China’s Discreet Hold on Pakistan’s Northern Borderlands

By SELIG S. HARRISON

While the world focuses on the flood-ravaged Indus River valley, a quiet geopolitical crisis is unfolding in the Himalayan borderlands of northern Pakistan, where Islamabad is handing over de facto control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China.

The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.

China wants a grip on the region to assure unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. It takes 16 to 25 days for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Gulf. When high-speed rail and road links through Gilgit and Baltistan are completed, China will be able to transport cargo from Eastern China to the new Chinese-built Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara, just east of the Gulf, within 48 hours.

Many of the P.L.A. soldiers entering Gilgit-Baltistan are expected to work on the railroad. Some are extending the Karakoram Highway, built to link China’s Sinkiang Province with Pakistan. Others are working on dams, expressways and other projects.

Read more >> The New York Times

Behind Altaf’s appeal to ‘patriotic generals’

Every news channel reported the alleged involvement of local feudal lords in diverting the flood to save their own lands but not even a single channel openly dared question how many villages were inundated to save Shahbaz Air Base?

Ever since its inception in 1978 just a year after the military coup spearheaded by General Zia, MQM (or its predecessor APMSO) has invoked controversies. Despite controversies, the MQM has always been a partner in every government one way or the other ever since 1988. Given the insecurity Muhajirs have felt in this country, the MQM furthers the interests of a certain class amongst the Urdu speaking population of Pakistan’s largest city while on the other hand, given the structure of politics in Pakistan where military and civil establishment has always been the decisive force, the MQM has always tried to maneuver a sort of win-win situation. This makes MQM an interesting case in Pakistani politics, a party popular and penetrating amongst its supporters and on the other hand a “front man” for establishment. It is only in this background that we can analyze the recent statement of Altaf Hussain regarding his “unconditional and open” support for a possible “martial law type” action intended to “purge” the political scene from “corrupt politicians” taken by “patriotic generals”.

Altaf’s party, as usual, is a coalition partner in the current set up but it seems all is not well for the MQM this time. Fight for control over Karachi has taken a new turn this time as we witness two provincial seats won by Pakhtoon nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) from Karachi. …

Read more >> ViewPoint

It will be in the interest of the army if it stayed away from politics: Chaudhry Nisar

PML-N seeks army, govt’s response to MQM remarks

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-N has urged the army to clarify its position on the appeal made by MQM chief Altaf Hussain to ‘patriotic generals’ to take ‘martial law-like action against corrupt politicians’.

“Ask ISPR (army’s public relations department) to make a comment on it. I personally believe that the army should present its viewpoint,” Chaudhry Nisar, Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, said in reply to a question at a press conference on Saturday.

Chaudhry Nisar said it would be in the interest of the army if it stayed away from politics. “Please, let the army do its job. It is in the interest of the army, country and all institutions as Pakistan’s future lies in democracy. Today, when they (army) have returned to their original work, don’t distract them.” …

Read more >> DAWN