Thursday, January 27, 2005

The gathering storm

The gathering storm

Army to set up garrison in Sui

SUI (Agencies) - Army formally announced Wednesday the project to build a garrison in the troubled gas-rich town of Sui in Balochistan. “We have come here and taken over the 400 acres of land allotted to the Pakistan Army,” commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mazhar Masood said.
“We will soon build a cantonment (garrison) here which is the need of the area,” he said at a special Press briefing in this dusty town, some 350 kilometres southeast of Quetta.
Masood said the troops were in Sui “to protect the key gas installations, life, honour and property of its citizens from miscreants and to provide reinforcement to paramilitary forces in maintaining the law and order in the area.” He said it was necessary to station troops in the town, as rocket attacks, which have damaged the strategic gas pipelines, become a ‘regular feature’.
The government last year said it planned to build three new military bases in Sui as well as in Kohlu, which has untapped oil and gas reserves, and the coastal town of Gwadar, which is the site of a Chinese-funded deep seaport.
The plan triggered strong opposition from tribesmen who claimed the projects would bring in outsiders who would ultimately outnumber ethnic Balochs.
Meanwhile, police have detained four officials of Pakistan Railways in connection with bomb explosion along the track two days back.
A powerful explosion had blown up a two feet piece of rail close to outer signal of Quetta-Sibi section Pakistan Railways on Monday night. The police for interrogation purpose detained four officials, Faizullah, Abdul Majeed, Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Farooq who were on duty on that night.
AFZAL BAJWA FROM ISLAMABAD ADDS: President General Pervez Musharraf and PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain Wednesday resolved to settle the issue of the minerals-rich Balochistan province through dialogue with whosoever tribal leaders parallel to ‘adequate measures’ for the security of Sui installations.
The two apex leaders of the current regime held a sort of one-on-one meeting at the Camp Office of Presidency in Rawalpindi to finalise a high-profile agenda of negotiations with the Baloch tribal leaders seeking enhanced royalty on oil and gas production from the province.
According to an official statement, President Musharraf emphasised that the protection of national assets like the Sui installations is vital, and adequate measures are being taken to ensure their security.
Meanwhile, sources told The Nation that President Musharraf has mandated Ch Shujaat to negotiate with Akbar Bugti on ‘give-and-take basis but to a limited extent’.
The meeting also decided to play down the unhappy tribal leaders and the issues they are playing on including poverty and underdevelopment in the province, the sources added.
Later, Ch Shujaat told The Nation he would be travelling to Balochistan in a few days in order to meet Akbar Bugti, the former Chief Minister and most influential figure of the tribal leaders of the province.
“I am planning to go there (Quetta) to meet rest of the Baloch leaders including Bugti Sahib on January 31 or February 1,” said the PML President.
He was confident sufficing the gravity of the matter to resolve the issue through dialogue with the political as well as tribal leaders of the province. “My meetings so far with them (Baloch leaders) are encouraging and I am more than hopeful about the upcoming talks,” he maintained.
About his meeting with Musharraf, Ch Shujaat said the President had expressed his desire to resolve whatsoever issue in a political manner. However, the security of the state assets is to be ensured, he added.
He was of the view that unrest anywhere in the country due to any reason was not in favour of anyone. While the desired development in the province also requires peace and maintenance of law and order in the first place, he observed.
Earlier, the sources said the meeting, in which Secretary National Security Council Tariq Aziz was also present, decided to highlight the development work in progress in the province in the form of various mega projects.
“President Musharraf spoke of various mega projects in Balochistan with particular reference to the recently completed Makran Coastal Highway and the under-construction Mirani Dam, Gwadar Deep Seaport and Kachi Canal,” said the official handout.
It quoted Musharraf as saying that people were witnessing a remarkable socio-economic change in the province.
According to reliable sources, President Musharraf maintained that blackmailers ‘stunned’ over the development of Balochistan have now been committing terrorism. These elements want to deprive the people of the fruits of development in order to achieve their objectives, he added.
He called upon the media to play its role in informing the people about the real issues. The government is spending Rs 130 billion on development projects in Balochistan which will automatically lift the standard of the people, he remarked.
Meanwhile, President Pervez Musharraf summoned Balochistan Governor Awais Ghani to Rawalpindi.
According to sources, the Governor will brief the President over the law and order situation and the on-going development projects in Balochistan. He will also inform the President about the situation in Sui and Dera Bugti.
OUR MONITORING DESK ADDS: Meanwhile, Mutthida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has called a roundtable conference in Quetta on Friday (tomorrow) to discuss the Balochistan issue. The objective of the conference is to highlight the issue with a focus on seeking solution to all the problems through dialogue, MQM Senator Babar Ghouri told Geo Television on Wednesday.
“Time is ripe for all political parties to sit together and seek solution to the problems of Balochistan,” he maintained.
To a question about the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan, Babar Ghouri said the Committee members have some reservations as all its members are not being taken into confidence. “We have told the Prime Minister about our reservations and also discussed them with Mushahid Hussain and emphasised that all members should be taken into confidence on the issue,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Yousaf has remarked that he cannot rule out the involvement of foreign hand in the deterioration of the law and order situation in his province.
In an interview with the VoG on Wednesday, Jam Yousaf said PML President Ch Shujaat Hussain is in contact with the annoyed Baloch leaders as regards the Sui situation and its results will soon come to light.
Responding to a question, he said the Army and paramilitary forces have been called out only to safeguard the Sui installations. “We are trying that the dialogue process should continue and the tension should not further increase in the area. We are also trying that no further action is taken.”
To another question, he said there is no existence of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), adding it is only a fictitious name and there are other factors behind it.
To a query, Jam Yousaf said, “Nawab Akbar Bugti and Sardar Ataullah Mengal have some other kind of problems and I cannot make any comment in this regard at this moment.”
To another query, the Chief Minister ruled out the possibility of imposition of Governor’s rule in the province, saying his government is working in the right direction.
Meanwhile, political observers said despite all claims by the Chief Minister, the law and order situation is very alarming in the province.
BUGTI’S HELP SOUGHT IN SHAZIA PROBE: PPI adds: Addressing a Press conference in Quetta, PPO Balochistan Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob has asked Nazim Dera Bugti and other notables of the area to cooperate in the investigation in Dr Shazia Khalid rape case.
He invited Nawab Akbar Bugti or his representatives, tribal notables and general public to join the investigations for their satisfaction and participate in the Identity Parade of the accused.

