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Fourth time lucky
With the higher than expected aid by Friends of Pakistan, are we going to experience another exercise in growth without development, leaving the basic structural issues unaddressed?
By Dr Pervez Tahir
Pakistan has returned from Tokyo with more pledges of aid than it had anticipated. Starting with overly optimistic expectations of a "Marshall Plan" of 100 billion dollars at the inception meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum in New York last year, the stewards of the economy were brought to the real world through a number of steps.

Precursor of more turmoil
HRCP's 2008 report highlights some longstanding concerns and gives a sense of the challenges ahead
By Bushra Sultana
The year 2007 ended on a bleak note with the assassination of Pakistan's liberal leader and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Though dejection and pessimism ran high, with elections around the corner, many felt hopeful for a change and looked forward to rebuilding the nation's morale. However, 2008 did not end on a more different note.

Taal Matol
Ahead of time
By Shoaib Hashmi
It's that time of the year again, when the shadows start lengthening and we start wondering whether it is time to put our clocks forward or backward by an hour. We were pretty sure this time. And promptly on Tuesday night, at 12pm we turned the clocks to 1am, and come morning, all hell broke loose.

exile voices
"We are only against Punjabi-military elite"
By Murtaza Ali Shah
Hyrbyair Marri, a former minister in the Balochistan provincial assembly and Faiz Baloch, a Baloch human rights activists were arrested for allegedly committing acts of terrorism "wholly or partly outside the UK" from West London on Dec 7, 2007. Both were acquitted of all charges last month, after the British government decided not to pursue the charges anymore and the democratically elected government of Pakistan People's Party wrote to the British Court stating it wanted to withdraw the case.

RIPPLE EFFECT
Swat, Buner and then…?
By Omar R. Quraishi
All this has happened after the so-called Nizam-e-Adl regulation was endorsed by parliament.
A convoy of soldiers and paramilitary FC personnel, on its way through Hangu, was attacked by a suicide bomber killing 25 soldiers and FC personnel. A couple of days later, an ambulance taking the dead body of one of the FC men, accompanied by two paramilitary troops, was waylaid and commandeered by the Taliban in Swat.

 

Fourth time lucky

With the higher than expected aid by Friends of Pakistan, are we going to experience another exercise in growth without development, leaving the basic structural issues unaddressed?

By Dr Pervez Tahir

Pakistan has returned from Tokyo with more pledges of aid than it had anticipated. Starting with overly optimistic expectations of a "Marshall Plan" of 100 billion dollars at the inception meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum in New York last year, the stewards of the economy were brought to the real world through a number of steps.

First, while the country had hoped to avoid approaching the IMF by securing quick-disbursing assistance from the Friends, the latter made it clear that the IMF certification of macroeconomic health would be the precondition for any assistance. As the forex reserves depleted, even the reimbursement of the security-related expenditure was delayed to put pressure for recourse to the IMF. Secondly, the Friends were not impressed by the wish list of projects costing $70billion dollars presented at the technical meetings in Dubai. Eventually, the amount was curtailed to $30billion dollars. Thirdly, the Adviser on Finance gave indications on the eve of the Tokyo meeting that the resource gap projected by the IMF of around $4billion dollars of budgetary support would be the minimum necessary funding. The final tally of $5.28billion dollars was thus higher than expected.

These pledges of $5.28 billion, stated to materialise in two years, follow the IMF Standby loan of $7.6 billion, which is also to be disbursed in just under two years. In addition, there is the US plan to provide $7.5 million in non-military and $3billion in military assistance. All told, the country has available to it $23.38 billion in 5-6 years. If the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank also deliver as promised, the total assistance is likely to exceed $30 billion.

The question is: will this external generosity usher in another period of unsustainable growth, followed by a lost decade? Are we going to experience another exercise in growth without development, leaving the mass of the people high and dry and the basic structural issues unresolved? History has repeated itself three times. Will it be any different this time round?

The first such period was in the bipolar world of the sixties. Cold war alliances to encircle the Soviet Union and build a defensive perimeter in our region provided a military dictator, Ayub Khan, the opportunity to secure massive foreign economic assistance. Between 1960-61 and 1967-68, the last year of his rule, the self-styled Field Marshal was handed out a hefty economic assistance of $4.28 billion. Military assistance was in addition. Many call these eight years of tyranny the "golden" period of growth in Pakistan. The economy posted a GDP growth rate of 6.4 percent per annum. It was among the highest in the world and the economy was described as a model to be emulated and ready for a take-off into self-sustained growth. But the take off was aborted as growth was lopsided socially as well as in regional terms. It led to the break up of the country in 1971.

