Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Marri may be arrested on terror charges

NSC asks Balochistan govt to get tough with criminals

Meeting takes note of anti-state activities; discusses ways to promote religious moderation; Fazl, Durrani continue boycott

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Council (NSC) on Monday asked the Balochistan government to play a much more pro-active role in pursuing two-pronged strategy of tough punitive action against criminals and political dialogue.

The meeting took serious note of activities of certain anti-state elements which at the behest of vested interest were causing damage to the national assets in Balochistan. It took serious note of fielding private armies by certain individual in Balochistan and "Farari Camps" where rejected and frustrated lot of criminals were being sheltered.

NWFP Chief Minister Akram Durrani and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Maulana Fazlur Rehman boycotted the NSC meeting for the third consecutive time as per the decision of their Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

President Pervez Musharraf, who presided over the meeting, did not publicly take notice of the MMA representatives’ boycott.

The meeting also discussed in detail ways and means for promoting religious moderation and curbing the publication and spread of hate literature besides reviewing law and order in the country with particular focus on Balochistan and the Northern Areas.

Addressing the meeting, the president stressed the need for taking concrete measures to bring about a societal change by curbing the scourge of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism, which had done harm to peace and development in the country besides tarnishing the image of Islam and Pakistan, according to an official statement.

The president emphasised that Pakistan had been created in the name of Islam and it was, therefore, the duty of all Pakistanis to project Islam in its true perspective as a religion of peace and tolerance through their actions and words.

He said that by the grace of Allah Almighty, the national economy had taken off and Pakistan was well set for achieving GDP growth of 7 per cent and beyond during the current financial year and the future. He said it was imperative that the internal peace and security was ensured in order to attract greater foreign investment. He said there was no short cut to poverty alleviation and this could only be achieved through a sustained and robust economy for which all necessary incentive and stimulus have been put in place.

Musharraf said mega infrastructure development projects and other incentives were the major catalyst for the economic rival and their competition would be ensured for the benefit of the masses.

The president emphasised that continuation of policies and the system was essential for achieving even higher growth and divisive forces would not be permitted to take the country back to the days when "we were running from pillar to post to seek foreign aid". "By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are firmly standing on our feet and huge investments are being made for the development of the country," he said.

The president said that now greater concentration was on more trade rather than seeking aid. He cautioned that the divisive forces might not keep the people backward so that they could mislead the masses. He said the government would not allow any disruption in law and order and ensure our forward policy. He said the top priority of the government was development of the country and well-being of the masses.

The president noted with satisfaction that Ashura-e-Muharram passed peacefully without a single untoward incident and lauded the excellent services of the law- enforcement agencies for thwarting attempts at terrorist activities.

In his remarks at the NSC meeting, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz emphasised the important role of Madaris for imparting religious education and as welfare bodies. He stated that they could play a vital role in promoting moderation through the correct interpretation of the Holy Qur’aan and the Sunnah and by also teaching modern subjects providing greater opportunities to their students to play an effective role in the national life.

The NSC members received briefings from federal ministers for Education, Interior and Religious Affairs on promotion of religious moderation and curbing hate literature in the society. The meeting noted with concern slow progress on Madressa reforms aimed at introduction of modern subjects along with religious education and bringing the Madrassa students into the mainstream of national life.

The NSC participants were of the view that registration procedure of Madaris might be further streamlined and implemented at both federal and provincial levels and the representative bodies of Madaris be kept on board. In this regard, the ministers for Education, Religious Affairs and Interior should hold consultations with these bodies and finalise their recommendations at an early date.

The meeting took strong exception to the use of places of worship for spread of hatred among simple people and printing and circulation of seditious material. They were of the opinion that Ulema and religious scholars bear a great responsibility to foster religious harmony in the country. The provincial governments were asked to keep a close watch against the misuse of loudspeakers. It was pointed out that fanning sectarian hatred through words or literature was an act of terrorism and should be prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The meeting was informed that the intelligence agencies have arrested some of those involved in attacks on Wapda electricity towers and their investigation has led to recovery of arms and ammunition and transfer of money. The meeting noted that these arrests had a very positive effect and sabotage activities have reduced a great deal throughout Balochistan. It was also noted that certain vested interests were not happy over the execution of mega development projects in Balochistan and wanted to keep the people backward to serve their interests. The NSC expressed satisfaction that the Armed Forces had done a tremendous job by providing timely relief to the affected people of recent flash floods.

The Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas minister briefed the meting on the law and order situation in the Northern Areas. The NSC was of the view that speedy investigation into January 8 incidents be carried out and political steps be taken to defuse polarisation. They were also of the opinion that writ of the government be established through effective employment of administrative machinery and to ensure security of government and other important installations.


Opposition for roundtable conference on Balochistan

By Asim Yasin

ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Monday suggested to the government to convene a roundtable conference of political parties to resolve the issues of Balochistan province.

The debate on Balochistan, which started in the National Assembly on Thursday, was dominated by the lady doctor’s rape incident. Opposition members in their speeches targeted the statement of President General Pervez Musharraf, clearing the name of Captain Hammad of the rape charge. The opposition also urged using political means to resolve Balochistan issues rather than resorting to a military action there.

The lone voice from the treasury benches, Rozina Tufail, defended the government policies and asked the opposition to refrain from quoting the rape incident in their speeches.

Initiating the debate Monday, parliamentary party leader of the PML-N Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said a National Assembly committee, headed by a Baloch leader, should be constituted to work out a solution to Balochistan’s issues. He was of the view that politicians always succeeded whenever tasked to resolve a political problem.

He said the parliament and politicians were never taken into confidence and decisions were made somewhere else. Chaudhry Nisar said mega projects alone could not bring prosperity unless people of the province were taken along. "If the government wants to initiate mega projects in the province the people of Balochistan should be taken along so that they could spend the allocated money on development and prosperity of the province," he added.

The PML(N) leader said if General Musharraf wanted to challenge the opposition, he should come to the political arena without uniform to do politics.

Referring to the statement of the president to remain neutral in case the United States attacked Iran, he said the whole nation would fight along side Iran if any one attacked that country.

Maulana Khan Muhammad Sherani of the MMA said the issues of Balochistan could only be solved when due rights are given to the province. He said the federal government always formulated National Finance Commission award on the basis of population due to which other provinces could not get their due shares. He asked the government to review the NFC formula, adding population alone should not be made the basis of the award. He suggested that gas royalty be given to only those provinces where it was explored.

Sherani demanded provision of all necessary facilities including gas to locals residing near the gas installation as a first priority. He also suggested that model villages should be built in Gwadar for the local people.

Abdul Rauf Mengal of the BNP (Mengal) said the Sui police recovered necessary evidence against the rapist of Dr Shazia Khalid but they were not allowed to investigate the case so much so that the force was refrained from recording the statement of the victim.

He said roads leading to Sui remained closed for 15 days and nobody was allowed to enter the area following the incident. He said cases against Baloch leaders were framed as they demanded constitutional rights of the province including provincial autonomy, as given in the constitution.

Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani of the PPPP suggested that a roundtable conference of political parties should be convened to find out a solution to the issue. He said leadership of the country should be taken into confidence on all political matters.


Marri may be arrested on terror charges

By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: Defiant Baloch tribal chieftain Nawab Khair Bux Marri may be arrested on terrorism charges.

"His arrest will be based on the evidence collected by law-enforcement agencies over the past few weeks," an official told The News. He said recovery of a huge cache of sophisticated arms and ammunition from the fort-like Marri camp and arrest of some accused on terrorism charges, closely associated with Nawab Marri, showed that the tribal chief has a lot to answer.

Nawab Marri has been avoiding talks with the federal government since the 1973 military operation in which Marri and Mengal tribesmen were ruthlessly targeted because of the rebellion of Nawab Marri and Sardar Ataullah Mengal. Apparently, he has not been having faith in the system and has been absolutely frustrated with it. The third tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, who, of late, has emerged as the most aggressive chieftain, was with the government at the time.

The law-enforcement agencies have so far arrested nearly two dozens of Marri tribesmen, allegedly having links with Nawab Marri who are being investigated. The official said Marri might avert arrest if he comes to terms with the government and gives up his activities. But he cautioned that the tribal leader would be certainly arraigned for any terrorist activity in which he was found involved.

