Monday, December 19, 2005

Idiocy in Balochistan

The overconfident Commando-in-Chief went to Balochistan to deliver his usual homilies. While he was there not only were ‘eight rockets fired’ at a nearby security base (according to Daily Times , one landing just 200 meters from where Musharraf was addressing a gathering) but two senior members of his political constituency, one Major-General Shujaat Zamir Dar, Inspector-General of the Frontier Corps, and his deputy Brigadier Saleem Nawaz were wounded when their helicopter was fired upon by Marri Baloch tribesmen.

After having facing these humiliations during his visit to the tribal province, Musharraf has apparently decided to take vengeance.
Yesterday helicopter gunships (incidentally given by the US to deal with Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan border) and thousands of soldiers went into action in the Kohlu district of Balochistan. Obviously the plans to deal with Baloch rebels would have already been on the table. All that has probably happened is that the date has abruptly been brought forward at Musharraf’s command.

According to the
Balach Marri, a provincial MP for the Kohlu area, said he had reports that a number of people had been killed in the raids - although he could not confirm the exact number.

"The army has arrested hundreds of innocent people in the operation, which is still going on, and in which jet fighters and helicopter gunships are participating," he told the Associated Press news agency.
Now your Blogger earnestly believes that brute force is never the answer – just take a look at the George Bush’s disastrous ineptitude in Iraq.

Musharraf heaps the blame of the problems in Balochistan on the tribal sardars, conveniently overlooking the fact that in the past he has himself admitted that the vast majority (
‘75 of the 78 Baloch sardars’) have been in Islamabad’s hire for a considerable length of time. Needless to add, that is exactly how the colonial British ruled ‘the natives’ not that very long ago.

Many Baloch believe that up to 80% of provincial funds are continually pocketed by these Islamabad appointees. Should anyone, therefore, blame the populace of Balochistan from expressing its disgust at the corruption and indolence of these Islamabad-selected ‘politicians’ and bureaucrats?

It is not difficult to work out who the three anti-Islamabad sardars are. Anyone with even a peripheral knowledge of Balochistan politics would be able to tell you that Musharraf was referring to Akbar Bugti, Khair Buksh Marri and Attaullah Mengal.

These three sardars have been derided for years for being autocratic despots in their areas of influence – but is that really all that different to what Musharraf and his predecessors have been doing to all of Pakistan for the past few decades?

Even if the army succeeds in ousting or killing these three sardars, the General ought to remember that overthrowing Sadam Hussain not only failed to bring to his Sunni tribesmen into the US camp but unleashed violent tribal bitterness against the occupying force.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lips Are Sealed

Not long ago a perceptive sage from the subcontinent pointed out that “no famine has ever occurred in a country with a free press and regular elections”. In short he made the argument that misguided politics, not lack of food, is what makes that misery and death possible in the first place. And for this succinct observation, backed by years of study and research, Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for Economics.

While free transmission of information is now considered to be the life blood of a successful modern nation state, the rulers of Pakistan insist on thinking otherwise.


Mast FM 103, a local radio station was taken off the air after it retransmitted BBC Urdu Service’s Jahan Numa, a programme which discussed and aired public views on Pakistan’s earthquake relief efforts.

According to
news reports :

On 14 November 2005, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) raided a private FM radio station in Karachi and shut down its transmission for alleged violation of laws regulating the operation of radio stations. PEMRA officials assisted by the local police raided the FM 103 radio station and seized its transponders, antennas and other broadcast equipment.
Dawn, quoting a representative of the radio station, added that:

PERMA officials with police raided the station and misbehaved with the staff. The police officials used abusive language and seized the equipment forcing the FM 103 to close down its broadcast.
Further, Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders), the international press freedom organisation, not only condemned the forced closure of FM 103 but revealed that two Pakistani satellite TV stations, Rang and Vibe, have been threatened by the Government with sanctions if they do not stop carrying BBC news and current affairs programmes.


Reporters Sans Frontiers's
2005 survey on Press Freedom rates Pakistan as the 150th worst offender out of a survey of 167 countries. Even traditional reprobates such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo fare better than us.

And now for some vintage drivel

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, National Assembly, 4th May 2005:
We believe in freedom of the press, which is the pillar of the democracy and hold the journalists in high esteem

Shaukat Aziz, Karachi, 22 May 2005 :
Unprecedented levels of press freedom exist in the country today and it is irreversible.