In 1979, the Soviet Union made an attempt to break loose from its encirclement by attacking Afghanistan. We had a general ready to cash in on it. The so-called Afghan Jihad, led by the United States and abetted by the Pakistan security forces, involved training and equipping of large groups of non-state actors from across the world for cross-border attacks. In the process, the obscurantist Zia ul Haq received $12.73 billion in economic assistance. Massive security assistance was also provided. Such large inflows from abroad led to a booming economy. Annual GDP growth between 1979-80 and 1987-88 was recorded at 6.6 percent. These 9 years of high growth once again failed to provide the desired transition to a take-off into self-sustained growth. Instead, the country suffered from a new sectarian division, a thriving underground economy and the rise of a culture of violence and intolerance.

The next episode of the failure to take-off had a similar script: an external aid bonanza leading to high growth and the eventual busting of the bubble. The United States, which had left the region with its enormous problems, returned in the wake of the 9/11. We had another general here looking for legitimacy and aid. For seven years elapsing between 2001-02 and 2007-08, General Musharraf received around $17 billion in civilian assistance and large inflows of unaccounted security assistance. The period enjoyed GDP growth of 6.4 percent per annum. Led by a consumption boom, growth collapsed before the very eyes of Musharraf. Instead of taking off into self-sustained growth, the country faces insurmountable threats of militancy, extremism, obscurantism and even another break-up.

Is economic history going to repeat itself? There is a difference this time. The world had ignored democratic governments in the 1950s, the 1970s and the 1990s. These were also the low-growth decades. The country now has a democratically elected government in place. The external support group is not called the Friends of Democratic Pakistan for no reason. Will democracy and an aid bonanza be the optimal mix for what has eluded the country for the past six decades -- a take-off into self-sustained growth? Or, given the political ineptitude witnessed in the past one year, there will be a relapse into the mix we know -- plenty of foreign aid and military-authoritarianism? Economic historians cannot think of a bigger challenge.

The writer is a former chief economist of the Government of Pakistan.

 

Precursor of more turmoil

HRCP's 2008 report highlights some longstanding concerns and gives a sense of the challenges ahead

By Bushra Sultana

The year 2007 ended on a bleak note with the assassination of Pakistan's liberal leader and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Though dejection and pessimism ran high, with elections around the corner, many felt hopeful for a change and looked forward to rebuilding the nation's morale. However, 2008 did not end on a more different note.

The 238-page State of Human Rights in 2008 report published by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) provides statistics and recommendations on all human rights issues. It highlights some long-standing concerns such as terrorism, rights of minorities and freedom of speech and also brings forth new challenges, the primary challenge being talibanisation of Pakistan.

The issue of safety versus terrorism remains a primary focus in the report. Rule and enforcement of law present a worrying picture of disintegration. With the knowledge that things are worsening in 2009, reading many known and unknown events of last year just increases a sense of derangement and dread. Even though the suicide attacks last year were less in number (67) than in 2007 (71), they were more deadly. Compared to 927 lives lost in 2007, 973 people lost their lives to violent attacks in 2008.

Interestingly, NWFP, FATA, Islamabad and Punjab were the most hit areas with only one suicide attack in Balochistan and none in Sindh. However, violence rampant in Karachi did its part in increasing the number of deaths in the city than those killed by suicide bombs in the entire country. Citing Karachi Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), the HRCP's report places the number of victims of all forms of violence in Karachi at 777 compared to 344 violence-related deaths in 2007.

The astounding increase is further highlighted by the fact that out of those 344 deaths in 2007, 155 were killed during one big attack on Benazir Bhutto's motorcade in October. Thus incidences of violence increased manifold in 2008, a testimony to the government's failure to provide safety to the citizens.

Whereas parallel justice system and vigilante action have further exacerbated the law and order situation in the country, they also highlight the absence of a swift and fair justice system and effective law enforcing institutions. Thus the jirgas in various parts of the country continued to challenge the writ of state in 2008. However, public frustration in face of neck-breaking economic and religio-social pressures and rising apathy to brutality was abundantly visible in the vigilante actions of burning alleged robbers and dacoits in three different areas of Karachi and Lahore.

