustikhan’s associate claims to be a retired US Army Captain and a Fulbright scholar.

Members of the Baloch resistance worldwide have voiced support for the recent uprising of Pashtuns against discrimination and persecution within Pakistan. Mustikhan has sought to undermine this link also. His anti-Indian and anti-Afghan behaviour began to sporadically erupt last year. He was joined in this by an AFB co-founder and Pakistani national Najeeb Khan alias Najeebullah Kakar, who also came to the US as an asylum seeker.

Together, Mustikhan and Najeeb Khan began a narrative of India and Afghanistan being ‘equally’ culpable for the suffering of ordinary Baloch people as is Pakistan’s genocidal regime. The false equivalence between elements in Indian, Afghan and Pakistani societies became another motif of Mustikhan’s narative. Najeeb Khan, while being stridently anti-Pakistani on social media, declared, “I f*ck Pakistan’s ISI and I also f*ck India’s RAW”.

Najeeb Khan has been strident against the notion that the Afghan government could be a friend to oppressed Pashtuns within Pakistan. In a bizzare incident, as “human rights” activists, Mustikhan and Najeeb clamored to raise the issue of underage marriages of women in Afghanistan from the platform of an organization that was focused on Baloch human rights. When a female Afghan colleague suggested that, given the focus of the organization, that might not be prudent or relevant, they attacked her for being a “fake feminist”. The only effect of their actions was to make all Afghan stakeholders take a step back from any public support for Baloch activism in the US.

Moreover, Mustikhan and Najeeb Khan antagonized the Afghan government even more by blaming people close to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani of being subservient to Pakistan’s ISI, and being anti-Pashtun.

An attempt to foul the Afghan-Indian atmosphere in the Washington DC region came just a couple of weeks after the Afghan ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib inaugurated the first temple of Afghan Hindus in that metropolitan area. In a crass attempt to soil an entire community and incite ethnic tensions, Mustikhan also alleged that his two former Indian associates were “Hindu extremists” who have “played with the honour of an Afghan woman”, and wondered aloud “what Afghans in the DC area would do…they could go and bang on doors.” Concocted rumours are typical of blasphemy cases and communal riots in his native Pakistan, but they are decidedly out of place in the United States. What made it crooked was that it was Mustikhan and his friends who had dragged the name of an Afghan lady through the dirt during his slander campaign, while Indian colleagues came to her defence. Mustikhan could face further legal action for targeting and inciting communities, which directly attracts the attention of local law enforcement.

Further, Najeeb Khan has expressed views that supported “Pashtun unity” at the cost of the non-Pashtuns of Afghanistan, which raised concerns that the recent eruption of Pashtun frustration against Pakistani discrimination could be used as a double-edged blade to undermine Afghanistan’s own efforts at nation-building.

Najeeb Khan has been on a social media campaign of self-promotion as a prominent overseas face for the Pashtunistan movement, but his stance on several issues could only polarizes these nascent movements from within. He is an asylee in the US along with his family, and is currently pursuing a PhD at SUNY. His parents and siblings continue to remain in Pakistan.

Perhaps some of Mustikhan’s behaviour was a calculated response to his frustrated personal ambitions and wishes: Members of the small organization expressed disbelief when at one time he said he himself expected to preside over a united Baloch Congress that could be held in the US. No one seemed to know what made him think he would find any acceptance as chairman of such a Baloch Congress. Apart from demands for money, his quest for prominence has been a source of embarrassment to many, and usually devolves to a clamour for notoriety by hook or by crook.

Mustikhan has also played up his openly gay identity and is claiming to be a victim of homophobia, alleging that the acquaintances he considers “RAW agents” are against gay rights and dignity. Mustikhan has indicated that his collaborator Najeeb Khan is also bisexual, along with his other associate Dipesh Chatterjee.

Mustikhan comes from a region where bisexuality is socially not uncommon, yet is condemned harshly by the religious culture. He also has progeny in Pakistan whom he had abandoned along with his spouse decades ago to seek asylum in the US as a gay individual.

Volunteers and donors who were burned by the Mustikhan episode feel conned, and wondered if this would make the Baloch cause look like an immature affair. However, they remained optimistic. The general contours of Baloch misery and their struggle for human dignity are bound to gain sharper focus as the world’s eyes take notice of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its politics and lopsided economics. It appears that some career activists might choose to bandwagon for or against the Baloch cause, depending on which side of their bread is buttered.

In this milieu, the search for a platform for genuine Baloch and non-Baloch intellectuals who can articulate this cry in the wilderness before an international audience is likely to gain prominence

This work is in the public domain
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