The Shujaat mission

WHILE one part of the government is trying to bring Balochistan back to normalcy, another part is seemingly involved in moves that may well wreck this mission. As Ch Shujaat Hussain, accompanied by his secretary general Senator Mushahid Hussain was using all his persuasive powers to bring round Sardar Ataullah Mengal and seek Sardar Sherbaz Mazari’s help in resolving the standoff, Balochistan CM Jam Yusuf told a private TV channel he suspected the involvement of Iran, Al-Qaeda or some unnamed foreign power in the ongoing unrest. A Chief Minister is supposed to be a highly responsible state functionary. One expects him to abstain from making the claim unless he has foolproof evidence. Coming as it does within days of a Foreign Office clarification that there was nothing to suggest Iran’s involvement, one wonders what motivated him to make the statement. Do some people want to keep the pot boiling in Balochistan for reasons of their own? Or is it part of an attempt to create anti-Iran sentiment domestically to allow Islamabad to facilitate Washington if it launches its likely aggression against Iran?
Both Islamabad and the Baloch leaders must realise the dangers inherent in the ongoing confrontation for the province in particular and the country in general. While presently there is a lull in Sui and Dera Bugti, incidents of violence continue in other places. After attempts to blow up the railway lines in Sibi and Quetta two days back, night train services have been halted in the province. Combined with numerous other incidents of violence, this will strengthen the impression of lawlessness prevailing in Balochistan, causing a widespread feeling of insecurity and endangering the future of numerous development projects in the offing. Meanwhile, Ch Shujaat’s talks with Baloch leaders have produced no tangible result and he has been advised to hold parleys with the already reluctant Nawab Akbar Bugti. With Senator Mushahid having left for Kuala Lumpur to attend an OIC meeting, the next round of talks can be organised only next week. Meanwhile, Baloch leaders have reiterated that, to produce an atmosphere conducive for talks, troops have to be pulled out from the Sui area, house to house searches stopped, political prisoners released and action urgently taken against the rapists of the lady doctor in Sui.
Both the government and the Baloch leaders have to withdraw from their maximalist positions. The government must not make the presence of troops in Sui a matter of prestige. If troops can be withdrawn from the LoC to create an environment conducive for peace talks with India, why can’t the same be done in Balochistan? Similarly, political workers detained without hard evidence incriminating them directly in violence should be released. Normal legal procedure should be followed in dealing with the lady doctor’s case and nobody treated as a sacred cow. This should be followed by talks on the issues that divide the two sides. The Balochi leaders too have to understand it is in their own interest and that of the people of the province to safeguard installations and promote a peaceful environment.