The country's prison system does not help public anger and numbness to extreme violence. The prison system, according to the report, houses an "overwhelming majority" of "under trial prisoners" burdening already crowded prisons. Karachi's Central Prison has 5,800 prisoners against its capacity of 1,600. The poor conditions have led to various jail riots and protests. Instead of serving as correctional institutions, the prisons are hardening the convicts and non-convicts alike.

The section on fundamental rights of movement, thought, religion, expression, assembly and association presents a familiar picture -- one that has become a reality of life in Pakistan. Examples of extremist bent of mind are presented in the report on the rights and safety of minorities. The report details an incidence where a mufti claimed it was permissible in Islam to murder Ahmedies on a programme aired on one of the largest television channels in the country. In the days that followed, three Ahmedies were killed in Sindh. Unfortunately nothing was done as the government took no notice of the killings and the television channel and the anchor were not called for explanation.

Other minorities also continued to suffer in 2008 under the controversial Blasphemy Law. Jagdeesh Kumar, a Hindu factory worker in Karachi, was killed outside his workplace because he was accused of blasphemy. The killers included many of his coworkers.

Out of 15 cases registered against Muslims under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, 13 cases were in Punjab. Similarly, out of 16 cases registered against Ahmedies, 12 were in Punjab, and all 6 new cases registered against Christians were in Punjab as well. Such figures hint at the ease with which such laws are being abused in Punjab for personal gains rather than pointing towards the more sacrilegious nature of Punjabis. The federal cabinet's approval, however, of the Sikh Marriage Ordinance, 2008, is a welcomed initiative for the minorities. This ordinance allows marriages solemnised under Sikh personal law to be registered in Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that women and children are still a disadvantaged section of the society. HRCP's report reflects that women's bodies continue to be the bearer of family honour. This concept leads to gruesome violence against them in order to bring shame either to them or their family. Such violence includes rape (350 cases reported in 2008), gang rape (445), stripping (13), honour killing (612), acid attacks (37) and amputation (4). The report also quotes Acid Survivor Foundation, Pakistan (ASF) which reported 54 acid burn victims in the first four months of 2008. Another horrifying new tradition of "eliminating fallen women" has surfaced in those areas which have seen increased Talibanisation. Thus, HRCP's findings show that on average, 3 women were killed in Pakistan for various reasons in 2008.

One positive initiative regarding women, however, has been the submission of Protection from Harassment Bill, 2008 and Domestic Violence Bill to the National Assembly for deliberations. It is hoped that these bills will not only be passed, but stricter enforcement will be ensured to bring relief to women.

HRCP's findings reveal that children have not fared better in the past year. The report quotes the latest UNESCO figures that confirm Pakistan's net enrolment ratio is 73 percent for boys and 57 percent for girls. The gender gap has widened from 19 percent in 1972 to 25 percent. According to the statistic by the UN, the dropout rate in Pakistan is 50 percent higher than in other countries of the world. In addition to lower resources to education and health, girls' school bombings in Swat have prevented 17,200 girls from going to schools. UNESCO's report termed Pakistan's education system a failure with the sector riddled with weak governance and high inequality in finance and basic education. In addition, reports of child recruitment by armed militias increase the urgent need for educational and economic reforms in the country.

HRCP's report reflects the descending turmoil in Pakistan. What is more unnerving is that, with just four months into the new year, this document already reads a precursor to more alarming events of 2009.


Taal Matol

Ahead of time

By Shoaib Hashmi

It's that time of the year again, when the shadows start lengthening and we start wondering whether it is time to put our clocks forward or backward by an hour. We were pretty sure this time. And promptly on Tuesday night, at 12pm we turned the clocks to 1am, and come morning, all hell broke loose.

First we called up the railway station and airport to ask what time the first train or flight would be departing. We were told they would follow the old time. What was the whole point of turning the clocks forward if we didn't have to change the time of the flights? In the next hours two-and a-half-thousand people rang the station and the airport asking the same question. By that time, both the train and the flight had left.

It is peculiar how a whole ritual has grown up round this time thing. For instance, a lot of people keep at least one watch in the house on the old time -- to keep track of the 'real' time as opposed to the 'artificial' one. This continues for four or five months after which, with a great deal of satisfaction, they tell everyone they will not have to readjust at least one watch.

Actually the hullabaloo starts much before. Just as the authorities start thinking about adjusting clocks, all the restaurant-owners start making a fuss about how people cannot be asked to dine at seven in the evening which is the time stipulated for shops to close. Of course, they are right and the authorities readily agree. But the only trouble is that every bakery and biscuit shop quickly sets up a table and gets an electric kettle and starts purveying tea and biscuits, which makes it a restaurant, and entitled to stay open till all hours.

