You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to clear the mess? Article by Imran Khan

Read the article in URDU

The reason why there is so much despondency in Pakistan is because there is no road map to get out of the so-called War on Terror - a nomenclature that even the Obama Administration has discarded as being a negative misnomer. To cure the patient the diagnosis has to be accurate, otherwise the wrong medicine can sometimes kill the patient. In order to find the cure, first six myths that have been spun around the US-led “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) have to be debunked.

Myth No. 1: This is Pakistan’s war

Since no Pakistani was involved in 9/11 and the CIA-trained Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, how does it concern us? It is only when General Musharraf buckled under US pressure and sent our troops into Waziristan in late 2003-early 2004 that Pakistan became a war zone. It took another three years of the Pakistan army following the same senseless tactics as used by the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan (aerial bombardment) plus the slaughter at Lal Masjid, for the creation of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). If our security forces are being targeted today by the Taliban and their suicide bombers, it is because they are perceived to be proxies of the US army. Iran is ideologically opposed to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban yet why are its security forces not attacked by terrorists? The answer is because their President does not pretend to be a bulwark against Islamic extremism in return for US dollars and support.

Michael Scheuer (ex-CIA officer and author of the book Imperial Hubris), writing in The Washington Post in April 2007, cited Musharraf’s loyalty to the US even when it went against Pakistan’s national interests by giving two examples: the first was Musharraf helping the US in removing a pro-Pakistan Afghan government and replacing it with a pro-Indian one; and, the second, for sending Pakistani troops into the tribal areas and turning the tribesmen against the Pakistan army. To fully understand Musharraf’s treachery against Pakistan, it is important to know that almost a 100,000 troops were sent into the tribal areas to target around 1000 suspected Al-Qaeda members - thus earning the enmity of at least 1.5 million armed local tribals in the 7 tribal agencies of Pakistan.

The most shameful aspect of the lie that this is our war is that the government keeps begging the US for more dollars stating that the war is costing the country more than the money it is receiving from the US. If it is our war, then fighting it should not be dependent on funds and material flowing from the US. If it is our war, why do we have no control over it? If it is our war, then why is the US government asking us to do more?

Myth No. 2: This is a war against Islamic extremists ó an ideological war against radical Islam

Was the meteoric rise of Taliban due to their religious ideology? Clearly not, because the Mujahideen were equally religious - Gulbadin Hekmatyar (supported by the ISI) was considered an Islamic fundamentalist. In fact, the reason the Taliban succeeded where the Mujahideen warlords failed, was because they established the rule of law - the Afghans had had enough of the power struggle between the warlord factions that had destroyed what remained of the country’s infrastructure and killed over 100,000 people.

If the Pushtuns of the tribal area wanted to adopt the Taliban religious ideology then surely they would have when the latter was in power in Afghanistan, between 1996 and 2001. Yet there was no Talibanisation in the tribal areas. Interestingly, the only part of Pakistan where the Taliban had an impact was in Swat where Sufi Mohammad started the Shariat Movement. The reason was that while there was rule of law (based on the traditional jirga system) in the tribal areas, the people of Swat had been deprived of easy access to justice ever since the traditional legal system premised on Qazi courts was replaced by Pakistani laws and judicial system, first introduced in 1974. The murder rate shot up from 10 per year in 1974 to almost 700 per year by 1977, when there was an uprising against the Pakistani justice system. The Taliban cashed in on this void of justice to rally the poorer sections of Swat society just as they had attracted the Afghans in a situation of political anarchy and lawlessness in Afghanistan. It is important to make this distinction because the strategy to bring peace must depend on knowing your enemy. Michael Bearden, CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 1989, wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine that the US is facing the same Pushtun insurgency that was faced by the Soviets in Afghanistan. According to him, as long as NATO is in Afghanistan, the Taliban will get a constant supply of men from the 15 million Pushtun population of Afghanistan and the 25 million Pushtuns of Pakistan. In other words, this Talibanisation is not so much religion-driven as politically-motivated. So the solution to the problem in the tribal belt today does not lie in religion and “moderate” Islam but in a political settlement.

Myth No. 3: If we keep fighting the US war, the super power will bail us out financially through aid packages.

