Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — August 2009

The Balochistan challenge: op-ed in The News, Aug 31

By Talat Masood
The writer is a retired lieutenant-general of Pakistan
When the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coalition government assumed power in 2008, it provided President Zardari with an excellent opportunity to focus on Balochistan. Initially, he did raise hopes when, as head of PPP and being of Baloch descent, he made a public apology for all the wrong doings of the past against the Baloch people. This was followed by further conciliatory gestures by both the president and prime minister which resulted in the release of political detainees and a relatively relaxed political environment. Sadly, the momentum was lost and the province is once again adrift with insurgency taking a turn for the worse, as was evident on the third death anniversary of Nawab Akbar Bugti when the province came to a grinding halt.

Prior to the assassination of Akbar Bugti, the insurgency was primarily centered on Dera Bugti, but after his death it has spread beyond the tribal belt into settled areas of Makran, Sarawan and Jhalawan divisions. In fact, there is an on-going operation in Makran division. Target killings are on the rise and Shias and Punjabis are the main victims. In addition, gas pipelines and high-voltage transmission grids are being blown up, and the armed forces are being targeted. All three militant nationalist movements — the Balochistan Liberation Army, Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Front are now engaged in low-level insurgency operations and are closely cooperating with one another in attacking military installations and civilian targets.

The Baloch nationalist leaders believe that the present civilian government, even if it wants to pursue a policy of reconciliation, will not succeed as the real policy is still being determined by the military intelligence as was the case during General Musharraf’s period. The Baloch leadership believes that the establishment is not prepared to shed control over their rich resources and there is lack of confidence between the state institutions and the province’s political elite.

Regrettably, the Baloch leadership also does not have much to offer. Tribal chiefs have been mistreating their own people and failing miserably while in office. They are rightly accused of deliberately mismanaging provincial resources and development funds. In fact, they have deliberately kept the people backward by not promoting education, failing to build hospitals and creating physical infrastructure. On the other hand, Balochi nationalists and tribal chiefs claim that the federal government has deprived them of their normal democratic rights and has taken control of their natural resources, thus throttling the Balochs economically and politically.

Extensive involvement of the military and age-old tribal customs has prevented normal political evolution in the province. Practically all Baloch nationalist parties that have a large following and include the Jamhoori Watan Party, Balochistan National party, National party and the Haq Tawar Party boycotted the last national and provincial elections. The current provincial assembly draws its strength more from the establishment than from the people. With politics and governance of the province being managed from outside, the representative character of the provincial government is indeed questionable.

General Musharraf erred by ordering a military operation against Akbar Bugti. The latter was perhaps among the few tribal leaders who had earlier been a part of government and was still prepared to engage with the establishment provided he was dealt with honourably. Instead, Musharraf adopted the fatal military option. The younger generation of tribal leadership has, since then, become more alienated and radicalised. General Musharraf, on the basis of his development projects, wrongly assessed that a majority of the Balochs are supportive of the government and tribal chiefs had limited following.

Tribal leaders claim that false cases are registered against them to keep them out of politics and force them to leave the country. Geography, poor communication links, the absence of political and economic development, antiquated social structures and lack of say in the management of natural resources are mainly responsible for the current state of Balochi frustration.

The main demands of the rebel groups are that security forces should be withdrawn. Political workers and insurgents under detention should be released and the government should make a public apology for its wrong doings. Their main demand however focuses on control of resources and a high level of provincial autonomy bordering on independence. The demand for provincial autonomy in accordance with the 1973 Constitution is perfectly valid and the federal government should grant it, but going beyond that is unacceptable. However, more crucial in the context of Balochistan are social reforms and unless these are undertaken, any sustainable development will not be feasible in a centuries-old tribal structure. The only way to bring the region in the mainstream is to allow genuine politics to take root. But for both political evolution and economic development, the government has to provide security which, so far, has been unsatisfactory.

The government accuses the Balochistan Liberation Army and other nationalist parties of having links with India, Afghanistan and other foreign agencies. The involvement of India was even brought to the attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by our prime minister at Sharm-el- Shiekh and will remain a serious subject in future exchanges.

