Category — Human Rights
The walkout by two ministers from the Balochistan Assembly session on Monday in protest against the killing of two Baloch students at a protest rally in Khuzdar last week and condemnation of the killings by senators of both the treasury and opposition benches once again focuses minds on the plight of the Baloch. When the PPP government presented a package for Balochistan, a province that has been fighting for its rights since the inception of Pakistan, many termed it a historic step. Though the Baloch nationalists rejected the package and said that it would not bring about any change in the current situation, a broad swathe of opinion thought the nationalist leaders were being overly pessimistic. Now, however, it seems the ‘pessimist’ Baloch nationalists were right after all. This has been proved yet again by the incident in Khuzdar, where the people’s right to a peaceful protest was violated and brutally crushed. The use of brutal force by the Frontier Constabulary (FC) has not only alienated the Baloch further, it has put the federation of Pakistan at stake.
The ‘Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan’ package has failed to deliver on its promise. The military operation is still continuing, as are the kidnappings of Baloch nationalist leaders and workers. The government must ensure that the military operation is stopped, and the ‘missing’ persons the prime minister promised would come home, recovered. In this backdrop, the removal of some Baloch leaders’ names, including Ataullah Mengal, Akhtar Mengal, Khair Bakhsh Marri, from the exit control list (ECL) was a good gesture, albeit a small one. What is more shocking is Prime Minister Gilani’s comment that it was “news to me” that these people were on the ECL. We should be thankful for small mercies that the prime minister finally got this ‘information’ and acted upon it. If the chief executive has no ‘news’ about prominent names on the ECL list, one can only pray.
Despite the mention of Balochistan’s IDPs in the said package, the situation remains the same. We hear of humanitarian aid for the Swat and Malakand IDPs every day, but the Baloch IDPs are hardly ever mentioned. If this continues, the anti-federation sentiment would rise even more in the neglected province. Balochistan needs concrete steps to defuse the situation and engage the alienated Baloch rather than pie-in-the-sky ‘packages’.
For the past many years the Baloch have been waging a fight against the Pakistani establishment for their just rights. They have largely been asking for what has been promised to them under the constitution. Failure to fulfil this aspiration is the surest way to exacerbate separatist sentiment in the province. Instead of playing politics with such a serious matter, the government should deliver on its promises and not make a mockery of the Baloch issue. To ignore Baloch grievances is to run the risk of weakening the integrity of the federation. The Centre must pay heed to the disquiet ruling Balochistan. The government needs to have a dialogue with the alienated Baloch leaders, both in Pakistan and those living in exile abroad. The tension-ridden atmosphere of Balochistan should ring alarm bells for the government. Pakistan is already fighting a war with the Taliban and it cannot afford another war front against Baloch insurgents. The results of not delivering on the Balochistan package can be disastrous for the country. The government needs to get its act together or else get ready for another debacle.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\21\story_21-1-2010_pg3_1
January 21, 2010 No Comments
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
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
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
THATTA, Nov 1: Chairman of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz Basheer Khan Qureshi has said that he has received life threats from personnel of intelligence agencies who said that he would be eliminated before Nov 7, when the party has planned a march in Karachi.
Mr Qureshi said JSQM vice-chairman Akash Mallah and activist Noor Mohammed Khaskheli had gone missing from Bhitai Nagar, Hyderabad, and added claimed that the two had been picked up by the agencies.
Speaking at a press conference here on Sunday, Mr Qureshi said he wanted to lodge an ‘FIR’ through media that if any thing happened to him and his colleagues, an FIR should be registered against PPP rulers and the ISI.
Mr Qureshi said the JSQM had chalked out a comprehensive programme to stage rallies across Sindh against the missing of Mallah and Khaskheli. If they were not released, the party would call for a strike in the province, he said.
He said the PPP that had betrayed Sindh and Sindhi people was afraid of the Nov 7 march of the JSQM in Karachi.
