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Category — Bugti

Suicide blast outside imambargah in Bolan district kills 10: Dawn, Oct 23, 2015

QUETTA: A suicide attacker blew himself outside an imambargah in Bolan’s Goth Chalghari area on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and injuring many others, DawnNews reported.

“At least 10 people were killed and 12 others were wounded after a suicide bomber blew himself up at an imambargah,” said Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti.

Local administration official Mohammad Waseem confirmed the attack and death toll.

Bugti said there were six children between 10 and 12 years old among the dead and that some women had also died. He added that the death toll may rise.

Waseem said the suspected suicide bomber appeared to be about 18 years old and was wearing a woman’s burqa.

Rescue workers and people of the area faced difficulties in shifting the injured to any hospital.

There is reportedly only one basic health unit in the vicinity, that too without a qualified doctor and proper health facilities.

More than a dozen people were injured in the blast, which rocked the village located in interior Balochistan.

Security forces reached the blast site and cordoned off the area.

According to initial police investigation, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an imambargah in Goth Chalghari area of Tehsil Bhag in Bolan district.

The injured would be shifted to civil hospital Sibi for medical treatment.

Security has been beefed up in and around the locality after the blast, with contingents of FC and police patrolling different areas.

Earlier in the week, a blast in a local bus killed at least 10 people, two of them children, on Sariab road. Twenty-two people were injured, six of them seriously.

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch had condemned the blast and said, “I am personally monitoring the situation.”

Preparations were made to ensure that the Muharram passes incident-free and security plans to ensure the safety of processions were finalised.

Sectarian violence has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade. Many of the worst atrocities have taken place in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

The gatherings and processions during Muharram mark Hazrat Hussain’s (RA) martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala, Iraq, in 680 AD.

Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. More than 1,400 incidents targeting the minority Shia and Hazara community have taken place in the province during the past 15 years.

While sectarian terrorism in Balochistan has disproportionately targeted the Hazara community, easily identifiable because of their distinctive physical appearance, other Shias — especially pilgrims travelling to and from Iran — have not been spared either.

The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked and sectarian militants also operate in the region. http://www.dawn.com/news/1214862/suicide-blast-outside-imambargah-in-bolan-district-kills-10

October 23, 2015   No Comments

Balochistan farmers’ protest: Edit in The Daily Times, May 12

While the prime minister was having a meeting with provincial chief ministers to review the success of the energy conservation strategy, farmers in Balochistan observed a province-wide wheel-jam strike to protest electricity load shedding on the call of the Zamindar Action Committee. Extended power cuts are adversely affecting their crops. Agricultural productivity of the province is already low due to arid terrain and inadequate investment in development of this sector.

This protest is different from what we are accustomed to hearing from Balochistan — militancy, nationalist insurgency and, recently, target killings of non-Baloch people. This is something that cuts across the political and social spectrum, because it is a question of economic survival. In the widespread protests, all the main highways serving the province were shut down. While there has been an improvement in load shedding nationally, as the prime minister triumphantly observed, it seems that it is not equally spread amongst all provinces, and even within provinces, as some areas are more privileged than others.

Reportedly, the recent electricity crunch in Balochistan came due to destruction of seven power pylons in Naseerabad’s Chattar tehsil three weeks ago, disrupting electric supply to 40 grid stations of the province. According to Wapda officials, it could not carry out the repair work due to lack of adequate security for its repair team.

While making efforts to cool tempers raised due to electricity load shedding elsewhere in the country, the government should not leave out Balochistan. In the presence of heavy contingents of the military and paramilitary forces, it is strange why security cannot be provided to the WAPDA team for repair work. Given the sense of alienation of the Baloch people from the state, it is understandable that going out unguarded in the interior may be risky. But making it an excuse to delay work is not acceptable. The government must double up its effort to ensure a sustained supply of electricity in Balochistan at par with other provinces. The sense of deprivation and resentment in Balochistan because of the past injustices will only be further fuelled by the perception that they are once again being treated as second-class citizens. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\12\story_12-5-2010_pg3_1

May 12, 2010   No Comments

Bugti’s killing was a result of clash with state’s writ: Musharraf

LAHORE: Nawab Akbar Bugti’s death was the result of a clash with the writ of the state, former president Pervez Musharraf said on Tuesday.