China, Iran and United States too have a deep interest in the province.

The establishment of the Gwadar deep-sea port, confirmed deposits of precious metals in the province and shared borders with Afghanistan and Iran has given Balochistan a unique strategic position. Gwadar has the potential of being a highly profitable communication link between China and the Persian Gulf, and between Central Asia and Pakistan. The US has a huge interest in the province to protect itself in Afghanistan, and considers it important in the context of its potential rivalry with China and poor relations with Iran. The power play of global and regional actors in an insurgency-ridden Balochistan is a serious challenge for Pakistan. Islamabad should realise that the peace security and stability of the province are closely interlinked with the integrity and future well being of Pakistan. And Balochi nationalism has to be assimilated and harmonised with the overall national interest, and not allowed to remain hostile to it. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=195789

August 31, 2009   No Comments

Why bleed Balochistan: By Murtaza Razvi in The Dawn, Aug 24

INACTION continues to define the government’s conduct in regard to the many issues confronting Balochistan. It is becoming clear to an increasing number of Baloch people that while the state wants their resources, it has little empathy for them.

A year after President Pervez Musharraf — he can be blamed for many of our miseries today — stepped down, little has changed in the equation dogging Balochistan-centre relations. So far the elected government has only paid lip service to solving the restive province’s problems. The apology President Zardari offered to the people of Balochistan at the inception of the PPP-led government more than a year ago has not been followed up with any action to redress Baloch grievances.

Ms Asma Jahangir, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, seems to be among the few spokespersons for the Baloch. She says the army is still very much in charge of that province; the political governments — at Islamabad and Quetta — have no say in managing Balochistan.

An unspecified but large number of Baloch nationalist leaders and political workers have gone missing even after the inception of the democratic government following the 2008 election. ‘Missing’ of course is a polite euphemism for abduction by security forces and intelligence sleuths.

Those who have been spared are either in hiding or lying low for fear of incarceration. The rest are raising a rebellion from abroad; those here are threatened with arrest unless they watch what they say. Why this humiliation of the Baloch in their own homeland?

Has democracy really returned to Balochistan? The elected provincial government keeps mum over these staggering issues or simply looks the other way. In Islamabad, the finger is being pointed at Indian interference in the province. The prime minister raised the issue with his Indian counterpart at a recent meeting in Egypt; the president says threats to Pakistan’s security are internal and not from India. Could someone please step forward and clear the haze?

The HRCP accuses the centre of giving Balochistan a raw deal right from the beginning. The province gets its gas royalties at a rate far below that paid to Sindh and Punjab for the same commodity. This financial year, as previously also, the Balochistan budget continues to be one of deficit, necessitating that Quetta beg Islamabad for financial assistance just to meet its running expenses; the 2009-10 budget has no funds earmarked for development because there is none to be undertaken under the dire straits.

Juxtapose this with the recently unveiled grand plan of building an entire new city in Thatta district, which President Zardari says will be Sindh’s second largest. It is on such lucrative mega-projects that have immense potential for doling out building contracts and blessing the minders and handlers with huge kickbacks in the process that our energies are focused.

If Gwadar and New Murree were the previous regime’s pet projects, Zulfikarabad now suddenly seems to have become this presidency’s priority. Gwadar never took off, and for obvious reasons. New Murree was scrapped altogether — as it should have been.

There is nothing wrong with building new cities; but first we must be able to run and manage the ones we have with some efficiency and public accountability. The new democratic order suddenly seems to be mandated to scrap everything that harks back to the Musharraf era. That is why local governments too will now have to be disbanded, which was perhaps the only saving grace of Musharraf’s — albeit faulty — process of transition to democracy. It allowed some empowering of the people’s representatives at the grassroots level.

Funds allocated and given to districts, town administrations and union councils did reach down to the more earthly and accessible beings from the high and mighty of the land, who are in the habit of blowing them on showcase projects or worse still, on serving multi-course gourmet meals at government houses when not globetrotting. With local governments about to be disbanded and no clear plan in sight to revamp the system, it is the economically depressed districts and even entire provinces, which will suffer most.