Recently, the Government’s Adviser on Finance stated that the war on terror has cost Pakistan $35 billion while the country has received only $11 billion assistance from the US. I would go a step further and say that this aid is the biggest curse for the country. Not only is it “blood money” for our army killing our own people (there is no precedent for this) but also nothing has destroyed the self-esteem of this country as this one factor. Moreover, there is no end in sight as our cowardly and compromised leadership is ordered to “do more” for the payments made for their services. Above all, this aid and loans are like treating cancer with disprin. It enables the government to delay the much needed surgery of reforms (cutting expenditures and raising revenues); and meanwhile the cancer is spreading and might become terminal.

Myth No. 4: That the next terrorist attack on the US will come from the tribal areas.

First, there is an assumption, based purely on conjecture, that the Al Qaeda leadership is in the tribal areas. In fact, this leadership could well be in the 70 % of Afghan territory that the Taliban control. More importantly, given the growing radicalisation of the educated Muslim youth - in major part because of the continuing US partiality towards Israeli occupation of Palestinian land - why can it not follow that the next terrorist attack on the US could come either from the Middle East or from the marginalised and radicalised Muslims of Europe, motivated by perceived injustices to Islam and the Muslim World.

Myth No. 5: That the ISI is playing a double game and if Pakistan did more the war could be won.

If Talibanisation is growing in Pakistan because of the covert support of ISI in the tribal areas, then surely the growing Taliban control over Afghanistan (70 % of the territory) must be with NATO’s complicity? Surely a more rational understanding would be to see that the strategy being employed is creating hatred against the US and its collaborators. Aerial bombardment and its devastating collateral damage is the biggest gift the US has given to the Taliban. According to official reports, out of the 60 drone attacks conducted between 14 January 2006-April 8 2009, only 10 were on target, killing 14 alleged Al Qaeda. In the process almost 800 Pakistani civilians have been killed, while many lost their homes and limbs.

Despite its military surge effort, the US will eventually pack up and leave like the Soviets, but the “do more” mantra could end up destroying the Pakistan army - especially the ISI which is being targeted specifically for the mess created by the Bush Administration in Afghanistan.

Myth No. 6: That Pakistan could be Talibanised with their version of Islam.

Both Musharraf and Zardari have contributed to this myth in order to get US backing and dollars. Firstly there is no such precedent in the 15-hundred years of Islamic history of a theocracy like that of the Taliban, outside of the recent Taliban period of rule in Afghanistan. However, as mentioned earlier, the Taliban’s ascendancy in Afghanistan was not a result of their religious ideology but their ability to establish order and security in a war-devastated and anarchic Afghanistan.

In Swat, the present mess has arisen because of poor governance issues. Also, it was the manner in which the government handled the situation - simply sending in the army rather than providing better governance - that created space for the Taliban. Just as in Balochistan (under Musharraf) when the army was sent in rather than the Baloch being given their economic and provincial rights, similarly the army in Swat aggravated the situation and the present mess was created.

What Pakistan has to worry about is the chaos and anarchy that are going to stem from the radicalisation of our people because of the failure of successive governments to govern effectively and justly. Karen Armstrong, in her book The Battle for God, gives details of fundamentalist movements that turned militant when they were repressed. Ideas should be fought with counter ideas and dialogue, not guns. Allama Iqbal was able to deal with fundamentalism through his knowledge and intellect. The slaughter of the fundamentalists of Lal Masjid did more to fan extremism and fanaticism than any other single event.

Pakistan is staring down an abyss today and needs to come up with a sovereign nationalist policy to deal with the situation. If we keep on following dictation from Washington, we are doomed. There are many groups operating in the country under the label of “Taliban”. Apart from the small core of religious extremists, the bulk of the fighting men are Pushtun nationalists. Then there are the fighters from the old Jihadi groups. Moreover, the Taliban are also successfully exploiting the class tensions by appealing to the have-nots. But the most damaging for Pakistan are those groups who are being funded primarily from two external sources: first, by those who want to see Pakistan become a “failed state”; and, second, by those who wish to see the US bogged down in the Afghan quagmire.

What needs to be done: A two-pronged strategy is required - focusing on a revised relationship with the US and a cohesive national policy based on domestic compulsions and ground realities.

