Pressure on Foreign Office UK ambassador summoned in Pakistan
Attack on freedom of expression. Bid to censor and intimidate
London, UK – 6 November 2017
The government of Pakistan is demanding that the British government and Transport for London remove “#FreeBalochistan” adverts from the sides of London taxis (photos available or see the link below).
The adverts also say: “Stop enforced disappearances” and “Save the Baloch people”.
In response to Pakistani government requests, Transport for London has ordered the adverts to be pulled from taxis on the grounds that they violate its advertising policy but it has not said which specific rule has been violated. The Baloch campaigners plan to appeal the decision of the transport authorities.
A parallel billboard campaign has gone ahead on London roads today as planned.
(see the photo above)
The adverts seek to highlight Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in occupied Balochistan and affirm the right of the Baloch people to govern themselves.
Pakistan has denounced the advertising campaign as “malicious”, “anti-Pakistan” and an attack on the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Syed Ibne Abbas, has called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to order the banning of the adverts. The UK Ambassador to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, has been summonised by the Goverment of Pakistan and told that such adverts “should not be allowed.”
Bhawal Mengal, spokesperson for the World Baloch Organisation (WBO), which organised the advertisements, said:
“The bullying tactics of Pakistan are an attack on freedom of expression. They are an anti-democratic bid to censor the voice of the Baloch people and cover up the war crimes of the Pakistan army in Balochistan. This is a peaceful advertising campaign. Pakistan’s aggressive reaction is a bare-faced attempt to intimidate the UK government and Baloch human rights defenders. We do not believe the adverts violate any Transport for London policies. They are not political. Our advertising has a human rights theme similar to the adverts of Amnesty International in 2016 in support of the Human Rights Act, which were accepted by Transport for London. We will appeal against the ban.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a long-time supporter of human rights in Balochistan and is backing the advertising campaign:
“Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. This is an outrageous bid to subvert our democratic tradition of allowing the free exchange of ideas. Pakistan’s iron-fisted rule in Balochistan is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter the region. These adverts are much needed to defend the human rights of the Baloch people and to expose the atrocities of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.”
Noordin Mengal, another leading WBO campaigner, added:
“The World Baloch Organisation has today (Monday 6 November) launched a “#FreeBalochistan” advertising campaign on London taxis and billboards, to alert the British public, media and politicians to Pakistan’s secret, dirty war in Balochistan. This war of terror involves the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Baloch villages, and the kidnapping, torture and assassination by the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies of anyone who peacefully opposes the military occupation and human rights abuses by Islamabad.
“Tens of thousands of Baloch people have been murdered or disappeared by the Pakistan security forces. The killings are happening right now and are aided by British and American weapon systems that are being diverted to attack the Baloch people, including US supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters.
“Balochistan was previously a British protectorate that was granted independence in 1947. It was forcefully annexed by Pakistan in 1948 and has been militarily occupied ever since. The people of Balochistan have been denied the right to self-determination, contrary to the UN Charter.
“The World Baloch Organisation is a peaceful, lawful lobby against Pakistan’s war crimes and human rights abuses in Balochistan,” said Mr Mengal.
WBO website: http://worldbaloch.org