When the talks process was on between the federal interlocutors and tribal leaders a few months back, negotiations were held between federal government emissaries and Mengal and Bugti. But they held no talks with Nawab Marri because he was not interested in dialogue. The talks process collapsed long time ago as Bugti and Mengal refused to carry it on saying that the government has taken steps that have made it impossible for them to continue talks.

The federal negotiators had planned a meeting of Mengal and Bugti with President Pervez Musharraf after doing the necessary groundwork with them. But they had not included Nawab Marri among these tribal chieftains because of his consistent defiance. However, the stage of arranging such a meeting now seems far off due to the break of the dialogue process.

While Mengal and Bugti have run a firm and aggressive campaign against any possible military operation in Balochistan and other federal and provincial decisions, including the construction of three new cantonments, over the past two months and even earlier, Nawab Marri has not gone public expressing his views on them. He has been quiet since long.


Relevant speeches heard on Balochistan!



ISLAMABAD: Finally, we did hear some relevant speeches on Balochistan Monday evening. Before coming to it, however, things remained unbearably trivial and jovial in the house.

The killing of a few school-going children on the motorway was a shocking story, no doubt. It sounds doubly painful with the information that the bus taking these children on an excursion was not fit for travelling on a hilly highway. Also atrocious were the news that appropriate medical assistance could not reach the accident victims in time.

It, however, was enough that none other than the parliamentary leader of a mainstream opposition party, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, had talked about it at the outset of Monday sitting.

Tragedies, like the one endured the other day, demand a bipartisan approach. Instead of using them for blame passing and point scoring, our representatives should make laws that ensure maximum safety for travelling on highways. Sadly, some members from both sides of the house shamelessly fought for the mike to speak on the accident of yesterday. Grabbing the media attention was their sole motivation. Another objective was to convey it to their constituents that "I spoke in the national assembly for your tragedy and anguish."

For the same reason, a member from Faisalabad also recalled that a bus had an accident in his constituency as well the other day. That reminded Maulana Ghafoor Haidri that rains brought an unprecedented havoc in his province, Balochistan. In the end, all deaths that occurred because of some traffic accidents and natural calamities in this country of late were "clubbed together" for offering of Fateha (condolence prayer).

The question hour was utterly colourless. Answering a question, however, Dr Sher Afgan said things that may upset designs of many power brokers. Through the written answer to a question, the government committed to hold local bodies elections "by August 14, 2005." That helped some opposition members to double check widely believed rumour that the government was actively considering postponement of these polls for at least six months.

Sher Afgan refuted the rumour; with his usual confidence of a know-all minister, he rather went to the extent of suggesting that the government could delay the holding of these elections, by extending the tenure of local bodies for whatever months, only after amending the constitution. Since the two-thirds majority for amending the constitution is not available with Musharraf-Aziz government, there is no possibility of escaping the local bodies' polls in the first half of this year.

We are surely heading for an interesting chaos within the ruling coalition, if Afgan proves right in the end. It has to begin from Sindh, where the MQM feels deprived of its "original territory" for boycotting the last local bodies' polls. That rather "surrendered" the most lucrative and rich city government of Karachi to its main rival, the Jammat-e-Islami.

The district nazim of that city is a cool cat with some reputation of Mr Clean. There is a strong possibility of his second coming, if he continues heading the district government until another election is held for it. Little wonder, the MQM is vehemently demanding that before holding of the next elections for city government, the district nazim of Karachi should be replaced by an administrator.

The MQM's demands do not end there. It also wants the division of Hyderabad in "urban" and "rural" districts, with the obvious purpose of capturing the city government of the sector dominated by the Urdu-speaking community. Although Arbab Rahim is willing to oblige, the ultimate masters who control the political scene of this country from Islamabad are reluctant for the fear of a Sindh backlash to Hyderabad's division on visibly ethnic lines.