According to a private TV channel, Musharraf said neither the president nor the chief of the army staff could give direct orders to the army and other law enforcment agencies on any particular issue and the allegations against him were baseless.

He said Akbar Bugti and his henchmen challenged the writ of the state and later took refuge in a cave. He said a four-member delegation of the army went into the cave to ask Bugti and his followers to lay down their arms. “It seems the cave collapsed which resulted in the death of Bugti and the four soldiers”, he said. He said billions of rupees were spent on the Gwadar port under his regime. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\13\story_13-1-2010_pg7_4

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Nawaz Sharif’s Balochistan visit:op-ed in The Daily Times, Jan 12

By Malik Siraj Akbar
(The author is a staff writer of the daily)

Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, the head of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), did not return home empty-handed from his two-day long visit to the volatile Balochistan province. The twice-elected prime minister notched ample scores to become confident to achieve the ‘required run rate’ before the next general elections or, say, the mid-term polls. The biggest achievement of Sharif was the decision of two highly influential Baloch to join his party.

First, Sardar Sanullah Zehri, the extremely powerful chief of Jhalawan tribe and the provincial minister for services and general administration, stunned everyone with his utterly unpredictable decision to join the PML-N. Zehri had been regarded as a diehard Baloch nationalist. He was a member of the landmark Baloch Jirga that was convened by the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood in September 2006. In that particular event, which was organised one month after the killing of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti, enraged Baloch leaders announced to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague against the State of Pakistan for violating the territorial integrity of the Kalat State (now Balochistan). Ironically, the Kalat Jirga was also attended by Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, the incumbent governor of Balochistan and Nawab Aslam Raisani, the current chief minister.

Zehri left the National Party (NP) of which he was the senior vice president on the issue of boycott of the general elections of February 2008. Having founded his own one-man National Party Parliamentarians, Zehri won the elections and joined the Raisani government as a minister and softened his nationalistic rhetoric. Now he becomes the most influential Baloch tribal elder to join a centrist party. If the PPP boasts of enjoying the support of the chief of Sarawan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, the PML-N, on the other hand, has now got reasons to be proud of having managed to bring the chief of Jhalawan into its camp.

Second, former corps commander and governor Balochistan, Abdul Qadir Baloch, also announced along with Zehri to join the PML-N. Qadir is the only Baloch in history to serve as a corps commander in the country’s Punjabi-dominated military. After retirement from the army, he was appointed as the governor of Balochistan but was soon removed from that key position because differences broke out between him and former president Pervez Musharraf on the latter’s antagonistic Balochistan policy. When he decided to jump into politics, General (retd) Qadir told this scribe, “[Nawab Akbar] Bugti is my hero and his vision is my vision” (Daily Times, July 1, 2007).

Qadir contested the general elections of 2008 for a seat of the National Assembly from NA-271 Panjgur-Kharan-Washuk. According to the initial results, he was declared victorious but the results were immediately altered against him, presumably on the instructions of Pervez Musharraf.

Sanaullah Zehri and General Qadir’s decision to join the PML-N is remarkably reassuring for Sharif and his party. Nawabzada Jangiz Marri, son of veteran Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, is another member of a much-respected political family, who is supporting the PML-N in Balochistan. While Jangiz Marri staunchly supports the policies of PML-N, his father and brothers, ironically, are the biggest supporters of armed struggle for an independent Balochistan. Despite ideological differences between the father and son, Jangiz Marri will still manage to get elected from his native Kohlu or Quetta city if he is overwhelmingly backed by the Pakistan Muslim League and the ‘invisible powers’ opposed to Zardari but sympathetic to the PML-N.

The junior Marri may not be very popular among the nationalist supporters of his father who support an independent Balochistan; his presence in the PML-N will at least give Sharif an opportunity to claim that he enjoys the support of a member of the most powerful Baloch tribe, the Marris.

Another significant individual visited and taken into confidence by Sharif during his visit was Nawabzada Talal Akbar Bugti, the head of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP). The former prime minister strongly condemned the killing of Nawab Bugti — a man, as Sharif put it, who was willing to die for the preservation of the constitution of Pakistan. Insisting that practical measures not mere assurances were urgently needed to mitigate the Baloch anguish, he called for a judicial inquiry into Nawab Bugti’s murder. He rightly opined that Baloch would not be satisfied until the murderers of Nawab Bugti were brought to justice. Contact between Sharif and the son of late Nawab Akbar Bugti is expected to lead to development of mutual trust and political cooperation in future. As contacts between them increase, the ruling PPP will confront more detractors.

