In the shadow of the gun – I

By: Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

During the 1973-1977 army action in conflict zones, thousands of innocent people were killed, tens of thousands were internally displaced

Mr Ikram Sehgal’s “Of Empire and Army” (Newsline, March 2012) is a bundle of misinformation and bias against the Baloch. Perturbed that the media holds the security establishment solely responsible for the Balochistan crisis, he claims, “Most of our problems stem from jumping to conclusions that are based on misinformation, and then deliberately distorting those half-truths to suit mass perception.” He feels, “Disproportionate media projection of the separatist leaders encourages ethnic divisions and violence.” He probably thinks the Baloch struggle and the atrocities by the state are a figment of the media’s imagination.

The state’s brutal kill and dump policy seems justified to him. He half-heartedly admits, “No one denies the fact that targeted killings of the Baloch are taking place, that people are being picked up and that state actors are involved in the killing and the disappearances.” Then he offers a lame justification that “sons of the soil” are killing an equal number of settlers. Balochistan Home Department’s recent report said that the majority of the ones killed are ethnic Baloch.

Sehgal tells us that on December 29, 1973, as his son was being born in Karachi, his company came under heavy fire from Marri insurgents near Kahan, after the dismissal of Ataullah’s representative government. The Baloch considered them aggressors rightly, and could not be expected to throw a party. He then says, “Throughout that year, many soldiers were martyred and several injured,” and adds, “In one instance, the insurgents beheaded 19 of our soldiers.”

Well, I too was in the Marri area with the Baloch nationalists then and assuredly, the Marris never indulged in such abhorrent practices. His claim defies reason as no guerilla could possibly have time to ambush and behead soldiers. Ambushes invite response and with helicopters, jets and motorised transportation at the army’s disposal, only fools would linger after an ambush.

The columnist adds that the army could have retaliated against the Marris in kind but relented because they understood that their Sardar (tribal chief), who was living comfortably in Kabul, misguided the Marris. Incidentally, Sardar Khair Baksh Marri and other Baloch leaders, including Sardar Ataullah Mengal, were in jail until 1978. He blames the media for misinformation and distortion. During the 1973-1977 army action in conflict zones, thousands of innocent people were killed, tens of thousands were internally displaced, social and economic life was disrupted, flocks were stolen, crops destroyed, and the entire Balochistan was terrorised. Eight persons, whom I knew personally, including my dear friend, Daleep Dass, aka Johnny Dass, went missing, never to be heard of again. Sher Muhammad Aliani — a sept, an elder, a septuagenarian — was picked up because of an ambush in the vicinity of his settlement near Kahan; his brutally tortured corpse was later recovered. Murad Khan Ramkani of Tadri too was similarly killed. The valiant Asadullah Mengal and Ahmed Shah Kurd were abducted and killed in Karachi. The examples of the ‘consideration’ shown are too numerous to note.

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State Bank has no Board Director from Sindh

By: Dr Ali Akbar Dhakan, Karachi, Sindh

There is an old maxim that the cry of an oppressed or Victim never goes heedless but its bring Allah`s calamity and catastrophe for the oppressors. Since the creation of the world, the history tells that the society wherein the principle of might is right has been adopted, neither the fate of that society has flourished nor solidarity has achieved sound footings. I have expressed here my worries and woes experienced in the service career of State Bank of Pakistan which is the central Bank or the authority to regulate and control the monetary related affairs of the country.

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Pak-China ties changing? By Zafar Hilaly

One constant in our foreign relations since the early 1960s has been our singularly positive relationship with China, unlike our ties with other countries, which have had their highs and lows. But how well we manage this relationship will determine whether it proves to be an all weather highway or something more mundane.

While our geostrategic value to China is self-evident, especially our ocean frontage, which would give them commercial access to the sprawling Indian Ocean and the countries on its rim, yet there are challenges to be met before that can be turned into a reality.

The problems are numerous, like religious extremism that has made us particularly inhospitable to foreigners; congenital political infighting; gross economic mismanagement and a serious erosion of state authority and state coherence. Another problem has been the mediocrity of our leaders who are totally unschooled in foreign affairs. If these problems persist, China may conclude that we are too big a risk for them to make grandiose long-term investments.

And that’s not all. Our international isolation is another risk that might make China cautious about strategic investments which would increase its dependence on us while exposing them to danger and uncertainty. All of this may cause China to revise its thinking and adopt a much less ambitious approach – not withstanding all the gibberish about our friendship being ‘higher than K-2 and deep than the Indian Ocean’.

Hence, there was alarm when the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman praised Zardari’s trip to India. Not just that. He also accused ‘a country in South Asia’, for providing sanctuary to six Muslim Uighur leaders of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement who ‘not only threaten China’s national security’ but, according to the official Xinhua news agency, ‘poses the most direct and real safety threat that China faces.’ Xinhua also made brief references to how important India-Pakistan normalisation is for China today because Beijing sees subcontinental stability to be in its strategic interest.

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The Future of Pakistan – By: Stephen P. Cohen

Comment by: Manzoor Chandio

Irrespective of what Mr Cohen predicts, Pakistan needs help of its own intelligentsia in correcting the house… any catastrophe that may hit the country from the Afghanistan-like state collapse to the Bangladesh-like break up, the ultimate sufferers would be the people… there could be mass killings… there could be mass migrations… there could be hunger and diseases in the wake of increasing eating mouths and shrinking economy… it is obvious Pakistan has failed to achieve state cohesion… the degree of discontent is much higher… killings in the name of religion, sects, politics, ethnicity are on the rise… most of the population is ill-equipped for the modern world because of illiteracy… more killings are taking place in Pakistan’s urban centers than in tribal areas because of people living in cities have yet not developed urban and metropolitan culture… intolerance is at the highest peak… the writer blames Pakistan has proved itself an irresponsible state in the community of nations because it harbours militants who then create troubles for other countries… as a result, the country has earned more enemies than friends in the world… why Pakistan has reached this state of affairs…?.. the writer traces the set of symptoms to its birth from a non-Muslim country… since then it revolves its survival to a very narrow-minded ideology of getting national cohesion that one religion (Islam), one language (Urdu), one national identity (Pakistani) and one patriot army is the binding force… the state is not ready to move away from this unnatural oneness… while on the ground natural Pakistan is different… it is home to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Pakistan’s 93 per cent people does not speak Urdu, Sindhis have 10,000-years old national identity of being Sindhi… Pakistani identity is only 64-year old… Punjabi elite hugged this policy of cohesion to get maximum economic benefit… their chauvinistic approach considers others as unpatriotic…

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