Appointing "administrators" for the district governments, until the holding of new polls is not the desire and demand of the MQM only. Arbab Rahim would also want them for all districts under his control, so that he could pre-select district nazims. After conceding "administrators" to Sindh, Islamabad cannot deny them to its most pampered chief minister, Ch Pervaiz Elahi, as well. After all, he has not one but 39 districts under his control and why should not he install his own cronies through indirectly held elections for district nazims.

It is a different matter that selecting cronies might backfire for him in the end. One says this; for, not all residents of Punjab are Jats. There also are Rajputs and Gujjars etc and some urban towns in northern cities of Punjab have strong pockets of Kashmiris as well.

Already, not less than 26 Punjabi MNAs, who sit on the treasury benches in this assembly, have expressed the intent and desire of contesting for the office of district nazim in coming local bodies' elections.

Somewhat late in the day, these members have discovered that the state of Pakistan and its financiers from the donor countries and agencies want to do the "development work" through district nazims. And they want the members of the national and provincial assemblies to concentrate on "legislation" only.

Now, in this country you join politics, not for legislation. You opt for it to patronize your friends and cronies through doling out the government money. Thanks to the "grassroots revolution" of General (retired) Naqvi, substantive development funds have now gone to District Nazim's office. He or she also has control over the local police for "taking care" of the political rivals. Then are the rewards and punishment, you could manage through postings and transfers of schoolteachers and health service personnel etc.

In short, district nazim is the budding godfather of our viciously divided polity and NAB types of this world are yet not motivated to engage any of them in "plea bargaining." Fully appreciating the real reach and powers of a district nazim, only a fool would want to sit in the decorative national assembly of Pakistan, which had already abandoned its authority and responsibility to a president in uniform. Little wonder, even "the anchor" of this parliament, Dr Sher Afgan, the Federal Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, had publicly announced the intent of contesting for the "district nizamat" of his hometown, Mianwali. There, he would want to replace a nazim, Rokhri, who is related to Chaudhrys of Gujrat through inter-marriages. Pray tell me, in our ego-driven society can the Punjab Chief Minister afford to see his relative "defeated" by a Niazi.

Any youthful member of the national assembly with looks to kill should feel delighted after reaching the foreign office, even as the state minister. Khusro Bakhtiar managed it from him. It is a perfect position for leaping up to spots that are important on the national and international scene. But usually reliable sources have been telling me that Bakhtiar is serious to replace the district nazim of his home district.

The incumbent "representative of the grassroots" in Rahim Yar Khan is none other than an elitist Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmud. He also owns a private jet. The worthless mortals must shiver with the idea of daring him for an electoral battle. Bakhtiar has no problem. He has punters, who own jets that are more modern and efficient. They can even transport all the potential voters of Bakhtiar to five star hotels of Dubai. The battle royal that is to take place between Bakhtiar and Ahmad Mehmood is many months away, but tensions are already mounting seriously amongst the respective cronies of them in Rahim Yar Khan.

Only the other day, there were rumours that some rude gang tried to "mob" Ahmad Mehmood at a public meeting. As the collateral damage of this incident, things have turned tense for Jehangir Tareen as well. There will be many (political) casualties of friends and foes by the time lines are finally drawn in Rahim Yar Khan. And this is just the beginning. Let the date of local bodies' polls be set for Punjab and you would see a horde of deadly battles in all the districts there.

These are not potential divisions amongst the current loyalists of General Musharraf only that are important, if local bodies' elections are to be held by "August 14, 2005". What about the ongoing negotiations with the PPPP? Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, the sole spokesperson of the state and the government of Pakistan, is repeatedly telling us that the government's emissaries have been talking to Ms Benazir Bhutto for agreeing to modalities of holding the general election "in 2007." He also claims that the government and the PPPP are negotiating for "seat adjustments" as well.

Since General Mushrraf also insists that holding of elections before 2007 is simply "non-negotiable," this correspondent is blind to see any chances for the PPPP in that year, if elections for local bodies are to be held by August this year, "come what may". It is but obvious by now that a PPPP supporter has no chance of getting the "district nizamat" under the present chief ministers, anywhere in Sindh or Punjab. Ms Bhutto must forget staging a comeback, if these patronage-doling offices are denied to her supporters and loyalists for the next two years. She and her party would rather be history, once the favourites of Pervaiz Elahi and Arbab Rahim reach there.


