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.

Map

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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Blasts target Pakistan forces

6 04 2009
Blasts target Pakistan forces

Volunteers helped take those injured in a suicide
attack in Islamabad to safety [AFP]

At least 15 people have been killed in two separate suicide attacks targeting security forces in Pakistan.

A suicide attack in Islamabad on Saturday killed at least eight people, while an earlier car bomb exploded in North Waziristan, killing seven people, including two children, officials said.

The Islamabad attack targeted a police checkpoint in the capital, the second such attack in the capital in less than two weeks.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad, said paramilitary forces opened fire after the attack, which occurred in an upmarket residential area close to some of the capital’s most prestigious addresses.

The AFP news agency reported Aziz-ur-Rehman, a witness, as saying: “After the blast, there was intermittent firing but since it was dark I was unable to know who was firing.”

‘Wave of terrorism’

The bomber was believed to have targeted members of the Frontier Constabulary, part of Pakistan’s paramilitary force, used to protect diplomatic missions and the homes of prominent figures.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, told reporters that Pakistan’s security forces were being targeted by a “new wave of terrorism”.

Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, condemned the attack.

The second attack occurred in Miranshah, the main town in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous North Waziristan tribal area.

“At least seven civilians, including two children, embraced martyrdom in a suicide attack. Thirty-nine others were injured, including six security forces,” the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

Saturday’s bombings were the latest in a wave of attacks that have killed more than 1,700 people across the country since government forces battled with fighters holed up in Islamabad’s Red mosque in July 2007.





Chronology of blasts in Pakistan

26 03 2009
Pak police officers carry an injured person after a bomb explosion at an hotel in Islamabad. Photo Courtesy: AP.

Pak police officers carry an injured person after a bomb explosion at an hotel in Islamabad. Photo Courtesy: AP.

Chronology of blasts in Pakistan in 2008

Sat-Sep 20, 2008

Islamabad / Press Trust of India

Major attacks that rocked Pakistan since January 2008:

January 10: Twenty people killed in suicide bomb attack outside Lahore High Court.

January 14: Bomb kills 10 people at a market in Karachi.

February 9:
Suicide bomber kills 25 people at an opposition election rally in the northwestern town of Charsadda.

February 11: Nine killed in suicide bombing at an election meeting of an independent candidate in North Waziristan.

February 16:
Suicide car bomber strikes a rally of Pakistan People’s Party in the northwestern town of Parachinar, killing 37.

February 22: Roadside bomb hits wedding party in Swat, killing at least 14.

February 25: Suicide bomber kills army surgeon Lieutenant General Mushtaq Baig and seven others in Rawalpindi.

February 29: Forty-four killed in a suicide blast in Mingora in northwest Swat valley during the funeral of three policemen killed by a roadside bomb earlier in the day.

March 2: Suicide bomber kills 43 at tribal elders convention in the northwestern district of Darra Adam Khel.

March 4:
Two suicide bombers attack Pakistan Naval War College in Lahore, killing five people.

March 10: Suicide truck bombings target Federal Investigation Agency building in Lahore; 26 killed.

March 15:
Bomb blast at a restaurant in Islamabad kills a woman and wounds 10 others, including four FBI men.

July 2: Suicide car bomb outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad kills eight.

July 6:
Fifteen killed in suicide attack on policemen during a rally to mark the anniversary of Lal Masjid raid.

August 12: Roadside bomb attack targets Pakistan Air Force bus in Peshawar, killing 13.

August 19: Twenty-three killed in suicide attack on a hospital in northwestern Dera Ismail Khan town.

August 21: At least 78 killed in twin suicide attacks outside Pakistan’s main ordnance factory in Wah.

August 28: Nine persons, mostly policemen, killed in roadside bombing in North West Frontier Province.

September 6:
Thirty people were killed and 70 injured in suicide bombing near a police check post in Peshawar.

CHRONOLOGY-At least 350 dead in three months of Pakistan blasts

Thu Oct 18, 2007
Oct 19 – A suspected suicide bomber killed at least 123 people on Friday in an attack on former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she was driven through Karachi to greet supporters on her return from eight years in exile.

Here is a chronology showing the worst suicide bombings and attacks in recent months:

— JULY: More than 140 people are killed in about 13 suicide attacks after the siege and storming by security forces of Islamabad’s of Red Mosque. The worse attacks include:

* July 14: Suicide car-bomber kills 24 paramilitary soldiers and wounds 29 in North Waziristan; two security officials are wounded in another blast in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

* July 15: Sixteen people, most of them paramilitary soldiers, are killed in suicide-bomb ambush on patrol in Swat valley in NWFP. Separately, suicide bomber targets police recruiting centre in Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP, killing 29.

