Posts Tagged ‘ Baluchistan ’

To Fight India, We Fought Ourselves

By Mohsin Hamid for The New York Times

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On Monday, my mother’s and sister’s eye doctor was assassinated. He was a Shiite. He was shot six times while driving to drop his son off at school. His son, age 12, was executed with a single shot to the head.

Tuesday, I attended a protest in front of the Governor’s House in Lahore demanding that more be done to protect Pakistan’s Shiites from sectarian extremists. These extremists are responsible for increasingly frequent attacks, including bombings this year that killed more than 200 people, most of them Hazara Shiites, in the city of Quetta.

As I stood in the anguished crowd in Lahore, similar protests were being held throughout Pakistan. Roads were shut. Demonstrators blocked access to airports. My father was trapped in one for the evening, yet he said most of his fellow travelers bore the delay without anger. They sympathized with the protesters’ objectives.

Minority persecution is a common notion around the world, bringing to mind the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, for example, or Arab immigrants in Europe. In Pakistan, though, the situation is more unusual: those persecuted as minorities collectively constitute a vast majority.

A filmmaker I know who has relatives in the Ahmadi sect told me that her family’s graves in Lahore had been defaced, because Ahmadis are regarded as apostates. A Baluch friend said it was difficult to take Punjabi visitors with him to Baluchistan, because there is so much local anger there at violence toward the Baluch. An acquaintance of mine, a Pakistani Hindu, once got angry when I answered the question “how are things?” with the word “fine” — because things so obviously aren’t. And Pakistani Christians have borne the brunt of arrests under the country’s blasphemy law; a governor of my province was assassinated for trying to repeal it.

What then is the status of the country’s majority? In Pakistan, there is no such thing. Punjab is the most populous province, but its roughly 100 million people are divided by language, religious sect, outlook and gender. Sunni Muslims represent Pakistan’s most populous faith, but it’s dangerous to be the wrong kind of Sunni. Sunnis are regularly killed for being open to the new ways of the West, or for adhering to the old traditions of the Indian subcontinent, for being liberal, for being mystical, for being in politics, the army or the police, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the heart of Pakistan’s troubles is the celebration of the militant. Whether fighting in Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or at home, this deadly figure has been elevated to heroic status: willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, able to win the ultimate victory, selfless, noble. Yet as tens of thousands of Pakistanis die at the hands of such heroes, as tens of millions of Pakistanis go about their lives in daily fear of them, a recalibration is being demanded. The need of the hour, of the year, of the generation, is peace.

Pakistan is in the grips of militancy because of its fraught relationship with India, with which it has fought three wars and innumerable skirmishes since the countries separated in 1947. Militants were cultivated as an equalizer, to make Pakistan safer against a much larger foe. But they have done the opposite, killing Pakistanis at home and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic conflicts abroad.

Normalizing relations with India could help starve Pakistani militancy of oxygen. So it is significant that the prospects for peace between the two nuclear-armed countries look better than they have in some time.

India and Pakistan share a lengthy land border, but they might as well be on separate continents, so limited is their trade with each other and the commingling of their people. Visas, traditionally hard to get, restricted to specific cities and burdened with onerous requirements to report to the local police, are becoming more flexible for business travelers and older citizens. Trade is also picking up. A pulp manufacturer in Pakistani Punjab, for example, told me he had identified a paper mill in Indian Punjab that could purchase his factory’s entire output.

These openings could be the first cracks in a dam that holds back a flood of interaction. Whenever I go to New Delhi, many I meet are eager to visit Lahore. Home to roughly a combined 25 million people, the cities are not much more than half an hour apart by plane, and yet they are linked by only two flights a week.

Cultural connections are increasing, too. Indian films dominate at Pakistani cinemas, and Indian songs play at Pakistani weddings. Now Pakistanis are making inroads in the opposite direction. Pakistani actors have appeared as Bollywood leads and on Indian reality TV. Pakistani contemporary art is being snapped up by Indian buyers. And New Delhi is the publishing center for the current crop of Pakistani English-language fiction.

A major constraint the two countries have faced in normalizing relations has been the power of security hawks on both sides, and especially in Pakistan. But even in this domain we might be seeing an improvement. The new official doctrine of the Pakistani Army for the first time identifies internal militants, rather than India, as the country’s No. 1 threat. And Pakistan has just completed an unprecedented five years under a single elected government. This year, it will be holding elections in which the largest parties all agree that peace with India is essential.

Peace with India or, rather, increasingly normal neighborly relations, offers the best chance for Pakistan to succeed in dismantling its cult of militancy. Pakistan’s extremists, of course, understand this, and so we can expect to see, as we have in the past, attempts to scupper progress through cross-border violence. They will try to goad India into retaliating and thereby giving them what serves them best: a state of frozen, impermeable hostility.

They may well succeed. For there is a disturbing rise of hyperbolic nationalism among India’s prickly emerging middle class, and the Indian media is quick to stoke the fires. The explosion of popular rage in India after a recent military exchange, in which soldiers on both sides of the border were killed, is an indicator of the danger.

So it is important now to prepare the public in both countries for an extremist outrage, which may well originate in Pakistan, and for the self-defeating calls for an extreme response, which are likely to be heard in India. Such confrontations have always derailed peace in the past. They must not be allowed to do so again. In the tricky months ahead, as India and Pakistan reconnect after decades of virtual embargo, those of us who believe in peace should regard extremist provocations not as barriers to our success but, perversely, as signs that we are succeeding.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and the forthcoming “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”

 

Pakistan and its Image Problem

By Eric Schmidt for Google

Pakistan, a Muslim country, has spent about half of its independent life under military governments. Today, Pakistani leadership celebrates the ruling coalitions success in almost finishing the first five year term in history (previous leaders indicted by the courts, assassinated by extremists or brushed aside by the generals.) In meetings last week with the senior General, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, they made the case for a new and updated image of Pakistan: one of the largest democracies in the world, with a vibrant and open press, an upcoming demographic dividend of hardworking young people, and a highly educated elite leadership of the country. Islamabad and Lahore, where we visited, were relatively safe and certainly safer than Afghanistan. It was clear to us that Pakistan has an image problem.

Pakistan also has a power problem, as in electric power. Power is now off two hours out of three all day and all night. Estimates are that the country has enough generation capacity (hydro and oil based) to handle all the load, but corruption, power stealing, poor payment rates and the classic mistake of underpricing power compared to its real generation cost means that industrial production is threatened. Everyone of means has a UPS, and the air-conditioning seldom works on a 45 Celcius day. Our meetings often were literally in the dark, a common enough occurrence that people did not even remark about it.

Pakistanis are on their way to full mobile penetration with more than 110 million users, and all effective political communication programs now rely on SMS. 3G licenses are underway and the start of a real software industry can be seen.

