Tag Archives: mountains

Pakistan – As always, too late

The ignored Baloch

By: Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

As always, too little too late

Rehman Malik has announced the withdrawal of cases against the Baloch militant leaders driven to the mountains or forced into exile by what they call the brutality of the security forces. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani wants to convene an All Parties Conference on Balochistan.

Had these cases been withdrawn four years back and a genuine reconciliation process initiated, this could have led to talks and arrested the situation from reaching a point of no return.

There was enough goodwill in Balochistan for the PPP-led government when it took over in 2008. There were also hopes that parliament would act forcefully and the courts would exert their authority to end the atrocities initiated by the Musharraf regime.

The PPP government simply failed to pursue the peace process meaningfully. Instead, it willingly agreed to follow the policy being pursued under Musharraf. This meant continuing the military-cum-FC operations in Balochistan that displaced thousands of people, allowing forced disappearances and the torture, killing and dumping of the disfigured corpses on roadside.

In June 2008, Senator Sanauallah Baloch who had returned from exile after the restoration of democracy resigned from the House after a speech that moved the entire Senate. Soon after Baloch leaders rejected the move by the government for an All Parties Conference. They instead demanded direct talks on issues highlighted by leaders like Akhtar Mengal that included end to operations in the province, tracing persons forcibly taken away and the ownership of Balochistabn’s resources by the Balochis.

Month after month, there were peaceful protests all over Balochistan to press for their demands. There were calls by nationalist parties for shutter down closures, hunger strikes, and hoisting of black flags. Baloch representatives in parliament underlined the dangers if no measures were taken to improve the situation. Year after year, the government continued to look the other way.

Raisani complained of being powerless and accused FC of running a parallel government that was harming the process of reconciliation. Gilani, however, failed to take any notice as the federal government had decided to follow the policy formulated under Musharraf. It was willing, as before, to bribe the tribal leaders in the provincial assembly and offer crumbs to the population. It was not willing to concede what Baloch considered their rights.

Continue reading Pakistan – As always, too late

Inside Balochistan’s dirty war – Praveen Swami

Baloch secessionist leader Brahmdagh Bugti says he wants political engagement with Pakistan — but that its military wants war.

Late last month, Zamur Domki and her 12-year-old daughter were driving back to their home in an upmarket Karachi neighbourhood when a black car swerved across the road, blocking their route. Thinking she was a target of an armed robbery, Ms Domki offered the masked men who surrounded the car her jewellery and mobile phone — but the attackers weren’t interested.

An eyewitness recalls that Ms Domki watched in horror as the assassins repeatedly shot her daughter in the chest and neck. Then, it was her turn to die.

Baloch politicians allege the murders, for which no one has been held, were carried out by Pakistan’s intelligence services to send a message to Ms Domki’s brother, Brahmdagh Bugti — a soft-spoken 31-year-old father of three who, from exile in Geneva, leads the region’s largest secessionist party.

Concern over assassinations

In recent months, assassinations of Baloch nationalist politicians and their kin have provoked growing concern. Last year alone, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported, there were at least 107 new cases of enforced disappearances. The missing, the commission’s chairperson Zohra Yusuf said, “were increasingly turning up dead.” The United States’ State Department has voiced concern, and political leaders have called for action.

Continue reading Inside Balochistan’s dirty war – Praveen Swami

Al Jazeera – Balochistan: Pakistan’s other war

Baloch politicians and leaders share their vision of self-determination and freedom from Pakistani rule.

By Al Jazeera

In the rugged mountains of southwest Pakistan lies the country’s largest province of Balochistan. Far from the bustling cities of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, this remote region has been the battleground for a 60-year-long insurgency by the Baloch ethnic minority.

“The Baloch people now live in a state of war. Every day, they face injustice. The army and intelligence agents kidnap our young, and we know nothing about them for years. The Baloch people live in a state of war. We will not accept any offers until we regain control over this land. They burn down our homes and then ask us for peace? We are not stupid.” – Baloch Khan, Baloch rebel leader

The ongoing conflict is often called Pakistan’s dirty war, because of the rising numbers of people who have disappeared or have been killed on both sides.