In Balochistan public disempowerment at the local level will further fuel the sense of alienation among the people. An average Baloch anywhere in Balochistan has perhaps never set foot in Quetta; he can be content by getting his two square meals in his small hamlet, a roof over his head and just the very basic amenities like water, sanitation and perhaps some schooling for children. Electricity for many in the hinterland is an additional blessing.

Now with the decision to scrap the local government system the little power the grassroots Baloch have had over their own finances will be concentrated in Quetta, without it trickling down to the far-off union councils.

Yet more hurting is the free run of the countryside allowed to the military and paramilitary forces in Balochistan over the preceding decade. The policy has bred much resentment amongst the average Baloch, and is part of the reason why the sardars known for their brutal customs and practices which target their own people are now emerging as people’s leaders — more so than those sent to elected legislatures only last year.

The army is not known to have solved any of Pakistan’s problems — at wartime or in peace — when left to its own devices. Its interference in public affairs has compounded our challenges and distorted the normal course of events. Its commercial interests pursued at the expense of the people are well documented. Ms Jahangir is right in asserting that Balochistan cannot be left to military decision-making mechanisms. The situation calls for political engagement among all concerned. This can only be possible if the government shows the will to act first by calling to account the gross human rights violations in the province, and thus removing the stigma of being disloyal to the state from the names of Baloch nationalists. It remains to be seen if the government is up to the task. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/why-bleed-balochistan-489

August 24, 2009   No Comments

Zardari may meet Baloch leaders in UK

LAHORE: President Asif Ali Zardari is likely to meet with Baloch leaders during his upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, a private TV channel reported on Saturday. According to official sources, Zardari would hold meetings with the Baloch leaders during his three-day visit to the UK from August 26-28. He is expected to meet the Khan of Kalat Khan Suleman Dawood and Harbyar Marri, the channel said. Sources said Zardari would also visit the United Arab Emirates where he is likely to meet one of the main leaders of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Ghazain Marri. Suleman Dawood had recently announced the formation of an independent Balochistan and rejected any reconciliation with the federal government, the channel added. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\08\23\story_23-8-2009_pg7_12

August 23, 2009   No Comments

Make Balochistan a priority: edit in The Dawn, Aug 23

ON Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani presided over a meeting of a parliamentary sub-committee tasked with making recommendations to the government on resolving the many issues faced by Balochistan. The meeting reportedly concluded with Mr Gilani considering constitutional amendments and proposals to allay Baloch nationalists’ misgivings. This included the recommendation to shorten the federal concurrent list which has far too many subjects assigned to the federal government, to the detriment of provincial autonomy. We have long argued in these columns for the shortening of the concurrent list which, in its existing form, is an anomaly given that the basic law guarantees the provinces far greater autonomy than is actually practiced. A consensus already exists among major political parties as well as other stakeholders i.e. those nationalist parties which boycotted the 2008 election. The PPP itself promised greater provincial autonomy in its election manifesto. The Charter of Democracy also endorses it. These realities make the delay on the part of the government in implementing political decisions rather unsettling. In the case of Balochistan it can be argued that the delay is seen by Baloch leaders as yet another attempt at scuttling the issue.

Balochistan under eight years of Gen Musharraf’s dispensation has been through a lot: Baloch leaders have been killed, chased, picked up and held by security agencies without due process; many have been forced to go into hiding or seek asylum abroad for fear of incarceration. This is not to say that the province fared far better under the general’s forerunners. A wringing sense of economic deprivation among the Baloch — and their alienation from the national mainstream — has increased over the years. This must be addressed on a priority basis. Any more foot-dragging will be criminal. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/make-balochistan-a-priority-389