General Pervez Musharraf, in his National Speech 5 days after the 1999 coup:
Media forms an integral part of statehood in this era of information. I have great regard and respect for the media…I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thugs R Us

A few weeks ago the chattering classes had a field day with an attention-grabbing story from Punjab’s heartland. Surprisingly, apart from an allusive photograph (above) on the front page of 7 December’s Nation newspaper, no local newspaper appears to have had the will or inclination to report it.

As I haven’t blogged for the past month, I might as well recount the tale for the benefit of those who have still not heard it.

It goes something like this:

On a late October or early November day a modern-day ‘prince’ of Punjab was driving through the streets of Lahore accompanied by his usual cavalcade of goons and armed police escorts.

It just so happened that a young Pakistani lad, visiting from abroad, made the unfortunate mistake of driving too close to the fast-moving convoy and his vehicle grazed one of the police patrol cars. Suddenly all hell broke loose as he was dragged from out of his car for this perceived act of lèse majesté and slapped about by the police (and according to some accounts, the incensed ‘prince’ himself).

Not satisfied with this dose of chastisement the annoyed ‘prince’ had the young man sent to a police thana for further punishment. At the police thana the Punjabi tullas thrashed him with their customary zeal.

After the passage of some time one of the policemen took mercy on the by now bruised and battered young man and provided him with the opportunity of telephoning his family to let them know of his unfortunate predicament. The young man called up his aunt, who interestingly enough turned out to be one Mrs. Sehba Musharraf.

Soon two cars drove up to the thana from the Lahore Corps command. After severely ‘chastising’ the police the soldiers took the injured young man away.

Shortly afterwards a missive from Islamabad was delivered to the 'prince’s' father, who happened to be Pervaiz Elahi, the Chief Minister of Punjab. Elahi Sr. was told that his son Moonis, already notorious for making
extraordinary profits in Lahore real estate, either left Pakistan within twenty-four hours ‘or be prepared to face dire consequences’.

And so Moonis, in the characteristic manner of most bullies, fled to London on the first available flight.

Now coming back to the photo - it was on the Nation’s front page more than a month after the malevolent incident. It was accompanied with the following innocuous subtitle, “President Pervez Musharraf meets Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi and his son Moonis Elahi”. In political speak this means: The Big Boss’s has officially forgiven Moonis and the bounder has been allowed back in to Lahore.


Undoubtedly some urban armchair intellectual will blame Moonis Elahi’s behaviour on his feudal upbringing and others will nod their heads wisely in agreement. This argument does not hold water

Why? Well Moonis’s family (along with the vast majority of Punjab’s MNAs and MPAs) are members of Punjab’s traditional urban middle classes. In fact the founding father of the Gujrat Chaudhries was one Zahoor Elahi, a police constable who gradually rose to political success and notable wealth by devotedly
supporting each and every military dictator - General Ayub Khan (1958-68), General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88) and General Pervez Musharraf (since October 1999).

The problem is that in the Punjab Assemby it is no longer possible to distinguish the new lot of urban politicians from Lahore, Faisalabad or Gujranwala from the traditional feudal politicians from Multan or Dera Ghazi Khan. Over the decades the newly-minted chaudhries have forsaken their traditional tehmats (or in case of the more modern, western suits) for the Pathan/Baloch garb of waistcoat & shalwar kameez .

Recently another one of these nouveau feudal politicians hit the headlines for his crass misdeeds. He is none other than Musharraf’s current Federal Minister for Law, Justice & Human Rights, a lawyer from Faisalabad by the name of Chaudhry Mohammad Wasi Zafar. Wasi Zafar is a lota from the PPP; he got re-elected as an MNA after switching allegiance to Muslim League (Chumcha group) in time for the 2002 general elections.

In August Wasi Zafar and his son got involved in a brawl at the Karachi airport with a passenger who had questioned their preferential treatment by the security staff.
The News reported that the injured passenger, who had been subjected to vicious ‘punches and kicks’, needed on the spot medical treatment by medical officer of Civil Aviation Authority.

