I am committed to independence of my ancestral Baluchistan, democracy in Burma and liberalism and more democracy in the U.S.
I am very glad a black man, Barack Obama, is the president of the United States, even if this has nothing more than a symbolic value. I am glad Mr. Bush is exiting, finally.
My native region calls itself the land of the Islamic Bomb. It was there, in southwestern Pakistan, that a nuclear device was tested in May 1998. Most Americans may not have heard the name, Baluchistan, a Texas-sized territory divided among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of its inhabitants belong to 200-plus tribes who eke out a living herding goats. Some are still nomads, wandering the region's huge expanses with their camels.
I come from the Gorgej, a Baluchi tribe that spans the Baluchistan areas in three countries--Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The tribal chieftain is based in Afghanistan.
Fleeing poverty and hunger, my grandfathers — my parents were cousins — and their two brothers left their homes in an Iranian part of the tribal territory to go to Karachi, now the commercial capital of Pakistan. In search of greener pastures, they went from there to Australia and India (Assam) and finally to Burma in 1902, where lady luck smiled on them and they became rich quarry and rubber estate owners. Among the first successful Baluchi business people anywhere on earth, our family enjoyed celebrity status back home.
I was born in Burma like both of my parents. My eldest sister was best friends in school with Burmese freedom fighter Aung Sang Suu Kyi. After the 1962 military coup in Burma, my family was forced to go back to Pakistan. We were reduced almost to paupers. I was just three years old.
Despite having lived elsewhere for years, my family continues to adhere to many tribal values. They remain committed to the Baluchi struggle for freedom, back in Baluchistan.
In 1997, after a decade of work in Pakistan and Gulf newspapers, I became an Internet journalist writing for online publications in the U.S. and elsewhere. My worst nightmare began after Pakistan's top intelligence agency, ISI (Inter Services Intelligence), began blackmailing me so that I would censor my own articles, including those denouncing the nuclear tests in my home region.
Like most old-time secular families, mine was opposed to the 1947 separation of Pakistan from India, which was supposedly done for religious reasons, as part of post-World War II British machinations. With such renegade political beliefs defined as "anti-State" in Pakistan, plus my writings critical of the nuclear testing I was forced to flee to the safety of the USA in 2000.
Pakistan is the al Qaeda headquarters not without reason -- Pakistan military is closely allied with Osama bin Laden. I firmly believe Baluchistan must win freedom to ensure peace in what is called the AfPak region.
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