That done, the PML-N has almost gained support among the Marris and Bugtis. As far as the Mengals are concerned, Sanaullah Zehri is most likely to be pitted against a Mengal candidate of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) in his native Khuzdar district. Political pundits believe Sharif has learnt nothing from history. He is once again intentionally or unintentionally endeavouring to divide the Baloch tribes and prepare to rule in the future. Many believe that he deliberately snubbed Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, the chief of the Baloch Republican Party. Thus, he has made up his mind to ignore the more prominent members of these families or areas and take the relatively insignificant ones in his team.

Why did Sanaullah Zehri choose to join the PML? According to a senior political expert, Zehri is desperate to become the next chief minister of Balochistan. After all, most of his contemporaries, such as Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, Jan Mohammad Jamali, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Jam Mohammad Yousaf and Nawab Aslam Raisani have already served in the coveted position. In order to materialise his dream, Zehri understandably needs the backing of a strong federalist party. Another bitter truth about Balochistan is the fact that the office of chief minister was never awarded on the basis of strong political credentials. Tribal influence has normally been a defining benchmark for the election of the chief minister.

More leaders and tribal elders are likely to join the ranks of the PML-N as the dust on the country’s uncertain political scenario settles. Except for the nationalists, no political group in Balochistan has ideological foundations. For example, PML-N and PPP are normally dominated by powerful tribal individuals who keep changing their political loyalties with the change in every government. Another two relevant political forces, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), which approximately clinch around 30 percent of the seats in the Balochistan Assembly, habitually become part of every coalition government.

Sharif’s visit has at least drawn the sketch of the future government in Balochistan. The next government, just like the previous one led by the PML-Q, is certain to comprise PML-N (consisting of defectors from the PPP), JUI, BNP and some nationalist parties like the Awami National Party, NP and JWP.

Despite all these recent gains, Sharif’s approval ratings are still very low among the Baloch. They often complain that the former prime minister did not call for a long march to condemn the military operation in Balochistan, as was done for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The situation in Balochistan did not improve during the PPP government, they grumble, as the number of missing persons increased and more Baloch leaders, though less prominent than Akbar Bugti and Balaach Marri, were target killed. In the meanwhile, the PML-N adopted the role of a friendly opposition and did not take a harsh stance on Balochistan.

Sharif has surely won the confidence of key Baloch tribal elders by now and will continue to do so in the coming days but he still has a long way to go to win the hearts and minds of the disillusioned Baloch people with his deeds. His trip to the country’s poorest province would have definitely impressed more people if he had visited the families of the missing persons and the internally displaced persons. The trip did not include any such activities nor did it provide Sharif a chance to meet the masses of Balochistan due to ‘security reasons’. His first trip in the last 12 years was, sadly, confined to drawing room discussions with the political and tribal elite only. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\12\story_12-1-2010_pg3_5

January 12, 2010   No Comments

The Baloch insurgency is no bluff: op-ed in The News, Nov 3

By Rahimullah Yusufzai
The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar

Shafiq Ahmed Khan described himself as a Balochistani, spoke about the rights of the Baloch people and publicly mourned and condemned the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti at the hands of Gen Pervez Musharraf. Even then he was killed by those who insist they are fighting for the Baloch cause.

On Oct 25, Balochistan education minister Shafiq Ahmed Khan was shot dead by gunmen waiting in ambush near his house in Quetta. The killers escaped on a motorbike, but the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) made sure that there was no confusion about the identity of the attackers by immediately claiming responsibility for the assassination. BLUF spokesman Shahiq Baloch said the minister was killed due to his anti-Baloch policies, and to avenge the state-sponsored murders of Baloch nationalist leaders Ghulam Muhammad, Sher Muhammad and Lala Munir in Turbat in Balochistan sometime ago.