Against this backdrop, another side of Pakistan emerges. The consensus is that the military drives the foreign policy of the country with unforeseen consequences. Alleged use of extremist groups to fight in Kashmir enables a criminal element to flourish, and the hosting of the Taliban in the autonomous regions (called FATA) to the north and west in the mountains turned an ungoverned area into a very dangerous area. The Army Generals explained the difference between fundamentalism (which they support) and extremism (which they fight), and the political leadership explained that the extremism now comes from “seminaries” where youth are indoctrinated, housed and fed in the rural areas where there are no opportunities at all.

Until recently a strong US ally, Pakistan is now on very good terms with China, and has improving relations with India (with whom they have had three wars.) The development of a nuclear stalemate between India and Pakistan seems to have forced them to pursue accommodation and trade is now increasing rapidly. The press are generally hyper-critical of the United States policies in the region and take the view that the India-US relationship is driving much of our countries behavior. The drone strikes are universally condemned as a violation of sovereignty and their constitution and are subject to much negotiation between the two countries. The bin Laden raid is viewed with strikingly different perspectives in the two countries.

The son of the chief of the Supreme Court is under investigation for corruption, and the media in turmoil after the appearance of staged interviews. In return, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Prime Minister is unable to govern after he was sentenced to a 30 second (yes, that’s right) detention for failing to investigate a corruption case against the President. The Prime Minister, so proud of the stability of the political system in his comments a week ago, is now the former-Prime Minister. The lack of trust within the society weakens both the real and perceived effectiveness of the government on security, corruption and good government matters.

We met a number of impressive Pakistanis, none more so than Masarrat Misbah of Smile Again. Every year, hundreds of young rural women have acid thrown on their faces by men as punishment for some dishonor, including being raped by the men who pour acid on her. This horrific crime, which often leads to death or blindness, requires painful rehabilitation and rebuilding of the woman’s life. Masarrat Misbah’s home in Lahore provides a temporary safe house. The perpetrators, most often direct family members, are seldom prosecuted and almost never convicted of anything. I will never forget the faces of these shy, young women so grievously injured in such an evil way.

Much of what people say and think about Pakistan is absolutely true for most of the FATA provinces (autonomous areas) and for Baluchistan. Pakistan’s image problem results from the fact that people outside the country believe the realities of North and South Waziristan and Quetta are reflective of what the larger country looks like. Islamabad and Lahore are certainly safer than people realize, unless you are a politician (many prominent politicians still suffer assassination attempts and threats inside these cities).

Pakistan’s major security challenge comes from having two many fronts. FATA represents a Haqqani network and Taliban problem, threatening the establishment in Islamabad. Baluchistan is a persistent separatist movement. Afghanistan is a threat because Pashtuns are allowed to go back and forth undocumented. All of this, including India, is simply too much for a government like Pakistan to take on right now.

We ultimately see three Pakistans: 1) The places where the security issues are true (FATA, Baluchistan, parts of SWAT Valley, and Kashmir); 2) the rest of Pakistan for the average citizen, much larger than the first and which is reasonably misunderstood and relatively safe; 3) The politician’s and military’s Pakistan, which whether in FATA or Islamabad, is turbulent, unsafe, and complex.

There is a good case for optimism about Pakistan, simply because of the large emergent middle class (#2). The country, vast, tribal and complicated, can follow the more successful model of India. Connectivity changes the rural experience completely.. illiteracy at 43% can be overcome relatively quickly, and providing information alternatives can dissuade young males from a life of terrorism. The well educated elite can decide to further reform the countries institutions to increase confidence in the government. The war in Afghanistan, destabilizing to Pakistan in many ways, winds down after 2014 and buys time for Pakistan to address its real and continuing internal terrorism threat (more than 30,000 civilian terror deaths in the decade.)

Technology can help in other ways as well. The power problem is mostly a tracking problem (tracing corruption and mis-distribution). The problem of extreme crimes (like acid, or stoning) in poorly policed regions can be mitigated with videos and exposes that shame authorities into prosecution. The corruption problem can be tracked and traced using mobile money and transparent government finances. We met with clever Pakistani entrepreneurs who will build large, new businesses in Pakistan in the next few years and global multinational will locate sales and eventually manufacturing in the country.

The emergent middle class of Pakistan won’t settle for a corrupt system with constant terrorism and will push for reforms in a burgeoning democracy. Here’s to the new civil society of Pakistan, who will use connectivity, information and the Internet, to drive a peaceful revolution that brings Pakistan up to its true potential.

Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over Cartoon Contest

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The Pakistani government blocked access to the social networking service Twitter on Sunday, after publicly holding Twitter responsible for promoting a blasphemous cartoon contest taking place on Facebook, officials said.

A government spokesman was quoted by local news media as saying that the government had been in talks with Twitter to remove “objectionable” material but that there had been no results.

“The material was promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad,” said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority, was quoted as saying. He was also quoted as saying that Facebook had agreed to allay the concerns of the Pakistani government.

Blasphemy is an issue that roils sentiment easily in Pakistan. Blasphemy allegations have often resulted in violent riots, and religious minorities in Pakistan have long maintained that the country’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores.

Facebook was banned for two weeks in 2010 after protests erupted in the country over a similar cartoon contest on Facebook to draw the Prophet Muhammad. After a high court ordered the government to ban Facebook, the government was quick to ban YouTube and hundreds of other Web sites and services.

Speculation that the government intended to suspended Facebook and Twitter again had been swirling around for the past couple of days. However, this time around there have been no major public protests over the contest that Pakistani officials have expressed concerns about.

The ban has caught Twitter users by surprise.

“I never heard of any caricatures on Twitter,” said Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at Middle East Institute and a commentator on Pakistani politics, who has a Twitter following of more than 10,000 users. “Now this ban will be promoting whatever caricatures were posted on it.”

Responding to a question last night, Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, had denied that ban on social networking sites was in the offing.

“The government of Pakistan’s ban on Twitter is ill advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, in a press statement. “The right to free speech is nonnegotiable, and if Pakistan is the rights-respecting democracy it claims to be, this ban must be lifted forthwith. Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech.”

Critics said that the blocking of the micro-blogging site could actually be a part of longstanding government plan to muzzle media freedom and could be related to the vociferous opposition and criticism that is heaped on the country’s security apparatus in Twitter debates.

“Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan’s security agencies is expressed,” said Raza Rumi, a widely read columnist and an adviser at the Jinnah Institute, a public policy center based in Islamabad.

“There is a clear trend,” Mr. Rumi said, “that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.”

Activists supporting minority rights have established a strong voice on Twitter, and advocates for the Baluch people, who are demanding greater rights and a share of the natural-resources wealth in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, have also used it to spread their message.

Pakistan’s Hindu Girls Forced into Muslim Marriages

As Reported by IRIN

Sixteen-year-old Ameena Ahmed*, now living in the town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, does not always respond when her mother-in-law calls out to her. 


