Sunday, January 30, 2005

BLA claims responsibility for Head Baloki pipeline blast

Listen to these reports

Nasirabad: Electric towers blown up electric supply suspended BLA claim responsibility

Quetta: Tension in Sui, Bomb blasts in Quetta and Kuchlag and more

BLA claims responsibility for Head Baloki pipeline blast: Gas to industrial units not restored

By Khawaja Naseer

LAHORE: Gas supply to industrial units in Lahore, Kasur, Pattoki, Sahiwal and Multan remained suspended on the second day on Saturday with the Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) claiming that the domestic connections had been restored.

Taking precautionary measures against attacks, the SNGPL on Saturday directed its operational wing to lay all overground gas pipeline crossings underground in Punjab, Azam Khan, the SNGPL deputy managing director, told Daily Times.

He said gas supply to industrial units would be restored today (Sunday) evening or on Monday. Sources said the SNGPL lost Rs 7.5 million due to Friday’s attack on the pipeline. He said the company had hired the services of the Army, the Rangers and the FC to guard pipelines but it was difficult to protect the 6,000-kilometre main line and 38,000-km distribution lines. The SNGPL on Saturday ordered an inquiry into the attack.

Meanwhile, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has accepted the responsibility of attack on Kasur gas pipeline, Online reported.

Power cut in Quetta, other cities

LAHORE: The electricity supply to several cities in Balochistan including Quetta was suspended on Saturday, the BBC reported. The report quoted an official of the WAPDA as saying that the electricity supply was suspended due to a technical fault. However, the BLA claimed power had been suspended after it blew up electricity towers in Chatar, a tehsil of Nasirabad district, the BBC reported. According to PTV, two circuits of the main electricity transmission line tripped near Nasirabad district, suspending power supply to cities in Balochistan. The restoration of electricity supply would take over two weeks, PTV added. Unidentified attackers fired two rockets at a FC checkpoint in Kohlo, Online reported. A non-politician friend of President Musharraf telephoned Nawab Akbar Bugti on Saturday and discussed the law and order situation in Balochistan with him, Geo reported. daily times monitor

EDITORIAL: MQM’s tactics in Balochistan

The Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain convened a conference on Balochistan in Quetta on Friday to back the Baloch nationalists’ demand for autonomy in general and for rejection of a “military operation” in the province. A glance at who’s who will help define the nature of the MQM initiative. The PML, BNP, JWP, National Party, Baloch National Movement, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, Hazara Democratic Party, Balochistan National Congress, PML-Junejo, and BNP-Hai Baloch Group were among the parties attending the conference. Interestingly, the main opposition parties PPP-Parliamentarians, Jamaat-e-Islami and PMLN turned down the MQM invitation.

The ARD and the MMA stayed out of the session and there was a cloud of mystery hanging over the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) which is the big party in the alliance ruling Balochistan. This means that the MMA and ARD were not completely united over the issue and the MMA showed understandable reluctance to say no but was not among the parties present. The PML was there, which means that the ruling alliance was well represented. From the ruling alliance the MQM was the most important party giving a clear call in favour of the nationalist position but couching it in terms of the provincial autonomy it has been demanding in Sindh ever since it turned “Muttahida” from “Muhajir”. Understandably too, the opposition stayed out because they saw it as a show organised by those in power.

The nationalists are a “secular” lot and have a deep cleavage with the religious alliance ruling in Quetta in tandem with the PML. That should incline the PPPP to show solidarity, but it did not, and compelled people to recall the 1973 trouble it had in Balochistan. Thus “nationalism” — as separated from ideology — is being seen in “personal” terms. The other reason is the heat produced in the Sindh Assembly where the PPPP has to tangle with the MQM in every session amid a great deal of verbal violence. Out in the streets of Karachi, the MMA is being challenged only by the MQM which more than any other party within the ruling alliance — and this should not be lost on President Pervez Musharraf — now brandishes its “secular” identity and expresses readiness to give battle to the enraged clerics. It is not surprising that the Jamaat declined to attend.