Private jail, torture cells found in Marri Camp: IGP

Says police widen scope of investigation in Dr Shazia case

Muhammad Ejaz Khan

QUETTA: Inspector General Police Balochistan Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob on Monday said police and other law enforcement agencies seized Russian-made modern weapons and explosives that were to be used in sabotage activities and unearthed private jails and torture cells in the major search operation in Marri Camp.

"The torture cells built in the Marri camp were used against the Baloch people, while weapons and explosive materials were being used against the people of the province," said the police chief while addressing a news conference here.

During the operation, police seized 42 rockets, 30 Kalashnikov rifles, two hand grenades, three LMGs and thousands of rounds of different calibres, he said. Citing the example of Meezan chowk blast and rocket firing incidents in Quetta, he said these weapons were being used against the people of the province.

Majority of the people in Balochistan are poor. How these weapons were brought to the Marri Camp and who made payment for the same is a big question, he added. He said those elements who wanted to keep the province backward were in fact involved in such activities.

Regarding allegations of violation of sanctity of "Chadar and Char Deewari" by the police during the operation, the IG said there is no truth in such claims as lady police took part in the operation.

Referring to Dr Shazia’s case, Ch Yaqoob said police have widened the scope of investigation after the victim failed to identify the rapist during an identification parade in which Captain Hammad of DSG and others were paraded before the lady doctor. He said the culprits involved in the case would be awarded punishment under the law irrespective of their influence.

On the directives of President Gen Pervez Musharraf, the DNA test of Captain Hammad and others had also been conducted, besides identification parade in Hub where Dr Shazia was present along with her husband. "We will try our best to throw the culprits involved in the case behind the bars and award them punishment according to law," he added.


Former Balochistan CM rejects

Sardars having torture cells, private prisons

Kashmir Khan Afridi

PESHAWAR: Former Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Taj Muhammad Jamali has rejected the allegations that Baloch Sardars had torture cells or private prisons in their forts, saying the fort which the law enforcers had taken into custody was not the property of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri only but of the entire tribe.

"The rulers were bent upon conducting the operation and now they will definitely say anything in their favour," Jamali said while talking to media men on the premises of District and Sessions Courts Peshawar on Monday. He said the government was neither aware of the repercussions of operation in Balochistan nor it had any concern for Baloch people. The action, he said would force the local inhabitants and Balochistan Liberation Army to resist. However, when asked whether BLA exists or not, he said; "it doesn’t exist now, but people will join it to resist operation."

He claimed that three Sardars Nawab Akbar Bugti, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri had the support of 85% of the population adding, action against them would cause anarchy in the whole province. He said they were not struggling for the autonomy of Balochistan only, but for the rights of the smaller provinces. To a question, he said foreign hand in the Balochistan crisis could not be sidelined as India had established its Consulate in Qandhar. He suggested that the centre should keep only defence, foreign affairs and currency in its hands while the rest of the subjects be handed over to the provinces.

Former president of PML-Q Mian Muhammad Azhar, who was also with him, said the ruling Muslim League had lost public support as it had no popular leadership. Asked to comment on PML rifts in Sindh, he alleged everyone knew Imtiaz Sheikh was involved in corruption. "Arbab Ghulam Rahim should not induct him in the cabinet," he said and questioned that why didn’t NAB inquire about him in the beginning. To another question he informed he had not been contacted by PML-N leadership so far, adding joining Nawaz group is premature at the moment.

Earlier, addressing a gathering of Peshawar Bar Association, former speaker National Assembly Fakhar Imam said until and unless provincial autonomy was not given to the federating units, integrity of Pakistan would be endangered. He said the rulers should look into the past while dealing with Balochistan issue and asked to bring it in the parliament. "Let the public representatives discus and debate the issue in the parliament," urged Imam.

Besides him, Abida Hussain, Rao Qaiser, Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf, Tariq Chaudhry, Ahmad Sadiq, Iqbal Mustafa, Ahsan Raza, Raja Abid Sarfraz, Mujahid Hussain, Umar Farooq and other leaders of Independent Democratic Group (IDG) were also present on the occasion.

