Category — NWFP
The writer is an economist working in Islamabad.
In his article of May 18, Mr Kashif Jahangiri repeats his claim that the current movement for Hazara province is a reaction to the “contempt” shown by Pakhtuns to Hazarewals. As I mentioned in my earlier article, this labelling is not unique to Pakhtuns and Hazarewals, and it’s also not one-sided.
While Mr Jahangiri bemoans the label of “Punjabi” and the contempt contained in it, I would remind him of labels like “Khocha,” “Akhrot” and “Phairay Pathan” that are tagged on Pakhtuns by Hindko speakers. Of course, I speak of my own experience, and I certainly have not met every Hindkowan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to ascertain whether they think of Pakhtuns as mentally deficient lower-life forms. I also cannot conclude on the basis of my personal experience whether these comments end at banter or are signs of deep-seated hate in the hearts of Hindkowans. Any conclusion that I draw based on my own experience and anecdotes from my friends and family would be marred by subjectivity. Although the conclusion and evidence would make sense to me, it would definitely not be good enough to be used in a debate such as this.
It is for this reason that I consider a democratically elected provincial assembly as the ideal barometer to judge whether this ethnic labelling is merely jest or entrenched ethnic hostility. And whether the supposed “contempt” and “hatred” of the Pashto-speaking electoral base is confirmed by the attitude of their elected leaders. But, as mentioned in my last article, Pakhtun-majority assemblies in the province have had no qualms about electing Hindko-speaking chief ministers. Not only that, the former NWFP has had more chief ministers from Hindko-speaking Hazara Division than from any other division of the province. Even Pakhtun nationalists have accepted Hindko speakers as their leaders.
The champions of the Pakhtunkhwa cause on televised debates, ANP stalwarts Haji Adeel and Bashir Bilour, are both Hindko speakers from Peshawar. This evidence only highlights the harmony and bonding between these two communities. The sour experiences of a few individuals cannot be used as proof of the case being otherwise, especially when the evidence in support of the harmony is undeniable and massive.
Ethnic discrimination and contempt that is of any consequence is more than just verbal. Reaction to labelling and name-calling subsides as one ages, and is an essential part of one’s growing up. Only when this labelling is accompanied by a history of bloodshed and economic exploitation does it have the potential to mobilise whole communities, ethnic groups or races into action. For instance, the term “Nigger” does not just refer to the skin colour of a race, but has a history of bondage, slavery and exploitation that makes it a slur for those against whom it is used. Its counterpart “Red Neck,” also a racist slur, does not carry the same venom as the “N-Word” because of the different experience of those it is applied to.
The Bengalis, despite being an outright majority in united Pakistan, were treated in a despicable manner in Pakistan. President Ayub Khan’s reference to them as “rats” (for which he later apologissed) was based on the “martial race” concept. Our Bengali brothers were denied of many of their constitutional and economic rights. For instance, their representation in the army was negligible, a mere five per cent of all the commissioned officers in the Pakistani army in 1965, according to the Library of Congress Country Study.
The majority in East Pakistan received a much smaller share even in development spending. If one is to divide the development expenditure of East Pakistan over that of West Pakistan, then, from 1950 to 1970, the Eastern Wing received just 40 per cent of the amount that was spent on West Pakistan. In other words, for every Rs100 spent in the minority West Pakistan, Rs40 were spent in the majority East Pakistan (source: the Planning Commission of Pakistan).
I completely agree with Mr Jahangiri when he says that the treatment of Bengalis by West Pakistanis was too distasteful to be compared with the communities featuring in our discussion. It is also for this lack of bloodshed and a lack of economic exploitation between Hindkowans and Pakhtuns that the case presented by Mr Jahangiri does not hold against rational scrutiny.
I also agree with Mr Jahangiri when he says that the dismissive approach adopted by West Pakistan in dealing with the genuine demands regarding the Bengali language was one of the key reasons for the creation of Bangladesh. Sadly, this dismissive approach was not limited to Bengali and was adopted in the renaming of NWFP as well.
The officialdom of East Pakistan was also resisted by the Bihari minority at that time. But, as Mr Jahangiri would agree, the dismissal of that legitimate demand was a wrong incurred by the Bengalis, a wrong that cannot be justified by the citing of the Biharis’ opposition. Similarly, the minority opposition to the name Pakhtunkhwa should not have been used to incur a similar wrong on the Pakhtuns.
