Category — Insurgency
LAHORE: Intelligence agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence have presented an investigation report to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani regarding an audiotape of the telephonic conversation between TV anchor Hamid Mir and an unidentified Taliban militant, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.
Quoting reliable sources, the channel said the report submitted by three intelligence agencies confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip after a detailed investigation.
Original: “The conversation between Hamid Mir and the Taliban militant is original and has been proved by the audiotape,” the report said.
Mir is currently working as Islamabad Executive Editor for Geo News channel.
According to BBC Urdu, the Jang Group has set up an investigation committee and has announced the conducting of an impartial investigation in this regard.
A large number of websites carry the contents of the audiotape, describing it a candid conversation on the telephone between Hamid Mir and a militant.
Mir, who finds himself in the midst of a raging debate on the issue of journalistic ethics, has described the taped conversation “doctored” and “concocted”.
Separately, Senator Faisal Raza Abidi said the government had verified the authenticity of the voices on the audio tape from intelligence agencies. He said the audio clipping proved Hamid Mir’s links with the Taliban.
Osama Khalid to lodge FIR against Hamid Mir
LAHORE: Osama Khalid, son of former Inter-Services Intelligence official Khalid Khawaja who was murdered by relatively less-known terrorist group the Asian Tigers on April 23, has said that he will take legal action and register an FIR against Geo News anchor Hamid Mir over what he called “playing an instigative role in his father’s murder”, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.
Talking to the BBC Urdu, Khalid said the unidentified Taliban in the audiotape was Usman Punjabi who used an alias of Muhammad Omar while talking to various journalists.
Mir, who is in the midst of a raging debate on journalistic ethics, called the taped conversation “doctored”.
Original: Osama rejected Mir’s claims, saying the audiotape was original and he would prove it in court.
“Hamid Mir instigated the militants to murder my father,” he said, adding he would soon register a case against Mir for murdering his father.
He also requested the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of the incident.
Kicking: Osama also demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter, and asked journalists to kick the “black sheep” out of the profession.
The audio clip had Mir divulging dirt on Khawaja, ostensibly to the Taliban militant who was to cross examine the former ISI official.
The person on the other end asks Mir for information on Khalid Khawaja. Mir goes on to link Khawaja to the CIA, an international network of Qadianis and an American named Mansur Ejaz. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\20\story_20-5-2010_pg7_20
May 20, 2010 No Comments
By Josy Joseph in The Times of India
New Delhi: Kashmiri terrorists and refugees from Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have both received a pay hike. According to latest inputs from various intelligence agencies, Pakistani authorities are now offering terrorists coming to fight in J&K a monthly salary in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. This is a huge jump from the average pay of Rs 5,000 they were getting earlier.
The reason for this benevolence is obvious. There has been a drastic drop in violence levels in J&K and militancy needs a revival if the separatist agenda has to continue to grab global attention. The number of terrorists in J&K is now hovering around 700, an all-time low since militancy erupted in the state in the late 1980s.
The desperation among terror groups is also visible in the return of Furqan, one of the senior most Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives who had been the group’s launch commander based in PoK for some years now. He infiltrated into J&K in April-end with a group but the Army was able to intercept them. Furqan is believed to have successfully evaded the Army and entered the state. His return, after more than four years, is being seen as a sign of LeT’s desperation to carry out a few sensational attacks.
It is not just Kashmiri militants who have got pay hikes. Those staying back in refugee camps of PoK too have been given increased financial benefits. From Rs 1,800 per month, their allowance has gone up to Rs 2,400 a month early this year, sources said.
Thousands of Kashmiri youth moved across the border to PoK in the past two decades for the explicit purpose of becoming trained militants. Many now want to return.
Pak authorities said to be offering Rs 8,000-10,000 a month to terrorists to fight in J&K, up from Rs 5,000
Only 700-odd terrorists in the state now, the lowest since militancy began in the state in the 1980s. The raise is an attempt to get more recruits
Those who crossed over and stayed back in PoK refugee camps getting Rs 2,400/mth against earlier Rs 1,800 Dole hiked to dissuade refugees from leaving PoK camps?