One can say that there were no principles involved in organising or attending the conference. Those who did not attend had personal or political considerations rather than any principles. The PMLN repeats the mantra of “political accommodation” like everybody else but was not ready to strengthen the hands of the “secular” nationalists in the session by being there. In the event, the strength came from the ruling alliance, which augurs well for any resolution that may be in the offing. Had the MMA-ARD parties attended the position of the nationalists could have been become more irreconcilable. The Baloch were allowed to let off steam, which was a good thing to do before the Centre attempts some really substantial change of policy to appease them.

How much is the MQM departing from the common agenda of the ruling alliance? In convening the conference, not much. Its Dr Farooq Sattar, however, made a statement that could be seen as some sort of a departure. The deputy convener of the MQM, presiding over the conference, said that all political parties and nationalists had been brought together on a single platform to speak against an “exploitative system”. The MQM chief Altaf Hussain spoke on the phone, saying the situation in the province might worsen and become more complicated. “The rulers should realise Balochistan’s importance in terms of revenue generation,” was the key sentence that tended to link Sindh to the argument. He went on to say that Balochistan was a very important federating unit of Pakistan and was playing an important role in developing the country’s economy and that nobody could guarantee a stable country if its federating units were not allowed to utilise their resources. Rather than closing their eyes to the facts, Pakistan’s leaders should face the facts and resolve Balochistan’s grievances, he argued.

Needless to say, it was Altaf Hussain’s threat earlier to get out of the ruling alliance in Islamabad that lent credence to his position among the nationalists. There is no doubt that his party’s exit can change the complexion of the politics inaugurated by President Musharraf after 2002. But there is a lot of political distance to cover before Mr Altaf Hussain reaches the point of no return and actually gets his people out of the government. There is no doubt, however, that his reaching out to the nationalists was motivated by his agenda in Sindh where he is fighting over resources with the coalition partners and facing the clerics off in the streets of Karachi. He is playing on a good wicket there. No one is opposed to more provincial autonomy under the Constitution. But in Quetta he has been able to isolate the MMA-ARD parties on this subject. *

Shujaat postpones meeting with Bugti

* Tribal chief not willing to talk yet
* Wants investigation into ISPR charges

Staff Report

KARACHI: Tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti is not yet ready to meet Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the Pakistan Muslim League, to negotiate a solution to the Balochistan crisis, his spokesman said on Saturday.

Shahid Bugti, the secretary general of Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party, told Daily Times that Nawab Bugti would not meet Shujaat, the head of a parliamentary committee on Balochistan, until “actual issues” are sorted out.

He said Nawab Bugti had made clear to Shujaat during recent direct and indirect contact that talks would be fruitless until there is a “conducive atmosphere”, and this was not possible while the alleged rapists of a woman doctor were not arrested and regular troops and paramilitary forces had Sui “under siege”.

Government sources told Daily Times that Shujaat planned to visit Nawab Bugti in Dera Bugti on Sunday, but had postponed the visit until Mushahid Hussain, the secretary general of the PML, returns from Malaysia.

Shahid Bugti said that the governor of Balochistan was wrong when he said that Captain Hammad, one of the alleged rapists, had been taken into custody. He said the arrest of Pakistan Petroleum Limited officials for allegedly tampering with evidence was not enough.

Meanwhile, Nawab Akbar Bugti has reacted angrily to charges from the military that he is paid Rs 125 million a year by Pakistan Petroleum Limited for public welfare and that 100 of 300 locals employed by the company are his personal employees.

In a press release, Nawab Bugti said he was willing to allow journalists Irshad Ahmad Haqqani, Ayaz Ameer and Mushahid Hussain Syed to investigate the truth of these charges.

Bugti said the accusations against him from General Shaukat Sultan of Inter Services Public Relations were false and the general should produce the documentary evidence he claims he has.

“General Sultan should present his case to these journalists that we believe are impartial. We will not even present our case to defend ourselves,” he said.

He said the “jury” of journalists should decide who is lying and should decide the sentence too. Nawab Bugti said the company didn’t pay him or his family a single penny for public welfare, he was only paid for land he owned.

Routine life disturbed by Sui gas shortage in city

By Nauman Tasleem

LAHORE: The gas suspension on Saturday disturbed routine life in most parts of the city. The gas shortage also caused losses of millions of rupees to Compressed Netural Gas (CNG) stations, learnt Daily Times.