Only a month later this same Musharraf-appointed national upholder of Law, Justice & Human Rights was involved in another fracas at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel. According to newspaper reports the Minister from Faisalabad entered one of the hotel restaurants at midnight and got so displeased by the delay in the delivery of his meal that he ended up thrashing a poor waiter by the name of Zulfiqar.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Due to the serious ill health of a family member your Blogger has been completely preoccupied for the past few weeks.

I hope to be writing again shortly.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Karachi Bomb & The Baloch

This is a follow up to yesterday’s: The KFC Bomb & 'The Usual Suspects'

Today it was reported that the law enforcement authorites had
detained five people for their alleged involvement in Tuesday’s bomb in Karachi.

The unbelievable promptness in carrying out these arrests was an issue I raised in my blog yesterday.

This evening I happened to discuss this very issue with a friend of mine whose slant on the events went even a few steps futher than the thoughts I had expressed yesterday.

According to him these arrested Baloch ‘suspects’ had in all probability been picked by the agencies week or more ago. By the time the bombings took place these people’ had already undergone the usual ‘softening process’, and were probably prepared to swear on the Koran and implicate their deceased grandmothers in the bombing if asked to do so.

In my friend’s view Islamabad is currently contemplating taking military action against the Bugtis (and perhaps other Baloch tribal groups in due course). And, blackening the reputation of the Baloch in the public eye is a logical preliminary step for the planners of this campaign.

And did I think this opinion a bit farfetched?

Not really. History tells us that anything and everything is possible in Pakistan.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The KFC Bomb & 'The Usual Suspects'

Those familiar with the movie ‘Casablanca’ will recall the classic scene where the hero Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) shoots dead the local Gestapo chief in front of police captain Renault (played by Claude Rains), who, moments later, then orders his men to ‘arrest the usual suspects’ for the murder.

Well, Captain Renault would have done well in Pakistan. Every time a major crime takes place in Pakistan the police round up the usual suspects, beat the hell out of them, and voila! They confess to the crime.

So when, within twenty-four hours of the bomb exploding outside Karachi’s PIDC building, our exceptionally incompetent police rapidly haul in five culprits, eyebrows are bound to be raised. Especially so when the local home minister also jumps in by announcing
‘we are sure of Baloch Liberation Army’s involvement’. As a fictional master sleuth would have said, ‘Remember, my dear Watson, when bullshit abounds something is deliberately being hidden from our view.’

So it’s time for a brief analysis.

If the target had been the ‘American’ KFC outlet, as all the
early press reports suggested, then logic would dictate the bombing was carried out by religious extremists.

But if the bombers had targeted the offices of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) located on the 4th floor of PIDC building then the following conclusions can be drawn:
- As they missed their target by four stories, the bombers were either completely inept or were simply sending a message to PPL.
- The bombers had ‘a bone to pick’ with PPL.

As the authorities now insist that it was the work of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) one can simply surmise that either it was the BLA or the authorities are keen to heap the blame, and the resulting public condemnation, on the BLA.

The picture now gets murky because as the
Daily Times reports

A man identifying himself as Chakar Baloch claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the BLA. He said the bomb was targeted at the PPL.

Later, a man identifying himself as Azad Baloch and also claiming to represent the BLA condemned the blast. Neither man was the one who has claimed attacks on behalf of the BLA in the past.

However what is interesting is that Azad Baloch is reported by
Dawn as also saying the following:
Spokesman for the [BLA], identifying himself as Azad Baloch, calling from some unknown place on a satellite phone, told media people here: “We condemn the killing and injuring of innocent people in the Karachi blast.”

He blamed secret agencies for the explosion and said that the agencies were involving the BLA in it under a conspiracy. “We are not involved in Karachi blast,” he added.

The spokesman said that the BLA was struggling against Punjabi rulers. “We can hit any target in Islamabad and other areas of Punjab, but not in Karachi or any other area of Sindh,” Mr Baloch said, adding that Sindhi people were also being victimized and their rights were being usurped by Punjabi rulers.

Your Blogger would tend to support this fellow Azad Baloch’s contention.

Among the disparate bunch of Baloch nationalists – of which BLA represents a violent splinter-faction - none would wish to alienate public opinion. As this group of people blames all its woes on Punjab and its preponderance in the army and bureaucracy, the last thing they would wish is to estrange the inhabitants of Sindh or NWFP.

So despite whatever stories the government, police or our intelligence agencies concoct, I would discount BLA’s role in the KFC bomb blast - having said that, I would not, however, dismiss the involvement of perhaps some other Baloch faction in the bombing.