New Delhi: Pakistan is opening the purse strings to fuel militancy in Kashmir. The monthly salary of Valleybound ‘freedom fighters’ has been hiked to Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 from Rs 5,000. What’s more, thousands of Kashmiri youth who crossed over to PoK to train but have stayed back in refugee maintenance camps run by the Pakistan government will now get a dole of Rs 2,400 per month against Rs 1,800 hitherto.
There are no clear numbers, but some estimates say as many as 30,000 could be in PoK, holding state subject facility cards which grants them certain rights. Some have married local girls, and many Kashmiri youth have started small businesses.
While inflation is an obvious reason for the hike in monthly allowance for the refugees, the desire of many of them to return to India may have also been a reason for increasing the allowance, officials speculate.
In 2007, when Indian government opened up a liberal surrender policy for Kashmir, almost 150 of them came back. After a year, the policy was tightened, but sources now say that they are looking at revising it. An exodus of these refugees from PoK to J&K would hit Pakistan’s image, say officials. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5938412.cms?prtpage=1
May 17, 2010 No Comments
They must be unprofessional or badly trained and poorly armed new entrants; otherwise the dacoits in Punjab form a formidable force. They carry sophisticated weapons, and should they run into the police, in the ensuing encounter, they don’t do badly.
That eight of them were bludgeoned to death, with stones and sticks, by the villagers somewhere in the district of Toba Tek Singh, on Sunday night, is unthinkable unless one believes they must have been extraordinarily down on their luck, or they were not dacoits at all. Comprehensively covered by the media, their story is both a narrative of the deteriorating law and order in the country and an affirmation of the fact that the public would prefer to deliver its own jungle-justice than to approach the police.
According to a news report, fearful of dacoits – two of the dacoits had reportedly surveyed the area of their operation a day before as cloth vendors – the villagers were keeping a night vigil. So, as soon as dacoits were through with their operation, loot and plunder and a gun wound to a resisting person, the villagers surrounded them and then killed them. Police arrived late, as happens routinely.
Of course, there is some politics to this ugly incident also; while the PML (N) MPA from the area insists that the victims were through and through professional dacoits, his PML (Q) rival maintains they were not dacoits but wayfarers through that village, who were ambushed and killed in cold blood by the villagers with the help of police.
But what is certain is that instead of handing over the alleged dacoits to the police, the villagers delivered their own mob justice. And, they are not the first to do this. Over the last several years, every now and then, incidents of people taking the law into their hands and lynching alleged thieves and robbers in full public view are quite common.
In fact, some of the most spectacular incidents of mob justice, delivered on the spot by putting the accused on fire or clubbing him to death, have taken place in Karachi, the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Then, there are also cases of blasphemy, often fake and concocted, which stir up a violent reaction, leading to arson and carnage.
No amount of argument or justification can condone the crime of delivering street justice. However, what drives the people to vent their rage in this manner is a question that needs deeper examination. Invariably, behind every such act lurks the ever-widening trust-deficit between the public and the police.
A case in point is last week’s people assault on a police post in Korangi whose officers had let go a woman – her two alleged accomplices had fled before the people caught her – incurring public outrage. The public is growing angry with the ineffective and corrupt police force. Add to this the fact that hardly 10 percent of the accused earn punishment in a court of law – speaks of the poor investigation and prosecution by the concerned police officials.
Even otherwise, as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has noted, vigilante justice, delivered by the villagers of Toba Tek Singh, is reflective of the deeper brutalization of our society. So much evil and wrongdoing is condoned and tolerated on a day to day basis that we tend to grow increasingly insensitive to the sufferings of others. But that should end.
In this case, the Punjab government must initiate a proper inquiry and punish the guilty. Those who took part in the drama of delivering justice in the village of Toba Tek Singh must be brought before the court and if found guilty, should be punished. Allowed to go unchecked, an incident of mob justice can turn out to be prologue to a Revolution, which, good or bad, is invariably bloody.http://www.brecorder.com/index.php?id=1055460&currPageNo=1&query=&search=&term=&supDate=
May 12, 2010 No Comments
ISLAMABAD: A US drone strike that nearly killed the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief may encourage the CIA to keep up its campaign to eliminate high-profile Taliban by remote control.