In reply to a question, the JSQM chairman admitted that none of the nationalist leaders had so far offered to participate in the march. However, he was of the firm belief that all sons of the soil would step forward for the independence of the motherland.
He said party vice-chairman Akash Mallah, who was recently released, had been picked up again by the agencies to prevent the party from taking out rally in Karachi.
Our Hyderabad Bureau adds: JSQM activists staged a protest demonstration outside the press club to protest against the missing of Mallah and Khaskheli.
Speaking on the occasion, Haji Anwar Mallah, Mushtaq Umrani and Fatah Channa said that the Sindh government was harassing JSQM leaders and workers to sabotage the scheduled “March for Independence in Karachi on Nov 7.
They warned the government to stop conspiracies against the nationalist forces and not to create any hurdles in the programme of march.
They said that the people of Sindh would foil all conspiracies against Sindh by joining the rally in Karachi. They demanded immediate release of Mallah and Khaskheli. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/jsqm-chief-fears-he-may-be-killed-by-agencies-119
November 2, 2009 No Comments
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
By Declan Walsh in The Guardian
Islamabad: Pakistan’s army made a stark admission today of the scale of the threat it faces from a nexus of Punjabi, al-Qaida and Taliban militants whose attacks are increasingly coordinated, include soldiers in their ranks and span the country.
The unusually frank assessment, made after the audacious assault on the military’s headquarters this weekend, came as a Taliban suicide bomber struck an army convoy as it passed through a crowded marketplace in a small mountain town near the Swat valley, killing 41 people and wounding 45.
It was the fourth militant atrocity to hit Pakistan in eight days of bloodshed that have killed more than 120 people. One television channel reported that the bomber in Shangla district in North West Frontier province was a 13-year-old boy.
Meanwhile a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the 22-hour gun battle and siege at the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, which ended on Sunday morning when commandos freed 39 hostages. Eleven soldiers, three civilians and nine militants died.
“This was our first small effort and a present to the Pakistani and American governments,” a Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, told the Associated Press.
Addressing journalists a few hundred metres from the scene of the gunfight, an army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, described how the 10 attackers came from two different sets of backgrounds. Five of them came from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and wealthy province, he said, while the other five were from South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold at the southern end of the tribal belt, along the Afghan border.
Abbas said the attackers were led by a Punjabi militant named Aqeel, also known as Dr Usman, but the operation was ordained by a Taliban commander based in South Waziristan. Citing an intercepted telephone call, Abbas said commander Wali-ur-Rehman urged followers to “pray” for the attacks after the assault began on Saturday morning.
Abbas said the militants intended to take senior army officers hostage and use them to negotiate the release of more than 100 militants. Other demands included an end to military cooperation with the US and for the former president, General Pervez Musharraf, to be put on trial.
Aqeel, the only surviving attacker, was being treated for serious injuries, Abbas said. He confirmed that the militant was a former army medical corps soldier from Kahuta, a town in the army’s Punjabi recruitment heartland that is home to a major nuclear weapons facility.
Aqeel deserted the army in 2004, he said, and joined Jaish-e-Muhammad, a notorious militant group that in recent years has spawned splinter groups which have become allied to al-Qaida.
The militant attacks come as 28,000 army soldiers prepare to launch an assault on South Waziristan, where an estimated 10,000 fighters are holed up. Yesterday army jets hit Taliban targets in the area for the second day running, in preparation for an offensive the interior minister, Rehman Malik, said was “imminent”.
The army’s admission of ever stronger links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Punjab-based militant groups was rare public confirmation of a trend analysts have observed for years. “We’ve seen this troika nexus in many major terrorist attacks – on the Marriott in Islamabad, on the navy headquarters in Lahore, and on the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency],” said Amir Rana, a terrorism analyst.
In some instances, Rana said, al-Qaida provided the financing, the Taliban logistics and training support, and Punjabi militants executed the operation.
