Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Baloch leaders agree to resolve

Balochistan crisis through talks

Shujaat terms meetings with Ataullah Mengal, Mazari ‘successful’; denies Army operation; Baloch leaders demand withdrawal of forces

By Tahir Hasan Khan

KARACHI: Chief of the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Baloch leaders have agreed to resolve the Balochistan crisis through negotiations.

The consensus was reached at separate meetings Chaudhry Shujaat held with the Baloch leaders, Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Sher Baz Khan Mazari, at their residences here on Tuesday.

Terming his meetings ‘positive and successful’, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is also chief of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, said the problems of Balochistan would be resolved through dialogue. Shujaat said he would soon hold talks with Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti to find a negotiated solution to the Balochistan crisis.

The veteran Baloch politician, Sardar Sher Baz Khan Mazari, who is a close relative of Nawab Akbar Bugti, assured the Parliamentary Committee chief that he would convey the committee’s message to Bugti and Nawab Khair Bux Marri to come to the negotiation table. He, however, added that threats and counter-threats could not help resolve the imbroglio.

Aktar Mengal, former chief minister of Balochistan and son of Sardar Ataullah Mengal, said they conveyed to Shujaat that nobody was ready to hold talks at gunpoint. But, he added, Shujaat has been asked to hold talks with Nawab Bugti first as the situation in Sui and Dera Bugti was "very serious". "Meaningful talks cannot be held until tension is defused in the area," he said.

PML chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and party’s secretary-general Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed arrived in the city on Tuesday to hold talks with the Baloch leaders. Federal Minister Mir Naseer Mengal and Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousuf also reached the metropolis and briefed the two PML leaders on the demands of the Baloch nationalists. But the two ministers did not participate in the talks.

After the one-and-half hour meeting, Akhtar Mengal told newsmen that Sardar Ataullah conveyed to Shujaat that without "restoration of peace" in Sui and Dera Bugti problems could not be resolved. He (Sardar Ataullah) said the BNP had already resigned from the parliamentary and constitutional committees due to the "negative attitude" of the government.

Akhtar Mengal said Sardar Ataullah held talks with Shujaat with some reservations. Sardar Ataullah told Shujaat that tension in Sui and Dera Bugti, which heightened after the deployment of security forces, could not be defused until the forces were withdrawn from the area.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Chaudhry Shujaat hoped that his talks with Sardar Ataullah would yield positive results and would help resolve the Balochistan issue.

Shujaat said the present military rulers were the first since the creation of Pakistan, who were determined to redress the grievances of the smaller provinces and to improve the lot of their people. "They are also determined to remove the sense of deprivation prevailing among the people of the smaller provinces," he added.

He termed his talks with Sardar Ataullah "fruitful and positive" in which the Baloch leader identified the problems facing the people of his province. "Sardar Mengal asked me to hold talks with Nawab Akber Bugti and take him into confidence as the present matter pertains to Dera Bugti and Sui," Shujaat added.

Responding to a question, Shujaat said he would hold talks with Nawab Akber Bugti after the return of Senator Mushahid, who is proceeding to Malaysia. Replying to another question, the PML chief denied that any Army operation was being carried out in Balochistan. "Yes, an Army operation had been carried out in Balochistan in 1974 which alienated the people of the province," Shujaat said. The bitter memories of the 1974 Army operation still haunt the people of Balochistan, he added.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousuf emphatically denied the rumours about Army operation in any part of the province. However, he added that the law-enforcement agencies were deployed in the area to protect the vital national installations. He also ruled out the possibility of governor’s rule in the province.

About the alleged gang-rape of lady doctor Shazia, the chief minister said investigations were in progress. He said the problems, like job quota for Balochistan people and gas royalty, etc, identified by Sardar Ataullah during the meeting with Shujaat, would be presented in the assembly.

APP Adds: Senator Mushahid, who was also present in the briefing, said there is no difference between the policies of the government and the leadership of Balochistan. He said: "During the meetings we assured them that there is absolutely no option of any military solution to the problem." "We have opted for political dialogue as a solution to the problem and that is what has been underlined and reaffirmed by Chaudhry Shujaat," he added.

Pakistan Railways halts night trains in Balochistan

QUETTA: Pakistan Railways authorities have halted night-time train services in Balochistan after repeated attacks by tribesmen, officials said on Tuesday.

The decision came after five people were wounded on Monday night when a powerful bomb blew up a section of rail track near Sibi, about 100 kilometres south-east of Quetta. Ghulam Rasool, a deputy controller at Pakistan Railways in Quetta, said the damaged track had been repaired and services to and from Quetta resumed. The track was repaired by 4am and no train suffered detention, he added.

However, the attack was just the latest in a series on rail lines in Balochistan and authorities had decided to suspend night-time services in the province, Ghulam Rasool said. "We have changed the timings of the trains and decided they will not run after sunset," he said. "It was done because of security reasons."

Muhammad Shoaib, another Railways official, said the authorities had also changed the timings of trains in other parts of the country to avoid accidents due to persistent fog in recent weeks. The Baloch Liberation Army, a shadowy militant group, claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on the rail line and also the bombing of a Balochistan Secretariat in Quetta the same day.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan Railways spokesman said that the arrival and departure schedules of two trains, ie Jaffer Express and Balochistan Express, running respectively between Quetta and Rawalpindi and Quetta and Karachi have been changed.

The spokesman told APP on Tuesday that the changes would take place with immediate effect. But he described the reason as heavy snow-fall and torrential rains in Quetta valley as well as the upper parts of the country.