President Obama, unlike President Bush, is intelligent and has integrity. A select delegation of local experts on the tribal area and Afghanistan should make him understand that the current strategy is a disaster for both Pakistan and the US; that Pakistan can no longer commit suicide by carrying on this endless war against its own people; that we will hold dialogue and win over the Pushtuns of the tribal area and make them deal with the real terrorists while the Pakistan army is gradually pulled out.

At the same time, Pakistan has to move itself to ending drone attacks if the US is not prepared to do so. Closure of the drone base within Pakistan is a necessary beginning as is the need to create space between ourselves and the US, which will alter the ground environment in favour of the Pakistani state. It will immediately get rid of the fanaticism that creates suicide bombers as no longer will they be seen to be on the path to martyrdom by bombing US collaborators. Within this environment a consensual national policy to combat extremism and militancy needs to be evolved centring on dialogue, negotiation and assertion of the writ of the state. Where force is required the state must rely on the paramilitary forces, not the army. Concomitantly, Pakistan needs serious reforms. First and foremost we have to give our people access to justice at the grassroots level - that is, revive the village jury/Panchayat system. Only then will we rid ourselves of the oppressive “thana-kutchery” culture which compels the poor to seek adjudication by the feudals, tribal leaders, tumandars and now by the Taliban also - thereby perpetuating oppression of the dispossessed, especially women.

Second, unless we end the system of parallel education in the country where the rich access private schools and a different examination system while the poor at best only have access to a deprived public school system with its outmoded syllabus and no access to employment. That is why the marginalised future generations are condemned to go to madrassahs which provide them with food for survival and exploit their pent up social anger. We need to bring all our educational institutions into the mainstream with one form of education syllabus and examination system for all - with madrassahs also coming under the same system even while they retain their religious education specialisation.

Third, the level of governance needs to be raised through making appointments on merit in contrast to the worst type of cronyism that is currently on show. Alongside this, a cutting of expenditures is required with the leadership and the elite leading by example through adoption of an austere lifestyle. Also, instead of seeking aid and loans to finance the luxurious lifestyle of the elite, the leadership should pay taxes, declare its assets and bring into the country all money kept in foreign banks abroad. All “benami” transactions, assets and bank accounts should be declared illegal. I believe we will suddenly discover that we are actually quite a self-sufficient country.

Fourth, the state has to widen its direct taxation net and cut down on indirect taxation where the poor subsidise the rich. If corruption and ineptitude are removed, it will be possible for the state to collect income tax more effectively.

A crucial requirement for moving towards stability would be the disarming of all militant groups - which will a real challenge for the leadership but here again, the political elite can lead by example and dismantle their show of guards and private forces.

Finally, fundamentalism should be fought intellectually with sensitivity shown to the religious and heterogeneous roots of culture amongst the Pakistani masses. Solutions have to be evolved from within the nation through tolerance and understanding. Here, we must learn from the Shah of Iran’s attempts to enforce a pseudo-Western identity onto his people and its extreme backlash from Iranian society.

The threat of extremism is directly related to the performance of the state and its ability to deliver justice and welfare to its people.

Source: The News

Monday, April 20, 2009

LUMS Student Killed: Call CCPO Lahore and Protest

Three drunk people hit and killed a LUMS student early this morning, also severely injuring two other students. The students were walking near H block. The DHA police have been busy helping the culprits. Almost 500 students are protesting against this inaction in Defence right now. Please join the protest, if that is not possible, make one phone call to the police cheif of lahore and protest. Help keep the pressure up!

CCPO Lahore, DIG Pervaiz Rathore



P.S. Please spread this around. Remember every phone call counts!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yelling Yelling and more Yelling ...

UK Police

UK Police

LAHORE, Pakistan: The 11 Pakistani students arrested in Britain will be released, as the authorities have not found any evidence against them, Pakistan High Commissioner to London Wajid Shamsul Hassan has said. Hassan said the arrests were a mistake on the part of British intelligence agencies, a private TV channel reported. He said the British government had exaggerated the incident (UK PM used “Very Big Terrorist Plot” while talking about it), adding the remand ... read more

Monday, April 13, 2009

Balochistan and Baloch Nationalism

Many in Pakistan, especially the generation of the 80’s and 90’s, cut off from the 60’s & 70’s erra by the State’s crackdown on information, publication and news during Military regime of Gen Zia, view Baloch Nationalism as a relatively recent phenomenon. The fact of the matter, however, is that Baloch Nationalist political and armed movements have recurrently arisen in the Balochistan after its division among Iran, Afghanistan & British India in late 19th and early 20th century.