“Even after a year of `marriage’ I am not used to my new name. I was called Radha before,” she told IRIN on a rare occasion when she was allowed to go to the corner shop on her own to buy vegetables. 


Ameena, or Radha as she still calls herself, was abducted from Karachi about 13 months ago by a group of young men who offered her ice-cream and a ride in their car. Before she knew what was happening, she was dragged into a larger van, and driven to an area she did not know. 


She was then pressured into signing forms which she later found meant she was married to Ahmed Salim, 25; she was converted to a Muslim after being asked to recite some verses in front of a cleric. She was obliged to wear a veil. Seven months ago, Ameena, who has not seen her parents or three siblings since then and “misses them a lot”, moved with her new family to southern Punjab. 


“The abduction and kidnapping of Hindu girls is becoming more and more common,” Amarnath Motumal, a lawyer and leader of Karachi’s Hindu community, told IRIN. “This trend has been growing over the past four or five years, and it is getting worse day by day.

Pakistan is one of several nations across Asia suffering from a shortage of females as sex-selective abortion has played growing role in the deficit. Portable ultrasound machines have made gender selection much easier. A 2005 study quoted by Wiki estimated that more than 90 million females were “missing” from the expected populations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan alone.

He said there were at least 15-20 forced abductions and conversions of young girls from Karachi each month, mainly from the multi-ethnic Lyari area. The fact that more and more people were moving to Karachi from the interior of Sindh Province added to the dangers, as there were now more Hindus in Karachi, he said. 


“They come to search for better schooling, for work and to escape growing extremism,” said Motumal who believes Muslim religious schools are involved in the conversion business. 


“Hindus are non-believers. They believe in many gods, not one, and are heretics. So they should be converted,” said Abdul Mannan, 20, a Muslim student. He said he would be willing to marry a Hindu girl, if asked to by his teachers, “because conversions brought big rewards from Allah [God]. But later I will marry a `real’ Muslim girl as my second wife,” he said. 


According to local law, a Muslim man can take more than one wife, but rights activists argue that the law infringes the rights of women and needs to be altered. 


Motumal says Hindu organizations are concerned only with the “forced conversion” of girls under 18. “Adult women are of course free to choose,” he said. 


“Lured away”

Sunil Sushmt, 40, who lives in a village close to the city of Mirpurkhas in central Sindh Province, said his 14-year-old daughter was “lured away” by an older neighbour and, her parents believe, forcibly converted after marriage to a Muslim. “She was a child. What choice did she have?” her father asked. He said her mother still cries for her “almost daily” a year after the event. 


Sushmat is also concerned about how his daughter is being treated. “We know many converts are treated like slaves, not wives,” he said. 


According to official figures, Hindus based mainly in Sindh make up 2 percent of Pakistan’s total population of 165 million. “We believe this figure could be higher,” Motumal said. 


According to media reports, a growing number of Hindus have been fleeing Pakistan, mainly for neighbouring India. The kidnapping of girls and other forms of persecution is a factor in this, according to those who have decided not to stay in the country any longer. 


“My family has lived in Sindh for generations,” Parvati Devi, 70, told IRIN. “But now I worry for the future of my granddaughters and their children. Maybe we too should leave,” she said. “The entire family is seriously considering this.” 


Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– This is an absolutely despicable practice that the Pakistani government needs to put an end to just like the blasphemy laws of the nation. The religious minorities of Pakistan deserve equal rights, protections and freedoms.

Pakistani journalist given U.S. Asylum Tells of Threats, Disappearances in Baluchistan

By Pamela Constable for The Washington Post

Siraj Ahmed Malik, an ambitious young Pakistani journalist, was enjoying a stint last fall on a fellowship at the University of Arizona when he started getting chilling messages from home.

One after another, his friends and colleagues were disappearing, he learned, and their bodies were turning up with bullet holes and burn marks. A doctor’s son from his home town was arrested and vanished. A fellow reporter was kidnapped, and his corpse was found near a river. A student leader was detained, and his bullet-riddled body dumped on a highway. A writer whose stories Malik had edited was shot and killed.

“These were kids I had played cricket with, people I had interviewed, younger reporters I had taught,” Malik, 28, said in an interview last week in Arlington County, where he now lives. The final straw came in early June, when one of his mentors, a poet and scholar, was gunned down in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, Malik’s native province.

On Aug. 19, Malik applied for political asylum in the United States. In his petition, he said that his work as a journalist and ethnic activist in Baluchistan, where he had exposed military abuses, made him likely to be arrested, tortured, abducted and “ultimately killed by the government” if he returned.

Two weeks ago, his petition was granted. It was a highly unusual decision by U.S. immigration officials, given Pakistan’s status: a strategic partner in Washington’s war against Islamic terrorism; a longtime recipient of U.S. aid; and a democracy with an elected civilian government and vibrant national news media.

“I never wanted to leave my country, but I don’t want to become a martyr, either,” said Malik, a soft-spoken but steely man who spends his days hunched over a laptop at coffee shops in Clarendon, checking with sources back home to update his online newspaper, whose name means “Baluch Truth.”

“What’s going on in Baluchistan is like the dirty war in Argentina,” he said. “I need to be telling the story, but I can’t afford to become the story.”

Baluchistan is the Wild West of Pakistan — a remote desert province, larger than France, that is home to a mix of radical Islamic groups, rival ethnic and refugee gangs, rebellious armed tribes, and security agencies that have long been reported to kidnap, torture and kill dissidents with impunity.

Living under constant threat

Yet this ongoing violence and skulduggery receives scant international attention. Foreign journalists are banned from visiting the region alone, while headlines about Pakistan are dominated by a separate, high-stakes border conflict in which American drones and Pakistani troops are battling the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

As a result, a handful of local journalists such as Malik have been left to investigate and report the news without big-city patrons or visiting foreign delegations to give them cover.

“The threat of disappearance was always lurking in the back of our minds,” Malik wrote in his asylum petition. “My friends, colleagues and I lived with the knowledge that yesterday it was him that disappeared; today it is someone else; tomorrow it could easily be me.”

As Malik recounted over coffee, pressure and threats from unidentified intelligence agents were a daily hazard. According to his asylum file, agents accosted him in airports and hotels, detained and questioned him, and repeatedly threatened to “teach me a lesson.”

Malik acknowledges that as an advocate for the Baluch nationalist cause, his journalism is hardly neutral. The ethnic minority movement, which seeks autonomy from the central government, includes armed groups. Malik claims that he does not condone them, but he describes their stance as a “defensive” response to official abuse.

Still, his case for protection was bolstered by reports from human rights groups and letters from university officials in Arizona, who called him “nothing short of brave.” In a July report, Human Rights Watch described a “practice of enforced disappearances” of Baluch leaders and intellectuals, often by security agencies, and listed 45 abductions or killings since 2009.