The growing importance of the Punjabi factor in local and international militancy has placed the army under pressure to extend its crackdown beyond the tribal belt. At the weekend a spokesman for the North West Frontier province government said that even if a South Waziristan offensive succeeded, militants could still get help from Punjab.
Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman from last November’s Mumbai massacre, comes from a small village in southern Punjab. Jaish-e-Muhammad operates a giant madrasa on the edge of Bahawalpur, a dusty city in southern Punjab notorious for its hardline madrasas.
The army rejected suggestions that a military operation would solve the problem. “Yes there are terrorists in southern Punjab, and these groups have links to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” said Abbas. “But it’s a very different environment. It’s well developed, it has a communications infrastructure and a huge security force presence. It’s very different from what was Swat, and what [we see] in South Waziristan.”
In Lahore, a court freed Hafiz Saeed, a prominent extremist cleric whom India accuses of playing a major part in the Mumbai attacks. A prosecutor said the extremist charity he heads, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had not been officially banned.
The turmoil spooked investors on Pakistan’s main stock market, which tumbled 1.3 per cent. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/12/pakistan-army-taliban-militancy-threat
October 13, 2009 No Comments
A look at some recent major attacks in Pakistan or blamed on Pakistan-based militants:
- Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide car bomb explodes near an army vehicle in a market in the northwest Shangla district, killing 41, including six security officers, and wounding 45.
- Oct. 10, 2009: A raid on army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi kills nine militants and 14 others.
- Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide car bomb in the northwestern city of Peshawar kills 53 people.
- Oct. 5, 2009: A bomber dressed as a security official kills five staffers at the U.N. food agency’s headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.
- Sept. 18, 2009: A suicide car bomb destroys a two-story hotel near the northwestern town of Kohat, killing 30 people in what might have been a sectarian attack by Sunni militants against Shiite Muslims.
- May 27, 2009: A suicide car bomber targets buildings housing police and intelligence offices in the eastern city of Lahore, killing about 30 and wounding at least 250.
- March 27, 2009: A suicide bomber demolishes a packed mosque near the northwestern town of Jamrud, killing about 50 people and injuring scores more.
- March 3, 2009: Gunmen attack the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore, wounding several players and killing six policemen and a driver.
- Nov. 26-28, 2008: Ten attackers, allegedly from Pakistan, kill 166 people in a three-day assault on luxury hotels, a Jewish center and other sites in Mumbai, India.
- Sept. 20, 2008: A suicide truck bomb kills at least 54 and wounds more than 250 as it devastates the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
- Aug. 21, 2008: Suicide bombers blow themselves up at two gates of a weapons factory in the town of Wah, killing at least 67 people and wounding at least 100. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101201332_pf.html
October 13, 2009 No Comments
The News, Oct 11
ISLAMABAD: Geo News and some other TV channels were once again blocked by the PPP government on Saturday afternoon, an action replay of the Musharraf-era.
The action was taken allegedly for “objectionable” coverage of the GHQ terrorist attack, but the Pakistan Army officially announced that it had no objection to the coverage and asked the government to reopen the channels.
Geo TV, however, remained shut in the afternoon while three other channels, which were also closed, were reopened shortly.
The government often shuts other channels also as a tactic to show that its action is not discriminatory and specific to one. This tactic was also used during the Musharraf onslaught against the Geo.
The action which was primarily meant to target the Geo TV, came after a senior official categorically warned the channel on Friday evening, one day before this incident, saying: “You can face damage if you do not change your policy” (Agar Aap Apni policy Tabdil Nahin Karte To Aapko Nuqsaan Pohnch Sakta Hay).
The closure of Geo TV started in the afternoon under the pretext that the TV channel was showing clips of the GHQ attack repeatedly.
