Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Jamhoori Watan Party

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

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

Booking Musharraf: edit in The News, Oct 8

The Balochistan High Court’s order to book former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf, his PM Shaukat Aziz and others for killing Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti is the first substantial move to open up contentious issues which the present PPP government has hitherto avoided. The court’s order may force Musharraf, now in self-exile, to consider hard whether to return to Pakistan, but it also has the potential to pitch the newly assertive judiciary against the civil and military establishment. Parts of the political spectrum, including the opposition parties, will welcome the order, yet it may seem easy for a judge to order Musharraf’s trial for murder, but it would be harder for the government to comply.

If the judiciary persists with the pressure and forces the executive to act, an unfortunate situation of confrontation may develop. But to correct the massive distortions in our political and judicial systems, such bitter pills have to be swallowed. Somewhere, someday, somebody will have to start the process. Though it may appear impractical now, the FIR against Musharraf and others must be registered and action must be initiated, to the extent possible. If the PPP government drags its feet, governments to come later can pick up the thread. But the process must begin. Musharraf must be booked and tried. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=202108

October 8, 2009   No Comments

Registration of Bugti case against Musharraf ordered

By Amanullah Kasi in The Dawn, Oct 8
QUETTA, Oct 7: The Balochistan High Court has ordered the SHO of Dera Bugti police station to register an FIR against former president Pervez Musharraf and others in the murder case of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.
On a petition by Nawab Bugti’s son Nawabzada Jamil Akbar Bugti, a bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa ordered on Wednesday registration of a case against the respondents, except NWFP Governor Owais Ghani.
The petitioner had nominated Gen (retd) Musharraf, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, former governor of Balochistan Owais Ghani, former chief minister Jam Mohammad Yousuf, former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao and former home minister Shoaib Nausherwani.
The court accepted the submission of the petitioner, but excluded the name of Mr Ghani who being governor of the NWFP holds a constitutional position.
Mr Sherpao’s counsel Barrister Masoor Shah pleaded that he had no role in the killing. He said that forces which had killed the Baloch leader during a military operation were not under his command and he had not been consulted or informed about the action.
Mir Nausherwani said that three lawyers contacted by him had not yet responded to his request to represent him.
He denied having played any role in the killing of Nawab Bugti and said he had not been consulted on military actions in Dera Bugti.
He said the killing of the Baloch leader was a sad incident and morally he felt guilty for having failed to resign after the incident.
Deputy Attorney General Afzal Jami said the issue was a provincial matter and the federation had nothing to do with it.
Balochistan Prosecutor General Malik Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani said he had no objection to registration of the FIR.
The petitioner had challenged on Sept 8 the rejection by the Sibi sessions court of his application for registration of the report.
The chief justice had issued notices on Sept 11 to the respondents, except Mr Ghani, but neither the ex-president, the former prime minister and chief minister nor their counsel appeared before the court.
Nawab Bugti was killed on Aug 26, 2006.
APP adds: Interior Minister Rehman Malik told journalists in Islamabad that the federal government respected all judicial orders, including that of the BHC regarding Gen (retd) Musharraf. He expressed full support for the court order.
He said the former president did not have immunity from Interpol’s red warrants.
“We will extend maximum cooperation to the provincial government whenever required,” he added. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/registration-of-bugti-case-against-musharraf-ordered-809

October 8, 2009   No Comments

The Baloch perspective: By Murtaza Razvi

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

A Home-grown Conflict: By Malik Siraj Akbar, Balochistan bureau chief of Daily Times

When the first Baloch insurgency broke out in 1948 to resist the illegal and forceful annexation of the Baloch-populated autonomous Kalat state with Pakistan, Manmohan Singh – today Indian prime minister – was barely a teenager while his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani had not even been born to witness the rebellion’s magnitude. Yet, last month, both leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh discussed for the first time the indefatigable Baloch insurgency.

Pakistan has been blaming India for causing trouble in its resource-rich province. Gilani broached the issue with India at a time disgruntled Baloch youth have removed the Pakistani flag from schools and colleges and stopped playing the national anthem. Punjabi officers refuse to serve in Balochistan, fearing they would be target-killed. Islamabad attributes the unrest to ‘foreign involvement’. India is not the first to be blamed. Similar allegations were levelled in the past against the now defunct Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Iraq to discredit the indigenous movement for retaining a distinct Baloch identity. Indian assistance sounds ridiculous given that the Baloch do not share a border, common language, religion or history with India. Hardly has 1 per cent of Balochs have visited India.

The idea of Pakistan never attracted the secular Baloch. Ghose Baksh Bizanjo, a Baloch leader, said in 1947: “It is not necessary that by virtue of our being Muslims we should lose our freedom… If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran… should also amalgamate with Pakistan.”

Over the years, Islamabad has applied a multi-pronged approach to deal with Balochista Apart from military operations launched in 1948, 1958, 1962, 1973 and 2002 to quash the rebellion, Islamabad adopted other tactics. First, it kept the province economically backward by denying it good infrastructure, mainly in education and health. Natural gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1951 and supplied to Punjab’s industrial units. The Balochs hardly benefit from their own gas.

