Thursday, January 20, 2005

We will resist military action

We will resist military action, says Bugti

Staff Report

MULTAN: Tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti warned on Wednesday that he and his people would thwart any military operation in Balochistan.

“We will foil all attempts to impose war on the patriotic people of Balochistan and will forcefully protect our constitutional and moral rights,” Nawab Bugti said in a telephonic address from Dera Bugti on Wednesday afternoon to an all parties conference on the Balochistan situation. Nawab Bugti condemned the deployment of military forces in Balochistan, saying they had “besieged” Dera Bugti and Sui city and were “humiliating” locals in house and vehicle searches.

He said instead of listening to genuine Baloch demands for employment, electricity, homes, natural gas, roads, drinking water and communication facilities, the government was branding them traitors and terrorists. “Our rulers are paving the way for the deployment of forces in this area,” he said.

Nawab Bugti rubbished government claims that it is developing the province for its people. “It is being developed for outsiders to facilitate them at the cost of locals. They are conspiring to change the Baloch majority into a minority by accommodating more than five million non-locals in Gwadar and other developed areas.”

He said the Baloch were willing to die for their honour and to protect women on their land. He was referring to attacks on Sui gas facilities by tribesmen angry at the gang rape of a woman doctor, allegedly by security personnel. “Civilians are being arrested while a uniformed captain who is the main accused is neither arrested nor investigated,” he said. He denied that Bugti tribesmen had struck a compressor plant of the Suit gas field and accused the administration of delaying the restoration of gas as a pretext to justify army action in Balochistan.

Bugti’s son and grandson booked

LAHORE: Nawab Akbar Bugti’s son Jamil Akbar Bugti, grandson Barhamdad Bugti and 33 tribesmen from Sui and Dera Bugti have been named in the First Information Report (FIR) accusing them of firing at security personnel at the PPL installations in Sui, Geo TV reported on Wednesday. The TV channel said that the suspects were still at large. daily times monitor

Baloch opposition warns of protests

QUETTA: Provincial opposition leaders rallied here on Wednesday warning of more protests against the Balochistan government if Sibi district were not revived. They claimed the government has arrested more than 250 activists of opposition parties in Sibi for protesting for the revival of their district’s old position. They said former PM Jamali had ordered the revival of all districts, and this had happened in five districts but not in Sibi. They said if their demands were not accepted, they would call a complete shutter down strike after Eid in Quetta, Sibi and other parts of the province. The rally began at the taxi stand on Circular Road taxi and culminated in front of the Quetta Press Club. The opposition leaders at the rally included Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal of the Pakhtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, Syed Sadullah Shah of the PPPP and Yar Muhammad of the National Party. staff report

The Risks, Dangers and Complexities of the Melting Pot in Balochistan

By M B Naqvi
Special to the South Asia Tribune

KARACHI, January 20: Most observers of Pakistani scene are running scarred today: many expect the military establishment to order a crackdown on the mainly Bugti tribesmen in Balochistan’s Sui area.

‘Miscreants’ there had succeeded in damaging the gas purification plant in an attack. As a result gas supplies to upcountry and to southern parts have been disrupted. Gas has been switched off to many industries and program of load shedding of the gas is in force over whole of the country. The situation is grave.

Many government leaders are saying that there is going to be no specific military crackdown. The Cabinet has ‘only’ decided to protect the vital gas and oil installations by beefing up security. But the fears persist.

Would there be a military operations? It is hard to forget the menace in the tone of General President Pervez Musharraf when he said last week: ‘They (tribal militants) should desist. It is not 1970s. They would not even know what hit them’.

The trouble has been brewing for some time and political opinion in the Province has crystallized against the government, complicated as it is by a certain individual crime by four persons.

The opposition politicians are naming names and they have accused a certain Major along with three of his cohorts who raped a lady doctor in the Sui hospital and kept her confined for two days. The government is being accused of protecting these criminals; they have not been arrested nor could originally an FIR be registered. Instead the lady doctor has been removed to Karachi and more or less silenced.

True or false, this is how most public men appear to believe and which has clouded the whole atmosphere. The long-drawn-out struggle between the government and the Baloch tribesmen over Balochistan rights has now got mixed up with this protest and the situation is ugly indeed.