Geo TV strongly denied the charge saying it is the norm throughout the world to repeat transmission as all the viewers do not watch TVs at one time. The state-run television, PTV, is also following this practice. Geo TV further said that its coverage was according to the rules and regulations of the Pemra and if there was any objection, proper legal action should be taken instead of arbitrary closure of the TV channels.
The closure of Geo TV, and for some time other channels, began with the same tactics used by the Musharraf regime by forcing the cable operators who were quietly but sternly told to downgrade Geo TV on the cable list throwing the channel to numbers 80 to 90. Some cable operators were told to deliberately disturb the audio-video signals of Geo TV so that legally it could be claimed that the channel had not been closed but the signals were weak.
The Pakistan Army and the security agencies took a firm stand against the government closure of the channels and DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas told Geo TV and BBC that the Pakistan Army had no objection to the coverage shown by the TV channel and the channels should be immediately reopened.
General Abbas told Geo TV that he had told Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira that Pakistan Army and ISI had no complaints against the Geo and the closure orders of the government should be withdrawn.
General Abbas also told The News that he had told the information minister that the closure of Geo was earning a bad name to the army as it was being perceived that the army was behind this action by the government.
It may be recalled that the PPP government had been expressing serious anger and concern over the independent and objective coverage of news and events by the Jang Group of Publications for sometime and several high-level meetings had been held to “apply brakes” to the Geo TV and Jang Group.
These meetings chalked out strategies to control the Jang Group but action was delayed because of various reasons.
Recently when the Kerry-Lugar Bill issue was raised and exploded in the face of the PPP government, action to control the Jang Group was again considered seriously.
When Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira forced Pemra and Ministry of Information officials to take action against the Geo TV, there was a lot of resistance by some officials because there existed no legal or other justification to shut down the channel but then the orders and pressure was so intense that Pemra used its authority to take the channels off the air.
It was also learnt that the cable operators were told several tricks to shut down or downgrade the Geo TV so that if tomorrow the issue is taken to courts, they could defend their action by saying that it was not a closure but some technical fault.
Senior officials of Geo told Pemra and Ministry of Information officials that the Geo TV was showing what was legally permitted under the Pemra laws and other laws of the land. They were told that Geo transmissions earned business and they should not inflict financial loss on the channel.
They were told that if the Geo TV was found to be violating any Pemra rules, it should be taken to court and action taken under the due process of law instead of arbitrary closure, which resembled the tactics used by the dictators.
Under a democratic government such actions were not compatible, the Pemra and Ministry officials were told. The Geo officials also told the Pemra and the Ministry officials that they were extended a threat by the government a day before and now they have found an opportunity to take action against the channel. They said they intend to move the court immediately against the closure of the channel.
The Ministry officials were also told that when you people are in the opposition you always stand behind the press and strongly condemn such arbitrary measures by the government of the day against the media. “Please have mercy on Pakistan, follow rules set by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and give the people their right to information,” the Geo senior officials told Pemra and Ministry of Information officials. The Geo transmissions were restored after a few hours. http://www.thenews.com.pk/print3.asp?id=24954
October 12, 2009 No Comments
QUETTA: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Sunday urged the government to immediately demilitarise Balochistan, warning of dire consequences if such confidence-building measures were not implemented.
HRCP Chairwoman Asma Jahangir informed journalists that a delegation that had travelled to Balochistan last week found 30 cases of “enforced disappearances”, allegedly perpetrated by state intelligence agencies, had been reported in the province after the induction of a democratic government in February 2008. She said the human rights organisation had “ample evidence to support the allegations of the victims’ families that the perpetrators of the enforced disappearances are intelligence agencies and security forces. This has been conceded by officials and politicians in high authority”. “The military still calls the shots (in Balochistan) … the decision-making is firmly in the hands of elements that were in command before February 2008 … The provincial government is not functioning in critical areas,” she said, adding the government needed to immediately transfer all power to the elected civilian government. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\12\story_12-10-2009_pg7_11
October 12, 2009 No Comments