Balochistan deaths spark strikes

11 04 2009

Vehicle damage in Quetta

There are fears violence could spread over the weekend
Political groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan province have called a three-day general strike in protest at the killing of three ethnic leaders.

One policeman died in riots on Thursday and more trouble is feared.
The United Nations expressed “serious concern” over the killings and urged an immediate investigation.
Supporters say the three men went missing after being detained by security forces. An army spokesman blamed “anti-state elements”.
Reports from the provincial capital, Quetta, suggest the strike is being widely observed, with shops and schools closed and little traffic on the streets.
The BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the discovery of the bodies has torn the lid off a simmering conflict. Baloch nationalists have long campaigned for greater autonomy and control of local resources. An armed insurgency is demanding outright independence.
‘Regrettable’
It is feared protests and riots will continue across Balochistan on Friday and over the weekend.
The government has already shut educational institutions in the province, while lawyers are boycotting courts in protest.
A statement by Michele Montas, spokeswoman for the UN secretary general, read: “The United Nations calls on the government of Pakistan to immediately investigate these murders and to ensure that the Balochistan Qaum Dost Committee continues its important work.”

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Clashes broke out on Thursday after the bodies were discovered

The victims were members of the committee that was recently formed by the government of Pakistan to investigate the case of missing persons in the province, notably abducted UN worker John Solecki, who was freed last Saturday.
The three leaders killed were named as Ghullam Muhammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch and Sher Muhammad Bugti.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has condemned the killings, calling them an attempt to sabotage reconciliation efforts.

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A lawyer and former opposition leader in the province, Kachkol Ali, said that the three were picked up by members of a security agency from his chambers in Turbat last Friday.
Their decomposed bodies were found late on Wednesday night near Turbat. Apparently they had been killed more than two days previously.
The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the statement by the army spokesman is highly unusual.
It terms the murders “regrettable” and blames “anti state elements… out to destabilise and undermine the reconciliatory efforts of the government”.
The spokesman said it was “unfortunate and not in the interest of the country to make serious allegations against security agencies without knowing the facts and evidence”.
Our correspondent says the army’s internal intelligence wing, the Military Intelligence, is widely held responsible by many people in Balochistan for “disappearances” of political activists this century.
Many of them have been killed or maimed by torture.
‘Largely forgotten’
On Thursday a policeman was killed by protesters’ gunfire in the town of Khuzdar.
In Quetta, three policemen were injured when a grenade was thrown at a police van.
A number of banks and offices were set on fire.
In August 2006, Balochistan experienced widespread rioting and strikes after the killing of tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Hundreds were arrested.
Writing recently on Balochistan, BBC columnist Ahmed Rashid pointed to the worsening situation in the province, where the wide-ranging political and economic grievances of the alienated Baloch people have remained largely forgotten and unaddressed.

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Indian Secularism versus Pakistani Islam

6 03 2009

No love lost: By Vikram Sood

5 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST

Source: timesofindia

Over the years Pakistan has come to believe that the world is beholden to it because it exists. This notion of indispensability allows those in power in that country to be wild, delinquent and dangerous.

Like the spoilt brat of a rich and doting parent, Pakistan either becomes petulant when it is not granted what it unjustifiably demands or becomes belligerent when it is granted that wish by its benefactor.

Today, Pakistan has a begging bowl economy; terrorism is its main export. Unending unrest in Balochistan and sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan, coupled with a creaking law and order and judicial systems, evoke little confidence in that country.

There are many in India who are ready to give Pakistan another chance forever. They say Pakistanis are like us but the poor souls are stuck with rotten governments and they need our help to get them out of their predicament.

It is incredibly naive of us to build policies for our future and security on fond nostalgia, which is mostly one way. They teach their children mostly how to hate India with warped versions of history, even in their mainstream schools.

It is strange that we still keep telling Pakistanis that we are all alike and have a common culture and so on. The truth is that they do not want to be like us and, quite honestly, we have nothing in common with them. Not anymore.

