Saturday, April 02, 2005

Strike in Balochistan

Strike in Balochistan, NWFP


PESHAWAR - The shutter-down and wheel-jam strike of nationalist parties against the government policies Thursday paralysed the provincial metropolis where most of the business centres remained closed the whole day with minimal vehicles on roads.
Reports from other parts of the province said that shutter-down and wheel-jam was observed in most of the cities and towns and protest rallies were taken out to support the PONM call.
Various protest processions were taken out in parts of the city to protest the government’s policies on internal as well as external fronts. However, law-enforcement personnel resorted to baton-charge and used teargas to disperse protesters in some places.
Army’s help was sought to control the situation on the
University Road
where the charged protestors damaged glasses and windows of some big shops and trading centres.
PMAP Information Secretary Senator Raza Muhammad Raza, former Senator Bashir Khan Matta, PMAP Secretary General Akram Shah, PMAP Provincial President Mukhtar Khan Yousafzai and Arbab Mujeeb Rehman were arrested along with 30 workers of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
However, Senator Raza and Bashir Matta were released later in the evening, a police official said.
Central and provincial Awami National Party leaders led protest rallies at Khyber Bazaar,
GT Road
and Qissa Khawani Bazaar, protesting both the federal and MMA provincial governments’ policies and proposed construction of Kalabagh Dam.
ANP Central Senior Vice President Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Provincial Organiser Bashir Ahmed Bilour, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Syed Aqil Shah, Haji Adeel and PPP-P Provincial General Secretary Najam-ud-Din Khan led the protest rally.
PONM Chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai was present in the city but did not participate in any of the protest rallies. On Wednesday he had distributed handbills amongst local traders and transporters urging them to observe the strike.
The Qissa Khwani Bazaar, Khyber Bazaar, Peshawar Cantt Bazaar,
University Road
and other markets remained closed till Thursday evening while light traffic movement was observed.
According to an official of East Cantt Police Station, nine people namely, Izzat Khan, Nigar, Qari Syed Attaullah, Rahim Gul, Amir Muhammad, Jan Agha, Jabbar, Shaukat Ali and Ali Rehman - all residents of Tehkal Bala - were arrested from University Town and charged with damaging public properties.
The Town Police Station arrested over thirty workers and local leaders of the PMAP while Bhana Marhi police station arrested PMAP District President Haji Inamullah Khan along with party workers on
Kohat Road
Meanwhile, ANP Senior Vice President and Chairman Anti-Kalabagh Front Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour strongly condemned the arrests.
In a statement, he said that the peaceful strike had worried the MMA government that ordered arrest of PMAP leaders and workers.
Similarly, the commuters and local residents faced hardships due to the wheel-jam while there was a low turnout at the government offices, schools, courts, hospitals and other departments.
The protestors on
University Road
burnt tyres and blocked the road. They also pelted stones on restaurants, motors and other offices damaging windows and glasses of these buildings. The army patrols rushed to the site and controlled the situation.
PMAP Provincial President Mukhtar Khan Yousafzai and Bashir Khan Matta were arrested from the PMAP provincial offices located on
University Road
while Senator Raza Muhammad, Arbab Mujeeb Rehman, Haji Inamullah Khan and others were arrested from
GT Road
They were detained at Shah Qabool Police Station however, no case was lodged against any of them till the filing of this report.
Talking to The Nation by phone PMAP Central Secretary General Akram Shah said that traders and transporters had voluntarily observed the strike. He claimed that some miscreants and secret agencies’ personnel in plain clothes had caused damage to public properties and intended to sabotage the peaceful strike.
He also informed that complete strike was observed in different parts of NWFP including Swat, Bannu, Mardan, Charsadda, DI Khan, Nowshera and Mingora.
Meanwhile, provincial organiser and parliamentary leader of ANP in NWFP Assembly Bashir Ahmed Bilour told newsmen that the successful strike had proved that people of NWFP were against the construction of controversial Kalabagh Dam.
He said that the MMA government had tried its best to fail the strike but in vain. He said that the ANP would support any political party or organisation in its struggle against Kalabagh Dam and price hike in the country.
He also demanded of the central as well as NWFP governments to step down in face of the public pressure.
Our Karachi correspondent adds: Complete shutterdown strike was observed in almost all the major districts of interior Sindh on the call of Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) on Thursday for provincial autonomy.Partial strike was observed in Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Naushehro Feroz barring Hyderabad.
