Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The fifth Balochistan war —Rashed Rahman

Tribunal records statement of Sui rape victim

KARACHI: The one-man tribunal, comprising Justice Ahmed Khan Lashari of the Balochistan High Court, constituted to inquire into the gang-rape of a lady doctor at Sui recorded the statement of the victim here on Monday.

The lady doctor had on Jan 17 moved an application before the tribunal stating that she was not feeling well enough to travel to Quetta to record her statement. She requested the tribunal for recording her statement in Karachi.

The tribunal on Jan 18 allowed her request and Justice Lashari arrived in Karachi on Monday, recorded her statement and fixed Jan 27 the date for recording statements of five witnesses. staff report

50 nationalists arrested

HYDERABAD: Sindhi nationalists went on strike in the province on Monday, protesting against possible military action in Balochistan and the rape of a woman doctor in Sui. The Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party claimed more than 50 of their activists had been arrested, mostly in Larkana and Mirpurkhas. They were charged with disturbing traffic and forcing shopkeepers to pull their shutters down. Sukkur police reportedly arrested 35 activists trying to start a rally at the Sindh High Court Sukkur Treasury. Police baton charged the protestors, injuring some of them. Seventeen activists were arrested at Arrow Chowk. Traffic was disrupted for about half an hour at Military Road when a mob threw stones at cars. staff report


VIEW: The rape in Balochistan —Syed Mansoor Hussain

If the state and its functionaries are unable, or worse — unwilling, to protect un-attached young women, then it is unlikely that many of them will be willing to take up jobs in rural areas. No father would be willing to let his daughter expose herself to such risk

As a father of a young woman who might wish to pursue a professional career, as a physician and above all as a human being I am appalled at the alleged gang-rape of a woman physician in Balochistan. Rape is a crime that occurs in every society. What differentiates the primitive societies from the more advanced ones is the way the victim and the alleged assailant are treated by those responsible for the maintenance of law and order.

Even in places like the US, rape charges are sometimes not taken very seriously if there is a possibility that the sex was of a consensual nature. Even then, no such accusation is left un-investigated. The fact that this particular crime was a gang-rape means the possibility of consensual sex cannot be entertained. It is extremely unfortunate that this happened in the very first few days of the new-year and almost three weeks later nobody has been arrested, even charged. Yes, a tribunal has been set up, but we can tell from our knowledge of Pakistani history that reports from such tribunals rarely see the light of day.

If the alleged perpetrators had been civilians and the victim a member of the armed forces, surely we would have seen much greater interest in bringing the perpetrators to justice. It is true that in a poor country like Pakistan, the law enforcement agencies do not have the resources and often the manpower to bring all criminals to justice. True also, that crimes against women and children are difficult to prosecute due to societal mores. Yet high profile cases are always an exception. This case is about as high profile as any case can get.

The victim unfortunately can never be fully compensated. Therefore it has to be the society that exacts full retribution under law. Even if we put aside for a moment the need for justice, there are other important reasons why this matter must be resolved in a swift and just manner. The obvious one is that it allegedly involves a serving officer of the armed forces. It is in the interest of all good men and women that serve this country in uniform that any such incident should not be allowed to impugn either their uniform or their service.

Another reason and one that perhaps we might overlook in moments of anguish is the long-term effect this can have on the entire healthcare delivery system. Pakistan today has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality (women dying in child birth) of almost any nation in the world. Besides this, healthcare available to women is severely limited. Other than the obvious reasons, a major factor is that in a conservative society like this, many people are willing to deny healthcare to their female relatives if female physicians and female ancillary staff are not available to provide such care.

Today, more women are studying medicine than ever before. Many of these young women will eventually get married and settle down as happened in the past, but many will also wish to practice their professions, at least until such time that they decide to have a family. Of these, some might be expected to take up jobs in rural and backward areas out of a sense of altruism and a desire to serve. If this were to happen, then we could perhaps start making a dent in the sad state of medical care available to women in such areas. We as a society must do all we can to encourage this trend.

If however the state and its functionaries are unable, or worse — unwilling, to protect these un-attached young women, then it is unlikely that many of them will be willing to take up jobs in rural areas. No father would be willing to let his daughter expose herself to such risk. It is in this way that the incident in Balochistan can have a lasting impact on healthcare in this country. Even though young women are at risk from sexual predators at almost any place yet those that choose to serve in government facilities or those run by major corporations expect that these organisations will provide them with adequate protection. This should be true not only for physicians but also for nurses, midwives and other female healthcare workers.