One has to acknowledge the fact that the name Pakhtunkhwa has been approved by the assemblies of the province in question, both with and without ANP majority, and thus is much more than a mere “unreasonable” demand by Pakhtun nationalists. Furthermore, the name Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a result of a series of compromises on the part of those who had been demanding “Pakhtunkhwa.”
One of the earliest criticisms of the abbreviation “NWFP” was done by the founding fathers of Pakistan. The historic 1933 pamphlet Now or Never, which called for the creation of Pakistan, refers to “Afghania Province.” Chaudhry Rehmat Ali decried the name NWFP by saying “It is wrongful, because it suppresses the social entity of these people.”
The rejection of “Afghania” (the first “a” in “Pakistan”) was followed by the rejection of “Pakhtunistan,” and then “Pakhtunkhwa,” both names acceptable to and demanded by a majority of the province, but denied due to minority opposition. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was actually a suggestion from those who opposed the hyphenated name and its acceptance and showed magnanimity on the part of the Pakhtuns. But their criticism, rather than appreciation for their agreeing to it, is mind-boggling, to say the least.
The demand for smaller provinces is a justified demand, for which our Constitution does have provisions. These four provinces were created to administer the population back in 1947. Given the massive rise in our numbers since then, the creation of smaller provinces makes sense even on an administrative level.
But, unlike Mr Jahangiri, I would not dub the Sooba Hazara movement as a reaction to the label “Punjabiyaan.” I would not define this outpouring on the streets and calls for complete shutter-downs as a reaction to mere name-calling. Furthermore, there are Awans, Gujjars, Abbasis and Jatts in Hazara who do not have a Pakhtun lineage and for whom the “denial of true identity” argument used by Mr Jahangiri, does not hold. Given that, I am confused as to what Mr Jahangiri means when he says “…it is the rejection of the identity of Hazarewals that is being exploited to flare up emotions.” How is the slur “Punjabiyaan” a rejection of the identity of Awans, Gujars, Jatts, and other non-Pakhtun Hazarewals?
There is a fair chance that for the campaigners of the Sooba Hazara movement, getting a province means a true realisation of their identity, which is neither Pakhtun nor Punjabi, but Hazaraewal. Maybe they feel that with their own separate province they would be able to get a higher level of development and prosperity. More power to them if that is the case.
A non-violent and peaceful democratic struggle is the only way for the achievement of their goals. Their efforts would be a fine addition to the history of democratic struggles in Pakistan, and would make this country a stronger federation, as well as a more mature democracy. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=240210
May 20, 2010 No Comments
ABBOTTABAD/MANSEHRA: Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Wednesday staged protest rallies in support of a separate province for Hazara.
The rally in Abbottabad was led by JI Central Secretary General Liaqat Baloch, leaders of the Hazara Tehrik action committee including Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, Abdur Razak Abbasi and Dr Azhar Jadoon.
The JI secretary general said it would lead to a revolution in the country if the Hazara province was not created forthwith. He added the JI would support the Hazara Tehrik long march towards Islamabad and receive the participants at Jhari Kas.
Liaqat Baloch flayed the Awami National Party (ANP) for promoting regional and ethnic politics. He asked the government to remove drawbacks in the 18th Amendment and establish Hazara province through another amendment.
Earlier, speaking at a rally in Mansehra, the JI leader said the ANP never accepted existence of Pakistan and it was striving for greater Pakhtunistan after deceiving the PPP leaders. Younas Khattak, Dr Tariq Sherazi, Syed Junaid Qasim, Hadayatullah Shah, Maulana Qudratullah Qadri, Rafique Rehman Qamar and others also spoke on occasion.
Liaqat Baloch said his party was in favour of more provinces in the country and would launch a movement for it.“It is the need of the hour that rulers listen to the voice of people and create a separate province of Hazara as more provinces can strengthen the federation,” he said.
The JI leader said that the rulers should refuse to take dictates from the US, but lamented that they were following the policy of divide and rule. Earlier JI staged a rally, which started from Markaz-e-Islami and culminated at Markazi Chowk.