PPL hit headlines in January for its revolting cover up of its employee Shazia Khalid’s rape and by the subsequent shoot out between PPL’s army guards and Bugti tribesmen in Sui. Two months later the army under the pretext of local disorder retaliated and used high-tech anti-terrorist TOW missiles in an attempt to bump off Akbar Bugti (this story is worthy of a blog in itself). Instead of killing the Bugti chief, thirty-two Hindus (including women and children) living adjacent to his house were killed in the failed assassination attempt.

Recent news reports suggest that things are once again on the boil in Dera Bugti. This has led some to conclude that the Bugtis could have used the name of the BLA’ to hit out at PPL. But all this, at this stage, is mere speculation.

I recall a former colonel of the ISI once proudly telling me how he had personally arranged a large bomb blast in a Karachi multi-storey office building in the 1980s. Naturally the blast (and the resultant civilian deaths) would have been blamed on RAW, Al-Zulfikar, MRD fanatics or anyone else deemed worthy of being demonised in those wretched days of Zia’s military rule.

The moral that I learnt from the colonel’s lurid account was that in Pakistan we never ever know what is actually happening until someone finally blabs out the truth after the passage of many years.

And, in the meantime our police will continue with arresting and torturing the usual suspects and, needless to add, extracting their confessions .

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sonia Naz : A Victim of Grubby Punjab Politics?

In an earlier blog Sonia Naz: Rape Case (Part III) - Subsequent Events, dated 1 September 2005, I had written:

The hot story that is doing the rounds among the journalist community is Punjab chief minister Pervez Ellahi’s reaction to this sordid criminal event. A news staffer from Geo TV rang the chief minister on 30 August for his views on the breaking news story. This is roughly what Pervez Ellahi is believed to have said (translated into English).You fellows were completely wrong to make such a fuss about this rape. These things happen all the time. It’s no big deal. Now thanks to all the fuss Geo has created I have to suspend Superintendent Khalid Abdullah from his job. This is something I was pressured into doing and would not have done if normality had prevailed.

So according to this senior politico it is the news media fault, but he had been, to his dismay, outgunned.

So why was chief minister Pervez Elahi so upset about the alleged rapist Superintendent Khalid Abdullah’s forced suspension?

A subsequent article from
The Nation provides a solid clue:

The shameful acts of the main accused SP Khalid Abdullah has been widely reported in Press that leaves us in state of frenzy. Nevertheless, what has made him to commit such weird and sinful acts? Is it a result of mere donning of ‘shahi police’ uniform? The short answer is no. In fact, lack of accountability let him to thrive. He remained a major beneficiary of the benevolence extended by Chaudries of Punjab as he enjoyed close affinity with them. This allowed him to go haywire in discharge of his duties.

The article then goes onto highlight the previous political connections between Khalid Abdullah and the Gujrat Choudhries:

Recently, fact-finding made by some agencies on the orders of President Musharraf and reported in print media has revealed that Mr Khalid Abdullah was suspended in capacity of DSP by the then CM Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif in the course of implementation of his police reforms. He was actually part of those ‘notorious fifty’ DSPs of Punjab who were put under suspension by Mr Shahbaz because of malpractices. Disciplinary action was under way for their dismissal from service when the Shahbaz government was removed on 12th October.It is a matter of record that Mian Shahbaz did not budge an inch in taking action against the corrupt despite all sorts of pressures. In case of DSP Khalid Abdullah whose son-in-law was also PML(N) MPA from Nankana, Mr Shahbaz received phone calls from Ch Shujaat, the then Interior Minister and from Ch Pervaiz Elahi, the then Speaker of Punjab Assembly for his reinstatement but he stuck to his policy of across the board accountability and politely refused to the big wigs of Punjab.
The article then informs us that from being one of the 'notorious DSPs of Punjab up for dismissal from service’, Khalid Abdullah ends up getting promoted rather than punished for his misdeeds. Wow!

Fact-finding has further revealed that after becoming CM Punjab, Ch Pervaiz Elahi did not forget DSP Khalid Abdullah. He had him reinstated, resultantly culminating into his elevation to the rank of SP. Eyes were closed, and so were the files. The pumped-up SP then making full use of his ‘affinity’ made a fortune not commensurate to his known sources of income and ended up by making Sonia Naz his dreadful victim. Who is responsible for this crime? Just please open the eyes and the files. People want justice.