Major parts of the city including Model Town, Township, Johar Town, WAPDA Town, Faisal Town, Multan Road, Iqbal Town, Garden Town, Liaqatabad, PIA Society, Kahna, Nishtar Town, Muslim Town, Wahdat Road, Awan Town, Sabzazar, Samanabad and parts of Gulberg were without gas from the morning to late afternoon. However, in some areas the gas pressure was low instead of being completely cut off. CNG stations in these areas closed for the day because of the shortage.

CNG station owners said that they suffered heavy losses because of the depleted gas supply. “I have incurred losses of at least Rs 20,000 in these hours. There are around eight CNG stations in these areas and they must have suffered the same amount of losses,” said Muhammad Safdar, a Peco Road station owner.

Sajid Ali, a CNG station owner at College Road Township, said, “This suspension has caused me to suffer around Rs 15,000 losses.” “My loss is around Rs 25,000,” said another Johar Town CNG owner, Haseeb. People with cars were seen searching for gas, driving their vehicles from one CNG station to another. The few stations the gas deficiency had not affected saw long queues of vehicles.

“I went to three CNG stations but failed to get CNG for my car. There is no gas avaliable therefore I have decided to run my car on petrol. Although petrol is much more expensive, I have no choice but to bear it. I hope it is only for one day and no this incident does not happen again in the future,” said Abdul Basit, a car owner while standing at the Model Town Link road filling station.

It was not only the CNG shortage that caused difficulty for people as gas supply for preparing meals and warm water was also suspended. “My geyser is not working and I had to take a bath with cold water in this cold weather,” lamented Shahzad, a resident of Johar Town.

As preparing meals at home became impossible, the majority of people had purchase food from the market. Restaurants and hotels witnessed immense load of customers. “There is no gas in my house, so I have to come to market to purchase lunch for my family,” said Sadeed, a resident of Township, while standing in a queue at a restaurant. When a restaurant owner, Razaq, was asked how he was able to prepare food, he said, “I have purchased gas cylinders from the market in order to keep my business going.”

“I have purchased wood to cook food and run my business. It was a hectic day for me. Earlier I thought that the gas would be restored in one hour or so but later I had to buy wood and prepare lunch,” said Dawood, another restaurant owner.

Where the gas shortage caused difficulty for most citizens, it brought relief to some housewives; “Thank God, there is a day of rest for me, otherwise I would normally be preparing a meal thrice a day,” said Faiza, a housewife.

“Today I took a much needed rest after a very long time as there was no pressure of preparing meals and my husband went to market to get lunch,” said Aliya, another housewife.

Gwadar port to be completed in 2007: minister

QUETTA: “The development work on the Gwadar Port will be completed by 2007,” Babar Ghauri, the federal minister for shipping and ports, claimed on Saturday.

The minister told a press conference that the port would help Pakistan establish trade relations with Central Asia and other countries and that after the completion of three berths at the port, PM Shaukat Aziz and his Chinese counterpart, Van Jiabao, would inaugurate them in March 2005. “I have taken up the matter with Jam Mohammad Yousaf, the Balochistan chief minister, and the Balochistan National Party president, in which they say they are not opposing the project, but have some reservations about it,” he said. “We will give all necessary details to them as we believe that the inclusion of the local populace in such a mega development is a must and good for the country.” Ruling out the chances of the Gwadar Development Authority’s headquarters in Karachi, he said its head office would be in Gwadar. online

No strong ARD support for JWP on Balochistan

* PML-N and PPPP have reservations about tribal chiefs

By Shahzad Raza

ISLAMABAD: The Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) will not get strong support from the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) with its policy in handling the Balochistan crisis.

The JWP is a part of the alliance, but the two biggest ARD parties – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) – do not want the JWP to use the ARD platform in its confrontation with the federal government. The head of the JWP, Nawab Akbar Bugti, is also chief of the Bugti tribe, whose members are believed responsible for attacks on Sui gas facilities following the alleged gang rape of a woman doctor by security personnel. ARD sources said alliance leaders did not want the ARD’s main mission, to restore a “genuine” democracy to Pakistan, to be sidetracked by other issues.

Most ARD leaders do not support JWP policies in Balochistan. They said JWP leaders had direct contact with the government and the ARD had nothing to do with it.

ARD leaders say they oppose the presence of military troops in the neglected province and have demanded that the government ensure the development of the area.