May 20, 2010 No Comments
The author is a former Pak envoy
Vangaurd Books have done a great service by republishing the book Tribal Fighting in NWFP by General Sir Andrew Skeen. This was first published in 1932 and surprisingly is still extremely relevant, particularly as the US and Pakistan army are testing their mettle against the tribes. General Skeen served in the British Indian Army rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff. He saw active service on the Frontier from Mastuj to Kalat and has written a remarkable book on his experiences and his recommendations for updating the 1925 Manual of Operations in the North West Frontier of India.
The book has also been reissued to the Pakistan army and would provide valuable guidance on how to reduce casualties, while operating in FATA. This seems to be absolutely necessary since under the previous command the army exhibited a remarkable degree of ineptitude, lack of professionalism and callousness towards loss of life, which one had come to expect from the author of the Kargil debacle. The result was that in a few years of fighting the army lost more troops than it had in the wars with India. Moreover, the incident of the capture of a convoy of 300 personnel by 30 tribesmen showed the deterioration in the professionalism of our forces. Luckily no such incidents have been reported from the recent operations in Swat and Waziristan, and the army seems to be recovering its balance. Hopefully, this book will play an important role in educating the platoon and company commanders, as it seems that the army would have to undertake operations in almost all the agencies of FATA as the situation is getting out of control of the Frontier Corps.
The last time this had happened was in 1937 when 61,000 men were involved and before that in 1919-20 when 83,000 men were engaged.
The British always respected the fighting qualities of the tribes and invariably placed the Mehsuds as the best, followed by the Wazirs. They were compared to the wolf pack and the panthers. The Afridis normally came third. General Skeen has however placed the Mamunds as second, but has called the tribes “the finest individual fighters in the east, really formidable enemies, to despise whom means sure trouble.” While praising the tribesmen’s mobility and cunning, he adds that the army can only redress the place by discipline and fire power. Modern arms had slowly been arriving in the tribal areas through the Gulf and Afghanistan, but the British always had the edge with machine guns, heavy artillery, armoured vehicles and aircraft to which the tribesmen did not have any answer. Unfortunately, due to the Afghan Jihad the tribes now have access to Kalashnikovs as the basic weapon and also the 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm machine guns. The RPG-7 has also reduced the effectiveness of armour, particularly in the hills and at ranges of less than 500 metres. Our army therefore has a much more difficult task in restoring the balance.
Two-thirds of the book covers employment of piquets. This means that the campaign takes the form of a series of marches, each followed by halts, during which supplies are filled up, sick evacuated and permanent piquets established behind and in front of the halting place to secure their communications. The vanguard moves in accord with the progress of the flanked piquets. Details are given on the setting up of the piquets, their defence and withdrawal tactics. While the US has managed to completely dispense with this practice due to its total dominance of the air and its capability to provide 24 hour coverage of the battlefield through the drones, the Pakistan army is constrained by its lack of similar resources. At one time during the campaign in Waziristan the army was down to only two functional Cobra attack helicopters. We do not therefore have the luxury of dispensing with the piquets which are quite a time-consuming manoeuvre and also require considerable manpower. However, failure to undertake what is one of the steps in frontier warfare leads to debacles like the one with the convoy.
General Skeen also recognises the grey areas in frontier fighting and the importance of the political officer, “who is always with the column in the capacity of staff officer for political affairs. He will have a lot of work with those of the enemy who want to be friends and these must have free access to him. The spy or jasoos is a quaint institution, whose conception of his duty is to take as much news to his friends the enemy as he does to his enemies the troops. In fact a most bitter compliant was lodged by hostile sections that they had been denied the privilege and the emoluments of having some of their own men employed as spies.” The basic aim of the campaign is to restore civilian control as soon as possible and it is most unfortunate that our civil bureaucracy has become so dysfunctional that it has still been unable to take control of the Swat Valley, despite the pacification by the army. The result has been that the army has had to be involved in development work as well, which is quite an inefficient way of restoring peaceful conditions.
The importance of the frontier militias (FC) is also highlighted. “Their training and equipment fits them for rapid movement over the roughest ground, and they are of great value for long raids into tribal territory by night or day, for ambushes, and for patrolling the bigger hills outside the piquets of a column. Khassadars should be regarded with respect and suspicion. If their own tribe is not in the fighting and they have not been intimidated by another they can be of great use in bringing in information.”