Shafiq Ahmed was the second Balochistan minister to be killed in the last few months. In July, the minister for excise and taxation, Sardarzada Rustam Khan Jamali, was gunned down in Karachi, a city with a significant Baloch population. The motives for his murder aren’t sufficiently clear, though it shocked and unnerved his colleagues in the large and unwieldy PPP-led coalition government ruling Balochistan. Subsequently, the house of Balochistan information minister Younis Mullazai in Quetta came under a grenade attack. There have been other targeted killings in the province, along with frequent acts of sabotage against government installations, infrastructure and utility services. A new trend in this campaign is the blowing up of properties of pro-government tribal elders. Frontier Corps soldiers and policemen are attacked and the settlers, the ones whose parents and grandparents came from other provinces to settle in Balochistan, are now a major target of Baloch separatists.

Shafiq was also considered a settler, even though he was born in Quetta in 1954. He studied in schools and colleges in Quetta before getting admission and qualifying from Balochistan University. He thrice won elections as councillor of the Quetta Municipal Corporation. Twice, in 2002 and 2008, he was elected member of the Balochistan Assembly on the ticket of the Pakistan People’s Party.

Senator Mir Lashkari Raisani, the PPP’s Balochistan president and brother of chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, unwisely and carelessly referred to Shafiq Ahmed’s family origins being from the NWFP, wondering aloud whether this could be a reason for his assassination. This was something farfetched as BLUF had publicly declared that he was killed for pursuing anti-Baloch policies. Shafiq Ahmed’s assassination had no link with the ongoing Taliban-inspired militancy in the NWFP and its tribal areas. Lashkari Raisani should have refrained from categorising Shafiq Ahmed as a settler.

Lashkari Raisani also highlighted two other intriguing points. One was his belief that Shafiq Ahmed was killed for raising his voice against Indian involvement in Balochistan’s affairs. This meant that the minister was eliminated for accusing India of supporting acts of terrorism in Balochistan. The other point that Lashkari Raisani made was the campaign of targeted killings of teachers in Balochistan and its culmination in the assassination of Education Minister Shafiq Ahmed. All this in his view was part of a conspiracy to deprive students of education and keep Balochistan underdeveloped. Lacking focus, Lashkari Raisani’s statement tended to create confusion about the motive behind the assassination.

In comparison, Chief Minister Aslam Raisani’s condolence message was sensible. He described Shafiq Ahmed as a Baloch leader. He termed his assassination as a violation of Baloch and Islamic traditions and asked the insurgents not to shed the blood of their own people for external forces seeking to destabilise Balochistan and Pakistan.

Shafiq Ahmed’s family had migrated to Quetta several decades ago from the village of Maloga near Oghi town in Mansehra district. His uncle, Ali Bahadur Khan, was a judicial commissioner in Balochistan and his father, Sher Bahadur, did business in Quetta. The family belongs to the Hindko-speaking Tanoli tribe living in parts of Mansehra and Abbottabad districts. Shafiq Ahmed and his family did maintain links with relatives in Mansehra and the rest of Hazara, but it was for all practical purposes now a Balochistani family. Asked in a recent event sponsored by the BBC Urdu service in Quetta whether he was a Pakhtun or Baloch, Shafiq Ahmed remarked that he was a Balochistani.

Apart from the sizeable number of families from the NWFP’s Hazara region who settled in Quetta long ago, there are also substantial groups of settlers from Punjab, Sindh and Afghanistan who call Balochistan their home. Like every urban centre, Quetta has been attracting outsiders, particularly those with some skills, and its population has been growing. Urdu-speaking families and members of minority groups such as Parsi, Hindu and Christian also have been living and working in Quetta and some other cities and towns in Balochistan. Many families decided to settle in Quetta when it was being rebuilt after the devastating 1935 earthquake.

But it seems most settlers are now unwelcome because the Baloch separatists want to settle scores with the federal government, the military and the Punjab-dominated Pakistani establishment. The victims are scapegoats in a battle in which the increasingly violent Baloch separatist groups are pitted against Pakistan’s security forces, law-enforcement agencies and pro-federation political forces.

Denial of Baloch rights and the five military operations since independence have taken its toll on the population of Balochistan, but it seems no lessons have been learnt as force is still being used to resolve a conflict that is essentially political in nature and primarily concerns the socio-economic rights of the people of the province.

