Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bomb attacks plunge Balochistan into darkness

Bomb attacks plunge Balochistan into darkness

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Bomb explosions cut electricity to Balochistan, plunging the entire province into darkness late on Tuesday, BBC Urdu Service reported.

The report said that high-tension power supply line was blown up by sudden bomb attacks in Sibbi at about 9:15 pm. “The electricity tower was blown up in Sibi and power supply to two-thirds of the province has been cut off,” a Balochistan government official said. “This was the last power supply line after two power transmission lines were blown up earlier this month and now we have no means to supply power. The repair will take some time,” a Water and Power Development Authority official told AFP.

Railway line blast: A bomb exploded on a railway line leading out of Quetta, shattering windows of a passing train on Tuesday. Two railway policemen and two employees of Pakistan Railways were slightly hurt by flying glass. The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attacks on the electricity line and the blast. The group says it carried out many recent attacks including rocket strikes on Pakistan’s largest gas field at Sui in Balochistan, which left eight people dead, and a bicycle bomb in Quetta that killed 10 people in December.

Balochistan has endured a low-level tribal insurgency for years, but the violence has spiked in recent weeks. The government has moved extra forces into the area at the same time as negotiating with the aggrieved groups.

Militant killed: A militant died and two people were hurt when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely in Quetta, police said. Four people were hurt when another bomb damaged a train, AFP reported. The militant was carrying a bomb on his motorscooter when it exploded, the Balochistan police chief told reporters. He identified the man as Bahar Khan from the Bugti tribe. Two employees of a nearby shop were slightly hurt.

Checkpoints haven’t been dismantled: Bugti

LAHORE: Nawab Akbar Bugti, chief of the Bugti tribe, said on Tuesday that Pakistan Muslim League (PML) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s claims of dismantling security checkpoints in the Sui and Dera Bugti areas were incorrect, BBC reported. Nawab Bugti alleged that the government was not creating a suitable atmosphere, but was ruining the dialogue process by reinforcing the army, Rangers and FC in the Sui and Dera Bugti areas, it added. Meanwhile, Shahid Bugti, son of Nawab Akbar Bugti, said on Tuesday that government institutions had worsened the situation in Balochistan to such an extent that talks were now impossible, a private TV channel reported. daily times monitor

Shujaat gets govt’s approval to meet Bugti

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to Pakistan Muslim League (PML) President Shujaat Hussain to meet Nawab Akbar Bugti to resolve the Balochistan crisis. Shujaat met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Tuesday and briefed him about his contacts with the Baloch leaders. Sources told Daily Times that Shujaat would visit Balochistan within a week and meet Bugti with whom NSC Secretary Tariq Aziz was also present at the meeting with the prime minister. Sources said the NSC secretary also briefed the prime minister about his discussions with Bugti. “Tariq Aziz, who represented President Musharraf, supported a political resolution of the issue,” sources added. staff report

Govt blocking aid to tribal areas, Balochistan: HRCP

* HRCP’s annual report says govt intolerant of dissent
* Elected PM forced to step down
* 10,000 women raped
* ECL used to exploit opposition

ISLAMABAD: The government is blocking aid organisations from helping displaced people in the tribal areas and Balochistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report released on Tuesday.

“Lack of access to media and humanitarian agencies in the zones of armed conflict has been a major concern during the last year,” Afrasayab Khattak, HRCP member and former chairman, told reporters at the report’s launch. “There is currently an armed conflict going on in Balochistan, but unfortunately the government has a tendency to seal that area,” Khattak said.

He added that people in Sui had to abandon their homes after rebel tribesmen demanding jobs and royalties fired rockets on the main gas plant, leaving eight people dead.

“They have been dislocated but the government is not allowing humanitarian agencies to help them. It is also not allowing the media to cover the situation, so that other people could help them,” Khattak said.

Mohammad Kamran adds: The HRCP report also said the government’s “growing impatience” with dissent was one of the major factors responsible for the deteriorating human rights situation in Pakistan.

The report said an elected prime minister had been forced to step down in 2004 without any explanation to the nation.

Citing official figures, the 320-page report said that approximately 1,000 women were murdered in honour killings in 2004, 10,000 women were raped and thousands were victims of domestic violence. Forty-two acid attacks and 19 cases of stripping were reported. The HRCP said despite opposition to laws discriminatory to women, the Hudood Ordinance and the Qisas and Diyat Law were not amended or repealed. Many working women complained of harassment while experts held that the existing legislation was insufficient to check sexual harassment and discrimination at work places. Quoting official figures, the report stated that 78 oercent of working women faced harassment and the rate of incidence was 58 percent for nurses, 91 percent for domestic workers and 95 percent for brick kiln workers.

Economic and social deprivation, coupled with rising physical and sexual abuse, constituted the most serious threats to children. The absence of policies to alleviate these problems meant that many children remained deprived of their basic rights including sufficient food, shelter, education, safe water and medical care. About 10,000 runaway children lived on the streets of Karachi alone in 2004.

Over 1,000 people committed suicide because of unemployment and poverty. Over 33,000 post-graduates were unemployed and 35 percent of people lived below the poverty line. The HRCP accused lawmakers of ignoring public concerns, saying the National Security Council Bill, President to Hold another Office Act and the NWFP government’s Hasba Bill violated human rights.

The law and order situation was also poor. Terrorist actions, particularly those motivated by sectarianism, were a major threat to the lives of citizens. Killings in encounters and in police custody were common. About 85,000 people are detained in 89 jails across the country, the report said.