“But they are not ready to get involved in the fight between nationalist forces and the government,” the sources said.

Several PPPP and PML-N leaders believe that tribal leaders are also responsible for the plight of the Baloch people. They said that the JWP chief, Nawab Bugti, had been governor of the province but done little for its development.

One ARD leader said the centre was responsible for aggravating the Balochistan situation. “The government pays a lot of money to the tribal sardars, but still allows itself to be blackmailed by them on separate issues.”

He said the Balochistan issue would be discussed openly at the next ARD meeting. He added that the alliance would give the people of Balochistan, not tribal chiefs, its moral support.

PML-N briefing: The PML-N will brief the PPPP about Nawaz Sharif’s recent meetings with the top leaders of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in Jeddah.

A PML-N leader said the briefing would be given to PPPP leaders before the next ARD meeting, which was expected to be held in the second week of February. He said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the PML-N acting parliamentary leader, and with other senior leaders of the party would brief Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the PPPP chief.

‘US will not like significant Chinese presence in Balochistan’

By Shahid Husain

KARACHI: Leading political analyst Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed has said the United States will not appreciate “significant Chinese presence” in Balochistan and in future if an operation is conducted by the United States against Iran, it would like to have a safe haven back line in Balochistan.

In an interview with Daily Times on Friday, he said: “This time around Balochistan has again attained a strategic position in the region. The United States is fully entrenched in Iraq and has virtually occupied Afghanistan, but now Iran is out of the American influence. It appears that in future Iran will come under severe pressure and the American establishment has explicitly made it known that to it Iran is part of the ‘axis of evil.’ So in future if some operation is conducted against Iran by the US, it would like to have a safe haven back line in Balochistan like it used it against its attack on Afghanistan and the Taliban regime.”

With an area of 3,47,188 square miles that is larger than the combined area of Punjab and Sindh, Balochistan comprises 44 percent of Pakistan, and has an 800km-long coastline and the province enjoys immense geo-strategic importance since it is the hub between South Asia, West Asia (Middle East) and Central Asia and shares 1,173 km-long border with Iranian Balochistan, and 837 km-long border with Afghanistan.

“The potential for trouble for the United States if the Bush administration acts aggressively towards Iran is enormous,” warns Juan Cole, the widely-quoted Middle East historian. “It could turn the Iraqi Shiites and the Afghan Hazarahs decisively against Washington. An Iran in chaos similar to that in Iraq would be three or four times the problem for the US and the world than Iraq is,” Juan Cole has been reported to have said.

“There is another aspect of Balochistan’s strategic importance and that is the role China is playing in the construction of Gwadar Port and other similar projects. In this scenario the situation in Balochistan attains complexity and the government of Pakistan faces a gigantic challenge in containing the renewed Baloch aspirations and demands and in keeping Balochistan away from international political tussle,” Dr Ahmed said.

“There is a strong need to resolve the issues politically and starting a genuine political process, involving all the major political parties of the country. One would also suggest that a joint session of the parliament be convened at the earliest and a threadbare discussion on Balochistan issue be held there,” he said. Recalling the military operation in Balochistan in the 1970s, he said: “In the 1970s the Shah of Iran acquired an important role in the region and emerged as a regional policeman, safeguarding American interests. After the overthrow of Zahir Shah in Afghanistan, tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan grew which were aggravated by the Shah’s interests. The military operation in Balochistan in the 1970s had the full backing of Iran to the extent that Iranian helicopters were used in the operation and at one point Shah’s twin sister, Princess Ashraf Pehlavi, paid a visit to Balochistan,” Dr Ahmed said.

He said Balochistan had been always important due to its strategic importance. “Balochistan always had a very important strategic position. During the British period, it constituted the border of the British Raj and the British devised a very well thought-out policy regarding it, making Balochistan a secure borderline between itself and Russia

“As a result of this policy, military cantonments were built in Balochistan and advanced defence infrastructure was created. “After the British rule, Balochistan continued to have its strategic importance in the context of the Cold War. It was assumed to be a buffer between the Soviet Union and the Arabian Gulf. Expecting that the Soviet Union would aspire to reach the warm waters, Pakistan, at the behest of the US, accepted to play a role of containing the communist threat which also implied the containment of Baloch nationalists’ aspirations,” he pointed out.


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