Then the parents of school kids join in. The clocks being moved forward means schools start an hour earlier, which does not suit the parents as their offices do not necessarily adjust their timings. So having taken their kids to school an hour late each day for a week they start pressuring the schools to start work an hour late. About half the schools succumb which means the school day goes to pot, especially as some of the rickshaw wallahs take kids to more than one school, and they all can't be expected to adjust.

Surprisingly only people not affected by this time changing are cinema or theatre-owners. One would have thought they are the people who would raise a fuss but somehow they quickly adjust and carry on regardless.

 

exile voices

"We are only against Punjabi-military elite"

By Murtaza Ali Shah

Hyrbyair Marri, a former minister in the Balochistan provincial assembly and Faiz Baloch, a Baloch human rights activists were arrested for allegedly committing acts of terrorism "wholly or partly outside the UK" from West London on Dec 7, 2007. Both were acquitted of all charges last month, after the British government decided not to pursue the charges anymore and the democratically elected government of Pakistan People's Party wrote to the British Court stating it wanted to withdraw the case.

The News on Sunday spoke exclusively to Hyrbyair Marri who lives permanently in London with his family and is believed to be the political heir of his father and respected national leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. Soft-spoken and charming but fierce and hardened to the core in his views, he has lately emerged as the frontline Baloch leader.

The News on Sunday: When and why did you choose to leave Pakistan?

Hyrbyair Marri: I left Pakistan at the end of 1999 for holiday in Europe. I had plans to return to Pakistan but on Jan 7, 2000 Justice Nawaz Marri was assassinated in Balochistan and false cases were registered against my father Khair Bakh Marri, my brothers Ghazan, late Balach, and Mehran and myself. It was alleged that we had shot the judge. Ironically, when the unfortunate murder happened, I was in London with Mehran and Balach while Ghazan was in Karachi. Only Humza Marri was in Quetta. The FIR was actually registered two days prior to the murder. After Musharraf took over, he sent me messages through emissaries that his government wanted to explore oil and gas in our area and thought I will be able to convince my father to agree. I was offered huge bribes but I told Musharraf we cannot agree to any exploration that will not benefit Baloch people. We had the example of Sui before us. The Sui gas never benefited Bugtis or the Baloch people.

TNS: How would you sum up your main grievances against Pakistan?

HM: There are so many that I don't know where to begin. Pakistan has stamped over all kinds of international law in the case of Balochistan. Crimes against humanity have been committed in Balochistan. Our sovereignty was violated on March 23, 1948 when Pakistani tanks rolled in. Khan of Kalat's palace was taken over and the whole province was run over. We were intimidated into signing the treaty of accession. The attitude of Punjabi elite towards Baloch people has been that of master and slave. They are so arrogant that they don't even consider us humans. We have been treated as salves in our own homeland.

There have been massacres, ethnic cleansings and ethnic flooding into Balochistan of non-Balochs to make us a minority. The repression forced Baloch people to wage insurgencies five times over. Khan of Kalat was not allowed to return to his homeland for 17 years. Was that fair?

I want to make it clear here that we are not against Punjabis or any other ethnic groups. It is our rights to stand for our distinguished culture and rich heritage and say that we want equality and betterment for our people.

TNS: With so much grudge, why did you become a part of the government?

HM: I won vote and became minister. That is the proof that we wanted to give Pakistan a chance and thought things will improve but I was proven wrong. Later, Balach fought elections and won but gave up his seat.

TNS: What geography do you have in mind for a hypothetical independent Balochistan? Does it include Iran and Afghan parts as well?

HM: When I speak for Balochs, I speak for the Baloch people wherever they are. But when I speak for independence, it's for the part occupied by Pakistan. I do sympathise with the Iranian and Afghan parts as well and they should be given due rights. I would support them in their struggle.

It's a tragedy that Balochs have been divided in systematic way by the British. Their obsession with Russian influence and their own interests in the region led them to hand out Baloch land here and there.

TNS: Can an independent Balochistan survive as a viable state?

HM: I think its survival as an independent entity is beyond any doubt. We have got the natural resources, the sea; we can survive much better than any other country. It's our wealth which is driving the engine of Pakistan. Our wealth is being exploited by Pakistani elite to benefit Punjab. Almost 80 percent of Punjab's industry is being run on Sui gas from Balochistan. However, I am not sure if Pakistan will survive without Balochistan's wealth.