General Skeen was quite sceptical about air power and noted that “any tribe that has the will to resist will never be coerced by air action alone.” The British were very careful about collateral damage through air bombing and had instituted a system of dropping leaflets before bombing any built up areas. We need to be as sensitive as the British since the objective is not to destroy the tribe, but to put them in a more conducive frame of mind to negotiate with the political authorities. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/18-May-2010/Tribal-fighting-in-NWFP
May 18, 2010 No Comments
The writer is an accountant living in Dublin
This refers the article by Mr Imran Khan published in The News (May 14) in response to my article previously published on these pages. It occurs to me that Mr Khan has totally misunderstood the issue by picking up the thread from the wrong end. The issue is not confined to ethnic labelling only. The primary issue is that of stripping the people of Hazara of their identity by calling them “Punjabiyan”. While I strongly believe that Punjabis are equally respectable as anyone else on this planet, I know for a fact that the reference “Punjabiyan” is made in the Pashto-speaking areas quite often in a contemptuous way. This attitude of people in the Pashto-speaking areas is particularly painful for those from Hazara who are of Pukhtun origin. For them, it is difficult to accept when the people of their own race try to outcast them for the wounds caused by your own people always leave dirty scars. It was particularly this issue that I had highlighted in my article which I feel is one of the main causes behind the reaction of the people of Hazara. I had mentioned that the common perception amongst the Hazarewals is that they are being singled out by the Pukhtun nationalists due to the key role they had played in the historic referendum of 1947. The objective of my article was also to highlight the fact that the renaming of the province was not the main issue. If the people of Hazara had accepted the renaming of Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra, why would they object to the new name of the province just for the sake of it, particularly those who are themselves Pukhtuns? Mr Khan has referred to some famous racial divides – the Irish and the English, the Pukhtuns and the Muhajirs, and, the Bengalis and the West Pakistanis. None of these serves as the right parallel to the problem of Hazara. In all these cases, there were two different races involved. Even otherwise, I am not sure if we should follow these examples as a lot of blood was lost in these divides. The reference to various chief ministers of the province hailing from Hazara is also not relevant. Just to close out on this, Hazara has been a strong base for the Muslim League and has been the reason for their government in the province. The Muslim League has chosen chief ministers from Hazara to keep its ground intact. However, I don’t think it has any relevance to the present issue. Mr Khan has also provided statistics to substantiate the claim that the region of Hazara has been adequately looked after in developmental terms. Without going into the details of those statistics, I am not sure if development alone can do the trick. The argument regarding the development of the Hazara region itself requires us to find out and address the real cause behind the demand for a separate province that now carries the cost of a few lives. If development were sufficient to keep the people together, then East Pakistan would not have become Bangladesh. I present to you some developmental statistics for East Pakistan that are from the book The Agony of Pakistan (page 115) written by Sir Zafarulla Khan, our first foreign minister who later became the president of the UN General Assembly and then the president of the International Court of Justice. * East Pakistan’s revenue receipts increased from Rs169m in 1947-48 to Rs1,789m in 1969-70. During the same period, the revenue receipts of Dacca Municipality increased from Rs1.6m to Rs16.3m and that of Chittagong Municipality from Rs0.75m to Rs15m. * In 1947, there were no jute mills in East Pakistan. By 1970, it had 55 jute mills processing 3 million bales of jute. * Between 1947 and 1970, the number of post offices in East Pakistan doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 and telephone connections increased from 3,000 to over 50,000. * Between 1947 and 1970, the length of high-type roads in East Pakistan increased from 240 miles to 2,400 miles and low-type roads from nil to 1,400 miles. * The handling capacity of Chittagong port was increased from 0.5m tons in 1947 to 4.7m tons in 1969. An additional port established in Chalna had a handling capacity of over 2m tons. * In 1947, there were only two small airports (Dacca and Chittagong). By 1970, there were a number of small airports and airstrips while the Dacca Airport was upgraded to handle jet planes. * Of the total developmental loans of Rs15,266m made available by the government of Pakistan between 1947 and 1970, more than 55 per cent went to East Pakistan. * Between 1960 and 1969, of the total revenues of Rs8,0451m contributed by East Pakistan, an amount of Rs3,884m (48 per cent) was refunded to it as provincial allocation. During the same period, of the total revenue of Rs22,371m contributed by West Pakistan, an amount of Rs4,000m (18 per cent) was refunded to it as provincial allocation. * The only steel mill was established at Chittagong and the only newsprint