Original Balochistan:

The information regarding an original Baloch State is shady, But a great deal is known about the early Baloch history through recent academic research and different historically prominent resources, which include the work of the famous poet Firdousi, when he details out the war between Alexander The Great & Baloch when he returns to Babylon via Balochistan. The secret documents prepared by the British Indian government in late 19th century and early 20th century by the British Indian ambassadors to Khanate of Kallat, War descriptions of Baloch forces who fought against Astyages (585-550 B.C.) and surviving texts and records from 1200 B.C. put them as an effective military and political force in time of Cyrus The Great and Cambyses. And they point out that:

  • Balochistan, a predominantly tribal state, has a loose, localized structure of power. Prime powers were delegated to the local ‘Sardar’. Khanate of Balochistan had its capital at Kallat.
  • The pre-dominant life style of Baloch, was reported to be semi-Nomadic and agricultural.
  • Baloch religions have evolved over the history of 2 millennia, but by late 19th century, it is on record that they are predominantly Sunni Muslims with exception of Zikiri’s in Turbat (still present in Turbat) and a minor population of Shia’s.

ThThe geographical area consisting Balochistan was

  • Kech and Makran(East Makran is now part of Iran, West Makran is now part of Pakistan, previously part of Sultanate of Oman)
  • Khanate of Kallat(Modern day Kallat Division, encompassing Panjgur, Turbat, Khuzdar, and probably Jafarabad & Naseerabad)
  • Sibi
  • Southern Punjab Districts of D.G. Khan, Rajanpur & Rahim Yar Khan
  • Jacobabad(modern day Jacobabad distt. Of Sindh),
  • Siestan (the modern day Siestan province of Iran including Zahidan, Taftan and port city of Chabahar)
  • Registan ( South of Helmand River of Afghanistan, part of modern Afghan provinces of Farah & Nimruz)
  • A migration to Oman, reported around 200 years ago, made a strong Baloch community there. currently Oman’s 35% population is Baloch. However, Baloch Nationalists don’t lay claim to this geographical area.

Mir Jalal Khan In the 12th century united a total of 44 Baloch tribes to form a consolidated Baloch political authority. Rind Lashkari’s established a Confederacy in 15th century in the command of legendary Mir Chakar Khan Rind. Khanate of Balochistan was established in the 17th century with headquarters in Kallat.

Division of Balochistan

Before the division of Balochistan, it was governed by Kahante of Kallat, recognized as an Independent state by British India. After the division of Balochistan (which was motivated by countering Russian influence in the region) and pleasing the pro-Russian Iran & pro-British Afghanistan, Kahante of Kallat was given the status of ‘Proctorate of Kallat’ and considered part of British India.

  • The Perso-Baluch division (The Goldsmid Line) took place in 1871 and through 1895 till 1905, during which Siestan and West makran were awarded to Iran.
  • Baloch Afghan frontiers were demarked in 1895, during which areas of Balochistan in Farah and Nimruz were given to Afghanistan.
  • The British annexation of Balochistan in British India followed soon after which put the Jacobabad in Sindh and D.G. Khan in Punjab.

Annexation to Pakistan:

Khan of Kallat, on 15th August 1947, one day after lifting of British Raj from Indian Sub Continent, declared Balochistan as an independent state. Mr. Jinnah, whose party was supported by the Khan during the 1946 elections was close to Khan of Kallat. He insisted on annexation of Balochistan with Pakistan. His visit to Kallat, was part of the effort to convince him to annex to Pakistan.

On April 1, 1948, Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan, officially, but not without a military presence in Kallat and adjoining areas. Baloch Nationalist are of the view that it was a full scale invasion, but keeping in view Pakistan Army’s commitment in Kashmir and its resource lessness at the time, others argue that it was a will full act on part of Khan of Kallat. The two opposing arguments still exist today.