The BLUF appears more aggressive and violent than the Baloch Liberation Army and Baloch Liberation Front, the two armed separatist groups that have been active for some years now in Balochistan. In February the BLUF kidnapped American John Solecki who headed the UNHCR mission in Balochistan, and freed him unharmed after much efforts, and probably a deal. The kidnapping signalled the arrival of the BLUF as the most radical of the three Baloch separatist groups even though it isn’t clear if these are separate or overlapping factions operating under different names. One lesson from the proliferation of splinter factions, which are far more radical militants and led by younger and emotional men, is that one must try and do business with the older and original groups headed by mature people because the leadership is passing to commanders who are mostly inflexible. This holds true for all militant groups, whether secular, nationalist or Islamic.

Young Baloch separatists forming part of the diaspora and living in Kabul, Kandahar, Dubai, London, Brussels and Geneva are now often calling the shots in Balochistan and setting the agenda. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud, and Herbeyar Marri are in London, Brahmadagh Bugti could be in Afghanistan. They largely control the radical separatist groups and it isn’t going to be easy doing business with them. They are presently demanding an independent Balochistan, but there are strong indications they are willing to remain part of Pakistan after grant of provincial autonomy under a deal guaranteed by international organisations and world powers. The trust deficit between them and the Pakistani establishment — which is wary of the external, primarily Indian influence on the Baloch separatists — is the main hurdle in making them talk to each other for a possible deal on managing Balochistan’s affairs.

Though an overwhelming majority of elected representatives in Balochistan are pro-Islamabad and the pro-federation political forces outnumber the ones demanding independence, it would be wrong to dismiss the Baloch nationalists and separatists as insignificant. They have the capability to keep Balochistan unstable through political means and armed struggle. Acts of sabotage and targeted killings, like that of Shafiq Ahmed Khan, aim at keeping up the pressure on Islamabad to accede to the separatists’ demands.

And this is not the only challenge confronting Balochistan. There is the issue of the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban, which the US, without providing any evidence, is insisting operates out of the Balochistan capital to attack NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. And, last but not least, is the issue of Jundullah, the Baloch Sunni militant group responsible for terrorist attacks in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province and based according to Tehran in Pakistani Balochistan. Sadly enough, the secret hand of the US also seems to be behind Jundullah. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=206519