From BLA to SLA

Aziz-Ud-Din Ahmad
What is happen-ing in Baloc-histan is the result of the way the country is being run since October 1999. All vital decision affecting the provinces are being taken by those commanding from Islamabad. The government at the centre and those in the provinces are told to obediently implement whatever the real rulers have decided in their superior wisdom. Their’s not to question why, their’s but to do and die!
When those in power resort to extra-constitutional measures to resolve political issues, the example is liable to be followed by other sections of society. Taking decisions on matters pertaining to provinces and going ahead to execute them without caring to ascertain the opinion of those directly affected or redressing their reservations, is liable to be considered an extra-constitutional procedure. In turn those affected are likely to react with scant respect for law. Whether it is the Gwadar project or the decision to establish new cantonments, Islamabad has shown total disrespect for provincial autonomy, one of the cardinal principles of the constitution. This has sent a message to Balochistan that the centre thinks it alone knows what is good for the province and has a right to execute it in disregard of the public opinion. The chief minister is no more than an orderly, responding only with a “Yes, sir” to every directive from superiors in Islamabad.
The hubris which has continued to be displayed by the real rulers since October 1999 has already done incalculable harm to the federation. In Balochistan it has taken the youth out of the national mainstream and forced them to resort to meet one type of extra-constitutionality with another kind of extra-constitutionality. The situation has been exacerbated by the way an army Captain was declared to be innocent and provided immunity from normal legal procedure before holding an enquiry. This implied that the armed forces personnel are above law. If they are, how could one persuade others not to resort to illegal actions?
None had heard about the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) till three years back. Before October 1999 most Balochi nationalists were part of the mainstream politics, contesting elections and seeking to resolve what they considered the province’s grievances through parliamentary means. Nawab Akbar Bugti had his JWP, duly represented in the Assembly. Khair Bux Marri’s sons contested elections – Balach Marri is still an MPA on the ticket of Baloch Haq Tawar Party. Mr Akhtar Mengal who led the BNP, like Nawab Akbar Bugti, became the Chief Minister of the Province and thus a part of the establishment. A middle class leadership, small but a vibrant part of the mainstream politics, had also reached the Provincial Assembly while some of its members also sat in the parliament. The group led by Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch renamed itself a couple of years back as National Party to underline its all Pakistan identity.
Now thanks to Islamabad’s policies the Balochistan Liberation Army is in the driving seat, leaving mainstream politicians high and dry. Many Balochi young men believe the parliamentary road leads to nowhere as the assemblies have been rendered showpieces by those who possess weapons indicating to all and sundry that political power in fact grows out of the barrel of the gun. They have concluded that in order to get their problems resolved they too must also acquire weapons and resort to violence. There is a perception among the Balochi youth that constitutional guarantees provided to the provinces have become meaningless as the constitution is powerless to save itself from the onslaughts of those who control the gun and consider that this gives them the supreme mandate to rule.
And now thanks to those commanding the country from Islamabad we have a Sindh Liberation Army, which has proclaimed its existence through a blast in Hyderabad. A man identifying himself as Major Murad has declared that unless President Musharraf abandoned the Kalabagh dam and Greater Thal Canal, his organisation would undertake more actions of the sort. If provinces continue to be managed as they are, the time is not far when the younger generation of Sindhis too might start thinking like some of the Balochis. This would make centrist parties like the PPP and PML(N) redundant.
It is in supreme national interest to resolve political issues through negotiations rather than use of power. Neither those extending threats from Islamabad nor the ones advocating “liberation” seem to be aware of the grave consequences arising out of civil-military confrontation. The first and foremost sufferers would be the Balochi common people, but those involved in military action will not go unscathed as the experience of Waziristan would amply prove. The rest of the country will find it hard to cope with the consequences of the situation. The supply of gas would become uncertain as it would be impossible to station army all along the gas pipeline for an indefinite period. Shortages and breakdowns will affect not only the domestic consumers but also enhance the costs of electricity. This would bring down industrial production and make goods uncompetitive in international market. Uncertain conditions in the province will jeopardise plans to take the Central Asian gas pipeline through the area. With guns booming and blasts taking place, those planning to invest in Gwadar would turn away to safer countries.
Islamabad must drop its high and mighty attitude and agree to resolve all contentious issues through talks. For this it has to undertake the necessary confidence building measures. If forces can be withdrawn from the LoC to create an atmosphere conducive to parleys with India, why cannot these be recalled from Sui and Dera Bugti, particularly when no rockets are being fired there? The country’s economic progress is vital but much more important is its integrity which must not be put at stake by forcing decisions down the throat of the provinces. A genuine respect for provincial autonomy alone can ensure that organisations like the BLA and SLA do not come into existence.
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The gathering storm