Rise of Baloch Nationalism

Late 1920’s and early 1930’s saw a major political and armed revolt against the British Indian government. It was a time when suffering of Baloch people was felt across India, it eventually led to Mr. Jinnah’s demand of rights for Balochistan and providing state services in Balochistan in his 14 point agenda of demands presented in 1929.

In 1948, when Balochistan was officially annexed to Pakistan, with promise of greater provincial autonomy. Many people including brother of the then Khan of Kallat, Karim Khan did not agree with it. He was in favour of an independent Balochistan. He waged a small guerilla resistance for around an year.

In 1954, When the Government of Pakistan made the West Pakistan ‘One Unit’, and abolished all the provinces, a political movement started in Balochistan. Demand of this movement was re-establishment of Balochistan as a province, and providing the political provincial rights promised in 1948. Army operation went underway in Kallat which led to arrest of Khan of Kallat, and many others. A Baloch leader, Nouroz Khan, led an armed campaign against the Army, he was arrested in 1959, and died in prison in 1964.

In 1973, after Mr. Bhutto’s visited Iran, the then Shah of Iran demanded that Pakistan should show its commitment to Iran as a friendly nation, and act against Baloch insurgents, crossing over to Iran’s western borders, from Pakistan. That resulted in a Military Operation in Balochistan.

The position of Pakistan Government was that this military operation was intended to crush the support elements for insurgency in Iran, while the Baloch position saw a rift towards an independent ideology rather than political autonomy as a province.

Soon after the discovery of 350 soviet machine guns and thousands of rounds of ammo in Iraqi Embassy, allegedly enroute for Kallat. Provincial government was dismissed and Army moved in Balochistan, with an alleged air support of Iranian Cobra Helicopters.

The number reported during that time by international media puts military casualties around 3,000 and tribesmen casualties around 5,000.

In 1977, when Gen. Zia took over, he declared victory in Balochistan and Army moved out.

It is perceived that there was a period of lull during 80’s. However many groups such as BPLF and BLA started to emerge during that time. The Government of Pakistan maintained that pro-Russian Communist Government in Afghanistan was behind funding and training of BPLF & BLA. It can be noted that the BLA’s policy of pursuing Greater Balochistan includes the Afghani Provinces of Fara and Nimruz, which is contradictory to the then Afghan Government’s position, on the other hand many analysts believe that after withdrawal of Russian troops from Afghanistan, BPLF seized to exist and BLA was reduced to a very small support base.

During Gen. Musharraf’s regime, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the former C.M. of Balochistan, former Federal Minister, lead a media based campaign against Federal Governments policies towards Balochistan. Armed skirmishes were erupting around Balochistan targeting Gas pipelines and similar installations. A political dialogue led by PML-Q failed, the Army then again moved in Balochistan, which led to siege of Kohlu for weeks and Dera Bugti for months, and eventual death of Nawab Bugti.

The military spokesman of the time, maintained a position that Nawab was being supported by India via Afghanistan and had made an armed coup against the state. However opposition political parties, condemned this killing, and many liberal newspapers wrote editorials against this act.

Killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti was turning point for many Baloch leaders who believed in a political struggle for provincial autonomy, including Nawab Akhtar Mengal who, along with many others was arrested.

The infamous missing persons case, includes, the names of 450 Baloch nationalists as well, which eventually became the reason for illegal removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan.

A reported 900 Baloch tribesmen have lost there lives since then, engaged in conflict with the Army.

Balochistan Alaskan Model

When the new Government took power, the infamous constitutional package of Mr. Zardari, which was rejected by PML-N since it gave cover to unconstitutional orders of Gen. Musharraf of Nov 3, had infact, a proposition for Balochistan.

Soon after release of all Baloch leaders, with whom government went into dialogue, which led to formation of a clause in the package, that all resources in Balochistan were to be divided among province and Federation on a 80% provincial and 20% Federal share. No settler, not hailing from the current population of Balochistan will be given citizenship in Balochistan and right to vote. Only locals can vote. Gwadar port will be under control of Government of Balochistan.

Mr. Zardari cleverly tied it with the acceptance of the package as a whole, to create pressure on Mr. Nawaz Shareef. Mr. Nawaz Shareef rejected it on the pretext described earlier. Thus this political tug-of-war deprived people of Balochistan, with an important step towards addressing their suffering.