But the uprising against Pakistan’s government has received little attention worldwide, in part because most eyes have been focused on the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in other areas of Pakistan. …

Read more » al Jazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2012/01/2012121372863878.html

Kashmir: A troubled paradise

– As a child growing up after India’s partition, Kashmir to me was always a part of India. Only in middle school did I begin to realize that it was considered “disputed territory” by much of the world, the sentiment being especially fierce in neighboring Pakistan. The map of India that we studied in school showed Indian Kashmir as a larger territory than what was actually under Indian control. Parts of it in the north and the west were in reality, within China and Pakistan. The scenic northernmost state, a popular destination for summer tourism and the backdrop of many a puerile romantic song & dance number of made-in-Bombay movies, was not a very urgent topic of discussion for the general Indian public. Kashmir for most Indians, evoked benign, pretty images of apple, apricot and walnut orchards, chinar trees, shimmering lakes, snow capped mountains, houseboats, fine pashmina shawls, lacquered papier mache ornaments and the valley’s light skinned aloof inhabitants.

Later in my teen years I began to understand that Kashmir was not the placid paradise we had imagined as children. Its politics were complicated and its population sharply divided on the state’s rightful status – part of India, part of Pakistan or a wholly independent/ autonomous entity. The difference of opinion fell across religious lines. Kashmiri Hindus wished to remain with India and the majority Muslim population of the state did not. Even then, things were mostly quiet and free of turmoil. There were quite a few Kashmiri students in my school. Many had ancestral homes and relatives in Kashmir and they visited there regularly during summer breaks. Those friends were all Hindus. Come to think of it, I did not know a single Kashmiri Muslim on a personal level until I was in college. There were Muslim traders and merchants who came down to major Indian cities bearing expensive and much coveted Kashmiri merchandise such as saffron, dried fruit, nuts and embroidered woollens, but they did not reside in the plains permanently and their children did not attend our schools. The first Kashmiri Muslim I came to know well was Agha Shahid Ali, a graduate student a few years ahead of me in Delhi University who later became a lecturer of English at my college as also a poet of some renown. It was Ali who first revealed to me that most Kashmiri Muslims did not identify themselves as Indians and many felt a greater emotional and cultural allegiance with Pakistan. An equal number wanted an autonomous state with a very loose federation with India for economic reasons. The Indian government spent large sums of money to subsidize the state’s economy and prohibited non-Kashmiris from buying land there while also meddling in local politics. Kashmiris became increasingly suspicious of the central government’s motives and the rift with India widened both politically and culturally.

Despite tensions and uncertainties, Kashmir never experienced the sectarian violence that had racked the eastern and western wings of India around partition time. Even when India and Pakistan fought several wars over their disagreement surrounding the region, Kashmir itself remained relatively free of communal strife for many decades after India’s independence. The uneasy calm ended in the late 1980s and early ’90s when the Kashmir valley became a battle ground for armed insurgents trained in Pakistan and the Indian military forces. The conflict caused a communal rift among long time residents and resulted in a mass exodus (some say expulsion) of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes. Those tensions remain to this day laced with bitterness on both sides.

I had never visited Kashmir when I lived in India. By the time the political upheaval unfolded in the 1990s, I had already left and had been living abroad for a decade. Kashmir’s troubles and deteriorating political situation were not something I paid close attention to until the Kargil War erupted in 1999. It became clear then that Kashmir had become an intractable problem for India. I am still not sure how I feel about the situation. What can India gain by holding on to a territory whose residents do not want to be a part of India? Can India protect regions like Ladakh and Jammu in the vicinity which identify firmly with the rest of India? What would happen if India does decide to vacate the valley and stops spending money to placate the population and maintain the large presence of its armed forces? Would Kashmir valley remain “independent” or will some other country like China or Pakistan march in and establish control even closer to other Indian states? How does one balance the interests of Kashmiris and the rest of India? Is peace ever possible when the citizenry perceives the government as an “occupying force?” Most confusing of all, will Kashmiri Hindus be permitted go back to the homes they abandoned out of fear and panic? And even if it was possible, would they ever want to return to a place that had cut all ties to India? ….