However, Ponm’s countrywide wheel-jam strike against controversial water projects and ‘military operation’ in Balochistan received mixed response in Karachi. Several vehicles were set on fire and many workers were taken into custody after scuffles.
Shops and other commercial activities remain suspended in Malir Town, Gadap Town, Lyari Town, Gulshan Town and Keamari Town.Traffic also remained thin in these areas.The impact of strike was also felt on busy Shahra-i-Faisal and M.A. Jinnah Road where traffic was thin in the morning. However, vehicles plied on roads after 12 pm.Main shopping centres and bazaars in Saddar, Jamia Cloth and other areas remained open.Around eight vehicles were torched since Wednesday night.
Ali Hasan Chandio, PONM leader told The Nation that around 50 workers were arrested in different parts of the City.
However,Home Minister Sindh, Rauf Siddiqui during his Press conference told newsmen that about 28 activists were apprehended.He said that the cases would be registered against them.
The minister also said that five vehicles including three of KESC were torched. He said that only one vehicle was badly damaged. He criticised PONM leaders for holding strike on Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Husain.
‘It shows bankruptcy of PONM leaders that they were using Chehlum for political purposes’, the minister said.
Unknown persons set a private bus on fire at NIPA Chowrangi. Another bus, Shalimar Coach was torched at Naval Gate on Shahra-e-Faisal, according to Fire Brigade official.
He said that a taxi was set on fire at Malir Halt.
The mob attacked KESC’s complaint centre in Nusrat Bhutto Colony, North Nazimabad and ransacked it.
They also torched three vehicles parked there.Two cars were also torched in Sohrab Goth, Sachal and Bahadurabad.Unknown persons intercepted a taxi in Malir Halt and torched it. Its driver Haider reportedly received burn injuries and was admitted to hospital.The mob also attacked and torched police kiosk in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.
Clashes and scuffles between police and the protesters were reported from Patel Para, Jehangir Road, New Sabzi Mandi, Johar Complex, Lyari, Ghaghar Phatak and other areas.
PONM leaders claimed that the police conducted firing and resorted to tear gas shelling. They claimed that one activist, Aga Yusuf was severely tortured by police at Al-Asif Square and was admitted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. Another worker, Mustafa Memon was also tortured in Sachal area.
Ali Hasan Chandio claimed that the complete strike was observed in Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtoon areas of Karachi while MQM-dominated areas remained undisturbed. He said police also conducted raids on residences of PONM leaders. Home Minister said that 20 PONM workers were arrested in Hyderabad and similar number were held in Dadu.
He said that 19 activists were also apprehended in Badin. The minister said the arrests were also made in Larkana and other cities.
According to PONM sources scores of activists were arrested and raids were being carried
out for the arrest of others in interior Sindh.Except for Sujawal town, complete shutter down strike
was observed in Thatta district. All main markets and trading centres remained closed. Police resorted to aerial firing when the PONM activists tried to force traders to pull down the shutters. Tyres were also burnt on the main roads and the windowpanes of vehicles which were found on the roads were smashed.An FIR has also been registered against local PONM leaders in Thatta for breach of peace.
Complete strike was observed in Badin district and people fully participate in the strike by suspending their trading activities. Police arrested about one dozen PONM activists.
However,the people of Mirpurkhas district did not pay attention to the strike call and all markets and shopping centres remained open.
In Nawabshah district, complete shutterdown strike was observed. Some PONM activists burnt tyres and blocked roads in Sakrand City. Police have rounded up 10 persons for creating disturbance. No bus plied for Karachi and Sukkur.
In Dadu district, people fully responded to the strike call by completely closing their shops and business activities. No transport was available for any district of Sindh. Police have arrested two persons.
Complete strike was observed Khairpur district and all vehicular traffic were also remained off the roads.Trading activities come to halt.
The people of Jacobabad, fully responded to the strike call of PONM by shutting down their business and trading activities. All buses plying to other parts of the province and adjoining areas remained off the roads.
Complete shutter down strike was observed in Shikarpur and partial strike in Gari Yasin, Khanpur, Madaji and Chak towns. However, no strike was observed in Lakhi Ghulam Shah town.
Partial strike was observed in Sanghar, Naushehro Feroz, Tharu Shah. However, vehicular traffic remained off the roads.
PONM has claimed that the strike was a resounding success. The leaders have congratulated the general public for rising to the occasion against their usurped rights. It may be mentioned here that two major opposition alliances, the Muttaheda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) have already supported the strike call. The Awami National
Party had also appealed to people to make the strike a success.