TNS: Tells us about the terrorism charges levelled against you and incarceration in UK's Belmarsh prison?

HM: There were altogether five charges against me and my friend Faiz Baloch. These were incitement to commit an act of terror; collecting information of a kind likely to be used to terrorist purpose; possession of an article for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism; and preparation of terrorist acts. An additional charge against me was for the possession of a prohibited weapon (basically it was a spray gas canister). These cases were fabricated.

I am aghast that Britain colluded so much with Pakistan. Only after I was arrested I knew the extent of surveillance and investigation that not only my movements were being recorded but my friends all over the world were stopped and asked about me on airports. One of my friends was kidnapped in Dubai and taken to Pakistan for interrogation and held there for three months. He was asked to sack me from his consultancy firm.

I know that Pakistan was using the war on terror to ask Britain to extradite me, my brother Mehran Baloch and four other exiled Balochs. In exchange Pakistan was to extradite Rashid Rauf, wanted in connection with the airline terror plot but now believed to be killed in a US drone attack.

That I was persecuted in world's oldest democracy in this manner is astonishing. I am glad that the British courts threw out all charges due to lack of evidence. We knew through our friends in Islamabad that high level delegations, including Aftab Sherpao and few others, were visiting Britain to negotiate the arrest and deportation of myself and Mehran.

The prison strengthened our resolve. I got more time to reflect on my life and work and I hope my resolve has become stronger and I will never go back on my position of an independent Balochistan.

TNS: How do you see the future of non-Balochs in Balochistan, especially Pashtuns and Punjabis?

HM: First of all, we are not an ethnic group. We are a nation with centuries-old history, culture and traditions. It is to tarnish our name that we are called an ethnic group. We believe everybody should be treated as equal citizens of Balochistan. We are not against any nationality. We are against those who are diluting our culture.

TNS: Some reports say the recent killings of three nationalist Baloch leaders (Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch) have something to do with the spoils as a result of the release of UN official John Solecki?

HM: Look who is spreading these news. There is no evidence to support this claim. No bounty was paid to anyone. This is a blatant lie and it's a [character] assassination campaign against 'Proud Baloch' character. Security agencies are behind such rumours to divert attention from the brutal murders. I believe they were killed because of their political beliefs.

TNS: Rehman Malik said on television your role was crucial in the release of John Solecki?

HM: My role was to get John released unharmed. Any harm to him would have served no one, especially the cause of Baloch people. I didn't do so for any benefit but to get a good name for Baloch people. The fact that John was released unharmed and that Ghulam Muhammad had a big role in his release didn't go down well with the Pakistani security establishment because they wanted to portray us as brutal and radical terrorists. They were not expecting John to come out in one piece.

TNS: And then there are the targeted killings of Punjabis and Kashmiri workers?

HM: All killings are regrettable but I am not in a position to condone or condemn these. What about the targeted killings of Balochs for decades by Pakistani security forces -- from leadership down to shepherds? They have killed anyone who came in their way. Till only a few years back, there was no problem with non-Balochs living and working in Balochistan. Ours has always been a civil protest against the attitude of military's attitude towards us.

Things changed drastically after the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti and it came as a rude shock to all. Youth have become frustrated and they don't have any hope left. You cannot talk Gandhian peace to them when they are being bombed with cluster and phosphorous bombs. Whole villages have been displaced. Many have become so angry that it's not possible for anyone to ask them to put the weapons down. The weapons they have picked up in self-defence.

TNS: What is your position on Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)? Any idea who is rolling it?

HM: I cannot speak for BLA. I have got no idea who funds BLA. Someone belonging to that organisation will comment better on that. UK Police made me subject to investigation worth millions of pounds and found no evidence that I was behind acts of violence, so I don't know. I have no contact with any foreign country or agency to fund our national liberation movement. But as a Baloch representative, I will go to the whole world. If they are willing to give us fund for Baloch people, I will be willing to talk to them. I will ask them to open our embassies and recognise us. I want the world to recognise the problem of Balochistan. We need recognition. The organisations involved in armed fight are fighting a fascist army that is killing Balochs day and night, indiscriminately.

TNS: Is there any way out for reconciliation at some level? What will be your conditions?