Activists including Malik assert that more than 5,000 Baluch have vanished in the past decade, but the issue has never been seriously addressed, while the government has both co-opted and persecuted Baluch tribal chiefs. In 2007, Pakistan’s military president fired the head of the Supreme Court, who sought to probe the disappearances. In 2008, a civilian government took office and an investigative commission was established, but little action has been taken.

“The authorities have no answers because there is no accountability,” said one Pakistani diplomat, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. He suggested that Malik had exaggerated his fear of persecution as a “ploy” to remain in the United States, but he also called disappearances “the tip of the iceberg” in a society where security forces hold sway behind the scenes. Even a chief justice, he added, “knows there are lines he cannot cross.”

Driven to speak out

Najam Sethi, a newspaper publisher and titan of Pakistan’s liberal media establishment, was Malik’s boss from 2006 to 2010, when he worked as a correspondent in Quetta. For the past few months, Sethi has been on his own sabbatical at the New America Foundation in Washington, partly to escape the pressure he faces at home.

At a public forum here last week, Sethi described Pakistan’s news media as free to snipe at politicians and expose financial scandals but said it remains cautious about reporting on military and intelligence institutions, partly out of respect and partly out of fear.

“The media are scared, because there is no one to protect them,” Sethi said.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 40 Pakistani journalists have been killed since 1992. In May, a well-known investigative reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was abducted and found murdered. Shahzad had received threats after writing about al-Qaeda infiltration of the military, and a senior U.S. military official said his killing had been “sanctioned” by the government.

Asked about Malik, Sethi said he thought his former staffer had been too aggressive and outspoken. As Malik’s editor, he said, he had intervened several times with military authorities to protect him. “I wish he hadn’t gone so far,” Sethi said. “He crossed too many red lines.”

Malik, however, said he felt “betrayed” by such liberal media leaders, saying they have avoided speaking out against oppression in Baluchistan. He recounted how Baluch groups had been galvanized by the 2006 army slaying of the legendary tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti.

“For us, the killing of Bugti was Pakistan’s 9/11,” Malik said. After that, he said, he stepped up his exposure of the violence and abuses. His activities drew increasing attention from government agents, who, he said, called him a “traitor” and threatened to kill him if he did not stop.

Instead, Malik persisted. In early 2010, he attended a conference in India and denounced the disappearances. From his fellowship perch in Arizona last winter, and then while working briefly at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington in the spring, he wrote and spoke out at every opportunity.

But as the deaths of other Baluch journalists and friends began to mount, Malik said last week, he began to hesitate about returning.

“Baluchistan needs a messenger to the world,” he said, itching to get back to his reporting. “Here in the United States, I don’t have an office or money, but at least I can stay alive and get the message out.”

Gunmen Attack Shiite Muslims in Pakistan, 12 Dead

As Reported By USA Today

Suspected Sunni extremists opened fire on Shiite Muslims traveling through southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people and wounding six others in the latest apparent sectarian attack to plague the country, police said.

Sunni militants with ideological and operational links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings against minority Shiites in recent years, but the past couple weeks have been particularly bloody.

The gunmen who attacked Tuesday were riding on motorbikes and stopped a bus carrying mostly Shiite Muslims who were headed to work at a vegetable market on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said police official Hamid Shakeel.

The attackers forced the people off the bus, made them stand in a line and then opened fire, said Shakeel. The dead included 11 Shiites and one Sunni, he said. The wounded included four Shiites and two Sunnis.

Sunni extremists carried out a similar attack on Shiite pilgrims traveling through Baluchistan about two weeks ago, killing 26 people. Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent Shiite.

Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between mostly Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other.

The level of sectarian violence has declined somewhat since then, but attacks continue. In recent years, Sunni attacks on Shiites have been far more common.

The groups have been energized by al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni and share the belief that Shiites are infidels and it is permissible to kill them. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of the country’s most ruthless Sunni militant groups, claimed responsibility for the attack in Baluchistan two weeks ago. One of its alleged leaders, Malik Ishaq, was released from prison on bail in July after being held for 14 years on charges, never proven, of killing Shiites.

Ishaq was re-arrested about a week ago after making inflammatory speeches against Shiites in the country. He was not charged but detained under a public order act, which means he can be held for three months.

It’s not clear if Ishaq’s speeches have been connected to the recent wave of sectarian attacks.

Pakistan’s Bitter, Little-Known Ethnic Rebellion

By Carlotta Gall for The New Times

A slim figure in a dark suit, Brahumdagh Bugti, 30, could pass for a banker in the streets of this sedate Swiss city. But in truth he is a resistance leader in exile, a player in an increasingly ugly independence war within Pakistan.

He has been on the run since 2006, when he narrowly escaped a Pakistani Army operation that killed his grandfather and dozens of his tribesmen in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. And since then, the government’s attempt to stamp out an uprising by the Baluch ethnic minority has only intensified, according to human rights organizations and Pakistani politicians.

The Baluch insurgency, which has gone on intermittently for decades, 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 it has received little attention internationally, in part because most eyes are turned toward the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas.

Mr. Bugti insists that he is a political leader only, and that he is not taking a role in the armed uprising against the government. He was caught up in a deadly struggle between his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a former minister and a leader of the Bugti tribe, and Pakistan’s military leader at the time, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, over control of Baluchistan’s rich natural resources and the establishment of military bases in the province.

Baluch nationalists have never accepted being part of Pakistan and have fought in five uprisings since the country’s formation in 1948. Their demands range from greater control over Baluchistan’s gas and natural resources, fairer distribution of wealth (Baluchistan suffers from the lowest health, education and living standards in the country), to outright independence.

When the Pakistani Army shelled their ancestral home in Dera Bugti in December 2005, Mr. Bugti took to the hills with his grandfather, who was 80 and partly disabled, and they camped for months in mountain caves. Then, in August 2006, the military caught up with them. “I escaped, but he could not,” Mr. Bugti said.

From a hide-out two miles away, he watched the military assault, a furious three-day bombardment by attack jets, helicopter gunships and airborne troops. On the evening of the third day, the government triumphantly announced that Nawab Bugti had been killed. Thirty-two tribesmen died with him, Mr. Bugti said. The day after learning of his grandfather’s death, Mr. Bugti gathered his closest tribal leaders, and they urged him to leave and save himself, he said.

Pakistan and neighboring Iran were hostile to the Baluch, and the only place to go was Afghanistan, though it was consumed by the war with the Taliban. It took 19 days, on foot, to trek from a mountain base near Sibi to the Afghan border. But he had an armed tribal force and scouts with him and made the escape without incident, crossing into Afghanistan along a mountain trail, he said.

Although he had few contacts there, tribal links and traditions of hospitality assured him a welcome. He sent for his wife, his two children — a third was born in Afghanistan — and his mother, and after an elaborate dance to confuse government watchers, they crossed the border to join him days later.