First of all, our minority population is more Indian than the minorities there are Pakistani. And our majority too is different from the majority across the border. Pakistanis have never understood, therefore never accepted, the concept of accommodating minorities. Not that we do it perfectly but we do a fairly good job.

In Pakistan, you are either a Shia, Bohra or an Ismaili or an Ahmediya. Being a woman, a Baloch, a Pushtun, a Sindhi or a Mohajir or a Hindu hari is a curse.

Only a Sunni Punjabi is a true-blue Pakistani. Arguments with minorities are settled with a bullet. It is difficult for a Pakistani to understand that minorities can also have a say. Our cricket team symbolises our diversity. Pakistan does not have an equivalent of Bollywood and if it did, Hindus would never dominate the industry.

There are other fundamental differences. They deny history and even geography; we seek our roots in our civilisation. Extremists there cry jihad in the name of god.

We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (whose foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir) or San Thome. Fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni’s rendering of Amir Khusro’s `Bahut kathin hai dagar’ or `Ek pita ekas ke hum baarek’ by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or `Jai Madhav Madan Murari’ by Jagjit Singh on any morning.

In Pakistan today, we see images of mullahs leading a march to medievalism. In India, we see the young and exuberant marching into the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the advanced world but are determined to catch up. Across the border, they wallow in a sense of victimhood, and blame everyone else for their plight.

In Pakistan, the extremists believe that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Secularism does not exist in the mullah’s vocabulary, or even in the minds of some self-proclaimed moderates like General Musharraf.

So what do we have in common with Pakistan that we yearn for? The answer is nothing. We are two different countries with two different kinds of people on two different trajectories and we here should be happy with that.

Pakistan will strike deals with al-Qaeda, will encourage Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out attacks on India and will appease the Taliban. It would seem that they have a death wish. It would be prudent for us to take measures now in case Pakistan’s wish is granted.

The writer is a former secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.





So they are terrorists now? By Dr Shabir Choudhry

13 10 2008

Source: pakistan christian post
When a head of state makes a statement it is regarded as an official policy of the country; and now it is official that Kashmiri struggle is ‘terrorism’ and all those associated with it, including leaders of APHC are ‘terrorists’, claims President of Islamic republic of Pakistan, Asif Zardari.

It is different matter that Pakistani establishment has hitherto projected leaders of the APHC as ‘holy cows’, which must not be criticised or opposed; if anything they must be respected and followed. Asif Zardari might have had his reasons and compulsions when giving this very bold interview to very prestigious newspaper Wall Street Journal.

But compulsions and requirements of powerful military and ISI, which is known as state within state, could be different from that of Asif Zardari; and it remains to be seen if they will accept this doctrine or will continue their old policies of supporting, training and promoting ‘jihad’ and militancy. It is not secret anymore that it was their considered policy to ‘keep India bleeding’ and to ‘keep India engaged’ or bogged down in Jammu and Kashmir; and that time it was perceived as in the best interest of Pakistan.

Nations best interests do change with time, but question is since when Pakistan has become a nation? Where and when they have discussed and reached a consensus that so and so policy is in the best national interest? There have always been forces within Pakistan competing against each other and undermining national interest. Policy of ‘adhocism’ always prevailed there with no system of check and balance or any kind of accountability or transparency.

My colleagues and I were fiercely attacked and a malicious campaign against us was launched with help of Pakistani agencies some years ago because we refused to accept the APHC as representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and demanded politics of accountability and transparency. We criticised role of these leaders and not only refused to follow them but also questioned about their sincerity, legitimacy and action plan for the Kashmiri struggle.

This vicious campaign was initiated against us because we challenged those who were puppets of the Pakistani establishment and were protecting and advancing ‘interest’ of Pakistani establishment. We stood our ground and claimed that the policy of communalising Kashmiri polity with violence, hatred and extremism will ultimately hurt people of Jammu and Kashmir; and might destabilise the Pakistani society as well.