August 23, 2009   No Comments

APC on Balochistan deferred: The Nation, Aug 22

By Abrar Saeed
ISLAMABAD – The Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan which met here under the chair of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday considered granting general amnesty to Baloch separatists if they agreed to lay down arms.
The meeting also reviewed overall political and law and order situation of the province.
The sources privy to the deliberations of the meeting informed TheNation that the government in that regard would take all major political stakeholders into confidence and as soon as the consultation process would be completed, the formal announcement in that connection would be made.
The sources further said that the government had deferred to summon All Parties Conference on Balochistan for the time being, as most of the members of the committee were of the view that majority of the demands of the province would be met through NFC Award and constitutional reforms process undertaken by the parliamentary committee to remove distortions from the Constitution.
The sources close to Pakistan People’s Party informed that Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was willing to do something concrete to win the confidence of the Baloch nationalists and in that connection PML-N leadership had given the affirmative nod to support the move of granting general amnesty to the Baloch separatists, provided they would lay down their arms and join the mainstream politics.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister reiterated his resolve that the government was committed to mitigate the sufferings of Baloch people and would come up with a comprehensive development package for the most backward province. He recalled that PPP government soon after coming into power had not only apologised from the Baloch people for the apathy towards them by the federal government. He said that he himself announced financial package for Balochistan to help it handle the financial problems.
The committee members included Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Federal Ministers Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Syed Khurshid Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar and Dr Zaheerudin Babar Awan and President PPP Balochistan, Senator Nawabzada Haji Mir Lashkari Raisani. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/22-Aug-2009/APC-on-Balochistan-defered

August 22, 2009   No Comments

Baloch question: op-ed in The News, Aug 22

By Tayyab Siddiqui
The writer is a former ambassador of Pakistan

It is puzzling that despite everyone believing that the situation in Balochistan has reached menacing proportions, nothing concrete has been done so far. Farahatullah Babar, the spokesman for the president, claims that there is a ‘rethink’ of the Balochistan policy and that “almost every fortnight, there is a meeting in the presidency on Balochistan in which all stakeholders take part.” Questions, however, remain: what are the outcomes of these meetings and how and when will this ‘consensus-based approach’ deliver?

The issues to be resolved are known to all and have been identified for a long time. Simply put, these are provincial autonomy, mysterious kidnappings of political activists, detention of political workers, increasing security operations in the province and undertaking of mega projects without addressing concerns of the people. The endemic issues of grinding poverty and backwardness merit equally urgent attention and alleviation. Former senator, Sanaullah Baloch, the unofficial spokesman for Baloch nationalists, maintains that “90 per cent of the province’s population lives without gas facility, 78 per cent without electricity and 62 per cent without safe drinking water. Balochistan has just 3.4 per cent of gas consumers as compared to 64 per cent of Punjab alone, which produces only 4.75 per cent of natural gas.” He further asserts that border and coastal security is 100 per cent controlled by non-Baloch paramilitary forces. Around 70,000 jobs in the Frontier Corps, Coastguards, police, Maritime Security and the ANF are occupied by non-locals. Even if these statistics are a little exaggerated or out-dated, the question is how critical the situation should get to invite action.

There is not even a single person in the entire political spectrum of the country who doubts the legitimacy of Baloch demands and that the province has suffered from neglect for too long and can’t brook further delay. The official statements of India’s involvement in the ongoing insurgency and alleged training of the BLA in Afghanistan may be relevant to the situation but no obstacle in the resolution of the crisis. Fundamentally, the issues facing us in Balochistan are of governance, discrimination, lack of representation and participation in the affairs of the province. These are the real issues. It should be a matter of utmost concern when the governor of the province goes on record to complain that “although I am a representative of the federal government, I was never taken into confidence by Islamabad on the Balochistan issues.”

Despite security operations at different times since then the province has not seen peace and normalcy. The situation became worse in the wake of Nawab Bugti’s killing in August 2006 and subsequent mysterious killings of three senior Baloch nationalist leaders. There have also been instances of increasing number of missing persons and of alleged involvement of security agencies in these disappearances, numbered in the thousands, but officially accepted only as 831.