Read more → Accidental Blogger

Pakistan’s ‘secret’ war

Author: Karlos Zurutuza, Balochistan
Editor: Rob Mudge

Excerpt:

Armed groups of Balochs in southwest Pakistan are gaining momentum at a critical point for the country’s future. Deutsche Welle looks at the phenomenon which presents yet another problem in the troubled region.

A province marked by floods and images of burned-out NATO tankers, Balochistan is the land of the Baloch, who today see their country in southwest Asia divided by the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Balochistan is the size of France and boasts enormous reserves of gas, gold and copper, as well as untapped sources of oil and uranium. The exploitation of these natural resources in combination with repressive and discriminatory state-run policies have led to armed uprisings in the region.

In his book “Descent into Chaos,” best-selling writer and renowned Afghanistan commentator, Ahmed Rashid, says that the Baloch have instigated five insurgent uprisings to date. These insurgents take shelter in the rugged mountains of southern Pakistan and across the border, in Afghanistan.

The Baloch insurgents in Pakistan are fragmented into several groups: the BLA (Baloch Liberation Army), the BRA (Baloch Republican Army), the BLF (Baloch Liberation Front) and Lashkar-e Balochistan (Balochistan’s army). Several analysts say this fragmentation reflects the tribal element among the Baloch. Accordingly, the BLA, BRA and Lashkar-e Balochistan are led by the local main clans of the Marris, the Bugtis and the Mengals respectively, while the BLF is a more heterogeneous movement.

Despite the apparent fracture, all these groups are markedly secular movements – at odds with the Taliban – who share a common agenda focusing on the independence of Balochistan. They organize their actions around guerrilla attacks, primarily against military targets and government infrastructures like gas pipelines.

Growing discontent

“Given that parliamentary politics is a fake option for us, we are forced to make politics with weapons. Since the partition of India in 1947, we have had to chose between slavery and death,” Khair Bux Marri told Deutsche Welle from his residence in Karachi. The 90-year old Marri is the leader of the biggest Baloch tribe. His life-long struggle against Pakistan has taken him from years of exile in Afghanistan to terms in Pakistani prisons.

His son, Balaach Marri, led the BLA and was killed in 2007 by the Pakistani army. The portrait of this guerrilla leader, wearing a Baloch cap and holding an assault rifle, is almost ubiquitous in Pakistani-controlled Balochistan and can often be spotted alongside Hayrbyar’s, his younger brother, also considered to be a “national hero” by many Baloch.

From his London exile, Hayrbyar Marri calls for the independence of Balochistan and defends the right of “self defence” by his people. When asked about a possible dialogue with Islamabad, he is categorical. “There’s only one thing to negotiate with Islamabad and that’s the immediate pull-out of their occupation troops,” he told Deutsche Welle from his house in London. ….

Harrison also said that the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan enjoys sympathies in the neighboring Sindh province which, according to the journalist, “has brought back the ancient dream of a state or a Sindhi-Balochistan federation extending along the Arabian Sea, from Iran to India.”

Read more: Deutsche Welle

Failing the Baloch

By Basil Nabi Malik

THE mutilated bodies surface quietly in various parts of the province, and usually without any forewarning. The killings take place sporadically but surely, the bodies dumped on unforgiving mountains or on deserted, half-constructed roads. Perhaps they are meant to constitute a message for certain segments of society.

On some occasions, the arms and legs of these corpses are found to have been snapped; often, their faces are smashed in and swollen. At other times, the flesh shows that severe torture was inflicted on various parts of the body, the wounds indicating the use of knives, electric prods or drills that tore gaping holes into the body. The remains are often unrecognisable. And all of them have a gunshot wound in the head.

These aren’t scenes from a battlefield in Afghanistan, Iraq or even the former Yugoslavia. Instead, this is the situation in the largest province in Pakistan: Balochistan. According to assessments made by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), severe human rights violations have been taking place in Balochistan since the onset of the latest phase of the insurgency.