HM: It's simple. Pakistan army should pull out from Balochistan and give us back our statehood. Otherwise, there will be bloodshed. We are ready to live with Pakistan as good neighbours but that's it. When Americans occupied Iraq, they gave a timetable of pullout; Balochs want a timetable from Pakistan army. Occupation should end now. Finish the cantonments and garrisons. After massacres and plundering of our wealth, there can be no patch-up. I know we are facing the world's fifth largest and one of the most powerful army but let's not forget mighty powers crumble. I was a student in Soviet Union when the unbelievable USSR crumbled in front of our eyes. Our resolve is stronger and we will stay the course.

TNS: Would you support autonomy against independence in accordance with the 1973 constitution?

HM: Majority of Baloch representatives didn't even sign the 1973 constitution. It should not be applied to Balochistan. Our consent was not involved. It's not for us. It has not done anything to protect us.

TNS: How do you view the current insurgency/unrest?

HM: I will not call it insurgency. People are defending themselves because they are on the brink of extinction. They are defending their motherland. Ten years ago they were looking for jobs and were not bothered much with the national question; today the question of their motherland tops all priorities. Now everyone knows the importance of sacrifice for freedom of the land.

TNS: How do you view the role of various Baloch tribes and sardars?

HM: Everyone is pursuing his own agenda. Some sardars are patriotic and working for the interests of Baloch nation while others are working for their own. Generally I am happy with Baloch public. They are more conscious today than before.

"Our demand: Greater Balochistan"

Noordin Mengal, Baloch representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, is the grandson of Baloch leaders Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. He lives in exile and divides his time mainly between London and Dubai. The young Mengal, like many of his nationalist elders, says the current insurgency in some parts of Balochistan is being led by the Baloch youth. "It's the youth who are now leading the Baloch movement for independence and are greatly sacrificing to sustain and protect our national identity and ensure the prosperity of our future generations."

Noordin Mengal has been seen speaking at any available forum in the west to spread awareness about gross human rights violations in Balochistan.

"We are the masters of our own destiny now. Our demand is no less than independence, and the formation of a Greater Baloch state that comprises of the Baloch areas occupied by Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan."

"The current unrest is not a new one, although Pakistan and its despotic army have made all efforts to keep the Baloch matter obfuscated. However, this war goes back to the day when Pakistani forces entered Kalat and forcefully annexed our country and amalgamated our identity under their cursed national flag. Since then, there have been five full-fledged military operations against the Baloch people, each one more brutal and intense than the other.

The Baloch have been oppressed and deprived of their basic rights, and attempts have been made to systematically obliterate the Baloch nation by carrying out a cultural, social, economic, political and physical genocide. The Pakistani state is a threat to the Baloch national identity. The targeting of Baloch leaders Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Nawabzada Balach Marri, and the recent martyrdom of Baloch leaders Ghulam Muhammad Baloch, Sher Muhammad Baloch and Lala Munir Baloch, has only strengthened the Baloch nation's resolve to break free from the shackles that have kept it from peace, happiness, prosperity and freedom for over six decades," said the young leader while speaking to TNS.

He blames military operations for bringing things to this stage and doesn't think a relationship of trust between the nationalist tribes and "Pakistani-Punjabi" establishment can ever be built again.

He believes the mega development plans including Gwadar are a conspiracy to convert the Baloch into a minority in their own homeland by encouraging the migration of Punjabis and other non-Baloch by providing them with economic opportunities, thus causing a demographic imbalance.

The young radical says spy agencies have been patronising radical Islamist elements in Balochistan "in order to weaken the secular Baloch".

Peace? "We will only be at peace either when we have perished for our country or at the moment of triumph, when the Baloch flag shall wave in the sky before us."

-- Murtaza Ali Shah

"It is not a regional problem"

The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleiman Daud Khan, is determined to take the case of Balochistan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Hague at any cost.

Currently living in South Wales after having arrived in England following the Aug 2006 murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Khan of Kalat applied for asylum and still awaits the outcome of his application. Until a decision is made, he cannot travel abroad to present the case of his homeland to the world. He would like to tell the world that Pakistan has violated the 1948 treaty and 1973 constitution that promised autonomy to the four provinces.

Khan says he has been on the hit-list of Pakistani security agencies after he uniquely unified the warring tribes, following the death of Nawab Bugti, convincing them of the power of unity and joint struggle for an autonomous Balochistan. This jirga was held after nearly 130 years and attended by 85 sardars and 300 tribal elders. He says his initiative was a resounding success and that worried the power brokers in Islamabad.

"I would take Pakistan to the ICJ and make its establishment answerable for the slow-motion genocide of my people. The random and targeted killings, the torture and total disregard for the rights of Baloch people is a scandal and it needs world's attention. It is no more a local or regional problem," the 35th Khan of Kalat told TNS.