When bombs were exploding outside the borders of Pakistan it was promoted as a ‘Jihad’ by Pakistani establishment and media because they were behind all this; and mosques and their imams and other Islamic organisations were urged to preach this ‘jihad’ and recruit people for waging it outside borders of Pakistan. For this ‘noble cause of jihad’ millions of dollars were spent and huge network was established.

We opposed this kind of ‘Jihad’ because it was a ‘proxy war’ of Pakistan presented to people of Jammu and Kashmir and the world at large as a Kashmiri struggle; also because it immensely increased suffering and problems of the people and unleashed forces of communalism, terrorism, extremism and hatred.

Asif Zardari has turned decades of Pakistani policy on its head; and it sent shock waves not only to the Pakistani establishment but also in many quarters around the world. It also shocked some Kashmiris as they still thought Pakistan was sincere with the cause of Kashmir; and in frustration and anger they burnt effigy of Asif Zardari.

Apart from the above U turn, he boldly claimed, “India has never been a threat to Pakistan”. That statement in practise means that it is always Pakistani military, which initiated wars with India and caused death and destruction of thousands of people in wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and not to mention proxy wars. Similar views have been expressed by some Pakistani writers, and Asif Zardari’s statement is supporting that view point, no matter if Pakistan’s strong establishment and military likes it or not.

In line with tradition of Pakistani politics the Pakistani government and members of establishment tried to limit the damage by saying that Zardari Sahib didn’t say that. But the fact is he did say it and no one is taking explanations of Ms Shery Rehman seriously. If he really has not said it then why doesn’t he sue Wall Street Journal? It is clear that he won’t because he has no legs to stand. He knows that the interviews of this kind are recorded and could be produced in the court.

Also Asif Zardari stunned everyone by acknowledging that the USA has permission to attack and kill militants and terrorists inside Pakistan. Of course with every strike more and more civilian are killed and maimed. Previously all government leaders were yelling that they will not allow any country to attack Pakistan or undermine its sovereignty. One wonders where they stand after this revelation. Either there was total lack of coordination, consultation and understanding among different branches of the government and rulers, or they were issuing these statements for public consumption knowing full well that they were wrong and didn’t mean anything.

However crucial question for people of Jammu and Kashmir is can they rely on Pakistan anymore? A government or rulers who feel no shame in killing their own people with F16 fighters, helicopter gun – ships, tanks and bombs even in holy month of Ramadan, will they spare us Kashmiris when and if we demanded and took certain measure that we want Pakistan to leave from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. One has to remember that despite virtual collapse of system because of militancy in 1990, killings, destruction and human rights abuse on the Indian side of the divide the authorities there did not use tanks or jet fighters to eliminate militants.

Moreover a government or rulers who give permission to foreign powers to violate Pakistani sovereignty, cross over to Pakistani territory and use their lethal weapons to kill people and destroy their properties, can we trust these rulers? Killing militants or Terrorists is one thing, but killing of innocent people men, women and children who are generally killed in these attacks cannot be condoned; and it is not proper to cover all these atrocities under the umbrella of ‘collateral damage’.

One can agree that extremists and terrorists are threat to every civilised society, but there must be unity of thought and action on this. You cannot pick and choose in this matter, and say that one kind of terrorism is justified because it furthers ‘our national interest’ or strategic policy; and the other kind of terrorism is wrong as it hurts us and directly challenges ‘our national interest’, writ of government and strategic policy.

If violence and terrorism is wrong in Pakistan then it is also wrong in Jammu and Kashmir, and appropriate measures need to be taken in order to stop and contain terrorism. Government of Pakistan and its agencies must abandon its old policies and stop supporting those who have been actively and deliberately promoting violence in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

Also government of India and Pakistan must not give undue importance to those who took part in violence and have been promoting it for so many years, as that is tantamount to rewarding their past violent or ‘terrorist actions’. Both governments stop human rights abuse in their respective parts of the State and support those forces who believe in non military solution of the Kashmir dispute; those forces who promote liberal and democratic politics and rule of law.

*Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.





An ostrich mentality

30 05 2008

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=115304

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ikram Sehgal

Whenever the economy is in trouble, central banks the world over take measures to ease pressures on the business community by lowering discount rates, as done recently by the US Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England. Intervention is normally anathema to “free market” theory but the fear of a domino effect on the economy evoked a rescue effort. Raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy does fight inflation. In Third World countries with large blue-collar workforces fighting unemployment must be the moral objective. This is at variance with IMF practices and beliefs. While inflation lowers the buying power of salaries, it is still preferable to be employed and have some food on the table for the family than not have any money to buy food.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has woken up from years of slumber, raising the discount rate and banking charges. And that is meant to control inflation? Manufacturers and merchants will simply pass the rate rises onto the consumers, the common man has had it. Did Governor Shamshad Akhtar consult the government-in-power, what will the PPP answer to the populace? She should have anticipated the rise in inflation. The last SBP Quarterly Report was oblivious to it. Lack of anticipation also failed to prevent a run on the Pakistani rupee and enact pre-emptive measures when the world economic situation was staring us in the face for months. The US dollar was already taking a pounding because of oil prices, and food shortages worldwide were front page news. While the sudden SBP frenzy is not by itself responsible for the stock market downturn, it is certainly a contributing factor. Her recent “Asia Banker” award notwithstanding, is Dr Akhtar up to facing national economic crisis on this scale?

There are signs we may weather the “atta” crisis because of (1) early measures regulating the internal flow (2) reducing smuggling to Afghanistan (3) a bumper wheat crop expected shortly and (4) staggered wheat imports for bolstering buffer stocks. Despite protests from the NWFP and Balochistan, we must keep on hanging tough about internal movement of wheat and atta stocks while keeping supply pipelines open. Why are we being generous in giving Hamid Karzai 50,000 tons of wheat when he badmouths us all the time?

The US is impatient with the peace initiatives in FATA and Swat. While one must not negotiate with terrorists, we must differentiate between terrorists and militants. Those crossing the border into Afghanistan are mostly militants but could also be “equal opportunity” terrorists, Baitullah Mahsud’s forays reaching innocents in cities and towns deep inside Pakistan. Since he has publicly boasted about sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan, with what credibility do we oppose “hot pursuit” and Predator strikes on locations in FATA’s terrorist-infested areas? The unfortunate Catch-22, further radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. Both the US and Pakistani interest lie in stopping militant activity on either side of the border, with Mahsud’s terrorists faction isolated from other militants. This fine balancing act is a calculated risk, requiring both understanding and patience from the US. Incidentally our media are accessories to murder, giving media time to terrorists. Pakistan’s must be the only fourth estate in the world that helps spread the terrorist message of hate and suicide bombings. We must act more responsibly, the blood of innocents pays for the media space given to terrorists.

Maulana Fazlullah and his “holy army” in Swat terrorised the local population, imposing brutal authority with great savagery in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. They had to be militarily eliminated; this was done in brilliant fashion by the Army. Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, has been in government custody since returning from Afghanistan (of his own choice for self-survival because he got his “volunteers” slaughtered by the Coalition air strikes and Northern Alliance during the short, sharp Afghanistan war post 9/11). Rashid Dostum buried thousands of surviving Pakistanis, handed over by Mullah Dadullah in Konduz during Ramzan in 2001 for his own freedom and that of his Afghan followers, alive in containers in Shebergan. Estranged from Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah took over the TSNM during his absence. The ANP government in the NWFP acted pragmatically in releasing Sufi Mohammad and entering into a peace deal with him to counter Fazlullah’s residual influence.

Trying to push the 62-clause Constitutional package through Parliament in one go is not advisable, some points will likely get short shrift. Can the PPP muster a two-thirds majority? Even in a joint session of Parliament the numbers don’t add up! The major stumbling block is the proposal to reduce the Chief Justice’s tenure to three years, making him retire before he becomes active, in effect the “minus one” formula. The president will hardly agree to giving away his powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner and the services chiefs.