In Balochistan when they cook rack of lamb, sajji, they take their time and slowly bring the circle of fire closer to the rack. When finally cooked it becomes a sumptuous meal.
The prevailing situations in and around the country are akin to the cooking of the Sajji – sectarian in-fights in the Northern regions, blowing up of the situation in Balochistan, the Waziristan operation, Two Nation Theory bashing by the MQM leadership, simmering unrest in Sind, Punjab bashing by separatist elements, India’s fait accompli on Baghlihar and other dams/hydel projects and resultant LoC firing, increase in dacoities and law and order breakdown, land scam and the resultant lack of industrial growth. Last but not the least, open resentment among masses and media about the role of the generals and what they have given to the nation.
Laying blame will only worsen things. I saw a recent TV discussion by Sherbaz Mazari, Mumtaz Bhutto and Sassi Palejo. The conclusion drawn was that the people felt alienated and a revolution was in the making. I had documented similar thoughts in a previous articles, as I did on the Balochistan issue and the water crises in ‘The Balochistan card’ and ‘The Water Crises,’ but the country’s powers that be seem to have an agenda of their own.
In Balochistan whatever you do, you must keep the nation’s interest supreme. It is thought provoking that the federal government is thinking of increasing gas royalty, provincial allocation, providing jobs and thinking of amending the Constitution to give Balochistan greater autonomy. Hello! Are we all there? By all means give these concessions, but do so for the other provinces too: greater autonomy and a bigger share from their resources. Otherwise this would be seen as giving in to blackmail, and blackmailers never give up. This will also cause resentment in other provinces as is already evident from the statements of Bashir Qureshi of JSQM.
A friend approached an elderly sage in Quetta, originally from a Bombay business family but settled in Balochistan since decades. He felt we would not be able to take out the Sardar from the Balochis and the Mullah from the Pathans. I differ. If we cannot or presently don’t want to, at least we can wean them off.
If kings, princes, lords, nawabs have all been relegated to history, Baloch Sardars must also realise the changing environment and adapt. We have three stalwarts of Baloch Sardari amongst us, Mr Bugti, Mr Mengal and Mr Marri, all proud and perceivably brave men, but men nevertheless, with all their faults and graces.
We should concentrate on the newer generation, make them feel part and parcel of this country, assure them not just with words but deeds, that Balochistan’s development would provide dividends to all Balochis. Include the Sardars or their sons in the committee overseeing development funds disbursements, educate them to take pride in developing the lot of their faithful tribesmen instead of keeping them subjugated, and make them realise that developing their area and people would make them more popular. Let the initial infrastructure development contracts go to Baloch contractors. When they see they are not being discriminated against, they would seek the help of contractors from the other provinces, and learn from them.
The irony is that the awaam perceives all those involved at the helm as criminals one way or another, whether ministers with default cases, a Prime Minister facing an election petition for abuse of office, a President whom the whole opposition unitedly calls illegal, or Sardars who should be reminded of a 1953/54 arrest for murder and the Kulli Camp.
The Mullah can be weaned off by developing concerned regions with education taking priority over all else, and by inducting religious scholars who can teach them Islam’s true and progressive aspects. We should select our best religious scholars by competitive exam, and send them every year to Al-Azhar and Qum. On return, deploy them in the hinterland with benefits for hard areas.
If those airing sectarian violence in the Northern Areas are unaware of the latest study Rand Corporation study for the US government, stating that USA should note the differences among Muslims and use them to achieve its objectives, leaders of both factions should be enlightened. After that, if they still insist on instigating their respective followers then it is akin to sabotaging national solidarity and steps must be taken against such unwanted elements.