Yet Afghanistan was not a safe haven. The family moved about 18 times over the next 18 months, and despite never going outside, he said, they became the target of repeated suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban and Qaeda militants, who they believe were sent by the Pakistani military. At least one bomb attack, in the upscale residential Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, was specifically aimed at Mr. Bugti, a Western diplomat and an Afghan intelligence official said.

The Pakistani government has branded Mr. Bugti a terrorist, the leader of the militant Baluch Republican Army, and has made no secret of its desire to kill or capture him. It has repeatedly demanded that Afghanistan hand him over and has accused India of supporting Baluch rebels through its consulates in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s remonstrations over Mr. Bugti became so insistent that the United States and other NATO members urged Afghanistan to move Mr. Bugti elsewhere, Western diplomats and Afghan officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the politics involved. In October 2010, he and his family arrived in Switzerland and sought political asylum.

Though Mr. Bugti says he supports only peaceful political activism rather than armed resistance, he does share the rebels’ demand for independence for the Baluch. “I support the political struggle and the idea for liberation because the Baluch people demand it,” he said.

He formed a political party shortly after his grandfather’s death, distancing himself from the established parties. The manner of his grandfather’s death, his call for political opposition to the government and his youth have won him broad support beyond his own Bugti tribe, among the educated Baluch middle class and student movements and appointed representatives in every district.

“We got a very good response from all the Baluch,” he said.

It proved to him that people in Baluchistan still hoped and believed in political change, he said. Yet government retribution was swift. Eight members of his political party in Baluchistan have been killed, five members of its central committee are missing since its formation in 2007 and the top leaders have been forced into exile. Even the party’s 76-year-old secretary general, Bashir Azeem, was detained for two months in 2009 and tortured — including being beaten and hung upside down, in a case documented by Human Rights Watch.

It is part of an increasingly deadly government crackdown on political and student nationalist leaders in the province over the last 18 months, politicians and human rights officials say. “They are trying to kill the activists, anyone who is speaking out,” Mr. Bugti said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented a rising number of abuses by the Pakistani security forces in Baluchistan. Amnesty International describes the use of “kill and dump” tactics, under which activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers, even teenagers, have been detained and their bullet-ridden bodies dumped on roadsides at a rate of about 20 a month in recent months.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of people have disappeared since 2005 in Baluchistan, and it has documented 45 cases of enforced disappearances and torture by Pakistani security forces in the province in 2009 and 2010. Human Rights Watch has also reported a growing trend of retaliation by armed rebels on non-Baluch settlers, including the targeted killings of 22 teachers.

Despite the end of General Musharraf’s rule and Pakistan’s return to a democratic government in 2008, military repression of the Baluch has only increased, Mr. Bugti and others say. Members of the civilian government say they have no power over the military, and the army is obsessed with crushing an uprising that it sees as an effort by India to undermine Pakistani sovereignty.

Mr. Bugti has called on the United States to end aid to the Pakistani Army, which, he said, was diverting resources from intended counterterrorism goals and using them to suppress the Baluch. “If the U.S. stopped the military and financial assistance, they could not continue their operations for long,” he said.

The increased violence has pushed the Baluch far beyond their original demands for greater autonomy and recognition of their rights and toward an armed independence movement. “Ninety-nine percent of the Baluch now want liberation,” Mr. Bugti said.

“The people are more angry and they will go to the side of those using violence, because if you close all the peaceful ways of struggle, and you kidnap the peaceful, political activists, and torture them to death and throw their bodies on roadsides, then definitely they will go and join the armed resistance groups,” he said.

He sees little hope of change from within Pakistan and seeks intervention by the United Nations and Western nations. “We have to struggle hard, maybe for 1 year, 2 years, 20 years,” he said. “We have to hope.”

Pakistan Kicks U.S. Off Air Base

By Farhan Bokhari for CBS News

The U.S. faces the challenge of quickly establishing alternative facilities from which to launch drone aircraft inside Afghanistan after Pakistan ordered U.S. personnel and hardware out of a base believed to have been used in the past for CIA drones, two senior Western defense officials tell CBS News.

Concern mounted Wednesday over the future of Pakistan’s clandestine support for Washington’s use of drones after the country’s defense minister announced Pakistan had told the U.S. to vacate the small Shamsi air base in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

Only “Pakistani aircraft will be flown from Shamsi in future,” Pakistani defense minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar told reporters. “No U.S. aircraft will fly from Shamsi.”

“U.S. personnel will not be allowed to use the Shamsi air base,” a senior Pakistani government official added to CBS News.

Another senior Pakistani official, who spoke Thursday to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said there previously “have been U.S. activities at the Shamsi air base. All those activities are being ceased now.”

The news comes as the Obama administration details its new strategy for combating extremism across the globe — a strategy which shifts the focus sharply away from the large-scale ground operations espoused by President George W. Bush, to smaller “surgical” strikes, like drone attacks.

The official refused to specify the types of U.S. activities that have now been ceased at Shamsi.

Pakistan has always publicly criticized the U.S. for carrying out attacks using pilotless drones, and has never acknowledged that it cooperates with Washington on the use of such aircraft. The drones have become widely unpopular across Pakistan after some of the attacks reportedly resulted in civilian casualties, including women and children.

“The damage to the U.S. drone program will not be substantial. But Pakistan’s decision is a setback for efforts to improve U.S. relations with Pakistan,” a senior Western defense official based in Islamabad told CBS, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It will take some time for the Americans to establish the program in Afghanistan. It can be done.”

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have remained frosty since U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in the country’s northern city of Abbottabad.

That attack was undertaken without the U.S. offering advanced information to Pakistan, out of fear that militant sympathizers in Pakistan’s intelligence and security establishment might have alerted al Qaeda or the Taliban.

The 2nd May operation has been followed by a hardening of attitude by Pakistan’s influential military, which claims the attack violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. In reaction to the raid, Pakistan has already ordered more than 150 U.S. military trainers to leave the country.

Pakistan Orders an Inquiry After Troops Kill a Teenager

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan ordered an investigation on Thursday into the shooting death of an apparently unarmed teenager by paramilitary troops in the southern port city of Karachi. The shooting, which was captured on video and broadcast on national television, has led to protests and has been condemned by political parties and human rights groups.

It was the second time in recent weeks that a video has shown paramilitary troops using extreme force against civilians. Last month, five Chechens were gunned down in Quetta, Pakistan.

The shootings are sure to feed complaints that Pakistan’s security forces are too aggressive and sometimes bypass the sluggish and corrupt judicial system. Pakistan’s military leaders are also still embarrassed by the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, which the armed forces did not detect.

The victim of the Karachi shooting, Sarfraz Shah, whose age was given as 18 or 19, was stopped by paramilitary troops on Wednesday and accused of being involved in an attempted robbery in a nearby park.

