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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

REPUBLICANS ANGER PAKISTAN

Pakistan is outraged by a resolution sponsored by three House Republicans calling for a vote on independence for the people of Baluchistan, the largest province in the South Asian nation already angry at Washington for its anti-terrorist attacks.

Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman denounced the resolution as "ill-informed" and an interference in her country's domestic affairs.

"Needless to say, provocations such as these will seriously impact the Pakistan-U.S. relations," she said. "We value this relationship, but not at the cost of our dignity, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

She noted that Baluchistan has its own elected provincial government and representatives in the national assembly.

In Islamabad, the Foreign Ministry summoned Richard Hoagland, the acting U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, to complain about the resolution sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican.

"Ambassador Hoagland was told in clear terms that the move in the U.S. Congress was contrary to the spirit of friendly relations and violative of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and recognized norms of interstate conduct," the ministry said Tuesday.

Mr. Rohrabacher, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, introduced the resolution this month, accusing the Pakistani government of killing Baluchi dissidents who advocate a separate country.

"The Baluchi, like other nations of people, have an innate right to self-determination," he said. "The political and ethnic discrimination they suffer is tragic and made more so because America is financing and selling arms to their oppressors in Islamabad."

He argued that the Baluchi "should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status," whether that be an independent country or more autonomy within Pakistan.

The resolution notes that ethnic Baluchi people, who also live in Iran and Afghanistan, were conquered by the British in the 19th century and by Pakistan in 1948.

The resolution accuses Pakistan of waging a "bloody campaign to stamp out popular resistance." The latest uprising was in 2005.

Baluchistan, with a population of nearly 8 million, is the least populated but geographically largest of Pakistan's four provinces. It is also rich in copper and gold.

Mr. Rohrabacher's two co-sponsors on the resolution are Reps. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, and Steve King, Iowa Republican.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad were strained badly after U.S. commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, hiding in a compound in Pakistan last year. Islamabad also is angered by repeated drone strikes on terrorist targets inside its borders.

WARNING FROM A JORDANIAN

A former Jordanian ambassador to the United States this week warned Israel that it will find no friends from the Arab Spring unless it reaches a settlement with the Palestinians.

"These governments won't be soft on Israel," Marwan Muasher told students at Purdue University, referring to the leaders who emerged after the overthrow of Arab dictators last year.

"Israel's concerns of having hostile neighbors will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if it continues with the occupation" of the Palestinian territories.

Israel frequently has complained about the lack of negotiating partners because anti-Jewish Hamas militants now control the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank has refused to hold talks because of Jewish housing construction in areas it claims as Arab land.

Mr. Muasher, ambassador in Washington from 1997 to 2002, noted U.S. support for those "yearning for freedom" in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the Purdue Exponent student newspaper reported.

"But if you are a Palestinian, it's complicated. That is not an argument that sits well with Arabs," he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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