We should not allow Musharraf-specific emotion and prejudice overwhelm our good judgment, Article 58 (2) (b) and the National Security Council (NSC) should be retained. Without these the Armed Forces would have to declare martial law (thus committing treason technically) when the situation spins totally out of control. Any presidential move should be qualified, if imposing 58 2(b) fails due judicial scrutiny, the president should resign. The appointment of the services chiefs should not be politicised in the manner Mian Nawaz Sharif did when he was prime minister. Even though Musharraf certainly had merit, two course-mates senior to him, Ali Quli and Khalid Nawaz, had no less. The choice of Musharraf was political for Mian Sahib’s own personal benefit, it rebounded in his face. The president should forward three choices to the prime minister for public scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee. If their recommendations are in variance to his, the president should consult with the prime minister and the committee. The same process can be followed for the post of the chief justice, as well as for the CEC.

When denials to outlandish rumours without any foundation are not handled professionally, the perception will be “the lady doth protest too much,” as my good friend and colleague Kamran Shafi has duly noted. The ISI’s political cell undercuts (in public perception) the Army’s firm (and welcome) resolve to stay away from politics. Col Skorzeny, Germany’s “Commando Extraordinary” during World War 2 had it right when he said, “Politics is the soldier’s curse!” Deviation from the ISI’s primary mission is not only a waste of public money, time and effort, it undermines this national asset’s tremendous potential (and successes) in keeping the country secure from external dangers, demeaning the achievement of the vast majority of the agency’s magnificent rank and file who get a bad name simply by association.

With its political wing transferred lock, stock and barrel to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI must be actually (not theoretically) under the prime minister’s control. Rather than honestly facing unpalatable facts, this country excels in burying its head in the ground and circumventing the truth as they did in 1971. For the sake of the country we profess to love, stand up and be counted, instead of continuing to put our heads in the ground and closing our eyes and ears to existing realities.

We do not need an ostrich mentality!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder 9.com





1947 partition pain still in the eyes of the Sikh and Hindu families

20 12 2007

It was an early winter morning in Delhi and I recieved this phone call from Gautam, a friend of mine, asking me to be ‘there’ by 8:30 am. I just freshened up and was waiting at the metro station when I was picked up, we travelled all the way to Model colony and our hosts all in their 70’s if not 80’s were waiting for us trying to keep themselves warm.First it was my turn to talk to the hosts and make them feel at home with the equipment and look at the fact that they do not get too tensed with the camera and other equipment.

While my crew was setting up the camera I was talking to them and most of them seemed they almost were out of the pain and agony they have been through, but one touch and all that is visible on their faces. They need not even speak a word, its all over their faces. I was trying to watch the India partition documentary of the BBC and it felt as if it were a one sided story.

One after the other they spoke or should I say poured their heart out as if waiting to tell the world what they have been through. One has waded through the dead bodies lying among them while the other has killed his own mother, sister and wife as well as his grand ma to”save” their honour from the hands of the “allah oh Akbars”. The saga continues and one of them says they cut the private parts of men, women, while the other says he has even tried burning their homes but see how a hindu / sikh is pathetic at doing things the tin full of petrol couldnot catch fire and God we returned empty handed. The stories are endless. The pain unmeasureable. Is this all Non-violent freedom struggle, is this all the secularism asks one while the others narrate the aftermath of the partition journey into the hearts of INDIANS.

We were treated as chor badmash we had to prove ourselves hard working Indians and Hindus before renting a house.It was a nightmare but we can never forget those days says another elderly sardar. The stories of barbarism from North west frontier province to the sindh to the Rawalpindi to as near as Lahore were tearful and heartbreaking if not nightmares. Will India ever remember the stories or as ever we move ahead and do not learn from the past ?

But here is a story…..