A spokesman for the troops said a gun had been taken from him, but in the video, Mr. Shah does not appear to be armed when he is shot.

The recording shows the young man begging for mercy before being led toward a group of troops. One points his gun at Mr. Shah before firing several shots. Mr. Shah crouches, asking forgiveness while bleeding profusely.

“My hand is gone,” Mr. Shah shouts. “Take me to the hospital.” The troops step back, out of the video frame. A government official said five of the troops had been arrested.

Mr. Shah was buried on Thursday in Karachi, accompanied by protests from family members.

The shootings in Quetta last month were also recorded. The police and paramilitary troops initially reported that the victims, three women and two men, were suicide bombers. They were killed near a checkpoint on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, in a volley of fire as police officers stood by.

Video from local television networks showed one young woman raising her arm, as if to try to stop the gunfire. No weapons were recovered on the victims. An investigation of that shooting is under way.

The Pakistani security forces have repeatedly been accused of misusing their power. The army was accused of extrajudicial killings during a military operation to drive out militants that began in the Swat Valley in 2009. The army denied the allegations.

The country’s powerful intelligence agencies have also been accused of illegally detaining hundreds of terrorism suspects. And military intelligence has been accused of gross human rights violations in Baluchistan, where a separatist insurgency by Baluch nationalists has long simmered.

Pakistani Rangers, the group involved in Mr. Shah’s death, are controlled by the Interior Ministry. Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, announced the arrests in the case on Thursday evening, but he also accused Mr. Shah of being part of a gang involved in robberies, according to the local news media.

Mr. Malik said Mr. Shah had tried to steal a woman’s purse and was caught by guards in the park before being handed over to the Rangers.

The Rangers have been deployed in Karachi for several years and help the local law enforcement authorities in maintaining peace in the city, which is riven by political, ethnic and sectarian tensions.

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells

By David S Cloud for The Los Angeles Times

In a clear sign of Pakistan’s deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan’s demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan’s failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA’s ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and four others at a compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan’s military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington’s decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan’s security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

“There is lot of discontent within Pakistan’s armed forces with regard to the fact they’ve done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted,” Hussain said. “Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible.”

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army’s 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan’s southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps’ facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

“We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps” at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. “But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets.”

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a “U.S. Special Operations Command Force” was providing the Frontier Corps with “imagery, target packages and operational planning” in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified message that the fusion cells provided “enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations” and were “a significant step forward for the Pakistan military.”

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan’s reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked “dozens” of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.

War in Afghanistan is Destabilising Pakistan, Says President

By Simon Tisdall for The Guardian

The war in Afghanistan is destabilising Pakistan and seriously undermining efforts to restore its democratic institutions and economic prosperity after a decade of military dictatorship, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has told the Guardian.

Speaking during an exclusive interview in the imposing presidential residence in Islamabad, Zardari also pointed to widespread concern in Pakistan at the slow pace of efforts to end the Afghan conflict, and said some US politicians showed limited understanding of the impact of American policies.

“Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border which is obviously having a huge effect. Only today a suicide bomber has attacked a police compound in Baluchistan. I think it [the Afghan war] has an effect on the entire region, and specially our country,” Zardari said.

Asked about harsh criticism of Pakistan’s co-operation in the “war on terror” published in a White House report last week, Zardari said Pakistan always listened to Washington’s views. But he suggested some members of Congress and the US media did not know what they were talking about when it came to Pakistan.

“The United States has been an ally of Pakistan for the last 60 years. We respect and appreciate their political system. So every time a new parliament comes in, new boys come in, new representatives come in, it takes them time to understand the international situation. Not Obama, but the Congress, interest groups and the media get affected by ‘deadline-itis’ [over ending the Afghan war],” Zardari said.

“I think it is maybe 12 years since America has become engaged in Afghanistan and obviously everybody’s patience is on edge, especially the American public, which is looking for answers. There are no short-term answers and it is very difficult to make the American taxpayer understand.”

With less than three months left before Barack Obama has promised to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, the White House recriminations reflected the growing pressures on all three governments to agree a workable, long-term strategy. The report complained bitterly that after years of US funding of the Pakistani military, “there remains no clear path towards defeating the insurgency” inside Pakistan.

It criticised as ineffectual Pakistani army operations in some areas of the western tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, which are believed to be used as safe havens by Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida elements.

A congressional panel also weighed in this week, urging the Obama administration to abandon Pakistan in favour of India. “Pakistan is about to go broke or collapse,” said Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat.

Zardari suggested that if that assertion were true, the interventionist policies of the US and other foreign governments in south Asia would be a significant contributory factor. Pakistan had been in a state of “security alert” for several decades, he said.

“Our emphasis has been on security rather than our commerce and we need commerce for our survival.

“We have all the gas in the world waiting to go through to markets in India and the Red Sea but it cannot be brought in until Afghanistan is settled. So Afghanistan is a growth issue for us. I think most of the time, the quantification of the effect of the war is not calculated [by the US].

“Prices are going up, obviously we are a high fuel-importing country, and fuel prices are going up. Because of the war situation, the industry in one of our provinces has practically closed down … When one whole sector is not working, there is an effect on the other sectors.”

According to senior intelligence officials, the “war on terror” has cost the Pakistani economy approximately $68bn (£42bn) since 2001.

More than 33,300 Pakistani civilians and military personnel have been killed or seriously injured. Last year’s record-breaking floods added to the strain on the economy.

Zardari said the security situation was also undercutting efforts to strengthen democratic institutions bypassed or overturned during the military rule of his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf. “Democracy is evolving. It’s a new democracy. It takes time to bring institutions back. Destroying institutions during a decade of dictatorial regime is easy … So there is a political impact as well as an economic impact.”

Pakistani officials say relations with the US reached a “low ebb” following the recent row over Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis; a CIA drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas last month that accidentally killed dozens of civilian elders meeting in a jirga (council), and Pakistan’s suspicions that it is being excluded from discussions about an Afghan peace deal.

Zardari, who is expected to visit Washington next month, said he would ask Obama to share drone technology with Pakistan so future attacks could be planned and directed under a “Pakistani flag”. Although this request had been turned down in the past, he said he was hopeful the Americans would be more receptive this time, given the huge anger and rising anti-American feeling that the drone attacks were causing.

Zardari and other senior government officials said all parties felt a sense of growing urgency about forging an inclusive peace settlement in Afghanistan, but the process must be “Afghan-led”. Pakistan was ready to play its part, consistent with its national interest, they said.

Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, said: “Everybody is gradually coming round to our point of view that this requires greater diplomatic pressure. There is no military solution in Afghanistan.”