We are confronted with a sea of seething unrest bordering on a widespread insurgency. Feelings of extreme economic deprivation and political victimisation are a lethal combination and demand radical, positive measures to stem the tide. Seeking solutions through setting up committees and conferences will not work. Palliatives like PPP’s apology (February 2006) just don’t work anymore. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=194214

August 22, 2009   No Comments

US envoy has ‘useful dialogue’ with anti-American Pakistani leader

By Paul Richter in The L A Times, Aug 19
Islamabad: Obama administration officials have pledged to talk to world leaders no matter their views. On Tuesday, they showed the offer extends to Islamists who spend the day denouncing America from the street corners.

U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke met with Liaqat Baloch, a leader of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami party. About an hour later, as the bearded scholar prepared to depart for an anti-American rally across town, the veteran diplomat said that despite their disagreements, the meeting had begun “a very useful dialogue.”

Pakistan is eager for U.S. aid, but many people are wary of American intentions. Jamaat-i-Islami has only limited leverage in the government, but it is one of the most influential Pakistani Islamist parties, and its anti-American views are widely shared, U.S. officials say. One of Holbrooke’s aides described the conversation as a major outreach effort for the United States, roughly equivalent to talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist party that Washington shuns.

On Monday, Holbrooke also ate pastries and exchanged views under a languidly whirling fan in the sitting room of another outspoken Islamist politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a leader in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. Rehman was instrumental in the Taliban’s early days, U.S. officials say, and denies that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Holbrooke, the U.S. senior representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is on his fifth official visit to the region. He will be in Afghanistan for the country’s elections Thursday.

Under President Obama, the U.S. is reaching out to groups that the Bush administration dealt with little or not at all. Holbrooke met earlier this week with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom the Bush team kept at a distance because of what they believed were his ties to militant groups.

Baloch spoke warmly to Holbrooke after the meeting. Then he drove off to a party-sponsored demonstration a mile away in an Islamabad market to protest the U.S. presence in the region.

Holbrooke has received a generally warm reception for his proposal earlier this week to put more emphasis in the fast-growing U.S. aid program on Pakistan’s faltering power sector. But the trip has also underscored Pakistani wariness of the United States.

Baloch pressed Holbrooke on one of the most passionate issues of the moment, suspicions that a planned expansion of the U.S. Embassy is aimed at turning the compound into a military base. Baloch has charged that the United States has a secret plan to build a military “cantonment” as a prelude to trying to seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Suspicions about such a base have generated dozens of news stories in recent days, despite diplomats’ insistence that they are adding 16 acres only to accommodate staff needed to help implement the U.S. aid program, which is to grow fourfold in the next 18 months. A Pakistani journalist challenged Holbrooke in a group interview on Monday to explain why the United States wanted to build “a fortress in the middle of the capital.”

Holbrooke invited Baloch to come to the embassy to examine the blueprints. “We have no secrets on this,” he said.

Baloch told Holbrooke that he welcomed Obama’s declarations that he wants a better relationship with the Muslim world. But he insisted that, with American drone strikes in Pakistan and troops in Afghanistan, “there still is no change in the practice.”

Holbrooke contended that the new administration had changed policy from the Bush days in “dozens” of respects. He said the administration had halted the eradication Afghan poppy crops, tightened rules on Afghan military strikes to avoid civilian casualties, and was increasing economic aid to Pakistan.

But Holbrooke insisted he wouldn’t support a withdrawal from Afghanistan, as Baloch wanted, until the country was no longer at risk of descending into turmoil.

Holbrooke and other U.S. officials contend that Pakistanis’ attitudes about the threat of Islamic extremism are shifting toward Americans’ views. But they also acknowledge that they are keenly concerned about the anti-Americanism that has shown up in recent opinion polls.