Replying to a question raised by a lawyer he said the controversial Kalabagh Dam could never be constructed without the consensus of all the provinces and political forces. "Construction of big dams is a national issue and it should be discussed in the parliament. The issue can not be resolved through reports of committees comprising technocrats," he remarked.

Imam also lashed out at rulers for what he called besieging parliament. "The main function of parliament is to oversee governance in the country not legislation. But the parliament has never played this role, which has paralysed democracy and accountability in the country," he added.

He predicted that fresh elections might be held by the end of this year, saying IDG would fully participate in the upcoming local government and general elections. Former federal minister Abida Hussain, speaking on the occasion said the democratic governments between Zia’s and Musharraf’s military regimes had never been let work freely by the establishment. Opposing the construction of new cantonments in Balochistan she said Pakistan was not in a situation of war and that government should relinquish the idea. She asked rulers to stop threatening their own people.


NSC for tough laws to curb hate literature

* Suggests legislation for seminaries’ registration
* Asks Balochistan government to redouble efforts to punish criminals, pursue talks

By Rana Qaisar

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Council (NSC) advised the government on Monday to improve existing laws for punitive action against those spreading sectarian hatred and circulating seditious literature.

“The NSC recommended legislation to streamline the registration procedure for seminaries at the provincial and federal levels, and to stop the use of places of worship to spread hatred and fan sectarianism,” sources told Daily Times. These measures were aimed at promoting religious moderation in Pakistan.

The NSC suggested that the government consult with clerics from all Islamic sects and bodies representing madrassas to change the laws. “The NSC noted that the fanning of sectarian hatred through words or literature was an act of terrorism and should be prosecuted under the anti-terrorist act,” the sources said, adding that the act would soon be amended.

Opposition Leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani boycotted the meeting because of differences between the government and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) on the issues of the NSC and the president’s uniform.

The NSC also reviewed the law and order situation in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan and the Northern Areas. The council recommended “resolute action” against “certain anti-state elements”, who, an official statement said, were damaging national assets in Balochistan. It condemned the fielding of private armies by individuals in Balochistan and “Farari Camps where rejected and frustrated criminals are being sheltered”.

The sources said the NSC asked the Balochistan government to be more proactive in pursuing a two pronged-strategy of “tough punitive action against criminals and continuing political dialogue”. The ministers for the interior, education, religious affairs and Kashmir affairs gave presentations to the NSC, while the Balochistan governor attended the meeting on special invitation.

The NSC was told that intelligence agencies had arrested some of those involved in attacks on WAPDA electricity towers in Balochistan and their investigation had led to the recovery of arms and ammunition and tracing of money transfers. The council noted that these arrests had resulted in a decrease in sabotage attempts in the province. The council demanded a thorough and rapid investigation of bloody sectarian riots in the Northern Areas on January 8 and political measures to defuse the polarisation between Shias and Sunnis in the area.

President General Pervez Musharraf, who chaired the meeting, stressed the need to curb terrorism, extremism and sectarianism, which had done immeasurable harm to peace, harmony and development in the country and Pakistan’s and Islam’s image abroad. “It is imperative that internal peace and security is ensured in order to attract greater foreign investment,” the official statement quoted the president as saying.

Musharraf said divisive forces would not be permitted to take Pakistan back to the days when it begged for foreign aid. “Now greater concentration is on more trade rather than aid,” he said. “The government will not allow any disruption in law and order and ensure our forward journey.”

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz stressed the role of seminaries as welfare bodies and givers of religious education. “They can play a vital role in promoting moderation through the correct interpretation of the Holy Quran and Sunnah and by teaching modern subjects that provide their students greater opportunities to play an effective role in national life.”

Online adds: Gen Musharraf voiced regret that Rehman and Durrani did not attend, saying they had “injected an element of politics” into what was meant to be a bipartisan forum, Online reported.

He said that all members of the NSC were free to voice their opinion and if the two MMA leaders had a problem with the council, they should express it at this platform. The MMA’s “negative politics” were a “disservice to democracy”, he said. Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao later told reporters that local government elections and discussions between the government and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto were not on the agenda of the meeting.