But the strikes may only have limited success and generate more anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, which the US sees as a front-line state in its war on terror.
Taliban officials said TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud was wounded slightly last week after being targeted in a drone attack. Washington says its drone strikes are key to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Coming just days after Hakeemullah appeared in a farewell video with the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, the apparent revenge attack was a reminder that drone attacks are highly capable of eliminating top Taliban leaders.
Analysts say the high-tech aircraft – designed to throw Al Qaeda and Taliban operations into disarray – are unlikely to break resilient militant groups in the long term and may only generate more anti-American anger in Pakistan.
“Ultimately this is not really an effective weapon. The intent is, that if you can kill off or decapitate a significant extent of the leadership, then you can cause a rift within the movement,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for Middle East and South Asia at STRATFOR.
Drone attacks in the Tribal Areas have been intensified since the double agent suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan on December 30, the second deadliest attack in the agency’s history.
Holding up: Even if sustained over a long period, drone strikes can only produce limited results – perhaps holding up suicide bombings for a few weeks – since Taliban leaders are unlikely to be killed in quick succession, analysts say.
The problem for the US and its allies is the over-reliance on drone attacks to fight the Taliban, and the lack of ground intelligence.
CIA’s recruitment of agents is tedious and risky since it requires winning over people in a region of tightly knit family and tribal ties. Anyone tempted by cash risks execution if caught by the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and intelligence is often sketchy.
That is why the CIA must rely on Pakistani intelligence to provide targets to the virtual pilots who use computers halfway across the world to fly the $4.5 million unmanned aircrafts into battle.
That coordination may have put the Al Qaeda and Taliban on the defensive in the Tribal Areas.
But Pakistan is unlikely to hand over the intelligence Washington wants most of all – whereabouts of leaders of the Afghan Taliban groups who attack US forces in Afghanistan.
Those coordinates will be hard to come by because those groups are some of Pakistan’s most strategic regional assets.
Pakistani officials complain in public that drone strikes violate the country’s sovereignty and have said that intensified strikes could hurt relations between the long-standing allies.
US officials privately say the attacks are carried out under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to decry the attacks in public. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\19\story_19-1-2010_pg7_15
January 19, 2010 No Comments
Owing to security concers, the UN World Food Programme has closed close 20 food hubs supplying food aid to over two million people in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal termed the closure as ‘temporary’ and expressed hope that the centres would be reopened soon.
All WFP food distribution centres, in Charsadda, Swabi, Dir, Mardan, Buner, Swat and Bajaur were closed Oct 21.
Paskistsan has been witnessing a series of bomb blasts and suicide bombings across key cities while the army is engaged in a major battle to end the reign of terrorist groups in the tribal areas bordering Pakistan.
The latest suicide bombing targetted the Islamic University in Islamabad on Oct 20 and claimed six lives. The army general headquarters in Rawalpinidi was attcked on Oct 10. Earlier this month, WFP office in Islamabad came under suicide bombing. Five employees were killed.
The WFP food hubs have been benefitting 2.3 million people displaced this year as a result of the conflict between government forces and Taliban militants. Though most of those displaced from Swat, Dir and Buner have returned home since fighting ended in July, a large number remain in need of food aid.
Around 2.4 million displaced people received aid from the WFP food hubs last month, according to Jamal. News of their closure brought immediate concern from people who continue to struggle to survive.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said ( Oct 20) Pakistan was “in a state of war”. At least 2,280 people are estimated to have died during the last two years as a result of “terrorist” attacks.
October 21, 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
LONDON: The attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi has highlighted not only the threat from the Taliban in the Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan, but also from those based in Punjab.