Just in case you still think the connection between Khalid Abdullah and the Gujrat Choudhries is spurious and a politically motivated 'untruth', read the following press item from The News newspaper of 31 October 2005:

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Inspector-General (Investigation) Zafar Ahmed Qureshi, who had recently investigated the Sonia Naz rape incident, has been relieved of his duty by the Punjab government with immediate effect.Qureshi was informed on Saturday that he should not attend his office where he used to sit as DIG investigation as his services were not required any more.

He got respect from the public and the judiciary when he recommended registration of an FIR against SP Khalid Abdullah despite the fact that the provincial ruling elite was openly favouring the accused police officer.
So there you have it. Apparently under Musharraf's 'moderate and enlightened' Punjab, a policeman charged with thuggish misdeeds can get promoted, while another who gets ‘respect from the public and the judiciary’ can suddenly lose his job.

Vive le Choudhries de Gujrat !


Your blogger has just come across another news item from
The News newspaper which informs us that the police report submitted by the Punjab police was all but laughed out of the Supreme Court:

[The] Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry Tuesday snubbed Punjab police officers for declaring Superintendent of Police Khalid Abdullah "innocent" in Sonia Naz’s abduction and rape case and dismissed a new report after finding many flaws in it…. The inquiry report presented before the court Tuesday was so faulty that even the attorney general agreed [with] the Supreme Court’s observations that the report was a flawed one and could not be trusted.

Interestingly the newspaper also reveals the leniency shown by the Punjab government towards the accused kidnapper/rapist:

The powers-that-be have already managed to keep SP Khalid Abdullah in a VIP room of a Punjab hospital instead of sending him to jail following the termination of his physical remand.
Related Sonia Naz Blogs
The Glasshouse –I Was Raped on Police Officer’s Orders (Part I)
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz: Rape Case (Part II) - The Background
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz: Rape Case (Part III) - Subsequent Events
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz - Rape Case (Part IV) – Latest Update
The Glasshouse - A Sonia Naz Update - 26th September
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz - Rape Case (Part V) – November Update
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz – The Unfolding Tragedy – April 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pakistan - A Perpetual Abu Gharaib?

Here is an extract from this month’s Herald magazine (‘Raw Deal’ by Riaz Sohail, page 33)

"JSMM [Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz] Vice Chairman Samiullah Kalhoro [was] picked up by plain clothesmen from a Sindh University workshop in Jamshoro where Kolhoro worked as a technician. Kalhoro was severely tortured during his incommunicado detention and his body was irreparably damaged when his captors subjected him to cheera, a form of torture in which the legs of a subject are spread so wide that the ligaments in the groin begin to tear. He managed to escape from police custody in Hala on February 13 and was able to reach Karachi where he addressed a press conference. Soon, however, he had to be admitted to the Agha Khan University Hospital where he died on 5 March.

…Apart from the devastating effects of cheera Kalhoro also had naswar mixed with hot water pumped up his nose and was given a petrol enema. In a letter he posted from an unknown location after having escaped from Hala police, Kalhoro told his family about his condition. ‘Both my kidneys are damaged…Three of my teeth are broken [and] my eyesight has gone’. He said that his interrogators wanted him to testify that JSMM chairman Shafi Burfat and general secretary Asghar Ali were RAW [i.e. Indian] agents."

A cynic once told me in half-jest that we, the Pakistanis, are one of the world’s greatest hypocrites.

At times I have wondered if he wasn’t right after all.

When the Abu Gharaib scandal hit the international press our elitist chattering classes were very vocal in their condemnation of the horrors committed on Iraqi prisoners by US troops and rightly so. But when our own state perpetrates even greater brutality on our fellow citizens, the very same people become strangely silent. Why is this so? Is it because they prefer lambasting the ‘decadent’ West (while hiding our own national sins under a rug of insecurity) or is it simply a case of elitist apathy?

It would do well to recall the fate of Pastor Niemoeller.

Pastor Martin Niemoeller was an anti-communist German Ist World War veteran who initially supported the Nazis until the church was subjugated by the Nazis. Niemoeller’s rebellious sermons then caused him to spend seven harrowing years in concentration camps until he was liberated by Allied troops in 1945.