The fact that something like this happened is bad enough but worse still is the fact that the organisation this woman worked for allegedly tried to cover up the incident rather than take effective measures to bring the criminals to justice. That so much time has passed without formal charges suggests that an effort is being made to sweep this under the proverbial rug. With every passing day, physical evidence will become tainted and at the same time the victim will be subjected to ever-increasing intimidation making it virtually impossible to prosecute this case in a proper manner. Already there is talk that she might go abroad for her own safety. If that happens then there is little chance that this case will ever reach a conclusion.

It is imperative that the highest ranks within the army act swiftly to make sure that the criminal is identified and brought to justice, even if he is a serving member of the armed forces. Only by doing that will they be able to save the honour of the institution that they serve. At the same time the law enforcement authorities must pursue this case with all the resources at their command. While law enforcement takes it course, it is equally important that the victim should not be subjected to intimidation from any quarter.

Rape cases are often difficult to prosecute because the need for privacy of the victim is at odds with the prosecutorial need for evidence. However, in this case the identity of the victim has already been widely disseminated. Therefore concerns for privacy should no longer be allowed to impede any investigation. Finally, if the alleged assailants are not brought to a quick trial and if the matter is not brought to a just end, the message for young women physicians that might wish to serve in remote areas will be a simple one: “we don’t care about your safety”.

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

VIEW: The fifth Balochistan war —Rashed Rahman

With the nationalists outraged over the rape incident and alienated by the perception that the government was only going through the motions of serious engagement with the long standing and long neglected problems of Balochistan, it seems unlikely that, even if the recommendations of the two committees are implemented, it will in the immediate future lead to a cessation of hostilities

The fifth Balochistan war has begun. In house to house search operations in Sui over the Eid holidays, at least 7,000 regular troops assisted by paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) personnel, backed by tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery, helicopter gunships and reconnaissance drones started looking for the 37 persons named in an FIR regarding the attacks on the Sui gas plant between January 7 and 11. Fifteen people died in those clashes, most of them FC and Defence Security Guard (DSG) personnel. The persons named in the FIR include Nawab Akbar Bugti’s son Jamil Bugti and grandson Burhamdagh Bugti.

Another FIR against more people from the area is imminent, according to Humayun Marri, provincial president of the Jamhoori Watan Party. He says security was beefed up and the telephone lines to Sui and Dera Bugti disconnected before the launch of the operation. About 200 persons were arrested in the area over the Eid holidays. This brings to 300-plus the number of persons detained. Bulldozers have demolished the houses of those suspected of being involved in the attacks on the gas plant. The gas plant has now been restored to normal operation. That cannot of course do away with the knock-on effect on the economy of even a few days’ disruption of gas supplies.

Meanwhile the railway track at Sariab near Quetta was blown up on Saturday. A passenger train escaped narrowly. Three rockets landed in a residential area, Killi Shabo, in the provincial capital, Quetta. Four bombs were detonated outside government officials’ homes in Mach, Khuzdar (two), and Kalat. Fortunaely, none of these incidents resulted in loss of life. Though Sui itself saw no further clashes, this is because the guerrillas have moved away. Attacks are now dispersed widely over the province. This is a pattern likely to be sustained in the low intensity warfare now in its early stages in the province.

Sindhi nationalist parties had called for a strike on Monday in solidarity with the Baloch and to protest against the rape of the doctor in Sui by DSG personnel, which is in progress at the time of writing these lines.

If the government has a two-pronged strategy in Balochistan, the military prong is already in action. This is going to act as the proverbial red rag to the bull. The scale and intensity of guerrilla attacks all over the province is likely to increase in the days ahead. The political part of the strategy, including ideas being floated by the two sub-committees of the parliamentary committee on Balochistan set up by PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, seems to be a case of too little too late to stop the escalation of violence in the province. The Mushahid committee has mooted a 15-20 percent raise in Sui gas royalty and 20-30 percent increase in development funds for Balochistan. The other sub-committee, headed by the minister for states and frontier regions, Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, has recommended a “substantial job quota” for Balochistan in all federal ministries, departments and state-run corporations, apart from police, FC and some federal departments. Mr Rind has revealed that currently there is no Grade-22 Baloch officer. Balochistan is currently getting a 3.5 percent quota of jobs against the 5.2 percent determined in the last census, the minister said. Even the job quota laid down in the 1973 Constitution has never been implemented.