November 3, 2009   No Comments

What needs to be done in Baluchistan: op-ed in the News, Nov 1

By Gibran Peshimam
The writer is city editor, The News, Karachi.
Judging by the feedback, the reaction to labelling Balochistan’s fast-deteriorating and drastically-changed situation Pakistan’s chief problem – one that will carry on beyond operations in the Tribal Areas and the NWFP – has met with across-the-board agreement. However, the persisting question is how to tackle the situation.
The need to bring the Baloch nationalists and others stuck in the middle on board is obvious. Yet, the question of how and whether any measure will earn the trust of these elements remains highly debatable. For starters, let it be known that what needs to be done now is obviously diametrically opposed to what is being done now and has been done in the past in Balochistan. That is, Islamabad needs to push boundaries, break stereotypes and think out-of-the-box.
Big. Long-term. Enduring.
No status quo, not even hybrids (ala the trademark ‘three pronged’ proposals of a certain London-residing retired general). No, those will not do. More of the same in terms of policy means more of the same in terms of results. That’s a time-tested policy. We need pristine. The good stuff. Uncut, unadulterated.
In short, unprecedented.
Any compromise has to begin with the release of the ‘missing’ people, a large chunk of who are activists or sympathisers of the Baloch nationalist movement. Releasing them unconditionally, in a dignified manner possibly with an overarching apology, would send the right signals to begin with. You cannot say that you sincerely want to work with the nationalists while keeping them habeas corpus in a practice that is against all civilised norms.
This is just the beginning of the appeasement process. We need more drastic steps. This would, as mentioned earlier, entail engaging the true representatives of Balochistan.
Call on Brahmdagh Bugti. While he may not hold as much clout as the establishment alleges he does, the point is that he is the default protagonist-in-chief of the Baloch resistance. But this, needless to say, will be difficult.
In a recent interview, the young Bugti, alleged to be operating from Kabul, shows that he is in no mood for reconciliation. And why should he be? According to reports, he was there when his grandfather, the indomitable Nawab Akbar Bugti, was killed in the mountains by the state of Pakistan.
Before that, in 1959, Babu Nowroz, one of the original Baloch nationalists, was called down from the mountains with his companions, including his sons, to negotiate after those in power swore on the Holy Book that they would not be arrested. They were. And then hanged.
Nawroz’s death penalty was later turned into a life imprisonment, owing to his age.
So when Brahmdagh says, “If someone expects us to still negotiate with the people who ruined our lives then you are not being fair with us,” he is spot on justified.
To mitigate this, there needs to be a concerted, institutionalised reconciliation process. If the establishment can conjure up an audacious document to give the past plunderers of this country a clean slate to come back and restart their trade, then surely such a concession can be afforded to people who have been suppressed for decades, and whose return is a big part of saving your largest province from brutal secession. Drop the cases of sedition, subversion and other such charges against Brahmdagh, against Hairbayar and Gazin Marri and other Baloch leaders. This should be approved unconditionally by parliament and made into law instantly. The BRL – the Balochistan Reconciliation Law.
To show even more sincerity, pull out the armed forces from the areas where these leaders will be returning to. Call in the United Nations. Let them come in and handle their return to ensure that any sign of mistrust is mitigated.
They will come. The credibility of coming out into the open, onto Baloch soil, will be a proposition that will definitely attract them. In any case, if Brahmdagh is indeed in Afghanistan as is alleged, then he should know that history shows that the Baloch nationalists have been expelled from there before – Prince Abdul Karim, the brother of the Khan of Kalat – and there is no reason it cannot happen again, especially with a fickle and stretched Washington calling the shots.
Then show them that you are sincere in conceding self-determination. That freedom is possible without complete secession. This will entail constitutional guarantees. Now, this is a process that Pakistan needs to move to regardless of its policy towards Balochistan. The federation has long been struggling under the centralised control policy of Islamabad. What is needed is a step towards a confederational system that goes deeper than just abolishing the Concurrent List, which should have been done a long time ago to begin with.
The constitutional guarantee can take the form of a 50-50 basis sharing formula between the centre and the provinces. That is, 50 per cent of the constitution should be written by the centre, and the rest can be decided by the respective province itself, which should be absolutely free to decide on issues such as employment quotas, investments etc. You want only Baloch to run Baloch affairs, including the law-enforcement agencies? You want a massive chunk of resource revenue? It’s your call. Land ownership, the works.
All this may sound drastic. But what other option is left? If you want to be taken seriously, you have to abandon shallow moves such as conjuring up polished old policies under the garb of fresh initiatives, such as what the Balochistan Package is sure to be.
Of course this is all a moot point if the government doesn’t have the will or the spine to confront tradition and abandon archetype strategies that are more about conceited jingoism than heartfelt patriotism. Sadly, this is probably the case. The government that tries this, or any other drastic last-ditch attempt to win over the trust of the Baloch, will have to be iron-willed.
As it stands, anything less, and the Balochistan Package might as well be categorised as foreign aid. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=206262

November 1, 2009   No Comments

Tackling Baloch bitterness: op-ed in The News, Oct 12

By Shahid Kardar
The writer is a former finance minister of Punjab

The Baloch are feeling hard done by and are very angry, the exasperation having turned into resentment following the tragic death of Akbar Bugti and the disappearances and extrajudicial killings of their leadership. The causes of their distress are deep-rooted. This article has been prompted by references to Islamabad’s trying to cobble together a “Balochistan package” and focuses on the raw economic hand dealt to Balochistan under different dispensations over the years.

Of Balochistan’s total budgeted revenue receipts 94 percent are expected to flow from the federal government, highlighting both the heavy dependence on federal transfers and the huge mismatch between the assigned responsibilities of the province and the wherewithal available to it to discharge such obligations. The high fiscal dependence on federal transfers is on account of the centralised tax structure, the almost exclusive powers granted by Constitution to the federal government and because key assets/resources on which Balochistan’s development will be predicated, gas, oil, major minerals sea ports are, under the existing constitutional framework, controlled by the federal government!

Also, not only have total federal transfers (including straight transfers in the form of the Gas Development Surcharge (GDS), excise duty and royalty on gas) and subvention grants grown at a modest rate of 1.8 percent per annum since 2001-02, they have also tended to be volatile and unpredictable. And Balochistan’s total receipts from the Islamabad for all forms of transfers is less than 25 percent what the federal government keeps for itself simply for collecting all taxes, gas related excise duties, etc.

