Friday, February 04, 2005

Six bomb blasts rock Balochistan

Six bomb blasts rock Balochistan

QUETTA (Agencies) - Balochistan was rocked by six bomb and landmine blasts targeting key transport, communications and power facilities Thursday, causing widespread damage and blowing off a soldier’s foot.
Meanwhile, Lahore-bound 22 Down Chiltan Express had a narrow escape when a powerful bomb near Kot Chutta Railway Station in Dera Ghazi Khan exploded on Thursday morning. The track was destroyed and the train service suspended.
Six of the explosions occurred in Balochistan, which is in the throes of an intensifying violence campaign by tribesmen demanding a bigger share of the region’s natural resources.
Two railway lines were ripped up in the attacks, including the main line between Quetta and Zahidan in neighbouring Iran.
The track was blown up at Mastung, a small town some 56 kilometres southeast of Quetta, a railway control room official said on condition of anonymity. Officials were inspecting the damage, he added.
Hours earlier a powerful bomb ripped through the wall of a police station in the same town without causing any injuries, local police chief Salim Lehri said.
In the other rail blast a passenger train escaped a possible accident when a pilot engine found part of the track missing at Dera Ghazi Khan, 90 kilometres west of Multan.
A four-foot stretch had been blown up by a bomb leaving a two-foot deep crater and halting the Chiltan Express travelling from Quetta to Rawalpindi, railway police said.
Bomb disposal squad and the police station concerned received information about five hours after the blast. The track was repaired for trains.
A powerful bomb exploded at about 4.30 am on Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur-Shahwali section near Kot Chutta Railway Station damaging the rail track. The staff applied the emergency brakes. The railway officials are of the view that the terrorists had targeted Lahore-bound 22 Down Chiltan Express coming from Quetta but misconcepted the advance pilot engine as the passenger train.
Pakistan Railway had recently started running the advance pilot engine some 15 to 20 minutes before the departure of all the passenger trains entering or leaving Balochistan. The step was taken after Baloch Liberation Army had threatened the public not to travel by trains.
The staff of the pilot engine informed railway officials after which Chiltan Express was stopped at Kot Chutta Railway Station while Karachi-bound 20 Down Khushal Express coming from Peshawar was stopped at Dera Railway Station.
When contacted Civil Defence officials told The Nation that local police control room informed them at about 8:45 am at least four hours after the blast. Station Master Dera Ghazi Khan Iqbal Danish said that the railway line was repaired after five hours at about 9:45 am. Following which Chiltan Express departed at 10:25 from Kot Chutta, which had reached there at 5:16 am.
In Kohlu, also in Balochistan and some 340 kilometres southeast of Quetta, militants blew up two microwave telephone masts, officials said.
As security personnel escorted telephone officials to repair the damage they were hit by a landmine blast, leaving a low-ranking soldier seriously injured, an official of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Quetta confirmed.
Security sources said the injured man lost his foot in the blast.
Meanwhile, multiple blasts destroyed an electricity transmission line tower in Naushki area, some 120 kilometres away from Quetta, Gibreel Khan, the spokesman of Quetta Electric Supply Company said.
He said that the repair work on the transmission line between Naushki and Chaghi would be started soon.
No one claimed responsibility for any of Thursday’s attacks, but suspicion immediately fell on nationalist tribesmen.
A shadowy group called the Balochistan Liberation Army has said it carried out a number of the previous attacks in the province, including rocket strikes on Sui Gasfield that left eight people dead.
Our Monitoring Desk adds: An explosion was heard in the suburbs of Sibi resulting in the total suspension of power supply to the whole area, reported ARY television channel on Thursday night.
According to WAPDA officials the power supply was cut off due to some technical fault. They said some miscreants might have blown up the electricity poll with a bomb. They did not rule out sabotage yet the officials are investigating, they added.