Security officials said some of the militants involved in the attack on the GHQ appeared to have links to Punjab. “South Punjab has become the hub of jihadism,” analyst Ayesha Siddiqa wrote in a magazine article last month. “Yet, somehow, there are still many people in Pakistan who refuse to acknowledge this threat,” she wrote.
Security officials said a militant arrested after the attack and hostage-taking at the GHQ was believed be a member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Some hostage takers’ phone calls were intercepted and they were speaking Punjabi, another security official said. However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said it is too early to say whether Punjab-based groups were involved.
Separate danger: NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain called on Saturday for the elimination of militant bases in Punjab as well as South Waziristan. But targeting all of the country’s militants at once could create an even more dangerous coalition by driving disparate groups closer together, analysts say. The army also draws many of its recruits from Punjab, making any efforts to root out militants there all the harder.
“Deploying the military is not an option. In the Punjab this will create a division within the powerful army because of regional loyalty,” wrote Siddiqa. But the police force in the province is inadequate and unlikely to be able to take on the thousands of armed men belonging to different militant groups. Complicating the picture further are pressures from both the US and India, which want Pakistan to target the groups directly in conflict with them.
Pakistan has focused largely on acting against groups representing a direct domestic threat, leading some analysts to suggest it may want to retain groups like the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to be used as “strategic assets” against India. But defence analyst Brian Cloughley said the attack on the army’s headquarters showed how little support militants had in the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\12\story_12-10-2009_pg7_8
October 12, 2009 No Comments
By Tahir Niaz
ISLAMABAD: The law and order situation is the foremost factor that has hampered the exploration of gas and production activity in Balochistan over the last few years, according to the recently-released ‘Balochistan Economic Report’.
The report – a copy of which is available with Daily Times – said over three-fifths of the 657 terrorist attacks in 2006, nearly one-third of deaths in such attacks and almost half the injuries were reported in Balochistan. The report said the security situation in Balochistan worsened in 2006 compared to the previous year. It said the number of terrorist attacks in 2006 was almost twice as high as the period between 2002 and 2005. According to the report, the gas fields of Sui, Uch, Pirkoh and Loti are all located in Dera Bugti, which is at the heart of a violent conflict. The report identifies the principal reason for the deteriorating security situation as “a violent conflict between security forces and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Bugti tribesmen”.
It said the BLA, the Balochistan Liberation Front and Bugti militiamen launched 403 terrorist attacks in the province during 2006, killing 277 people and injuring 676 others. It said gas pipelines, security checkpoints and camps, government offices, rail tracks and bridges were targeted in these attacks. According to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Dera Bugti accounted for two-fifths of the 136 terrorist attacks reported in Balochistan between January 2006 and July 2006. The attacks killed 137 people and injured 315 others. According to the Balochistan Economic Report, Kohlu district – a stronghold of the BLA—along with Quetta and Sibi represent over a quarter of the terrorist attacks.
The report said Balochistan accounted for three-fifths of all terrorist attacks in Pakistan during 2006, and most of them took place in or around Dera Bugti. It said the precarious security situation in Dera Bugti was the main reason behind the decline in gas output – with the financial impact felt throughout the province. According to the study, the security situation in Balochistan was “highly unsatisfactory” during 2007, as terrorists continued attacking state installations and security apparatus.
The report said with gas fields exhausting, security worsening, fiscal receipts declining and community support in doubt, Balochistan’s gas economy was in urgent need of reforms. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\09\21\story_21-9-2009_pg7_10
September 21, 2009 No Comments
IN a series of recent TV interviews, Shah Zain Bugti, the grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, has spoken eloquently on what needs to be done to end the insurgency in Balochistan.
The crux of his argument is that Balochistan minus the Baloch is a grossly flawed policy — one that Islamabad has been pursuing all these years. The young Jamhoori Watan Party leader has restricted his demands to three points: the trial of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, the provision of gas royalty arrears to Balochistan and provincial autonomy. As the aggrieved heir to the slain Baloch leader, he has all the right to ask for the general’s trial.