“This relationship carries a lot of baggage,” Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke has heard a number of Pakistani officials press for more American aid. The Pakistan foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, expressed his happiness with the new U.S. administration, but also complained that American aid was slow in coming. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pakistan-holbrooke19-2009aug19,0,5925960,print.story

August 19, 2009   No Comments

Sectarian violence from Sindh to Gilgit

Editorial in the Daily Times, Lahore,k Aug 19, 2009
Allama Ali Sher Hyderi — we have taken the spelling of his name from his YouTube videos — was the leader of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. He was killed by a rival criminal clan in Khairpur, Sunday night. Public reaction to his assassination in the country in general and Sindh in particular should worry the PPP and the nationalist parties of Sindh, and those who thought that the Sipah was merely a South Punjabi phenomenon.

After the killing of the internationally known Sipah leader Maulana Azam Tariq in 2003, its leadership had fallen on Allama Hyderi of Khairpur in Sindh because under him the province had become the biggest stronghold of the organisation.

There was nothing secret about him. You can listen to him on YouTube under the rubric of Radd-e-Shiat (refutation of the Shia) and read what he had to say about Ahmedis and Ismailis too on ahnaf.com. And people believed in what he said to them.

Expectedly, there has been a violent reaction to his death. It has erupted in Khairpur and spread to Gilgit where one can expect more trouble in the coming days. Impact will also be felt in such cities as are home to big Shia settlements: Dera Ismail Khan, Parachinar, Gilgit, Jhang, Kohat, Hangu, and other far-off places where the writ of the government is weak.

Concern about the rising strength of the Sipah in Jhang, its place of birth, has already been raised in Parliament. MNA Sheikh Waqqas Akram last week complained about the comeback of the Sipah there, in the context of its show of force against the Christians of Gojra in Toba Tek Singh.

In Sindh, the followers of the Sipah have gone around forcing the shops to close. Trains have been stopped in the railway stations of the province and track damaged in a planned manner. Foreseeing the trouble, the administration in many districts has closed down schools for three days and the matriculation exam has been stopped in the middle.

In Karachi, the mobs were out with sticks in hand, breaking everything in sight, including a bus and a car which they later burned. There was heavy fighting and exchange of fire in Judia Bazaar and its adjoining markets in Karachi, pointing to the sensitive areas where the factions have already drawn their battle lines.

A Sipah lawyer-cleric was killed in the city a fortnight ago. Sipah workers “took positions in two domes of the mosque in the area and opened fire on the streets”. Karachi is home to the most powerful madrassas of the faith to which the Sipah belongs.

In faraway Gilgit where a majority Shia population makes the region vulnerable, sectarian clashes occurred in the aftermath of Hyderi’s death, the trouble-makers obviously assuming that the murder was committed by the other side. If the fire spreads, Gilgit will be the one place where most violence can be expected.

The Pakistan Ulema Council has condemned the killing of Allama Ali Sher Hyderi and has announced three days of mourning across the country. It thinks that the murder is a “conspiracy” to restart the sectarian war that Pakistan has been going through in the recent past. Some TV channels also took up the conspiracy theory — usually implicating India — for reasons of self-defence in the days to come when violence at the national level is expected. However, it is wrong to assume that sectarian violence is at a low ebb. It is there in DI Khan and Parachinar and is clearly one-sided against the Shia.

A lot of research is available on Sipah-e-Sahaba because it is the mother of all jihadi organisations fielded by the state of Pakistan as “non-state actors” against India. Living in civil society, these organisations have injected violence into the lives of ordinary citizens.

In the past, the Sipah targeted the Shia and killed them inside mosques and imambargahs and the country shook under the intensity of the sectarian hunger for death. But then, one by one, most of the leaders of the Sipah were killed, including the father of Allama Ali Sher Hyderi; most of the clerics supporting the Sipah have been done to death too. And both sides engaged in this terrible war blame the state of Pakistan and vow revenge against it. www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\08\19\story_19-8-2009_pg3_1