Moreover, the horizontal distribution of the NFC divisible pool between the provinces is on the basis of population. Such an approach suggests that all Pakistanis should be treated equally, regardless of the fact that all provinces are not starting from similar initial positions of service provision. Balochistan, with its large landmass, scattered, sparsely populated settlements and high level of poverty, has to bear a higher unit cost for providing services. A pure population-based division of the divisible pool puts it at a distinct disadvantage.

Under the 1997 NFC Award, Balochistan has been receiving subvention grants to cater for the special development needs of the province, without any agreed criteria for setting the level of subvention. There has been some indexation of the basic amount with inflation, but the criterion for setting the amount as well as negotiating raises is not clearly specified, affecting the predictability and certainty of resource flows under this head.

The government of Balochistan also receives direct transfers from the federal government on account of its ownership of gas. These transfers relate to the excise duty and royalty on gas, and its share of the Gas Development Surcharge (GDS). The excise duty on gas, which is based on production volumes, is set at a low rate (of Rs5.10 per MMBTU), established several years ago. Islamabad sets the rate and collects the tax and simply transfers to the province, without the Balochistan government being in a position to influence the related policy.

The royalty on gas is paid in recognition of the ownership of the resource by the province. It is fixed at 12.5 percent of the gas sold as valued at the wellhead price. However, the wellhead price has been fixed at a low level for the gas fields in Balochistan, compared with the royalty being paid on gas fields discovered recently whose wellhead prices are much higher; the price for its largest field, Sui, has been capped at 50 percent of the market/wellhead price of new gas fields.

Presently, the GDS is determined on the basis of the cost of exploration and is distributed between the provinces, based on the proportion of gas volumes, despite the fact that the GDS collected is a function of the difference between the weighted prescribed price (determined on the basis of the wellhead price, transmission and distribution expenditure, O&M cost, excise duty, minimum return of gas companies, etc.), and the price paid by the consumer. Balochistan’s gas fields are mature and are fast depleting, which has resulted in the reduction of its share in the GDS. Since the wellhead price for Balochistan fields is low, its contribution margin, per unit of gas, to the total GDS is more than the contribution of gas fields in other provinces. By allocating GDS receipts on the basis of volumes rather than total value of gas sold, the Balochistan government’s share is being artificially depressed. Whereas it contributes more than 86 percent based on the difference between the prescribed price and the defensible weighted average wellhead cost, it is presently getting a share of roughly 24 percent in the GDS distributed between the provinces. In other words, against its present share of Rs5.6 billion in GDS Balochistan would have received an additional Rs.12.5 billion.

Moreover, before 1991, GDS was only generated from Balochistan but was not paid to it, and was utilised for developing other gas fields in the country, resulting in the province losing Rs29 billion from 1991 to 1997.

This writer therefore believes that to be able to address the kinds of grievances being articulated by the Baloch (and, for that matter, also by Pakhtuns and Sindhis), a new federal structure has to be devised for Pakistan’s long-term sustainability. This will require a recasting of the Constitution and the establishment of a more viable structure that gives meaningful autonomy to the provinces. This realignment will involve a slashing of the Concurrent List and the handing over of full control over all resources to the provinces in which these are located. Once Balochistan has control over its resources it should be able to sell its products to the others at the international price, the same way that Punjab sells its agricultural produce like wheat and cotton to the others at global prices. The adoption of such an approach will also address the intractable problem of provincial complaints on the size and timeliness of receipts from Islamabad for royalty and excise duties and the inter-provincial conflicts on shares in the Gas Development Surcharge.

In defence of this proposal, this writer would argue that if Pakistan’s political and economic structure were to be implanted in the US, Texas (and for that matter in other federations in the world, like Canada and Australia) with all its oil, would not be rich; instead entrepreneurs in New York and Washington would be living it up. Contrast this situation with that in Pakistan, where gas-rich Balochistan, the owner of this country’s lifeline and richest resource, is the least-developed province in both physical and social infrastructure, and which continuously begs for funds from the federal government to stay afloat.