Of the many incidents of torture reported by the organisation, one is the case of Alam Pirkani Baloch who belonged to the Pirkani tribe. Apparently, he was arrested and placed in the custody of the Federal Intelligence Unit (FIU). During his incarceration, he was allegedly hung upside down with some sort of sharp-edged tool between his thighs and in his hands.

After his hands and legs had bled for a while, he was taken down. Then chillies and salt were rubbed into his wounds.

In another incident, Ali Beig of the Marri tribe was said to have been arrested by personnel of the City Police Station, Quetta, and handed over to the FIU. He was made to stand naked in freezing weather, electric shocks were administered to him and he was beaten with strips of rubber. After two months of being in the custody of the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and the FIU, he was transferred to a jail where the FIU would, allegedly, take him away at night for further torture. After a year, he was once again transferred to the FIU camp where he was subjected to torture with heavy steel rollers.

In another example of the types of activities taking place in Balochistan, Eid Mohammad, son of Haji Wali Jan, was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act. He was kept in custody for three months. At the time of his arrest, Eid was a student of class 8 and was only 14 years old at the time. Although details of what that happened to him during his detention are sketchy, it is reported that Eid can no longer go to school. He regularly suffers nightmares, during the course of which he screams hysterically and pleads that he should not be tortured.

These are just a few of the various incidents of alleged torture recorded by the HRCP in its fact-finding missions over the years.

Furthermore — and shockingly — these incidents of torture are not considered separate to and distinct from the instances of disappearances that are taking place in Balochistan.

In fact, many reports pouring in nowadays indicate that most of those desolate and mutilated bodies discovered on the uninhabited mountains or empty roads were actually persons reported as missing. Additionally, suspicion is raised by the fact that many such bodies come to light after there has been an attack on paramilitary or government forces that is blamed on nationalist forces.

Despite the seriousness of the situation in Balochistan, which is indicated by the examples given above, these incidents seem to have raised little concern in other parts of the country. The media appears more concerned about the presence of CIA agents in Pakistan than the actual damage that is being caused apparently by state agents in Balochistan. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan is more concerned about completing its tenure than actually trying to heal the wounds of the Baloch.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, appears more interested in issuing contempt notices to certain PPP leaders as compared to ensuring the fundamental rights of all those tortured and maimed souls who happen to call Balochistan their home. As for the people of Pakistan, sadly, they appear more interested in scrounging for national pride on the fields of Mohali rather than resurrecting the same on the shamed mountains and empty roads of Balochistan.

However, whatever the motives behind such dismissive attitudes, and civil society and the state authorities’ lack of reaction to such incidents, it is clear that the said acts have served to perhaps irreparably harm any possibility of the Baloch placing their trust in the state of Pakistan and attempting at reconciliation.In fact, it has unfortunately now come to such a head that the hatred that certain Baloch tribal people have long held for the state of Pakistan is seeping into other segments of society.

The educated classes, students as well as other parts of the middle class are all growing increasingly militant.

As stated by Jamil Bugti, son of the late Nawab Akbar, Bugti, “The next generation is all in the mountains, and they’re not willing to talk to anyone. People like me, and others, like the different nationalist parties that are in parliament, they don’t have any role to play. They look very good on TV. That’s about it.”

The writer is a Fulbright scholar and a Karachi based lawyer. basil.nabi@gmail.com

Courtesy: DAWNhttp://www.dawn.com/2011/04/12/failing-the-baloch.html

Pakistan’s secret dirty war

In Balochistan, mutilated corpses bearing the signs of torture keep turning up, among them lawyers, students and farm workers. Why is no one investigating and what have they got to do with the bloody battle for Pakistan’s largest province?

by Declan Walsh

The bodies surface quietly, like corks bobbing up in the dark. They come in twos and threes, a few times a week, dumped on desolate mountains or empty city roads, bearing the scars of great cruelty. Arms and legs are snapped; faces are bruised and swollen. Flesh is sliced with knives or punctured with drills; genitals are singed with electric prods. In some cases the bodies are unrecognisable, sprinkled with lime or chewed by wild animals. All have a gunshot wound in the head. ….

Read more : Guardian.co.uk