Senators for troops pullback from Sui

ISLAMABAD — As the Upper House continued debate for the second consecutive day on Thursday several treasury members from Balochistan without toeing their party line supported the nationalists’ demands that include immediate withdrawal of troops from Sui to resolve issues of the province through political dialogue.
Senator Mohim Khan Baloch, Sarwar Khan Kakar and cabinet member Naseer Khan Mengal from ruling benches outrightly opposed the federal government’s policy towards Balochistan. However, they called for implementation of Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations regarding creating the inter-provincial harmony.
These members in their respective speeches agreed that the provinces should be given more autonomy and the Balochistan situation be resolved through dialogue rather using the force.
They demanded immediate suspension and arrest of the army official for his alleged involvement in the Dr Shazia rap case. The nationalist Senators also showed their dissatisfaction over the concurrent list terming it insufficient to fulfil the demands of deprived communities of Pakistan.
Taking part in the discussion, treasury member Mohim Khan Baloch strongly criticized the presence of military troops in Sui and demanded of the government to immediately withdraw the forces from the province.
“If the government does not listen to the demands and complaints of Balochistan, the Balochi people will be forced to find out some other ways for their defence”, Mohim warned the rulers.
He suggested that Ch. Shujat Hussain should come forward in this situation and opposition Senators be involved in the dialogue process.
He made it clear that the Balochs have the prime right on Gwadar Port and warned the government to avoid usurping their rights.
He complained that the Balochi people are constantly being deprived of the Sui gas royalty whereas rest of the country is taking benefit of it.
Mohim said that the NFC Award should be settled on priority basis and the Federation should give more autonomy to the provinces.
“Defence, currency, foreign affairs and communications should remain with the Federation and rest of all powers be transferred to the provinces,” Mohim said.
The nationalist Senator Sanaullah Baloch blamed the Federation for keeping Balochistan under-developed. He said during the invasion of Soviet Union forces of Afghanistan, the then rulers intentionally avoided taking up any developmental project in the province, as they did not want to provide Soviet Union access to warm waters.
“This major exploitation policy was changed after 9/11 when the US interest in Balochistan increased,” he claimed.
He compared the British regime with the present government of Pakistan and said that all the developmental work and progress in the province was carried during the time of British rulers who were more just and fair with the province than that of today’s government.
Talking about the Sui issue, Sanaullah Baloch said had the alleged army official been taken to police custody and gone through legal procedure the present law and order situation in the province could have been avoided.
He categorically stated that only a peaceful dialogue is the solution of Balochistan’s problems as the brave Baloch people have never bowed in front of guns.
Sarwar Khan Kakar, a treasury member, alleged the government for adopting a biased and unjust policy in Balochistan. He said the present government has failed in straightening the democracy leading to the worst situation in smaller and deprived regions of the country.
In Balochistan people are not being given jobs and there are no getting education and health facilities.
He alleged that the present government has intentionally ignored the Pashtoon people in all fields of life, which is not fair.
He demanded of the government to place the Balochistan issue in the parliament for its durable solution, and the government should show flexibility to redress the complaints.
The treasury Senator and cabinet member Naseer Khan Mengal requested his party as well as other treasury members not to harm the traditions of Balochistan for their vested interests.
He urged the government to focus on the recommendations of parliamentary committee on Balochistan as the use of force will not ensure peace in the region.
Senator Aslam Buledi asked the government to take back its decision of establishing military cantonments in Balochistan.
He warned if the complaints and miseries of the Balochi people were not addressed, the situation in country would no more be different from that of Soviet Union.
Senator Rahmatullah Kakar, Gulshan Saeed, Liaquat Ali Bangulzai, Rukhsana Zuberi, Naeem Hussain Chattha and others also took part in the debate and expressed their views.
The House will resume the debate on Balochistan today at 9:30am.

Baloch members boycott meeting

ISLAMABAD - The Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan is considering 101 constitutional amendments in different articles of the Constitution besides taking up two options on concurrent list, whether to abolish or revise the existing one.
“We have received amendments from all political parties and these are related to 101 articles of the Constitution,” Chairman Sub-Committee Wasim Sajjad told newsmen here on Thursday after the body meeting, which was boycotted by members from Balochistan’s nationalist parties.
In response to a question, he said the committee is working to evolve consensus recommendations for the constitutional amendments required for provincial autonomy.
“We cannot give a time-frame to accomplish the task as the proposals from political parties have been circulated amongst the committee members for their respective comment.”
The committee members, he said, have asked him to seek the government’s comment on these proposed amendments in order to come up with consensus within shortest possible time.
To another question, he said the Baloch members, Amanullah of Jamhori Watan Party and Abdul Rauf Mengal of Balochistan National Party (BNP) did not attend the meeting.
“We have formed a committee to convince them to take part in the proceedings because of the importance of the issues,” said the sub-committee chairman.
The committee will comprise Wasim Sajjad, Opposition Leader in Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, S.M.Zafar and Asfandyar Wali to contact the members who boycotted the meeting of the sub-committee.
“It was decided while constituting the committee that the events in Balochistan or any other province will have nothing with the committee proceedings,” Wasim Sajjad told a questioner.
The committee, Wasim Sajjad said, received numerous proposals for constitutional amendments and has asked to discuss these with the government so that further discussions can be held in the light of government’s response.
Mian Raza Rabbani, Leader of the House in Senate, pointed out that some committee members from Balochistan had abstained from the committee because of their certain grievances.
He emphasized an effort be made to persuade such members to participate in the deliberations. The members stressed the committee was formed under the chairmanship of Chaudhry Shujat Hussain wherein it was agreed that day to day events will not be allowed to influence the working of the committee dealing with highly sensitive matters.
State Sport and Culture Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani, Senators Agha Pari Gul, Kalsoom Perveen, Maulana Samiul Haq, Asfandyar Wali, Rehmatullah Kakar and MNA Makhdoom Amin Fahim attended the meeting.
Muhammad Wasi Zafar, the law and justice minister and senators S M Zafar and Dr. Khalid Ranjha attended the meeting on special invitation.