Insurgency in Balochistan

The federal government seems to be getting deeper and deeper into the Balochistan morass. Because of the involvement of the Chinese in the Gwadar port project, the Americans and the Indians are likely very perturbed, and it is surmised that they could well be behind the insurgency. While this may be true, the question is why did we have to mess up the situation?
When the case of gang rape of Dr Shazia occurred, why did the authorities have to prevent the police getting to her and an FIR being lodged? Why did the accused have to be provided with an opportunity to appear on TV and plead innocence? Why did General Musharraf have to declare that he was very sure the accused was innocent? It is not the job of the head of state to declare people innocent or guilty. The President occasionally pardons a convict. He does not claim that the latter is innocent; he pardons him for some reason of state. While all the proper steps were not being taken in the gang rape case, the Balochis got an opportunity to incite the people to protest and to carry out acts of violence.
But now a word about the Sardars. One understands that they are given the gas royalty, which they are supposed to distribute among the people. The question is: why have successive rulers not been able to evolve a system with royalty on gas given directly to the masses without the intervention of a middleman? Similarly, employment of the locals is reputedly done through the Sardar, who therefore decides who gets employed. Also, all transport is hired through contractors who are his men, and all contracts for civil works and supplies are given to locals that front for him. Finally, Sardars are allowed to have private armies and run private jails. How can you have states within a state?
It is further alleged that the price of Sui gas has been fixed very low, in order to deny legitimate returns to the provincial government. The federal government claims that it has poured huge funds into Balochistan for development, by way of mega projects like the Gwadar port and the Coastal Highway. The people say they would prefer to receive gas royalty at reasonable rates rather than dole in the form of handouts. In any case, the people of the province have not been consulted before starting these gargantuan development projects. All the important decisions about the province have been taken either by Islamabad or by its agents in the province. At the same time these projects have very little spill over effects as far as the common people are concerned. The mega projects will benefit entrepreneurs from the other provinces but will benefit the locals only marginally. Witness the huge billboards advertising GlobBiz Avenue and other projects in Gwadar, which stare down at you in every major city of Pakistan. During the planning stage, it should have been ensured that the locals would be actual partners in the development of their province. This has not been done. How can a government in the 21st century start huge projects anywhere without consulting the people of the province? This should be done even now.
America is definitely fishing in these troubled waters. There are reports that American commandos have been penetrating into eastern Iran from Afghanistan in their hunt for underground installations. When such is the situation around us, why did we add fuel to the fire by avoiding due legal process in the gang rape case? Then again, if it is true, as is often stated, that while Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, as well as every town worth the name, has Sui gas, the area from where this gas comes is devoid of this blessing, why have we let this happen? Things have reached such a pass that Sardar Ataullah Mengal has said that if any country, including India, offered them help, they would accept it. Also, that if the US offered help and the Balochis turned it down, they would be very foolish.
So the question is: what should be done? In spite of everything, efforts at a negotiated settlement should be continued. The Concurrent List should be abbreviated from 44 subjects to about a dozen. This will show that the federal government is serious about increasing the quantum of provincial autonomy, and will go a long way in assuaging the fears of those in the smaller provinces. In the long run, the sooner the private militias of Sardars are disallowed the better; apparently Nawab Bugti has a 4,000-strong army. One would have thought that the abolition of private armies would be popular with the people of Balochistan. If such is the case, it may not be very difficult. However, the vast majority of the people of that province have been kept illiterate for so long that they perhaps would not appreciate the need for abolishing these militias, and might not support the government in this.
This happens when, after independence, a country allows a fossilized and decadent system to continue for over half a century without being replaced by an egalitarian set up. Be that as it may, urgent steps should now be taken to undo the wrongs of half a century, so that peace returns to Balochistan and to the country as a whole. The parliamentary leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mr Mushahid Hussain have reportedly got a breakthrough. If such is the case, this should be diligently followed up and a settlement arrived at, not only with respect to Sui but the whole of Balochistan. And the sooner the better.
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PONM strike in Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP

Several vehicles torched in Karachi

KESC centre ransacked; violence in Quetta, Peshawar

By A H Khanzada

KARACHI: Businesses and transport shut down in Balochistan, the rural areas of the NWFP and most parts of Sindh on Thursday in response to a strike call by the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) to protest against Kalabagh dam, Thal canal, Army "operation" in Balochistan, price-hike and unemployment.