The Baglihar, Wullar, Salal and Kishanganga hydel projects are very much either on ground or on the drawing board, with necessary funds allocated for implementation by the Indian government. These, my dear countrymen, are not the last but the least of what they plan to do with the rivers coming to our share. Now, how and why General Ayub Khan agreed to give away the other three in 1960, is debatable.
The fact is, we lost our eastern rivers under the Indus Treaty, and now have our friendly neighbour freely constructing on the remaining three.
According to Natwar Singh, “We have plans to make dams on all the rivers feeding Pakistan. Then all we have to do is stop water from flowing into Pakistan and Pakistan will be on its knees.” In 2002 the Indian water resources minister Bijova Chakraborty is on record as having stated that “If we decide to scrap the Indus Waters Treaty, there will be drought in Pakistan and the people of that country would have to beg for every drop of water.” Wednesday’s newspaper carries a heading: “India about to finish tunnel to divert Neelum water.” What happened to the oath of defending the country’s interests?
My countrymen, the fact that two senior Indian ministers are being so cheeky, the fact that the construction of dams and hydels has taken place and the fact that they plan another 50 on our rivers is in my opinion a very serious situation and we cannot – Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushtun, Hazarawal, Baloch, Muhajir –afford to sleep over it another single minute. All you separatist elements, remember that those inciting you today will do worse to you if ever you are on your own. The answer lies in uniting. I know your perceptions of being wronged and kept out of the mainstream are not without cause, but going our own ways would only play into the hands of the powers that be.
We have started blaming RAW, KHAD and other neighbours for most of our internal and regional quagmires. There must be some truth in this. If so, why aren’t our agencies taking advantage of the rifts existing in all the countries bent on undoing us? The theory of inverse psychology which I used to debate during my short stint in uniform with my instructor Brigadier Kamal Alam is not being applied.
I do know he tried his level best when he was around. God Bless his soul, he passed away recently, remembered fondly by family, friends, colleagues and students alike. In the academy we were all “you bloody chaps“ until passing out, when we all became his buddies. He will not be around to see the trials the country will have to face, but his cadets who form the majority of the new generals are very much here.
All I want you all to remember is that, with instructors like Akhtar Marroo, Kamal Alam, Saleem Akhtar Malek, Tahir Qureshi and S.P. Shahid, I don’t recall ever being made aware that there were animals like sectarianism or regionalism. It was pure professionalism, truth, and above all nationalism.
The awaam is feeling betrayed, let down. Their confidence in themselves and the country must be revived. The politicians along with the uniformed rulers are the cause of their dejection, but at this important juncture India has to be contained on our water rights.
Remember, no enemy can hurt us if leaders and people breathe together. Besides building up maximum diplomatic pressure we need to show our serious intent and not just be sabre-rattling. We must deploy all resources, covert and overt, and the masses must rally, as in Ukraine, and be seen as an unshakable human wall in front of the Indian Embassy,the UN office, etc, until work on these dams is stopped. If we do not resort to this now, then prepare to teach your children and future generations to beg!
As Brig Shaffi said, “It is dangerous to be the enemy of USA but fatal to be its friend.” And history shows this to be true. On the economic front we have two bullet trains gathering speed in our proximity – China and India. We must immediately adjust our policies so as to ride the suction these two economies will create. If we fumble, that suction will make us tumble. Let India’s stake in Pakistan increase, like gasline passage or transit facilities for Afghanistan for products not manufactured here. But let us also let them know we will not stand by while they suck away our waters!
I’m not being dramatic when I say that as a country we have it in us to BE… if only we can contain our own Holy Trinity.


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