Unfortunately, an year has passed since then, and no one, from Government or the Opposition has said anything about it. Except the usual lip serving, nothing has been done.

Balochi Sex Slave scandal

A lot of Baloch were infuriated by this scandal. The details of this scandal surfaced with context to 23 year old Zarina Marri, a school teacher from a respected Baloch tribe, who was arrested in 2005 from Balochistan.

Mr. Munir Mengal, the managing director of a Balochi-language television channel, was arrested on April 4, 2006 from Karachi International airport by the state intelligence agencies and transferred to a secret jail in Karachi for nine months He narrated the story of the forced sex slavery of the young teacher Zarina Marri whom he encountered in a military cell. He was of the view that many other young women were held in captivity and forced into sex slavery; this is used as a tool to disgrace the rebellious Baloch Tribes.

Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) and Asian Human Rights Commission has issued statement validating the fears of Baloch Nationalists. Other Baloch Nationalists have also reported similar incidents.

Resignation of Baloch Leaders from Parliament and Senate.

Senator Sanaullah Baloch resigned from Senate, soon after elections citing ‘Concurrent List’ and short falls of 1973 constitution and military actions as reasons for suffering of people of Balochistan. The Balochistan National Party had resigned all its seats from parliament in protest over killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti .

This is creating fears among many, that Baloch Nationalists, are moving away from parliamentary and mainstream politics, as they don’t see any change in sufferings of Baloch people. The only path left, then, is either that of a military engagement or political struggle for a sovereign Balochistan.

Recent Killing of Baloch Nationalist Leaders:

Bodies of three prominent Baloch nationalist leaders, Baloch National Movement chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Baloch Republican Party members Lala Muneer Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch whose bodies were found in Turbat, which sparked a violent streak of protests across Balochistan and Karachi. These members were reportedly arrested from the office of a former Opposition Leader in Balochistan Parliament. The Army spokesman has denied it categorically.

Nawab Akhtar Mengal, a prominent Baloch leader, and former parliamentarian, however, maintains his accusations against state intelligence agencies.

MQM held a rally on 12th April against the killings, while Supreme Court Bar Association has called for a week long strike of courts by Lawyers, All major political parties have condemned this act, as well as UN, US and Pakistan Army.

A statement issued by the US embassy confirmed that BNM leader Ghulam Mohammed Baloch played an active role in securing the release of American citizen and UNHCR official John Solecki, who was recently freed after being held for over two months.

The Modern Balochistan

According to Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of Daily Times, in his T.V. program on April 12, for the first time in history of Balochistan a vast urban middle class is rising, it is nationalist in its political outlook. If something regarding suffering of Baloch people is not done soon, it will move along with the separatists version of a political future.

Baloch Nationalism in 50’s and 60’s was considered under the effect of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Even today, it is considered religiously liberal and moderate. Many analysts believe that it can be a force which is not allowing Talbanization to take place in Balochistan, if Baloch Nationalists are not heard, who are increasing their sympathies with separatist military groups like Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) things might take another turn.

The Baloch Nationalist movement, has taken a position, questioning participation in parliamentary politics. Even the mainstream politicians like Nawab Akhtar Mengal, are now airing their concerns of becoming part of political, parliamentary process.

The Pashtun population of the areas such as Pishin, Ziarat & Quetta consider themselves as a separate ethnic group. In 1992 armed clashes between the two led to imposition of curfew in Quetta and adjoining areas. This is another issue, relating to identity of a community of Balochistan, which is un-resolved.

Hazara population dominating the largest urban area of the province, Quetta, considers itself as a separate ethnic groups. They are not considered Baloch by Balochi’s. Though a minor population, but influential in Quetta and surrounding areas, have been ignored in the past, and remain one of the under progressed communities.

Pakistani media, military and Government Spokesmen, have repeatedly said that a cash in-flux from Indian Embassies in Afghan cities near Pakistan border, is the cause of recent upheaval.

Whatever the case, If issues of Balochistan are not addressed, and they are either ignored, or crushed upon by use of force, they might, soon, unanimously opt for an independent country, rather than a Province with liberties and rights they have demand in past.