Moreover, and more importantly, Islamabad should give up many of the activities that it has taken upon itself to perform, largely because of the massive share of national revenues and resources that it appropriates. The Federal Development Programme includes not only the Coastal Highway and the Sandaik projects but also the construction of provincial roads (like those connecting Chaman and Quetta and Quetta and Kila Saifullah), which should be implemented by the provincial government, because most of them fall entirely within its purview. Other than duplication of effort and expenditures, the projects also suffer from poor design and lack of prioritisation, activities that the provincial government is better placed to carry out based on local needs and priorities. It is just that Islamabad will simply not let go of functions and resources that rightfully belong with lower formations of government and is unwilling to shed weight by correcting the incongruity of its size and the expanded role and mandate that it has arrogated to itself.

Reducing the importance and size of the federal government by trimming its role and by simultaneously enhancing provincial autonomy, combined with fundamental civil service reforms, along the lines proposed by the National Commission for Government Reform, the attraction for positions and appropriate representation of different nationalities in the Federal bureaucracy would also diminish substantially. The answer to the grievances of the Baloch lies in such solutions and a genuine federal system, and not in conjuring a political system around some misconceived notion of ‘supreme national interest’ nor by simply increasing the size of the federal government’s development programme in Balochistan and enhancing the job quotas for the Baloch in federally-managed public services and projects. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=202738

October 12, 2009   No Comments

Imran calls for mid-term polls in Balochistan: The Dawn, Oct 11

QUETTA, Oct 10: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan has called for mid-term polls in Balochistan so that ‘genuine’ elected representatives could be elected to resolve problems facing the province.
Addressing a press conference at the Bugti House and a public meeting at Meezan Chowk on Saturday, the PTI leader said he was demanding elections because the existing provincial government was not a representative of the masses.
He claimed that a new government formed by fresh elected representatives would not allow military operation in the province.
He said the government had failed to resolve people’s problems because its representatives had been chosen in polls that were conducted by a military dictator and in the absence of an independent judiciary and election commission.
Mr Khan urged the armed forces in Balochistan to keep their guns silent because political issues could only be settled through negotiations. http://epaper.dawn.com/ArticleText.aspx?article=11_10_2009_005_002

October 11, 2009   No Comments

Raisani removes parliamentary affairs minister:The Daily Times, Oct 11

By Malik Siraj Akbar
QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani on Saturday relieved the provincial minister for parliamentary affairs, Rubina Irfan, of her duties, reportedly because of “objectionable activities” that were undermining the stability of the provincial coalition government.

The female minister belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and is the wife of Agha Irfan Karim, former minister for Zakat and Ushr, who earlier tendered his resignation to express solidarity with PPP minister Ali Madad Jattak. “Rubina’s portfolio has been given to Shama Perveen Magsi, the minister for Information Technology [and wife of Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi],” a senior official at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat confirmed. “Rubina will retain the status of a provincial minister, but without a portfolio,” he added. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\11\story_11-10-2009_pg7_15

October 11, 2009   No Comments

‘Balochistan solidarity campaign’ to be launched

By Malik Siraj Akbar in The Daily Times, Oct 10
QUETTA: Several civil society organisations have decided to launch a countrywide signature campaign to express solidarity with the people of Balochistan.
Sungi Development Foundation Director (programmes) Asad Rehman announced this at a seminar, Proposed Balochistan Package and the NFC award. Rehman said Pakistan would disintegrate if the federating units were not treated equally and respectfully. People had realised that Balochistan had been brought to the verge of disintegration due to the erroneous and repressive policies of successive governments, he said. “The government should make arrangements for the return of the internally displaced persons of Dera Bugti and Kohlu to their hometowns. The Hindus should be compensated for the damage caused to their houses during the military operation. Nawab Akbar Bugti’s body must be handed over to his family,” he added.
Balochistan National Party (BNP) President Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini said, “We reject all kinds of packages. We want ownership of our natural resources. It is impossible to run the country on the basis of ad hocism,” he commented.
National Party President Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch said the government had not consulted the Baloch parties on the proposed package. The ruling party, he said, was treading in the footsteps of former military ruler Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf.
BNP Secretary General Habib Jalib said the military government had promoted around 6,000 seminaries in the province. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\10\story_10-10-2009_pg7_26

October 10, 2009   No Comments