43 Dead in Pakistan Mine Blast, No Survivors

As Reported by The Associated Press

All 43 miners in a colliery in southwest Pakistan that was hit by a blast at the weekend have been confirmed dead, officials said Tuesday, as rescuers ended their search operation.

“All 43 bodies have been recovered,” Iftikhar Ahmed, provincial chief inspector of mines for the insurgency-torn Baluchistan province, told AFP.

“There are no survivors and the mine is being sealed,” Ahmed said.

President of Pakistan Mines Workers Federation Bakht Nawab confirmed the final toll.

The mine in the far-flung Sorange district of the troubled southwestern province was poorly ventilated, allowing poisonous gases to accumulate and trigger blasts that led to a collapse on Sunday, officials said.

The mine is run by the state-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation and officials said they will launch an investigation into why the warnings to stop mining were not heeded.

Rich in mineral wealth, Baluchistan is plagued by an insurgency blamed on nationalist tribesmen demanding more jobs and royalties from the region’s natural resources. Hundreds of people have died in the violence since 2004.

Most coal mines in the impoverished province are notorious for overseeing poor safety standards and similar deadly accidents have occurred in the past.

 

Pakistanis, Indians want peace, friendship, says poll

As Reported by SANA (South Asian News Agency)

Despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations, a survey conducted on both sides of the border has revealed.

The survey – conducted by independent research agencies and sponsored by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India on the first anniversary of their joint peace initiative ‘Aman Ki Asha’ – showed that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations.

Although, the process of composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains stalled since the 2008 Mumbai carnage, 72 per cent Pakistanis and 66 per cent Indians hope to see ’sustainable friendly relations’ in their lifetime. Compared with last year, the number of Indians hoping to see peace in their lifetime has surged by 17 per cent.

The optimism at the people’s level appears in a stark contrast to the current bitter official positions. The Indian government accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough against the alleged sponsors of the Mumbai attack, while Islamabad says that New Delhi has been using this incident as a ‘propaganda’ tool to avoid talks on the core issue of Kashmir. Islamabad also blames India for instigating violence in Balochistan.

According to the survey, awareness of the Kashmir problem as being central to the state of relations between the two countries, particularly in India, has increased. The survey results show that 77 per cent Pakistanis and 87 per cent of Indians feel that peace can be achieved by settling the protracted Kashmir dispute.

The scientific survey covered 10 Pakistani cities and 42 villages, covering a cross-section of people from rural and urban areas. Pakistani cities where the survey was carried out were: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Sukkur. In India, the survey was conducted in six cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad (Deccan) and Chennai. Adult population, both male and female, were represented in the survey.

This was the second survey on Pakistan-India relations. The first survey was conducted in December 2009; just before the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign was launched. Survey results show a consistent and marked improvement in perceptions about each other by people in both countries.

The survey showed that the issue of Pakistan-India relations featured in the thoughts of 73 per cent Pakistanis and 68 per cent Indians. The survey results said apart from settling the Kashmir dispute, 80 per cent Pakistanis and 91 per cent Indians think ’stronger relations and better defence’ would also contribute in achieving the goal of peace.

The survey tracked the impact of the Aman Ki Asha campaign in India by asking a similar set of questions to two groups of people – one aware of this peace campaign and the other not aware of it. On all four questions asked – perceiving Pakistan as a high threat to India, as a sponsor of terror, desire for peace and being hopeful for achieving sustainable peace – there was a marked difference in the responses of the two groups. The group that was aware of the Aman Ki Asha initiative had a much better perception of Pakistan.

Around 77 per cent of Pakistanis and 87 per cent Indians consider that international pressure may help in bringing peace, while 71 per cent Pakistanis and 72 per cent Indians pin hopes on greater people-to-people contact to pave the way for friendly relations. Eighty-one per cent Pakistanis and Indians see people-to-people contact as an effective ‘instrument of peace’.

An increase in business has also been tipped as a vehicle of peace by 67 per cent Pakistanis and 69 per cent Indians, the survey said. Among other steps needed to promote peace, 32 per cent Pakistanis pinned hopes on sports, 28 per cent on business, 22 per cent on tourism, 20 per cent on travel for health treatment and 13 per cent each on culture and higher education. The data from the Indian side regarding this questionnaire was not available.

For 51 per cent of Pakistanis, business can help bring peace, while 46 and 45 per cent of respondents said that it can also be done through sports and tourism respectively.

AMAN KI ASHA: The first of its kind peace drive ‘Aman Ki Asha’ was seen by a vast majority as articulating the aspirations of the people. Around 87 per cent Pakistanis and 74 per cent Indians were of the view that this sustained campaign ‘developed tremendous awareness about the Indo-Pak relationship’. Around 85 per cent Pakistanis and 61 per cent Indians said Aman Ki Asha communicated ‘peoples’ desire for peace to their governments, while 80 per cent Pakistanis and 86 per cent Indians said it ‘helped bring the people of the two countries together’.

The Jang Group and The Times of India have held a series of events over the last 12 months that involved a broad section of people, including students, intellectuals, artists, businessmen, doctors, information technology experts and ordinary citizens in an attempt to boost people-to-people ties.

In Pakistan, the recall of the ‘Aman Ki Asha’ campaign has been around an impressive 92 per cent. Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director of the Jang Group, said this media-led civil society movement had made a huge contribution for peace at a time when tensions remained high between the two countries.

“The survey results should lay to rest any misgivings or apprehensions people may have had about the objectives or chances of success of the campaign,” he said. “The survey results show that Aman Ki Asha has brought about a sea change in perceptions in India about Pakistan. Every negative perception has decreased and every positive perception has improved. The Jang Group feels vindicated and is delighted that we have helped put across Pakistan’s point of view through honest dialogue, seminars, people-to-people contacts and cultural events.”

According to the survey, the terror perception in India about Pakistan is down to 42 per cent from 75 a year ago, of bomb threats to 29 per cent from 54 and awareness about the Kashmir dispute rising to 17 per cent from a mere four per cent. Hasan hoped that the Pakistani and Indian governments would continue to facilitate the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign and take advantage of the access to the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries that the Jang Group and the Times of India provided.

Obama and the Pakistan Dilemma

By Matthew Kaminski for The Wall Street Journal

Islamabad, Pakistan– America can’t win in Afghanistan as long as assorted Taliban insurgents find safe haven in Pakistan. That’s the no-brainer dressed up as revelation in leaks this week about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate regarding both countries.

The proposed solution is tidy, too: Lean on Pakistan to cut links to extremists in the tribal regions along Afghanistan’s eastern border and in southern Baluchistan, even as the CIA ramps up the number of covert drone strikes on those groups.