Some Stats (provided by UNPO)

The total population of Baloch is 13 to 15 million people. Although there are no independent figures about Baloch population in Iran, it is approximated at 4 million Baloch, who do not enjoy even limited political and cultural autonomy. The Baloch population is deliberately sidelined and marginalized in policy and practice by the occupant governments of Pakistan, Iran & Afghanistan.

The Baloch speak Balochi and Brahui derived from the Indo-European - and Dravidian branches of language respectively.

Culture and religion

The majority of Baloch are Sunni Muslims with small minorities of Shia and Zekri.

SCBA Chief announces Nationwide lawyers Strike over killing of Baloch Nationalist Leaders

Supreme Court Bar Assosciation President, Ali Ahmed Kurd has announced a Nationwide Lawyers Strike till Monday over killing of Baloch Nationalist Leaders. This strike call is part of protests carried out by various political, ethnic, social and citizen groups over recent killing of prominent Baloch nationalist leaders, Baloch National Movement chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Baloch Republican Party members Lala Muneer Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch whose bodies were found in Turbat, which sparked a violent streak of protests across Balochistan and Karachi. These members were reportedly kidnapped from the office of a former Opposition Leader of the Balochistan Parliament.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Distt. Buner locals form more lashkars to fight militants

Buner Locals Form militia to fight Talibanpicutre source: related news story

Second time in 2 years, the local tribesmen have taken up arms against the Pakistani Taliban to resist their forced entry into the Distt. Buner.

Last year, close to 400 local residents were killed, when they barricaded the mountain pass and river crossing at Khogan, to the Disst.Buner from the Swat valley, then a strong hold of Maulana Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh's militia's.

The locals formed up militia's to keep the Taliban out, and not provide the Army an excuse to come in the scenic Buner. They are of the view that Army's presence gives TTP an excuse to barge into the area, and vice versa. The local residents vowed not to let their hometowns become a battle field between the two.

Local Police is the only law enforcement agency that is trusted by the residents of Buner, as is evident from yesterday's clashes in which two policemen and two locals were killed, jointly fighting off the TTP militia at Koghan.

This time around, Dawn Newspaper reports that seven militia's of 100 each have been formed by the locals, administered by the influential elders, to hold key strategic positions. Last year they were able to thwart TTP advances and managed to keep the area military free, but only after a toll of 100's of deaths.

Current events, have already kicked off as a bloody standoff between the locals and TTP from Swat. This time around Army has increased its presence in the area already, and seems less prepared to let the civilians fight off the Taliban all by themselves.

For Dawn News Report, please click here

Parliamentary National Security Committee finalises strategy

The Parliamentary committee on National Security has finalised it's strategy with regards to National Security and terrorism. The committee was formed by a joint Govt. and Opposition resolution in National Assembly.

The committee is headed by Sen. Raza Rabbani, while members consist of all the ruling and opposition parties. It was announced by committee that they have reached a unanimous charter, only second time in the history of this military ruled and politically debacled country in 60 years, to counter external, but more importantly, internal threats.

The findings will be presented in National Assembly on 9th April and in Senate on 17th April, and made open for discussion in both the houses, and released to public.

It is widely speculated that, the new strategy's focal point is its toughened position on the infamous Drone Attacks. The drone attacks by NATO forces on Pakistan's tribal belt, bordering Afghanistan, is being viewed as a primary source of resentment of the locals against the Government of Pakistan, and has been a major motivational tool for the likes of Baitullah Mehsud, Mangal Bagh and Mulana Fazlullah's armed militia's, operating autonomously in the Tribal belt and adjoining areas.

Recently, all the major attacks, including the attacks on Sri Lankan Cricket team, the attack on Police Academy in Lahore and the attack on Paramilitary residential quarters in Islamabad have been cited as 'revenge' for the 'drone attacks' by the TTP leader, Baitullah Mehsood.

The biggest problem, for Government to reach an accord with locals for non-assistance to Taliban, have been these drone attacks. In the tribal belt, when a drone attacks the village of a particular tribe, and kills people belonging to the tribe, that tribe, according to the tribal traditions, takes it upon themselves to 'avenge' the death of their fellow tribesman. This is where the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) provides them with a platform to fight the 'agressors'. NATO forces, ( more commonly viewed as US forces) in Afghanistan, and Pakistan Army and Civilian Law and Order agencies as their helpers and co-conspirators in Pakistan.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported over 4000 deaths in past few years, not including the death toll of Army, militants, and those killed in Drone Attacks. Add to it the AFP and other independednt news aganecies reported toll of over 350 people killed by drone attacks, in 2008 alone.