It was almost pitiful to watch the Baloch leader being repeatedly grilled by anchors on the conduct of Baloch sardars, that too in response to his overtures when he emphasised that he sought a solution to the Balochistan predicament within the ambit of the 1973 constitution. The sardars’ anti-people policies, tyranny and support for terrorist attacks on vital installations in the province kept coming up. The construction of the coastal highway and the Gwadar port were also cited as development projects which have been opposed tooth and nail by Baloch nationalists.
There may be some merit in such counterpoints raised by self-righteous journalists. But what one fails to understand is why are the Baloch singled out for this harsh treatment. The Pakhtuns, too, have a tribal system which is taken as basic law by many communities. Clans in Sindh and biradaris in Punjab also practise tribal customs, some of them truly despicable.
Likewise, cult politics continues to be the norm within the country’s so-called democratic parties, whose ‘representative’ leaders often bury their heads in the sand when even a gross violation of the law takes place. In a country full of historical injustices and abuse such as that of Mukhtaran Mai, the burning of Christian homes in Gojra, Karachi’s May 12, 2007 street violence, to name a few, how can any objective observer single out Baloch sardars for censure?
The Baloch are not half as well integrated with the rest of Pakistan as, say, those hailing from Sindh. Their elected leaders at the centre and in the province do not enjoy the same representative status as do leaders from other provinces. The reason is that when the 2008 elections took place, Balochistan was in the grip of turmoil and Baloch nationalists had boycotted the polls.
As for the building of Gwadar port and the coastal highway by the Musharraf regime, nationalists allege, with some weight in their argument, that these projects have largely bypassed local communities. Sliding law and order has kept the Baloch at bay from job opportunities created at the port and the labour employed at the port is mostly from Sindh. The transporters whose vehicles ply the coastal highway are Pathan; the law enforcers operating across Balochistan are all Pathan and Punjabi.
If a Baloch villager is found carrying a few cans of unauthorised Iranian petrol in order to sell it to make a living, he is harshly punished and without due process; even his vehicle is impounded. He has to bribe his way out. This despite the fact that most of the petrol sold in Balochistan comes illegally from Iran, transported by petrol barons for whom the law enforcers conveniently look the other way. The same goes for the smuggling of ration provisions, liquor and other contrabands by non-Baloch smugglers.
The grievances of the Baloch are real and not imaginary. In his own homeland an average Baloch is treated like a man colonised by the many arms of the state which only know how to twist his arm. Little wonder then, that nationalist leaders, mainly highhanded sardars, should find resonance for their own causes with the Baloch people.
The Makran region comprising the coastal belt and areas bordering Iran, where much of the wrongdoing goes on and smugglers make millions a day, has no sardari system. The socioeconomic system in this Baloch-majority region is cooperative rather than competitive. No cruel, depraved sardars exist here. But there is widespread resentment and frustration among the people, hence their support for the sardars as their sole spokesmen.
Whenever in the past the sardars struck deals with Islamabad, not a drop of honeydew coming their way trickled down to these utterly impoverished Baloch. If Gen Musharraf, and rulers before him and those that have followed him, had established a somewhat equitable distribution of the wealth generated by this region, the situation today would be very different. But the people have been left at the mercy of the highhanded state machinery on the one hand and Baloch sardars, who now claim to be their messiahs, on the other.
What Shah Zain Bugti has been saying makes much sense. Even under these extremely extraordinary circumstances, he is not demanding extraordinary measures for Balochistan but pleading for provincial autonomy, which will benefit the other federating units equally. It’s the myriad government agencies operating in Balochistan which have no Baloch representation and which routinely break the law when it comes to penalising the Baloch that are the biggest hurdle in the way of resolving the crisis.
The Baloch must be given due representation in state institutions; in the vast security apparatus as well as development projects that, emanating from Balochistan, continue to benefit everyone but the Baloch. Couple this with provincial autonomy and subject the operations of law-enforcement agencies to scrutiny and the crisis will be over. All it takes is will in Islamabad to survey reality and move to correct the many wrongs done to the Baloch in their own homeland. (this article first appeared in The Dawn, Karachi on Sept 10, 2009)
September 10, 2009 No Comments
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