"Due to its wealth and strategic location, Balochistan is of high strategic importance to the world. West should take interest in what's going on there."

On the question of alleged foreign funding, the Khan of Kalat candidly said "We will not mind taking help from Satan, let alone US, Britain or India. That distinction finished long time ago. Unlike many other Muslim conflict zones, Muslims are killings Muslims in Pakistan and it has boiled down to staying alive in Balochistan."

Like many other Baloch nationalist leaders, he has lost faith in dialogue and sees no point in even discussing the possibilities of reconciliation. "That time is not with us anymore. Dialogue with Pakistani establishment is a waste of time. Talks didn't yield anything for us. Period."

This king without a kingdom says those Baloch sardars who don't support the on-going "fight in pure self-defence against Pakistan army's aggression" are cowards and traitors and history will not treat them kindly.

Sitting 4,000 miles away from his people, Khan's solution to the Balochistan problem is simple: rise up in unity in whatever way you can to obtain your rights and independence. For now, Khan is in a limbo and will have to wait and see what asylum and immigrations courts decide about his asylum case. The struggle in the meanwhile, he says, will continue.

-- M. Ali. Shah

"The Baloch youth is infuriated"

Rauf Khan Sassoli, secretary general of late Nawaz Akbar Khan Bugti's Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), interviewed in Lahore

The News on Sunday: How did we come to this alarming situation?

Rauf Khan Sassoli: During the 1990s when Nawaz Khair Bux Marri had returned from Afghanistan, there was hope for reconciliation but then Justice Nawaz Marri was killed in January 2000 which led to the agitation that still continues.

Musharraf was infuriated when, during his visit to Kohlu area, he was attacked with rocket launchers by "certain elements". As a result, a military operation was carried out to kill Akbar Bugti in August 2006. Musharraf formed a parliamentary committee whose recommendations are still to be implemented.

Now the situation is worse. Especially the Baloch youth is infuriated while their leaders are under pressure by the federal government. If five percent of the Balochs supported the demand for an independent Balochistan, say a few years ago, the number has risen to forty percent. Personally, I believe the assassination of Akbar Bugti and then killing of Benazir Bhutto led to what can be called a practical destabilisation of the country.

TNS: What is the possible role of JWP and other Baloch political parties in resolving the conflict?

RS: JWP thinks there is an immediate need to bring all mainstream parties on board including Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Balochistan National Party and other groups. Negotiations should lead to full provincial autonomy guaranteed in the 1973 Constitution. We are also in contact with some of the dissident groups and other national political parties urging them to resolve the issue.

TNS: Do you think re-election in Balochistan can bring down the rising temperature?

RS: This can be one of the major steps to restore the confidence of Baloch leaders into the system. But for this, I repeat, all Baloch leaders should be consulted and urged to return to Pakistan.

TNS: What is the possible role of Punjab in resolving the issue?

RS: Punjab is certainly not doing what it did in 1971. There is much realisation among the Punjab's leadership. The sitting Punjab government is doing a lot. Shahbaz Sharif visited Balochistan and assured full support. Jamat-e-Islami has also done some efforts. I also believe that the national leadership must visit Balochistan something they haven't done as yet.

TNS: What about the view that the tribal leaders are responsible for the backwardness of the province?

RS: The nexus of Baloch sardars and establishment is an open secret. Establishment has always been supporting these feudal or Nawabs. Even now, one Nawab is the chief minister while the other is the governor. Both establishment and sardars are responsible for this situation. I personally believe that if 2.5 million people of Balochistan had education, the situation would have been quite different.

TNS: What about allegations that India is supporting the separatist movement in Balochistan?

RS: Indian intervention cannot be ruled out. But it doesn't mean we should start blaming India instead of putting our house in order. It will be unrealistic to think that our enemy will not try to take advantage of this chaos.

-- Waqar Gillani

RIPPLE EFFECT

Swat, Buner and then…?

By Omar R. Quraishi

All this has happened after the so-called Nizam-e-Adl regulation was endorsed by parliament.

A convoy of soldiers and paramilitary FC personnel, on its way through Hangu, was attacked by a suicide bomber killing 25 soldiers and FC personnel. A couple of days later, an ambulance taking the dead body of one of the FC men, accompanied by two paramilitary troops, was waylaid and commandeered by the Taliban in Swat.