While the death toll is humungous, the Pakistan Govt. from the out-set during the Bush administration has been meekish in objecting to drone attacks. Gen. Musharraf's government, not once raised the question of drone attacks on official forums. Things, however, are now shaping up, especially when US envoy Richard Holbrooke is here.

A common person in Pakistan views these strikes as a violation of Nation's sovereignty., an issue most people are sensitive to in their psychological make up. That view is now being represented by the National Assembly. It fans more anti-American sentiments, and makes the Govt. position difficult to openly acknlowdge the threat of extremeists and devise and persue a counter strategy.

While drone attacks have been effective in killing their main targets i.e. high valued Taliban commanders i.e. Commander Naik Mohammad of Waziristan, and the foreigners(Chechen, Uzbek and Arabs) aiding Taliban,but the collateral they bring with them is huge. Only today a suspected Drone attack in a busy Waziristan market, fired a missile on a car parked outside shops. four people including two suspected Taliban and a shopper were killed, while another 4 shop keepers and shoppers were injured. In 2007, a suspected drone missile strike on a religious seminary killed more than 250 people in Bajaur.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lahore protests against Terrorism, Talibanisation

The Lahorites protested in numbers, conflicting reports put the protesters between 2,000 and 5,000, against the terrorism, violence by Taliban including the flogging of a minor girl in Swat.

The rally is part of a series of protests called upon by Human Rights Comission of Pakistan, Student Action Committee, Pakistan Awami Party & Labour Party of Pakistan.

The rally included people from differrent walks of life, political workers, Human Rights workers, student unions, labour and trade unions, husewives, children, and working class people. Thus Civil society members in general protested against a recent upsurge in violence, by religious extremeists dug in the northern part of the country.

Prominent people in the protest included Asma Jehangir, Prof. Salima Hashmi , Jugnu Mohsin, Dr. Wahab Alvi, Yousaf Baluch ,Sher Mohammed and Iqbal Haider.

Protest Against terrorism in Islamabad,

Human Rights Activists, Journalists, Students, Youth Organisations and Civil Society activists held a protest against the Terrorism near press club, Islamabad, yesterday. The protestors demanded a swift action against those responsible for terrorism, especially the recent incident of public flogging in Swat.

an overwhelming majority of the protestors were women.

Various protests against flogging of a minor girl in Swat

Dawn News* reported in it's April 5th issue, that various protests against the flogging of a minor girl were staged in differrent parts of the country.

Reported protests include two demonstrations in Multan by the Aurat Foundation, the South Asia Partnership, Pakistan, the Violence Against Women Group and the Legislative Watch Group and the Pattan Development Organisation.

The MQM in Karachi organised a black flag day to protest against "the growing incidents of terrorism in the country including flogging of a minor girl"

Punjab NGOs Forum's Zohra Sajjad Zaidi claimed to have organised protests in 13 districts of southern Punjab.

In Khairpur, the Sindhi Speakers’ Forum condemned the incident.

* picture and story source:

National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) protest in Karachi

The Karachi based, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) organized a rally against the growing incidents of terrorism and violence against women in Swat, at the press club,
They demandedthat the "government to take practical steps to stop violence against women and to effectively counter the growing threat of Talibanisation in the country. "

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CJ Chaudhry demands report on Swat woman’s flogging

An eight-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was earlier constituted to investigate the incident. - AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Chief Justice of Pakistan ordered governmentofficials on Monday to submit a detailed report within 15 days over thepublic flogging of a veiled woman, an incident that incensed the nation.

complete story: DAWN report

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Call to join rally against terrorism

Lahore, April 1: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls upon all political workers, lawyers, civil society organisations, trade unions, women activists, human rights campaigners, writers, artists, teachers and the youth to join the anti-terrorism rally in Lahore on Saturday, April 4, 2009. (Outside the Lahore High Court at 4.30 pm.). It is necessary to tell the terrorists that the people of Lahore shall not meekly suffer their cowardly attacks.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson, HRCP