plant was set up at Khulna. The above-mentioned facts clearly failed to impress our Bengali brothers who parted ways with us. Their problems did not arise in1971. The seed of Bengali nationalism was planted in the early years of Pakistan when processions were taken out in East Pakistan against the adoption of Urdu as the national language. Our dismissive approach complicated the issue and provided opportunities to our enemies who exploited the emotions of our brothers. We should not repeat the same mistakes. As a result of strain between any two sections of a society, howsoever distinct, the people of each section start receding to their respective nuclei. In the next phase, they try to detach themselves from the part they consider as the source of pain. The region of Hazara is now moving towards phase two. This is a sensitive matter and needs careful attention, particularly considering our history and the present state of affairs. The objective of my article was to raise an issue and to jolt minds, hoping that better sense would start prevailing. We should accept our problems and try to address them, rather than going for a cover up approach. Some of the comments made by the participants in a TV show recently and some videos that can be found on Youtube of the speeches made in the processions that were brought out by people in favour of Hazara province clarify the point further that it is the rejection of the identity of Hazarewals that is being exploited to flare up emotions. I had mentioned in my post to The News published on May 13, 2010 that I support the view that all Divisions should be made provinces. However, it should be done for the purpose of administrative ease only. Dividing a province on the basis of ethnic differences may lead to further subdivisions and no one knows where it will stop. We need to consider the future implications of any such move. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=239856
May 17, 2010 No Comments
The writer is an economist working in Islamabad
This is in response to Mr Kashif Jahangiri’s article ‘The real Hazara problem’ which appeared in The News on May 6, 2010. The incidents of discrimination that Mr Jahangiri has mentioned in his article must be condemned; discrimination – be it ethnic or religious – is wrong. But to generalise the entire Pukhtun community on the basis of wrong behaviour shown by a few individuals is also wrong, just like it is unfair to brand all the Muslims as terrorists based on the actions of a few.
According to the hypothesis proposed by Mr Jahangiri, the current movement for the province of Hazara is a reaction to the “contempt” doled out to Hazarewals by Pukhtuns. I disagree with Mr Jahangiri and my disagreement is based on two reasons. First, this ethnic labelling is not unique to Pukhtuns and Hazarewals, and also, it is not one-sided. Second, the intensity of this “contempt” is not as high as suggested by Mr Jahangiri.
Linguistic differences provide the basis for ethnic identities, and using these differences to make ethnic jokes is a common practice around the world. In Pakistan, ethnic labelling exists between all linguistically different communities that are living side by side. Even in the more politically correct society of the United States, jokes based on Spanish-American accent, for instance, are part of the popular culture. This does not stop at different ethnicities; in many cases different dialects of a language become the basis for similar pun. For instance, within the Pathans, the linguistic differences between the Pukhtuns, Pashtuns and Pashteens often become a source of humour and labelling, and in many individual cases the difference has boiled into discrimination as well, similar to what Mr Jahangiri has described.
While the jokes and banter part is acceptable in most cases, and cherished as diversity, problems arise when this difference becomes the source of outright discrimination at a community level. Living in Dublin, Mr Jahangiri must be aware of the history of the differences between the Irish and the English, and how much blood had been spilled because of that. The Rwandan genocide that resulted in the death of almost a million people was also a result of distrust between two communities. In our own history, the discrimination against the Bengalis became the main reason for the creation of Bangladesh. Similarly, Karachi’s Pathan-Muhajir riots of the 60s, that planted the seeds of ethnic disharmony in Karachi, are a sad example.
So, how have these two communities – the Pukhtun majority and the Hindkowan minority – fared in the former NWFP? If the case presented by Mr Jahangiri is correct, then a discriminatory Pakhtun majority must have been a hurdle towards the political aspirations of the Hindko-speaking minority. The Hazarewal politicians must have found it really hard to argue their case in the Pukhtun-dominated provincial assembly. But when one looks at history, nothing of that sort has happened. In fact, since independence, the Hazara division has had the honour of claiming the highest number of chief ministers than any other division in the former NWFP. These include Sardar Bahadur Khan (1955), Muhammad Iqbal Khan Jadoon (1977), Pir Sabir Shah (1994), and Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi (1999). Incidentally, all four of them belonged to the Hindko-speaking minority. If, as suggested by Mr Jahangiri, the Pukhtuns had strong contempt towards Hindko speakers, then this achievement would not have been possible through democratic means.