Meantime commentators thought to be close to Authority have started talking of various linkages. There is the usual ‘foreign hand’. Going by tradition foreign hand is Indian in Pakistan and Pakistani in India. One of the establishment’s pundits has brought in the US itself, though Ms. Shirin Mazari’s involving of the US remained peripheral and she did not arrive at a firm conclusion. There is much India bashing, of course. India’s consulates in Zahidan, Kandahar and elsewhere in Central Asia are supposedly keeping the pot boiling in Pakistan with the usual motivation of harming and hurting us poor Pakistanis.

The situation is certainly complicated and the fears of a military crackdown are not overblown. Indeed, it is already on – after a fashion. Hundreds of sabotage acts on gas pipelines have taken place until this direct assault at Sui’s main gas installation. It is the economic jugular of Pakistan. The stakes for the state are certainly high. Opinions differ as to why this trouble has come to a head now. Which is where the pundits and the commentators come in. The best thing to do is to look at the background directly rather than through others’ prisms.

Insofar as India is concerned, the preceding one year has recorded a lessening of tensions to a notable degree, although there is now a distinct hardening of positions on either side, as the dialogue is producing no results. Indian authorities say that the dialogue is a process rather than an event. Pakistanis want some progress on Kashmir without which CBMs lose their significance. The movement is regressive and the fear is that both sides may soon be back to square one.

Indeed the Indians have reported the first breach of LOC ceasefire of over a year old. It is however true that Indian Foreign Minister’s and Prime Minister’s visits to Pakistan remain scheduled and there probably would be an Indo-Pakistan summit on the sidelines of the SAARC meeting in Dhaka.

The thing to note about the Indo-Pakistan negotiations is that the bureaucracies and the governments are not overflowing with the milk of human kindness. But there is a certain popular yearning on both sides to let bygones be bygones and an era of Indo-Pakistan friendship should start. How significant and long lasting this popular sentiment remains to be seen.

There is more to the background than merely Indo-Pakistan dialogue’s dynamics. Pakistan-US relations today require close scrutiny. While government-to-government relationship is excellent and American government is volubly thankful to the Musharraf regime for being so cooperative in Afghanistan and War against Terror. But having said that, the American media, its think tanks, its area experts are exhibiting a degree of disenchantment with Pakistan that is frightening. The issues are not obscure.

First, the Americans are unhappy with Pakistan that, while it is fully cooperating vis-à-vis the fight against al Qaeda, it is not wholehearted where Taliban are concerned. Taliban are still using Pakistan as a sanctuary and they are keeping the pot boiling in Afghanistan. The American administrators in Afghanistan are themselves engaged in talks for a rapprochement with Taliban. What that signifies can be different things to different people. But the point to remember is that they have complained against Pakistan’s non-cooperation on the question of leading Taliban commanders.

The second big issue between America and Pakistan is what is supposed to have been sorted out: viz. the nuclear proliferation carried out by Dr. AQ Khan and his crew. Pakistan President had magnanimously pardoned Dr. AQ Khan but is proceeding against his associates in the business of selling nuclear contraband. The American government accepted the fait accompli: AQ Khan is outside the ambit of further interrogation by IAEA experts or American officials. But they are not happy and are saying so through non-official voices. These voices are approaching a crescendo.

Meantime Pakistan chose to keep his feet in more than one boat internationally. It is impossible to judge what ampler consideration must have gone through before the decision to let Chinese build the deep sea Gwadar port. But it was bound to be a red rag to the American’s military bull.

The US regards the Persian Gulf as its redoubt. Its location is so close to the Straits of Hormutz, the vital choke point for the entire Middle East oil. In a few months time, Chinese President is coming to inaugurate that port. The American unhappiness over the decision to let the Chinese come in so close to their armada at a time when China is supposed to be building the “necklace of pearls” – a string of military bases through Indian Ocean in order to protect the Chinese oil shipment routes - is evident. The Americans have lost no time in calling it a threat to the American military security. The consequences of such American unhappiness can only be serious. But that is not the only complication.

Pakistani enthusiasm for Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is yet another eyesore for America. It will not do to object to it as a State. But there is no way it can please the Americans. These elements in the background need to be kept sharply before one’s eyes. Appreciation of the seriousness of the Balochistan situation need to be informed with these facts.


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