In addition, according to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a vocational training institute is to be set up in Gwadar to train local youths and prepare them with the requisite skills to get employment. This is good news for the ears of the jobless engineers and agriculture graduates who were on hunger strike unto death since January 15 in Quetta. They have now called off their strike after assurances by a provincial minister that the unemployment issue will be resolved now. Whether this ‘package’ will have a salutary effect on the situation in Balochistan is a moot point. It could have worked if the following steps had been taken in time.

One, the suspects of the ghastly rape incident should have been arrested and subjected to the full force of the law, irrespective of the fact that they are in uniform. If anything, had that been done instead of an attempted cover-up by the PPL management, things may not have come to such a pass. It has been reported that COAS General Musharraf has asked the Captain allegedly involved to take a DNA test to prove his guilt or innocence in the matter. It is amazing that it takes the commander-in-chief’s order to do even the most initial investigation of such a serious crime. Two, the Baloch nationalist leaders should have been approached to reverse their decision to withdraw from the deliberations of the Mushahid committee. According to Sardar Attaullah Mengal, they did the committee members a favour by withdrawing, thereby saving them the embarrassment of being exposed for being a powerless body. With the nationalists outraged over the rape incident and alienated by the perception that the government was only going through the motions of serious engagement with the long standing and long neglected problems of Balochistan, it seems unlikely that, even if the recommendations of the two committees are implemented, it will in the immediate future lead to a cessation of hostilities.

Despite advice from knowledgeable observers to address the problems of Balochistan with some urgency, General Musharraf’s regime has chosen to talk tough. Reportedly, there has been a tussle between hawks and doves at the highest level, with the former winning a half-victory in the shape of the deployment of the army in Sui and its operations against suspected insurgents. The doves, who seek a political approach, seem to have been overtaken by events on the ground. If this reading is correct, the Musharraf regime has opened up a third front against itself after Waziristan and the impending opposition movement.

The writer, currently a freelance contributor, has held editorial positions in various Pakistani newspapers

Pakistan doesn’t blame Iran for Balochistan troubles: FO

* Report claims govt officials accuse Iran of fuelling insurgency
* FO denies Pakistan helping US find possible targets in Iran

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has denied a British press report that Pakistan blames Iran for fuelling a growing insurgency in Balochistan.

The Sunday Telegraph cites senior government officials as saying that Iran is encouraging “intruders” from within its own Baloch community to cross the 550-mile border with the Pakistani province and give support to the rebels.

“All this violence is a part of a greater conspiracy,” a senior Pakistani government official was quoted as saying. “These militants would not be challenging the government so openly without the backup of a foreign hand.”

Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said the report had “no credibility”. He said Pakistan was investigating the disturbances in Balochistan, but did not point a finger at another country.

“Pakistan and Iran can talk to each other directly,” he said, adding they did not have to speak through the media. He said there was no misunderstanding or misperception between the two countries and they were able to develop effective coordination to police the border areas.

According to the Sunday Telegraph report, a Pakistani intelligence agency set up a unit in Quetta last year to monitor suspected Iranian activity in Balochistan. Officials told the paper that in addition to directly supporting the insurgency, Tehran’s state-controlled radio had launched a “propaganda campaign” against Islamabad.

“Radio Tehran broadcasts between 90 and 100 minutes of programmes every day which carry propaganda against the Pakistan government,” a former interior minister was quoted as saying. He added that Iran was suspected of providing financial, logistical and moral backing for the insurgency.

Earlier this month, rebel tribesmen disrupted gas production in a series of rocket and mortar attacks, which killed eight people. “However, Islamabad is delaying a formal complaint to Tehran in the hope that private diplomatic channels may prove more effective,” the report says.

Ansari writes that Pakistani officials believe that Tehran has stepped up its activity in Balochistan because of its anger at the construction of a vast deep-water port at Gwadar, close to the border, which it fears could be used by Washington as a base for monitoring and infiltrating Iran.