On his release Niemoeller famously regretted:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An American Idiot

Last week I heard someone singing 'I wanna be an American Idiot'. No, it wasn't Musharraf but actually my five-year old son.

I hadn't heard this song before and after a brief investigation I learnt that 'American Idiot' was a chart-topping hit for a punk group called Green Day earlier this year. The song line actually goes 'Don't wanna be an American idiot', and luckily for me my young lad cannot at his age come close to comprehending the, at times, rather explicit lyrics.

The song begins:
Don't wanna be an American idiot.
Don't want a nation under the new mania.
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind fuck America.

And another verse goes:
Don't wanna be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's calling out to idiot America.

All too true!

And, the good news is that 'The' American Idiot, to use his father George H's expression, has finally sunk himself in the deepest of ‘ Doo-Doo'.

The lies behind the invasion of Iraq, the incomprehensible incompetence shown at the time of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the failed attempt at foisting an inept sychophant on the US Supreme Court bench and now the criminal indictment of a senior White House official, have all revealed George W. Bush to be the lying, smirking, incompetent and bullying lightweight that he has always been.

All along the rest of the world recognised Bush for what he was and now finally it's the turn of the 51% majority of 'American Idiots' who voted for his re-election in 2004. Latest polls show that even these people have begun to desert him in droves. According to the latest
Wall Street Journal Poll (see the above picture) only 38% of Americans currently approve of Bush's performance in office.

The fact is that 9/11 pushed many Americans into mass hysteria. We all agree that the attack on the World Trade Towers was an appalling criminal act but the reality is that less than 3,000 people died. But you had to be one of the many certifiable American Idiots to dream up a connection between Al-Qaida and Iraq. Needless to add these Idiots did and as a consequence some 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died (so far) - including hundreds of innocent children. In the meantime Osama is still up there in 'them thar hills' taunting their idiocy.

Few can deny that Saddam Sadam Hussain was a murderous villain but the Iraq invasion was illegal and the ensuing anarchy was a direct consequence of the criminal incompetence of US leadership – even now two and a half years later Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have yet to come up with a realistic plan to properly manage the chaos of post-war Iraq - other than, that is, by bombing, shooting, maiming and killing.

People continue to die in Iraq in their thousands and the world's only hyperpower is at a complete loss about what next to do. Now there is talk of withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

Colin Powell warned Bush against invading Iraq with the adage ‘Once you break it, you will own it!’. Well Iraq has been shattered into several warring pieces and many senior US politicians are presently contemplating scuttling their 'ship' and making a cowardly run for it.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, 4th December 2002:
The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defence would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.

Your Blogger (and probably rest of the world included), 10 November, 2005:
The President of the United States, the Vice-President of the United States, and the US Secretary of Defence blatantly concocted and knowingly disseminated fraudulent evidence to support their pre-9/11 plan to invade and occupy Iraq. On their bloody hands lies the guilt of thousands of slain innocent men, women and children of Iraq.

Lord, save us from the arrogance and mendacity of these American Idiots

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sonia Naz - Rape Case (Part V) – November Update

An amazingly large number of readers from over the world have been logging onto my blogs on Sonia Naz. As it has been a month and half since my last blog on this tragic woman's case, it is time for an update.

Despite all the uproar in the media over Sonia Naz's allegations, the Punjab government - thanks to Chief Minister Pervez Ellahi’s almost-psychotic loyalty to his thuggish Jat clansmen in the police - has refused to budge.

It is fated, I fear, to become yet another tragic tale 'full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.'

The poor woman, now shunned even by her own terrified family members, needs all the support and sympathy that the world can give her.

Since my last update things don’t seem to have really improved for her. In a country where ‘justice’ favours the rich and powerful, unless Musharraf steps in directly or the Supreme Court makes a bold stand, the likelihood of Sonia Naz winning her case is nil.

Here is the chronological summary of recent events for all those concerned about Sonia Naz's welfare.

10th October – A full bench of the Supreme Court directs the Inspector General of Police for Punjab to register a criminal case against Superintendent Police Khalid Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed Chishti on charges of abduction and rape of Sonia Naz.

12th October – On Supreme Court’s instructions Lahore Police finally register a criminal case under against SP Khalid Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed Chishti on charges of abduction and rape of Sonia Naz.