Opp seeks NA body on Balochistan

* Walks out to protest police raid on Marri fort

By Irfan Ghauri and Muhammad Imran

ISLAMABAD: The Opposition in the National Assembly has proposed a house committee be set up to deal with the unrest in Balochistan.

In a debate on the Balochistan issue on Monday, opposition members urged the government not to take military action in the province. Chaudhry Nisar Ali, acting parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said the problems in Balochistan could only be settled through political means involving representatives of the Baloch people.

He proposed a National Assembly committee be set up. It would be headed by a member from Balochistan and include the leaders of all parliamentary parties. He proposed Mehmood Khan Achakzai head the committee. Ali accused President Gen Pervez Musharraf of hypocrisy, saying he preached to people not to get involved in confrontation with other countries, but was “opening different fronts” at the national level. He claimed neither parliament nor the cabinet was involved in decisions of national importance.

He applauded PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain and other members of the ruling coalition for opposing military action in Balochistan.

Baloch MNA Abdul Rauf Mengal supported the idea of a house committee to resolve the Balochistan issue but added that the committee must be fully mandated. He said the people of Balochistan wanted the resolution of all problems through talks, but military forces must withdraw from Sui and other areas and the decision to set up cantonments be taken back before such talks could begin. Mengal claimed locals protesting in the streets at the rape of a woman doctor in Sui had been suppressed by force, resulting in the deaths of five civilians. He accused the government of victimising the people of the province, who were facing “oppression worse than the Palestinians and the Iraqis face in their own homelands”.

Naheed Khan of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians said that the recommendations of the Senate committee on Balochistan should be made public. She condemned the rape in Sui, but added that such incidents were common in Pakistan.

The opposition also staged a brief walkout of the National Assembly to protest a police raid on a fort in the Marri Camp area on Sunday which reportedly resulted in the arrest of 20 people with a huge cache of weapons and explosives. Speaking on a point of order just after Question Hour, Mengal said the police entered a fort owned by Nawab Bukhsh Marri and arrested “innocent people” and “humiliated women”. “I walk out of the house to register my protest against the police action in Quetta,” he said. Mengal was followed by all opposition members, including of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.


Police to continue arms search in Marri area

ISLAMABAD: The Balochistan government will continue searching for illegal weapons in the Marri area because it is committed to restoring law and order in the province, Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousaf said on Monday.

“We have recovered a huge quantity of arms and ammunition which could have been used to damage government installations, especially in Quetta,” Yousaf told APP in Islamabad.

Yousaf said that he had personally supervised the police operation. The fort in the area had been converted into a police station and police personnel had been deployed there to maintain the writ of the government.

Chaudhry Muhammed Yaqub, inspector general of Balochistan police, told a press conference search operations in the Marri Camp area would continue because there were still 500 houses to search.

He said 42 rockets, thirty small machine guns, three light machine guns, three mark-II rifles, two hand grenades and 11 boxes containing 700 bullets had been seized from just one house.

Yaqub said the weapons hidden in the area were being used for “terrorists activities”. The arms and ammunition hidden there belonged to “he who controls the area”.

To a question, the chief minister said the old levy system in the province would be changed and about 3,000 new cadets had been recruited to the police. The first phase of Gwadar port would soon be completed and it would become fully operational in five years. app


Govt will take forward political process in Balochistan: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that the government wanted to take forward the political process on Balochistan and would resolve all issues through consultations. Speaking on Geo TV’s programme called ‘Today’, Shaukat Aziz said, “No government can allow anyone to damage its national installations and assets and the writ of the government has to be established.” He referred to the recent operation by law enforcement agencies at Marri Camp, saying many weapons used by terrorists were seized. He said, “If a province feels deprived and thinks that the federal government is not paying attention, it doesn’t mean national assets be damaged.” He said a parliamentary committee on Balochistan was reviewing the situation and that the government would seriously consider its recommendations. He said the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had already approved eight development projects for Balochistan, which would help develop the province. He also talked about the Gwadar Port project, Mirani Dam, Coastal Dam and supply of water to Quetta, saying these projects were either continuing or were close to being completed. He also reiterated the government’s resolve to give Balochistan its due



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