Second, Balochs, whom the state views as traitors, were denied representation in the army, foreign services, federal departments, profitable corporations, Pakistan International Airlines, customs, railways and other key institutions. Third, Balochistan has historically been remote-controlled from Islamabad. A Pakistan army corps commander, often a Punjabi or a Pathan, and the inspector general of the Frontier Corps, a federal paramilitary force with less than 2 per cent Baloch representation, exert more power than the province’s elected chief minister. The intelligence agencies devise election plans and decide who has to come to the provincial parliament and who should be ousted.

Fourth, Islamabad has created a state of terror inside Balochistan. Hundreds of check posts have been established to harass people and restrict their movement. Forces and tanks are stationed even on campuses of universities. Fifth, national and international media are denied access to conflict zones in Balochistan. Several foreign journalists were beaten up supposedly by intelligence agencies personnel or deported when they endeavoured to report the actual situation. Sixth, international human rights organisations are denied access to trace the whereabouts of some 5,000 ‘missing persons’. Pakistan is also in a state of denial about the existence of around 2,00,000 internally displaced persons in Balochistan.

Seventh, Islamabad has been engaged in systematic target killing of key Baloch democratic leaders. Ex-governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, became a victim once he demanded Baloch rights. Balach Marri, a Balochistan Assembly member, was killed to undermine the movement. In April this year, three other prominent leaders were whisked away by security forces and subsequently killed.

Eighth, Pakistan has pitted radical Taliban against secular and democratic Baloch forces. The state is brazenly funding thousands of religious schools across the province with the help of Arab countries to promote religious radicalisation. Elements supportive of Taliban were covertly helped by state institutions to contest and win general elections. They now enjoy sizeable representation in the Balochistan Assembly to legislate against the nationalists and secular forces.

Ninth, Islamabad has been using sophisticated American weapons, provided to crush Taliban, against the Baloch people. This has provided breathing space to Taliban hidden in Quetta and weeded out progressive elements. Finally, Afghan refugees are being patronised to create a demographic imbalance in the Baloch-dominated province.

Baloch leaders are critical of many democratic countries for not doing ‘enough’ to safeguard a democratic, secular Baloch people. I asked Bramdagh Bugti, a Baloch commander, about the India link. He laughed and said, “Would our people live amid such miserable conditions if we enjoyed support from India? We are an oppressed people… seeking help from India, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to come for our rescue.”

The Baloch movement is rapidly trickling down from tribal chiefs to educated middle-class youth aggressively propagating their cause on Facebook and YouTube. This generation would understandably welcome foreign assistance but will not give up even if denied help from countries like India. The Baloch insist their struggle was not interrupted even at times when India and Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-4878167,prtpage-1.cms

August 11, 2009   No Comments

Unrest in Balochistan: ‘India being blamed to justify military action’

LAHORE, Aug 5: Indian interference is being alleged in Balochistan to justify the military operation, says Jamhoori Watan Party President Shahzain Bugti.

Speaking as chief guest at a seminar entitled “Threats to National Security and Our Responsibilities” here on Wednesday, Bugti said the government should prove its allegations of Indian interference in Balochistan if it had any evidence. “We are accused of being pro-India. We would have voted for inclusion of Balochistan in India in 1947 if we had been in favour of India,” he said.

Bugti, the grandson of late chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti, said the federal government always wronged Balochistan. “Baloch people were asked to come down from mountains in 1960 and hanged. Nawab Akbar Bugti was assassinated and Gwadar was snatched from Balochistan.” Bugti said allegations of target killing of Punjabis were being levelled to justify the presence of Frontier Constabulary in Balochistan.

He said Baloch people did not hate Punjabis. He said his party was criticised for demanding royalty for gas. He however said that his party demanded the royalty for the Balochistan government and not for itself.

He said the gas emanating from Balochistan was not available in most parts of the province and its rates were higher there than Punjab and Sindh.

Awami National Party Secretary General Ehsan Wyne said he spent three months with the late Bugti in Kot Lakhpat Jail, but never heard him talking against Pakistan.

He said there had been eight military operations in Balochistan so far and the last one was still in progress. He said people revolted as they did in East Pakistan whenever they were deprived of their rights.

He said people’s rights would have to be restored for trial of Pervez Musharraf. He said Punjab was abused for the evils of its bureaucracy. Pakistan Democratic Party Secretary General Nawaz Gondal said most problems being faced by the country had been created by dictators, who destroyed all national institutions to prolong their rules.

He said the country needed an institution to prevent loot and plunder. He said Musharraf should be tried for the assassination of the late Bugti.

He said democracy had not been restored in the country despite the general election, adding that the incumbent government was civil, but not democratic.

Former federal law minister SM Masood said the country was facing problems because of various institutions’ attempts to usurp each other’s powers. He said the tug of war destabilised the country, while foreign pressures were also creating problems. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/unrest-in-balochistan-india-being-blamed-to-justify-military-action-689

August 6, 2009   1 Comment