The report also accused the authorities of violating rights to freedom of movement, freedom of thought and speech and freedom of assembly or association. Religious leaders were restricted from entering specific cities, the Exit Control List (ECL) was used as a means of political victimisation and the US State Department found Pakistan among the world’s top violators of religious freedom.

Though Pakistan is ranked as one of the world’s least literate countries with a functional literacy rate of just over 35%, Pakistan’s budget for education was the lowest in South Asia and 5.8 million children were deprived of schooling.

Pakistan failed to eradicate polio from the country and 38 percent of children and 19% of all people were malnourished. The report also revealed that there were 4.5 million drug addicts in Pakistan.

Balochistan and Gilgit to dominate Senate session today

* Government to move amendments to Senate rules

By Shahzad Raza

ISLAMABAD: The crisis in Balochistan and the turmoil in the Northern Areas will dominate the first Senate session of 2005 to be held today (Wednesday).

Opposition senators told Daily Times they would raise the Balochistan issue and question the efforts made by the government to resolve it. They would condemn the government on its failure to maintain law and order in Gilgit and other Northern Areas.

It will be the first Senate session after the nomination of Raza Rabbani as opposition leader. Rabbani confirmed that Balochistan would be the most important issue to be raised by the opposition. “Before the session the joint opposition would hold a meeting to set its strategy,” he said.

He said the opposition reserved the right to stage a token walkout from the Senate proceedings to register its protest against the government policies on Balochistan.

On the other hand, the government would table an important amendment in the Senate rules. Wasim Sajjad, leader of the House, said the rules would be amended to equalise the number of Senate standing committees with that of the federal ministries.

He said several ministries had bifurcated and each of them needed a separate standing committee. “But the provision of more standing committees is not available in the Senate existing rules. Therefore, we are moving the amendment,” he said.

The government would also table a bill for the establishment of Hydro-Carbon Development Institute in the country. Besides this, Omar Ayub Khan, finance minister, would table the quarterly report of the State Bank of Pakistan. In order to grill the government, the opposition has prepared multiple issues like sabotage activities in Balochistan, rape case of a woman doctor in Sui, murder of a religious leader in Gilgit, and the murder of a Kazakh diplomat in Islamabad.

Sources said the opposition would inter-link all the problems with President General Pervez Musharraf. It would demand the general leave power so that democracy could be established in the country, sources added.

Professor Khurshid Ahmed, senior leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), said, “We would express our concern on the situation in Balochistan and Gilgit”.

Senator Sanaullah Baloch, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) leader, said the government had violated Article 245 of the Constitution by misusing the armed forces in Balochistan province. He added that the army had been used to hide a criminal act (rape case), safeguard the interests of a company (Pakistan Petroleum Limited) and to please a few political leaders.

He stated that for the past 56 years, the Baloch people had been deprived of their due rights and had been labelled as agents of foreign enemies.

Government starting crackdown on outlaws in Balochistan: Sherpao

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said on Tuesday that the government would launch a forceful campaign against those who were trying to sabotage development projects in the province.

Opening work on the Kahsmir Highway, Sherpao told journalists that the dialogue process with nationalists would continue to resolve the Sui issue but said Sui installations would be protected at all costs. “Law enforcement agencies are scouring the area for those involved in attacks on the Sui gasfield,” he said.

Sherpao said that the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan would submit its recommendations soon.

He said the government had begun a number of major projects in Balochistan to develop the province but tribal leaders were trying to stop them.

Sherpao said the ongoing military operation against foreign militants hiding in the tribal areas would continue till they were flushed out.

The interior minister said that the government had asked the provincial governments to hold meetings with religious leaders to create sectarian harmony during Muharram.

Capital Development Authority Chairman Kamran Lashari briefed the minister about the highway project.

He said that a section of the highway measuring 8.5 kilometres would be completed within 6 months at a cost of Rs 76 million. Online adds: Sherpao said that the involvement of a foreign hand in the Balochistan crisis could not be ruled out, but said that he could not confirm it until he had enough evidence.

PPP wants political solution to Balochistan

Staff Report

KARACHI: The Sindh Executive Committee (SEC) of the Pakistan People’s Party urged the government on Tuesday to seek political solution to the Balochistan imbroglio by holding talks with Baloch leaders.

The proposal came at a meeting of the PPP SEC here at the People’s Secretariat. The provincial President of the PPP, Qaim Ali Shah, presided over the meeting, which discussed the political situation, local bodies elections and organisational matters.

The SEC expressed grave concern at the situation in Balochistan and claimed the government was responsible for the deteriorating situation in that province.

“The government is responsible because it believes in the use of force, instead of dialogue, to resolve the controversy,” the SEC said, according to a statement issued from the People’s Secretariat. The SEC called upon the government to stop “the operation” immediately.

The PPP committee also criticised the Sindh government for what it said the government’s failure to maintain law and order. Referring to the recent violent incidents in Mirpurkhas, it claimed the life and property of the people were insecure.

The Sindh Executive Committee held the provincial government responsible for Mirpurkhas incidents. It claimed the miscreants who attacked PPP MNA Qurban Shah, MPA Shamim Ara Panhwar and other officials of the PPP were roaming freely in Mirpurkhas under police patronage. It said the PPP workers, on the other hand, had been put behind the bars.

8 injured in Mach coal mine explosion

QUETTA: An explosion ripped through a coal mine in Balochistan province on Tuesday, injuring eight miners, an official said. The methane gas explosion occurred at a private mine in Mach, a town about 50 kilometres southeast of Quetta, said Maqbool Ahmed, the provincial chief inspector of mines. Rescue teams have transported the injured to a local hospital, Ahmed said. He didn’t give other details. Many of Pakistan’s mines are ill equipped. Ap


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