According to the BBC Urdu Service, the Swat Taliban have set up a sort of a hotline service for love marriages, through which men and women looking to marry for love could approach the militants and register themselves for marriage. He said that in Islam an adult woman did not need her parents' permission to marry. The spokesman needs to be reminded that in Islam a woman has the right to education and not to be murdered if she refuses to abdicate either of these rights.

The BBC Urdu service report also mentioned that this so-called service was being used by the militants who wanted to marry the girls of their choice. Even prior to the so-called peace deal, there were several reports of local girls being picked up, abducted and forced to marry local militants.

The Swat Taliban crossed over to neighbouring Buner district in the middle of April. They were asked by the local tribespeople to leave but refused. They then threatened to demolish a well-known local Sufi shrine. When stopped by the locals they decided to stay and 'protect' it. To date, and contrary to the government's claims, the Swat Taliban have not left.

All that the ANP could say in response to this is that it could do nothing if local Buner residents wanted the Swat Taliban to stay on -- which is not exactly the truth given that the time when the militants entered the district, a tribal lashkar was created to resist them. In all of this, neither the ANP government, nor the federal government or the military lent any kind of assistance to the Buner tribal lashkar. Also, during their initial forays into Buner, the Taliban managed to kill the DPO -- the police officer in charge of the whole district. The government failed to respond even to this.

On April 21, the Taliban in Buner, according to a report posted on www.buner.com had initiated what the reporter called a "massive crackdown" against NGOs in the district. The report said that the Taliban "took away" (read looted) "eight vehicles, 1,600 cans of edible oil, a large number of nutritional packets, computers, printers, generators and other office appliances". Another group entered a BHU in Tehsil Chamla and took away 480 cans of edible oils provided by the World Food Programme (WFP). The same group took away a number of USAID-provided nutritional packets from homes of lady health workers. The militants also went to an ActionAid-sponsored vocational centre in the village of Korea and took away sewing machines meant to train girls. A health facility at the Afghan Mohajir camp in Tehsil Chamla was robbed of large quantity of medicines – which had been donated by the International Medical Corps. The next day, the same group of armed Taliban went to the civil hospital in Nawagai and took away 640 cans of edible oil from the main WFP godown. They also 'took away' three jeeps from various NGOs including one which had a 'Government of Pakistan' number plate.

In Mardan district, which straddles Peshawar district, local militants bombed an NGO's office – as a result of which a female staffer died. They also threatened barbers and shops selling CDs and DVDs as well as Internet cafes.

The spokesman of the Swat Taliban, Muslim Khan, was quoted at various times as saying that the Taliban would not lay down their arms -- a primary point of agreement of the Nizam-e-Adl regulation. His reason was that a. the Taliban were Pashtuns and Pashtuns always carry weapons and b. that if they were to lay down their arms how would they be able to help those in other parts of the country who wanted to seek the Taliban's assistance to enforce Sharia.

Several soldiers and paramilitary personnel were bombed and even a local PML-Q leader were abducted in a district of Swat. Shops and markets in several markets, according to news reports, were being forcibly closed by local militants -- much to the chagrin of local shopkeepers since such an atmosphere was never found in Swat before. It also emerged that one provision of the so-called Nizam-e-Adl regulation in fact permitted the Taliban to coerce all male residents of Swat go to mosques at the time of prayer.

People are understandably asking many a question about the government's ability to take on the Taliban, especially after a senior ANP leader, Haji Adeel, was quoted as saying that his party had no option to agree to the deal because it had exhausted all other avenues. This could be seen as a suggestion that the military was not willing to take on the Taliban and that the ANP, faced with losing much of its local leadership, did what it could. Of course, he is wrong because rather than barter away the lives of Swatis, the ANP could have resigned but it chose instead a deal with the Devil. As for the question, in recent days it has been supplemented by another -- that how come the world's six largest army, one that gets the major chunk of the budget every year -- hundreds of billions of rupees -- was not able to, or was not allowed to, neutralise the Taliban in Swat.

The answer to this is anybody's guess. Or perhaps the next few weeks will answer this for all of us.

Postscript: Going through pakistaniat.com the other day I came across a very insightful short post by someone by the name of 'Asfandyar'. The bloggers were debating the advance of the Taliban and most were fearful of the consequences this would have, if left unchecked, for Pakistan. He aptly said: "The problem is that the people of Pakistan do want Islam but they don't want the Taliban with it. Until and unless they are able to separate the two in their own minds, nothing will happen".

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: [email protected]

 


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