Hence 39-Up Jaffer Express instead of reaching Sukkur at 1.20am, will reach here from Quetta at 9.15pm with effect from January 26, 2005. It will depart for Rawalpindi at 9.17pm. Similarly, the 40-Down Jaffer Express coming from Rawalpindi for Quetta will reach here at 12.18 midnight on its alternate day of arrival and will leave for Quetta at 12.20 midnight.

Meanwhile, 31-Up Balochistan Express will reach Sukkur Station from Karachi for Quetta at 12.55 midnight and will depart at 1am. Likewise, 32-Down Balochistan Express will reach Sukkur from Quetta for Karachi at 10.25pm, and will leave for its onward journey at 10.30pm.

Balochistan to dominate Senate session

By Asim Yasin &
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

ISLAMABAD: The Balochistan situation will dominate the upcoming Senate session. The president has summoned the Senate to meet in the Parliament House on February 2. The opposition has moved a number of adjournment motions and call-attention notices on the current situation in Balochistan for debate by the House.

The two main opposition groups, the Democratic Alliance and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal have summoned their separate parliamentary party meetings to devise a strategy for the Senate meeting.

The government is expected to give a detailed briefing on the Balochistan issue with Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao delivering a policy statement. Talking to The News here on Tuesday evening on arrival from Karachi, Senator Raza Rabbani said the House would discuss law and order. The 17th Amendment of the Constitution of course will also figure in discussions that will bring the president’s uniform issue to limelight, he added.

"The most important issue of the day is situation in Balochistan that is increasing pressure on the Federation," Rabbani said. He said he would contact MMA parliamentary leader in the Senate Prof Khurshid Ahmed to adopt a joint stance in this regard.

However, the MMA is expected to adopt a different line. It has planned to participate in discussions on Balochistan but a vocal group within the alliance is trying to strike a deal with Nawaz-led Pakistan Muslim League against President Pervez Musharraf. Leader of the House Senator Wasim Sajjad said that the House would discuss routine business. Some pending bills for legislation would also come up for discussion.

No new piece of legislation would be introduced in the House but the rules of Senate would be amended in accordance with the recommendations of the relevant committee. Some official circles said he government might move the Contempt of Court Bill, 2004 and Gwadar Port Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2004 in the House. The Senate session will likely continue for about two weeks. With this the Upper House will complete its mandatory minimum days of the parliamentary year.

Rocket lands in Quetta

By our correspondent

QUETTA: Unidentified armed men fired a rocket, which landed in New Killi area here on Tuesday night but caused no loss of life or property. Quetta DIG Rafi Bhatti said that unknown armed men fired a rocket around 8:15pm. Meanwhile, the railway authorities said that they had repaired the railway track, which was dismantled on Monday last near Sibi.

JSQM observes hunger-strike over Balochistan issue

HYDERABAD: Activists of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz observed a token hunger-strike here on Tuesday against the reported operation in Balochistan and the rape with a lady doctor in Sui Hospital recently.

The hunger-strike was led by District Hyderabad organiser Murtaza Mughal, Shahid Soomro, Dhani Bux Abro and Shahzad Memon. They demanded for immediately stopping what they called an Army operation in Sui and Dera Bugti and hanging of the culprits involved in the rape.

They expressed solidarity with the Baloch and said the people of Sindh would back the Baloch in their hour of trial. They also opposed Greater Thal Canal and Kalabagh Dam. The activists raised slogans against the government and in favour of Baloch leaders.

Separately, addressing the participants of a protest rally at Jinnah Chowk in Larkana, Chairman Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) Bashir Qureshi demanded of the government to refrain from launching any operation and establishing cantonments in Balochistan. He said that the time had come that the Baloch and the Sindhis should unite against the establishment.

No contact between Benazir, Musharraf: Bijarani

Says Amin Fahim to be opposition leader in NA soon

By our correspondent

SUKKUR: Leader of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and MNA, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, has declined any contact between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto and said both the leaders have not exchanged Eid greetings as reported in media.

Addressing a press conference at the Thul Press Club on Tuesday, he said that Balochistan was the important part of the federation and advised the government not to overlook its problems and desist from use of force.

Bijarani said that election of Raza Rabbani as the leader of opposition in the Senate was not a result of any deal, it was the decision of the majority. He said that Makhdoom Amin Fahim would become the leader of opposition in the National Assembly soon, replacing Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

He said that PPP was very much against the president’s uniform and the 17th Amendment and that was why differences sparked between the MMA and the ARD. He said that the MMA and the ARD had unanimity of views vis-a-vis the uniform issue.

He was hopeful that the MMA-ARD joint movement would bear positive results. He advised the government to resolve the Balochistan issue through dialogue and desist from use of force, as it could further worsen the situation.

He said that there was no harm in summoning a round-table conference for the redressal of Balochistan issue. "If we are ready for dialogues with our enemies, then why not with Baloch leaders," he added.

Bijarani said that Nawab Akbar Bugti should meet Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He said that as the Jamhoori Watan Party was a part of the ARD, therefore, a motion would be moved in the National Assembly on the Sui situation.

Rain, strong winds lash Balochistan coast

QUETTA: The coastal areas of Balochistan are in the grip of rain for the last two days while dozens of boats have sunk due to strong winds. According to reports, Jiwani has received 43 mm, Gwadar 28 mm and Pasni 12 mm of rains. A report from Ormara said a windstorm lashed the area, which continued for four hours. Nearly 60 boats were sunk in the sea in Deemizar area in the east of Pasni due to strong winds. Among these included a trawler from Sindh known as Safeenae Rehmani. Twenty-five people on board the trawler escaped unharmed and managed to reach the beach. Reports from Pasni said strong winds have gripped the area for the last two days accompanied by rain. People are frightened. There was no report of loss of life.


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