Unidentified miscreants, who appeared all of a sudden in different areas of Karachi, torched at least nine vehicles and ransacked a Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC) customer service centre.

Violence was reported from few areas of North Nazimabad, Lyari, Sohrab Goth and Malir, while unidentified troublemakers set three vehicles on fire in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Dalmia and Bahadurabad areas late Wednesday night to force people to observe strike..

Several hundred people gathered in Malir area where they tried to block vehicular traffic by blocking roads. Some of the miscreants, chanting slogans in favour of their demands, intercepted a taxi (PL-1448) and set it on fire.

In the jurisdiction of Sohrab Goth police, a group of people gathered at the Super Highway near New Sabzi Mandi and tried to block traffic. Police were deployed in the locality but some of lawbreakers intercepted a radio cab and set it ablaze.

Some people gathered in North Nazimabad, Block T in Sharae-Noorjahan police jurisdiction, and attacked a customer service centre of KESC, where they ransacked the centre and torched at least three parked vehicles of the corporation.

Police dispersed the mob, which later divided into two groups and one of them set two other vehicles on fire, parked in Mochi Gali, a nearby vicinity. Police said the two vehicles in Mochi Gali suffered partial damage.

Another group of people gathered in Chakiwara vicinity of Lyari, where they tried to block roads by pelting vehicular traffic with stones. The mob forced shopkeepers to close their business. When police reached the scene, people turned violent and torched a minibus of route 19-D near the Sahara Petrol Pump.

On late Wednesday night, few persons at the NIPA Chowrangi turned violent and set a minibus (JE-1093) of route No G-3 on fire, chanted slogans against the government and escaped. In another incident, over a dozen lawbreakers gathered near Naval Colony in Dalmia Colony and chanted slogans against the government and torched a bus (PA-0309) and fled. Unidentified persons also set a bus on fire near Bahadurabad Chowrangi and escaped.

Except for these incidents of violence, the rest of the metropolis remained peaceful with businesses, other commercial activities and traffic remaining normal. Our interior Sindh correspondents add: Complete strike was observed in Thull, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kandhkot and Ghotki, Thatta, Khairpur, Jamshoro and Dadu. Groups of political activists clashed with police in Shikarpur. In Kotri, some violent incidents were reported where angry youths torched tyres on the main road of Khursheed Colony following an attempt by the police to reopen the closed shops. Police arrested at least 17 PONM activists in Jamshoro district. PONM activists were also arrested in Larkana and Khairpur.

Our Quetta correspondent adds: Complete strike was observed in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan on Thursday to protest against the Gwadar mega project, Kalabagh dam and other development projects. Transport was off the road in the provincial capital.

All business centres and markets of Quetta remained closed throughout the day and business activities also remained suspended in other districts of the province. Attendance remained thin in educational institutions and offices and people had to face great inconvenience in reaching their offices and workplaces.

Reports reaching Quetta from Pishin, Qillah Abdullah, Qillah Saifullah, Musakhel, Barkhan, Kohlu, Muslim Bagh, Sibi, Kalat, Khuzdar, Gwadar, Turbat, Jaffarabad, Naseerabad and others parts of the province said that there was complete strike

Hundreds of supporters of the nationalist groups stayed on the streets of the cities in Balochistan during the day to ensure a shutter-down and wheel-jam. The activists also burnt tyres at different places in Quetta and other parts of the province and smashed glasses of dozens of vehicles at different localities in some districts.

In some districts, including Jaffarabad and Pishin, police lobbed tear-gas shells after the activists pelted them with stones.

The leadership of PONM said the police and law-enforcement agencies had arrested over 100 activists of the PONM in different raids conducted in different parts of the province, including Quetta, Jaffarabad and Pishin. Police confirmed they arrested over four dozen miscreants on charges of pelting stones and setting up roadblocks.

In Pishin district, some 50 kilometres north of Quetta, one policeman was injured when dozens of protesting students pelted an official convoy with stones. Balochistan Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani was travelling in the convoy but was unharmed. Thirty people were arrested for rioting, police said.