A discriminatory Pukhtun majority should also have leveraged its numerical strength to hog most of the provincial resources, leaving little for the Hazarewals in terms of development spending. But the reality, when measured in terms of various indicators of economic development, is that the Hindko-speaking districts of Hazara have a much higher level of development than the provincial average. The Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) for 2006-07, conducted by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, reveals that in the former NWFP, 26 per cent of the households reported to have ‘RBC/RCC (concrete) roof’, with the Pushto-speaking area of Battagram at 15.9 per cent. In contrast, the Hindko-speaking districts of Abbottabad and Haripur reported 45 per cent and 51 per cent concrete roofs respectively, i.e. twice the provincial average. These statistics are comparable to Sialkot at 47.64 per cent and are much higher than those for districts in southern Punjab, for instance, Multan at 19.22 per cent, Bahawalpur at 11 per cent and Rajanpur at 2 per cent.
Similarly, Haripur and Abbotabad boast 67.76 per cent and 61.44 per cent access to tap water respectively, which is much higher than the provincial average at 44.19 per cent. This comparatively higher level of development, which, no doubt, reflects a better quality of life, is confirmed through a variety of other indicators pertaining to health, literacy and sanitation. Had there been well-entrenched hatred and discrimination against the Hazarewals, they would not have been able to achieve this level of development as a minority.
Mr Jahangiri also mentions the use of the word “Khariyaan” i.e. hindko speakers of Peshawar city, as a derogatory term used by the Pathans. Well, if that was true then how is it possible for Khariyaan such as the Bilours, Haji Adeel and Syed Aqil Shah to become the top leaders of a nationalist Pukhtun party? As I understand politics, leaders are defined by their popularity and acceptance; followers would not follow someone whom they consider ‘inferior’. For instance; did Malcolm X even stand a chance for membership in the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)? If one is to extend this KKK analogy to this situation, then these black Khariyaan have risen to level of Grand Dragons in this Pashtun Ku Klux Klan. Paradoxical indeed, if one is to accept Mr Jahangiri’s assertion.
But instead of acknowledging the prominence of these Khariyaan in Pukhtun nationalism, Mr Jahangiri disapproves of the Bilours, terming them non-Pukhtuns pretending to be Pukhtuns. I must say that this argument uses a logic that is very antiquated and defies modern sensibilities. If a Pukhtun lineage does not stop a Tareen, Tanoli, Jadoon, or Swati to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Awans, Gujars, Jatts, and Abbasis of Hazara in the name of the Hindko language and Hazarewal identity, then by the very same principle, the Khariyaans of Peshawar have every right to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pushto-speaking Pukhtuns in the name of Pukhtun identity. The notion of lineage-based identity and the consequent generalisation of races based on their bloodline is an old and obsolete concept. The rejection of the name Pukhtunkhwa, by the descendents of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s soldiers that is the Jadoons, Tareens and Tanolis is living proof that when it comes to ethnic loyalties, successful cultural assimilation can leave bloodlines and lineages to be pretty much meaningless.
I would conclude by saying that the higher development levels of the Hindko-speaking districts of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, the frequent election of minority Hindkowans to the chief ministership of a Pukhtun-majority parliament, and the key leadership positions of Hindkowans in the ANP, provide ample proof of the cultural harmony that exists between Hindko speakers and Pukhtuns in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa. This harmony is an achievement, the equivalent of which is very hard to find in Pakistan. It also is an achievement that cannot be discredited through mere anecdotal evidence. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=239198
May 14, 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
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
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
PESHAWAR, Oct 10: The NWFP government has called for an early “Swat-like” military operation in South Waziristan and southern Punjab, where it believes “terrorists are trained and sent to other parts of the country”.
The provincial information minister said at a press conference on Saturday that the bomb blast in Peshawar the previous day was aimed at forcing the government to call off the South Waziristan operation.
“How can we stop terrorist activities in settled areas when the supply chain is intact,” Mr Iftikhar Hussain wondered.
“Elimination of terrorists requires dismantling their organised networks in Waziristan and southern Punjab.”
He said that after the Peshawar bomb blast and the terror attack on the GHQ on Saturday the time had come for a decisive action against militants.
Asked if the Peshawar bomb blast was a riposte to the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, the minister said “this factor cannot be ruled out”. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/nwfp-for-army-action-in-southern-punjab-109
October 12, 2009 No Comments