Last week, journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that US special forces had carried out recent reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify nuclear, chemical and missile sites that could be targeted. He also claimed that the US had Pakistani intelligence support in the operation.

However, the Foreign Office spokesman also denied this report at his weekly press briefing on Monday.

“There has been no cooperation between Pakistan and the United States about Iran’s nuclear programme. Pakistan has very good relations with Iran and the relations have been developing for decades,” Khan said.

“There has been no government to government contact between Pakistan and Iran on nuclear development,” Khan said. “The story (in the New Yorker) is false.”

No talks with Shujaat, says Bugti’s kin

Staff Report

HYDERABAD: Baloch leaders will not hold negotiations with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain or any other figure appointed by the centre, in the in a situation where thousands of security personnel, with heavy tanks and artillery, were positioned at Nawab Akbar Bugti’s hometown of Dera Bugti, Mr Bugti’s son-in-law Agha Shahid Bugti said on Monday.

Mr Shahid Bugti, who is secretary general of Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party, alleged at a press conference at the Press Club here that the rape of the woman doctor of the Sui hospital recently had been a planned act intended to sabotage the negotiations between Baloch leaders and the government’s parliamentary committee.

The said the Baloch people would not abandon their rights, as he put it. But he denied they were fighting to secure the royalty for Sui gas, of which, he said, the federal government started paying 12.5% to Balochistan as a result of protests by the people of the province. He added that royalty was a constitutional matter and was not paid to individuals.

Mr Bugti complained that the government had not installed any telemetry system at the Sui gas plant to gauge the quantity of the gas being drawn from there. Nor did it maintain any record of it. He said the government discriminated Balochistan in fixing the rates of gas. He said the rate in Punjab is Rs 230 to 250 per kilo cubic feet (KCF), Rs 126 KCF in Sindh and Rs 25 KCF in Balochistan. He said the federal government earned Rs 70-80 billion annually from Sui while Balochistan received a share of only Rs 7 billion.

He alleged the mega-project at Gwardar would destroy Balochistan.

Baloch leaders not oppose Gwadar Port, as such, Mr Bugti said, but simply do not want any development involving control by what he called outsiders. Mr Bugti said the federal government wanted to create a 700km-long coastal belt from Karachi up to Jewni in Balochistan and take control of it by declaring it a Defence Coastal Zone.

The Baloch leader compared what the federal government is doing in Gwadar with the buying up of land in Palestine by Zionists before the creation of Israel. He strongly opposed the establishment of cantonments in his province. According to him, army installations never bring prosperity to their areas, but caused devastation.

He said the Baloch people would never abandon their rights and if they were pushed to the wall, “history would repeat itself,” an apparent allusion to the East Pakistan crisis. The Baloch declared that said if the Baloch people started reacting to what he called their oppression, even President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would have to escape from the country. He denied that Balcoh nationalists were receiving foreign assistance, saying the people of the province were fighting with their own resources and weapons. The JWP leader denied that the damage to the gas plant at Sui was caused by Baloch attackers. He called it a farce staged by the federal government to defame Akbar Bugti. Although he said the security forces had not started any operation so far in their areas, they were searching houses in the area.

He said the federal government wanted to displace a population of 25,000 people in Sui. He declared the government would never succeed in restoring peace in the province with force.


Pakhtoon leader calls strike against Sui ‘operation’

PASHIN: Pakhtoon leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai has called a strike on February 12 to condemn an alleged military operation in Sui and the establishment of cantonments in Balochistan.

“We are opposed outright to the military operation in Sui,” Achakzai said at a public gathering here on Monday. The government denies a military operation is underway in Balochistan.

Achakzai, a leader of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement and chairman of the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, urged the government to give the Baloch control over the natural resources in their province, otherwise their could be more violence.

“It is a 50-year dream of Punjab to crush the Baloch tribes and use their gas and mineral resources,” he said.

He said the Pakhtoon people were also ignored in Pakistan. He called for a separate province where Pakhtoons could practise their own culture and have control of their own resources. Party leaders Mustafa Khan Tareen, Maulvi Nazir Akhund, Abdur Rauf Lala, Fazl Qadir Shirani, Sardar Raza Muhammad Burraich, Usman Kakar, Kahar Khan, Dr Hamid Khan Achakzai and others also spoke at the rally. online



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