In Chaman, angry protesters tried to block the Quetta-Chaman railway line and placed barriers on the Quetta-Chaman highway. Police said the protesters also burnt tyres at railways track near Sariab area in Quetta. The railway authorities had to suspend the Quetta-Chaman train services on Thursday in view of the situation, sources added.

In Jaffarabad, police said over two dozen activists tried to block the National Highway but were arrested. Heavy contingents of police and law enforcement agencies had been deployed at important places in Quetta and other parts of the province to maintain law and order as the activists of the nationalist parties kept on patrolling throughout the day at various places to "ensure" the strike’s success.

The Quetta-Karachi national highways were blocked by the protesters throughout the day at different places. The office-bearers of the PONM claimed that all the national highways in the province were blocked during the strike and no vehicle from Quetta to Karachi, Lahore or DG Khan moved.

However, air traffic remained undisturbed. Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, central secretary general of National Party (NP), told The News that the strike was complete and successful and the people of Balochistan had rejected the government plan to construct Gwadar port, cantonments, Kalabagh dam, Thal canal and strongly condemned the killings of innocent Pashtoon in South Waziristan of the NWFP.

A senior office-bearer of the Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) thanked the people of the province for ensuring a successful shutter-down and wheel-jam in Balochistan. He strongly condemned the government’s negligence in connection with drought and flood-affected areas of Balochistan, particularly Pashtoon dominated areas.

Our Peshawar correspondent adds: Due to complete wheel-jam and partial shutter-down strike in the provincial metropolis very thin attendance was observed in educational institutions, hospitals and government as well as private offices bringing routine activities there to a standstill. There was partial strike elsewhere in the province.

In Peshawar, after waiting for long on bus stops, people returned to their homes due to non-availability of conveyance. Few vehicles mostly Suzuki pick-ups could manage to cross the roadblocks and agitated mobs to ply on the routes normally full of vehicles. Commuters were seen hanging on to these few vehicles like bees.

As it was March 31 and annual results in all the public sector schools and most of the private schools were scheduled to be announced, many of the schoolgoing children preferred to go to their schools on foot.

The teachers and students remained absent from the three universities, Engineering, Agriculture and Peshawar University and six colleges, Islamia college, Jinnah college, Home Economics, Quaid-e-Azam commerce college, Khyber Medical College, Khyber College of Dentistry and Jinnah College for Women due to non-availability of public transport.

Similar picture was presented by the three major hospitals of the provincial capital — Lady Reading, Khyber and Hayathabad Medical Complex. The doctors were unable to attend their duties. Also the ratio of patients remained very thin in these hospitals. Same was the situation in government offices. "There was no one present on duty in our station," said Syed Fazle Akbar, an inspector of FIA.

PPI adds: Police arrested more than 25 persons when a violent mob attacked private buildings at the University Road in Peshawar where activists of various political parties tried to enforce complete shutter-down.

In order to disperse the violent protesters, police used tear-gas and resorted to baton charge that injured some of the protesters. According to the police, the mob attacked a foreign burger outlet, Honda office and other private buildings at the University Road and damaged property. Meanwhile, ANP leaders denied involvement of their workers in violence and said people of the province gave a positive response to their call and peacefully observed the strike.

Bugti not to meet Musharraf: JWP leader

By our correspondent

LAHORE: Central Information Secretary Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) Senator Amanullah Kinrani has said Nawab Akbar Bugti never met with any General during his entire political career and nor he would meet with General Pervez Musharraf.

Addressing a news conference at the Lahore Press Club here on Thursday, Kinrani said that as Nawab Akbar Bugti has no personal demand on Balochistan issue, therefore, he would not request for a meeting with Musharraf.

The JWP and ARD leaders Sardar Marghoob Khetran, Riaz Mohayudin Awan, Syed Munir Gillani and Abdul Qadeer Khamosh were also present. Kinrani said that the Baloch would continue their struggle unless they got their rights.

He demanded provincial autonomy and said that only defence, currency and foreign affairs should be within the ambit of the federation, adding that the provinces should be empowered for the rest of all the affairs. He said that he believed in dialogue in politics. The Baloch people were as patriot as the people of other provinces and they would not betray until and unless forced to runaway like Bengalis, he added.

PPI adds: Lauding the role of the parliamentary committee under President PML Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain for defusing tension in Dera Bugti, Kinrani said that the need was to expedite and impetus the process of negotiations for complete elimination of tension in Balochistan. He said that the forces should be returned immediately, as the roads and passages are still blocked.


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