August 19, 2009   No Comments

A challenge to integrity: Editorial in The Nation, Aug 13

THE law and order situation in all the four provinces remains a matter of deep concern. With the PPP-led government having done little to resolve the problems of Balochistan despite big promises, extremist slogans are being raised in the province. Sixty persons were reportedly arrested on Tuesday on charge of flying on houses, offices and vehicles the flag of independent Balochistan. In Karachi, targeted killings of political activists continue unabated.
While life in Swat is slowly returning to normal, militancy still poses a threat. Markets have opened, schools, government offices and banks are functioning and the business community and the public at large are expressing resolve to fight extremism. There are however negative developments that need to be taken care of. A day after Prime Minister Gilani and COAS Kayani visited Swat, militants in Buner torched 14 schools, one basic health unit, a warehouse of a private construction company and a policeman’s house. The idea was to undermine the perception of stability, instil fear among the local population and demoralise those cooperating with the government. Through terrorist acts the TTP wants to make it known that despite the government’s claim of having crushed the militants they still remain a force to be dealt with. Meanwhile there are reports of the TTP activists having assembled in the strategic Chagharzai which connects Swat and Buner with Shangla, Mansehra and Battagram districts. There is a need under the circumstances to concentrate on consolidating the gains in Malakand Division before undertaking any other venture as is being suggested by President Zardari. The momentum gained in the region must not be lost. For this the remaining pockets of the militants have to be cleared and their leadership apprehended or neutralised. Any perception of the initiative passing over to the militants is likely to nullify the gains made at great price in human and material terms.
The law and order situation in Punjab as well is far from satisfactory. Speaking at the floor of the House on Monday, a Q-League MNA warned the government of the dangers if firm action was not taken against those responsible for the Gojra incident and the Interior Minister claimed sectarian terrorists were behind the act. A PML-N MNA underlined the gravity of the situation in South Punjab where the incidents of kidnapping for ransom have broken previous records. There is a need on the part of the federal and provincial governments to cooperate to deal with the situation that poses threat to national integrity.

August 13, 2009   No Comments

Baloch ‘independence’: editorial in The Dawn, Aug 13

ON the so-called ‘Kalat Independence Day’ on Aug 11, Mir Suleman Dawood, grandson of the last ruler of Kalat, announced the creation of a council of Baloch separatist elements in Pakistan and Iran who will press for the formation of an ‘independent Balochistan’. Mr Dawood’s demand for an ‘independent’ Baloch state clearly cannot be countenanced; tomorrow marks the 62nd anniversary of Pakistan’s creation and there simply isn’t any room for debate about altering the physical boundaries of the country today. Pakistan’s problems — and, yes, there are many — can only realistically and viably be solved within the framework of Pakistan. Yet, while Mr Dawood’s demand must necessarily be dismissed, it points to ongoing problems in Balochistan that show no sign of abating, and this 18 months after national elections to usher in a new, democratic government in the country.

Mr Dawood’s personal grievances date back to March 1948, when his grandfather, Ahmad Yar Khan, negotiated an agreement with Mohammad Ali Jinnah that brought the State of Kalat, located in the centre and southwest of present-day Balochistan, into the fold of Pakistan. According to the then ruler of Kalat, the agreement had been to accept the state’s unique status and to incorporate it into Pakistan as an independent and autonomous unit along the lines of countries that are part of the European Union today. But this has never been proved and is rejected by Pakistan. Resultantly, a sense of having suffered a great injustice has continued over the decades, even as the Khan of Kalat’s family receded into relative obscurity. A return to prominence was effected in the wake of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing in August 2006 as Mr Dawood convened a grand jirga — the first in approximately 100 years — that brought together virtually all of Balochistan’s tribal leaders. Even so, what was decided there has been diluted somewhat by the fact that some of the most prominent tribal leaders are today part of the federal and Balochistan provincial governments. But Mr Dawood has continued his dissent against the constitutional status of Balochistan, leading up to the commemoration for the first time of Kalat’s independence on Aug 11 — the day in 1947 that the British allegedly accepted the independence of the State of Kalat.

Whatever the history, the fact is that Balochistan has continued to suffer from the relative neglect of the country’s new leaders. Change has been promised, but in fact the trust deficit between the nationalists and the state has widened. That must change. Whatever the challenges in the rest of the country, the legitimate grievances of the people of Balochistan must be addressed. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/baloch-independence-389

August 13, 2009   No Comments