The assumption is that Pakistan can bring the extremists to heel at its pleasure. After all, the Pakistani military began nurturing Afghan and other jihadists in the 1980s and has kept them on as “strategic assets” throughout the American long war brought about by 9/11. So, we think, if Islamabad cuts its support and makes life difficult for the jihadists, this unfortunate genie can be put back in the bottle. President Obama might even meet his self-imposed deadlines for drawing down the 98,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

This is all a useful fiction, maybe even a necessary one. American bribes, threats and pleas have prompted Pakistan into its own troop surge in the tribal regions. Over the past 18 months the Pakistanis have more than quadrupled their presence there, to 140,000, and have taken heavy casualties. Last year the Pakistani army cleared Swat Valley and South Waziristan, which had been overrun by militants.

Today’s White House review of the war, which comes a year into the Obama surge, will likely highlight such progress. The president can consider his administration’s spirited engagement with Pakistan a foreign policy success. Credit is also due to “bulldozer” diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who developed close relations with the Pakistani civilian leadership before his untimely death Monday evening.

But Pakistan hasn’t turned. The insurgents who kill American troops in Afghanistan—principally the Taliban, whose leadership is in Baluchistan, and the militants loyal to the legendary fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani in the tribal regions—operate all too freely from Pakistan. President Obama should note that, too, today.

The year ends sourly for U.S.-Pakistani military relations. American frustration with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has grown over broken Pakistani promises and a perceived lack of urgency. Summer floods diverted Pakistani troops away from the tribal areas, but the military doesn’t have that excuse now. The Pakistanis have also denied American requests to expand drone coverage to the area around Quetta, the city in Baluchistan that is the heaquarters-in-exile of the Taliban.

Pakistani officials say that Gen. Kayani will move his forces into North Waziristan, the tribal region that hosts the Haqqani network, in his own time. Some 50,000 troops are said to be ready to go in. No one wants them to lose, but they could against Haqqani’s respected force. A U.S. official says, “We don’t want them to do it if they’re not ready, but we don’t want them to think it’s not important.”

The Pakistanis may have found a way out. Analysts here say that the military is giving Haqqani time to relocate to a neighboring tribal region, Kurram, before soldiers go in to “clear” North Waziristan. A U.S. defense official here says that he’s seen no evidence to back the claim. But in the past most insurgents have simply melted away in the face of Pakistani advances.

Haqqani also figures as a trusted ally in Islamabad’s plans for a postwar Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some American officials are open to talks with the Taliban, if they bring peace in exchange for power sharing. Also, who knows, America may get fed up and pull out before it wins. With all that in mind, Pakistani leaders may protect Haqqani, their favorite “asset,” thinking he and his Taliban allies may get power in Kabul one way or another.
Instead of sending drones over Quetta, the CIA this summer was allowed to set up shop on the ground. Across Pakistan, several such “fusion cells” pair CIA operatives with officials from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence. A Pakistani official says that this takes courage, as “ISI officers are murdered for helping Americans.”

Many circles here welcome U.S. pressure on the military and state to act. Islamic extremists are putting down deep roots in society, to the consternation of educated and moderate Pakistanis. This goes well beyond the mountainous regions that are the traditional home to religious warrior tribes. The state is losing its grip on Baluchistan. The country’s largest city, Karachi, is a militant hotbed. Parts of all Pakistani provinces have been radicalized, including the most populous, Punjab. Terrorism now touches all Pakistanis.

Pakistan is becoming more like Afghanistan—only with a more advanced economy and nuclear weapons. The people who cross the porous border between them, an arbitrary line drawn up by the British in the 1890s—already consider them the same country. Pakistan’s military has yet to show that it wants to—or that it can—control the Islamist wave. Many groups have slipped their leash and look at their old patron, the ISI, with distrust.
Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander in Afghanistan, certainly has contingency plans for Pakistan that go beyond extra doses of drones or diplomacy. Putting American boots in Waziristan is an obvious idea. But, like so many options, it is unappealing. The fallout in Pakistan would be hard to predict.

So for the moment, America gets to pretend that Pakistan can do this on its own. A successful terrorist attack on the U.S. with a Pakistani return address might quickly change that.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note
As we have noted on several occasions before, Pakistan must do a lot more to hunt down the Taliban, its leaders and other militants on its side of the border. Already the violence and acts of terrorism within Pakistan are at an all time high as noted in this article and have touched every Pakistani and every corner of the country. Not eliminating the Taliban completely only allows them to get stronger.

Pakistan needs to stop playing a double game and stop thinking of the Taliban as a strategic asset as they never were nor ever will be an asset in any way. Pakistan must eliminate the safe havens for the Taliban within its territory, otherwise the United States will be compelled to act, with or without Pakistan’s blessings, and shall be correct in doing so to prevent attacks on its homeland emanating from Pakistan based militants.

Pakistan Rejects U.S. Drone Expansion

By Alex Rodriguez for The LA Times

Pakistan has rejected a request from the U.S. to expand a drone missile campaign against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, a decision that limits Washington’s use of one of its most effective tools against insurgents hiding in the nation.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Islamabad would not allow the U.S. to carry out drone strikes outside the tribal belt along the Afghan border and repeated the government’s request that Washington abandon its use of drones in Pakistan on the grounds that the program violates the country’s sovereignty.

Basit did not say which additional areas the U.S. wanted to target. However, the Washington Post reported Saturday that the request focused on areas outside the southern city of Quetta, where Afghan Taliban leaders have hideouts.

“We are allies of the United States in the war against terror,” Basit said. “However, Pakistan will not compromise on sovereignty.”

Islamabad’s refusal comes as little surprise, given the animosity that the drone campaign has stirred among Pakistanis for years, but even as the government publicly condemns the drone program, it tacitly allows the missile strikes to take place. Pakistan even provides intelligence to facilitate the targeting of the strikes.

The drone missions are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where they are viewed as an illustration of President Asif Ali Zardari’s willingness to acquiesce to most demands that Washington makes. Allowing an expansion of the drone program could further aggravate the vulnerability of Zardari’s government, already weakened by its mishandling of this summer’s catastrophic floods and the country’s ongoing economic troubles.

Any expansion of the drone campaign into Baluchistan, the province where Quetta is located, would also represent a dramatic departure in policy for Islamabad because it is not part of the semi-autonomous tribal region where the drones are permitted now.

In addition, the Quetta region is a heavily populated area; the city itself has a population of 900,000. The core leadership of the Afghan Taliban insurgency, known as the Quetta Shura and headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar, has used Quetta and its outlying regions as a sanctuary for years.

In recent months, the U.S. has dramatically stepped up its use of drone strikes in the tribal areas. So far this year, the U.S. has carried out 101 drone missile strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared to 53 in 2009.

The attacks have focused largely on North Waziristan, a primary stronghold of militants and commanders belonging to the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban wing regarded by the U.S. as one of the biggest threats facing coalition forces in Afghanistan.

According to the Long War Journal website, which keeps track of drone missile strike statistics, 92 of the attacks this year occurred in North Waziristan.

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