Too little too late

We do not know how to do anything right. According to the Balochistan governor the officer accused of gangrape of Dr Shazia at Sui has been arrested. If the news is correct, it will be a prime example of doing too little too late. If this same action had been taken a fortnight ago, soon after the commission of the crime, the attack on the Sui gas field that has displaced thousands of citizens and rendered them homeless might not have taken place. The raging insurgency across Balochistan, with rocket and bomb attacks at Quetta and elsewhere, might also not have been sparked off. But we believe, as in the Punjabi proverb, in receiving a hundred shoe-beatings as well as eating as many onions. At that time the mere arrest of the accused would have sufficed; now even the chief executive of PPL and two other officers have been arrested.
In the meantime the protestors have blown up electricity pylons in Sibi, Dhadar and Barkhan. The situation has become so grim that the authorities have decided to clear an area 15 kilometers all round the gas fields of all inhabitants and dwellings. The distress this will cause to thousands, who will be permanently uprooted from their homes, can be well imagined. It has been estimated that up till now damages to the tune of Rs 1.32 billion have been caused due to rocket attacks on the gas fields. This includes neither the damage done to the gas pipelines mentioned above, nor the harm done to national unity, which cannot be gauged in terms of money. Witness that as a spreading escalation, a gas pipeline near Chunian in the Kasur district has also been blown up. A great deal of this violence and destruction could have been avoided if the accused had been arrested immediately and an FIR lodged against him. Even now one hears only of a judicial tribunal but not of any FIR. Is so much loss of national wealth and so much damage to national cohesion justified just to shield an accused officer from the law?
The present scribe is witness to the manner in which the peace of educational institutions was destroyed due to inaction by authorities in the face of major crimes committed by students. If an ordinary citizen committed a murder, an FIR was immediately registered and he faced the possibility of a life term or even execution. In contrast, if a college student murdered another, no FIR was lodged. A judicial tribunal was set up whose terms of reference, as in the present gangrape case, were restricted to ensuring “that such an incident does not occur in the future”. The student went scot-free, and as a direct consequence, murders in educational institutions became a commonplace occurrence and converted universities into dens of warring mafias, destroying education and thus doing incalculable harm to the country. In the same manner, in the present case a judicial tribunal has been set up. The authorities should understand that brushing the matter under the carpet will not work. Again, why was this particular accused person allowed to come on TV and proclaim his innocence? Which other accused is permitted such one-sided propaganda? Such tactics would have worked in Punjab, but not in Balochistan.
Sardar Sherbaz Mazari has counseled restraint on the part of the government. He said the patriotism of the Balochis is above suspicion. They should not be pushed beyond the point of no return. He said the solution of Balochistan’s problems lies not in threats and irresponsible use of force but in seriously pursuing a solution. He said Chaudhary Shujaat had promised he would talk to the president and a political solution of the problem would be found. However, the latter had not replied, and that he was still waiting for his reply. He said Chaudhary Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain sincerely desire a solution but it seems someone does not listen to them. Sardar Mazari asked why the rulers were brushing the case of the gangrape of the lady doctor under the carpet. He said there is no separatist movement in Balochistan, and this route should not be shown to Balochis. In the meantime speakers at a round table conference on Balochistan demanded that issues concerning the province be solved by negotiation rather than by the use of force. They demanded that complete provincial autonomy be given to Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP, an indirect way of saying that only Punjab enjoys autonomy.
As a gross perversion of the incident, a jirga has sought to make Dr Shazia a kari. If she had been raped by one person, there would at least have been some conceivable reason to suspect that she was party to the act. As she was gangraped by five persons, it may well be asked with whom she was a kari. This scribe understands that giving a verdict of karo kari has been made a criminal offence. If so, here is a fit case for the government to pursue those who have pronounced such a sentence, and bring them to justice.
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