* July 17: Suicide bomber kills 16 people outside court in Islamabad where country’s suspended chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, was due to speak. Separately, suicide bomber kills four, including three soldiers, in North Waziristan.

* July 19: Three suicide attacks kill at least 52 people. At least 30 are killed in southern town of Hub. In northwest city of Hangu a car bomber kills seven people. And at least 15 worshippers are killed at a mosque at army training centre in northwest Kohat.

* July 27: Suicide bomb attack in restaurant near Islamabad’s Red Mosque kills 13 people, most of them policemen.

— AUGUST: At least 13 killed in three suicide attacks:

* Aug. 20: Three paramilitary soldiers are killed and eight wounded when bomber rams checkpost in northwestern town of Thal.

* Aug. 24: Suicide bomber kills five soldiers and wounds 30 in attack on convoy in Waziristan. Hours later another suicide bomber kills another soldier in region.

* Aug. 26: Four policemen are killed and two wounded in suicide bomb attack in Swat valley.

— SEPTEMBER: At least 61 people killed in four suicide attacks.

* Sept. 1: Suicide bomber kills three paramilitary soldiers and two civilians in northwest Bajaur.

* Sept 4: Two suicide bombers kill 25 and wound 70 in Rawalpindi.

* Sept. 11: Suicide bomber kills 16 people in northwest Dera Ismail Khan.

* Sept 13: At least 15 soldiers killed in suicide bombing in an army canteen near Islamabad.

— OCTOBER:

* Oct 3: Landmine blast kills 14 bus passengers in North Waziristan.

* 19: At least 123 people killed by a suspected suicide bomb attack on former Benazir Bhutto as she is driven through Karachi after eight years in exile. The attack is one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s history.

Source: Reuters





Pakistan: Deadly suicide bomb strikes northeastern garrison town

17 03 2009

Source: AKI / DAWN

Rawalpindi, 17 March (AKI/DAWN) – A suicide bomber hit a crowded bus-stop in the northeastern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi late on Monday, killing at least 11 people and injuring more than 25 others. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
A woman and a child were among those killed and political workers, pedestrians and passengers were injured. Three of the injured were in critical condition. Body parts were reportedly strewn across the scene, making identification of the victims difficult.
According to witnesses, a man exploded himself after getting out of a vehicle parked near a crowed wagon and several other vehicles at around 9:15 pm local time.
The blast damaged at least eight vehicles, several shops, a restaurant and nearby buildings.
Malik Iftikhar, who was injured in the blast, told Pakistani daily Dawn that he was sitting in a restaurant when the explosion took place. Chaos and panic ensued, he said. He fell on the ground and the restaurant was filled with smoke. The area was littered with human flesh and glass shards.
Rawalpindi regional police officer Nasir Khan Durrani said the blast had not left any crater. “It was an act of terrorism, apparently a suicide attack. The motive was to spread panic,” he said.
Durrani said the entire country faced a terrorist threat. According to bomb disposal experts, seven to 10 kilogrammes of explosives had been used in the attack.
The bombing was the first terrorist attack targeting the general public in Rawalpindi since 2002.
The attack came after a day of high political drama, in which Pakistan, in which, under alleged pressure from the United States, president Asif Ali Zardari reinstated sacked former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and promised to allow Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif to return to elected office.
Security sources said the bomber might have originally planned to sabotage protests by lawyers aimed at restoring Chaudhry and other top judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf. After failing to do so, the bomber may have decided to target a crowded area instead, the sources said.




Politicians let us down again: Pakistan media

10 03 2009

Source: NDTV
Tuesday, March 10, 2009, (Islamabad)

Is a military coup round the corner in Pakistan? As speculation of another military takeover grows, the media in Pakistan has warned the country’s politicians to slam on the brakes now and resolve their differences and put an end to the crisis.Arising out of the confrontation between the two mainstream parties, President Zardari’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, the warning comes amid media reports that the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has warned President Zardari to clean up the mess and that too by a deadline, March 16.

On that day, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif are planning a long march calling for the reinstatement of those judges who had been sacked by Musharraf, something Zardari has been reluctant to do.Pakistan’s The Daily Times said in its editorial, “Now that the two mainstream parties have virtually declared the doors of reconciliation shut, commentators are already talking of the possibility of the army stepping in “to bring the country back to normal”. We sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. The army is incapable of providing any political solutions as we have learnt from our bitter experience time and again. But if this does come to pass, this time too the politicians would be to blame”

Meanwhile, the Dawn’s editorial said, “Hurtling as this country is towards the brink of political chaos, there is still time for the politicians to slam on the brakes and reverse course. If not stopped immediately, the chain of events triggered by the ouster of the Sharif brothers from electoral politics and the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab will surely end in tears for everyone involved.”And The News said, “All this is despicable. There are no other words to describe what we are seeing. Politicians have once more let down people in a terrible fashion. The tall talk of national unity in the face of crisis has proven to be nothing more than a lie. Are we really to believe our leaders are oblivious of the fact that their country faces extreme peril?”





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.





Lahore ‘Cricket’ attack may mark a shift in Pakistan

4 03 2009

Source: Asia Times

By Syed Saleem Shahzad, March 04, 2009.

KARACHI – Pakistan might recently have signed peace deals with militants in its tribal areas, including with vehement anti-establishment Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but militants on Tuesday staged a brazen attack in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and the second-largest city in the country.

The attack by 12 heavily armed gunmen on a convoy escorted by police transporting Sri Lankan cricketers to a match against Pakistan has set off alarm bells in the capital Islamabad that militants are now taking their battle into major urban centres.

At least five people died and six of the cricketers were injured in a 25-minute battle in which militants wearing backpacks and carrying AK-47s, rockets and grenades fought police. The assailants then all fled. The Sri Lankan cricketers have called off their tour and are heading home immediately.

The attack bore some similarity to that of 10 well-armed gunmen, also with backpacks, who rampaged through Mumbai in India last November, killing 140 people. They were later found to have connections to the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“This was a planned terrorist attack. They had heavy weapons,” Salman Taseer, who heads the provincial government as governor of Punjab, was reported as saying. “These were the same methods and the same sort of people as hit Mumbai.”

Numerous Pakistani analysts have been quick to point a finger at India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for staging what they say is a tit-for-tat attack on Tuesday, although there is been no official announcement in this connection.

A press attache at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Islamabad thought it highly unlikely that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who a waging a bloody separatist war in Sri Lanka, had anything to do with Tuesday’s events.

Rather, judging by what was shown on Pakistani television, the attack is the hallmark of those that were waged by militants (many of them Punjabi) against Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir up until a few years ago. They were trained by the Indian cell of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In 2005-06, these militants joined forces with the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan resistance after Pakistan closed down their training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a move that changed the dynamics of the war theater in the region. Beside the Mumbai attack, Tuesday’s assault was similar to the storming of the Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul in January 2008 and the unsuccessful July 2008 attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. In all of these incidents, the attackers abandoned their weapons and quickly melted into a thickly populated area of the city where, apparently, they were whisked away by waiting colleagues.

Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Nawaz, a former interim minister the Interior and a close aide of former president General Pervez Musharraf, commented to Asia Times Online, “This proves that striking peace deals [with militants] will not serve any purpose and there is a need to handle them with iron hands. I blame the government for negligence.

“Providing a single elite police commando bus was not enough. They should have been provided VIP [very important people] security like the state provides for governors and chief ministers. Traffic should have been blocked on their route,” Nawaz said.

Former Pakistani cricketer Zaheer Abbas said, “I am not a politician to comment on who was behind it, but it has damaged Pakistani cricket very badly. I don’t understand why anybody would target Sri Lankans because they don’t have any role in the region. There might be some forces who want to damage the cause of Pakistan and Pakistani cricket.”

Possible attackers

Pakistani analysts, including retired General Hamid Gul, who is a former head of the ISI, blame India’s RAW.

However, there is no precedence for RAW having the capability to carry out such attacks in Pakistan. Its operations in Pakistan have been of two kinds, according to the records of Pakistani security agencies, documented in files and books narrated by their retired officials:

Small bomb blasts in urban centres.

The use of Indophile political parties such as the Awami League in 1970, the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party, the Baloch separatist group the Baloch Libration Army and the Muttehida Quami Movement.

However, these parties were always used in a limited political context. For creating a law-and-order situation in the country, RAW has always used bomb blasts and other small-level sabotage activities. It has never had the capacity, like the ISI had in India, to use armed groups to carry out guerrilla activities in Pakistan.

More pertinent is to view Tuesday’s attack in the context of the peace deals in the Swat Valley and the tribal areas which have stopped the fighting between ethnic Pashtun-dominated militants and the Pakistani army.

Prior to the signing of the deals, the matter of the release of militants who did not belong to the Swat area was raised, that is, non-Pashtun militants. These included Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was apprehended while trying to flee the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in July 2007.

However, after deciding on the level of compensation packages for the families of militants killed or injured by the security forces and other matters related to Swat and the tribal areas, the matter of non-Pashtun militants was deferred and the peace agreements were signed.

In effect, non-Pashtun militants have been ignored and the attack in Lahore could be a bloody message to the government that the “Punjabi militants” have the capacity to cripple urban centres at any time and place of their choosing.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com