16th October – The newspaper Daily Times reports that the police were circumventing the law by not arresting the accused. It quoted a police officer saying: “Why should we arrest the accused when they are fully cooperating with the police”

17th October - The Supreme Court resumed its hearing on the Sonia Naz Case and ordered the Punjab Government to form an investigation committee comprising of three police officers of Deputy-Inspector General rank to probe Naz’s abduction and rape allegations and start criminal proceedings against the two accused police officers.

The judges removed DIG Tariq Saleem Dogar as Inquiry Officer after concluding that the DIG was helping his ‘old friend’, the accused police officer SP Abdullah Khalid, and avoiding making an arrest.

The Court demanded to know why the accused police officers had not been arrested. The Chief Justice was quoted as saying: ‘This is a serious matter as such cases are defaming the country and impeding its progress’.

19th October - The police finally took Superintendent Police Khalid Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed Chishti into custody.

25th October - Sonia Naz complained to the press that the police officers in the Supreme Court appointed police committee were showing an eagerness for her to withdraw her rape and kidnapping complaint against their colleagues Khalid Abdullah and Jamshed Chishti.

27th October - A news report states that the new Police committee:

- Asked the rape victim to produce four pious and reputable Muslim witnesses to support her charge of rape at the hands of cops, “otherwise her case would be dismissed”.
- Threatened to use Sonia Naz’s tapped telephone conversations with Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad journalists against her at ‘an appropriate time’.
- Asked her to give details and names of her "boyfriends" and other "flirtations" she might have had. (In reply Sonia Naz is said to have angrily asked Captain Usman what these questions had to do with her rape case. She subsequently told journalists that the inquiry officers had asked every question about her past except the "abduction, torture and rape at the hand of SP Khalid Abdullah”.)
8th November – The police team reports that there is not enough evidence to establish allegations of abduction and rape against police officials and recommended that charges under the Zina Ordinance against the accused officials be deleted.

The chief justice of Pakistan is believed to have rejected the report on the basis that the investigators did not consider all available facts and evidence.

8th November – Dawn reports:

“The members of the inquiry team spent most of the time in investigating us rather the accused,” Ms Naz told Dawn after the team submitted the inquiry report to the court on Tuesday. She accused the Punjab government of protecting the offenders.“The federal government and the Supreme Court provided me justice, but the Punjab government is out to protect its police officers,” she said, adding that her telephone was being taped.

news report recently revealed that the enormity of damage done to Sonia Naz and her family:

Two sisters of Sonia Naz have been divorced by their husbands, who reportedly felt "disgraced" and "humiliated" at being related to sisters of a raped woman.The divorces, allegedly, follow scandalous stories about Sonia in sections of Urdu print media for the last one-and-a-half months. The third married sister of Sonia is also facing a present and clear danger from her husband, an SHO, who has already set a divorce "deadline" in case Sonia does not stop pursuing a case against SP Abdullah. Sonia herself was divorced by husband, Asim Yousaf, on similar grounds, saying he could not stay married to a woman raped by SP Khalid Abdullah and against whom the vernacular media had published scandalous stories. Two married sisters-in-law of Sonia, too, were earlier driven out of their homes by their in-laws when the Sonia rape story first made headlines. "Soon we, four divorced sisters, [will] be living in our widowed mother's house. It's a male-dominated society. Men have the right to do as they please. (It seems) only they have ego and self-honour......we have none," Sonia said, sobbing.

…"My sisters have stopped talking to me as they hold me directly responsible for the break-up in their lives," Sonia observed.

Your Blogger’s Comment:
As far as the ‘vernacular media [publishing] scandalous stories’ about Sonia Naz goes, it is par for the course. Unfortunately many vernacular newspapers in Pakistan are not only money-making scandal sheets, but their owners are also known to purposely print fraudulent stories at the request of a local power broker whom they wish to ingratiate or, more prosaically, in exchange for a bundle of cash.

The fact that none of these ‘scandalous’ stories have made it to the more responsible sections of the press, such as the English-language newspapers, ought to discredit these reports.

In any event no human being should be subjected to the crime of rape no matter how colourful their past may or may not be.

Related Sonia Naz Blogs
The Glasshouse –I Was Raped on Police Officer’s Orders (Part I)
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz: Rape Case (Part II) - The Background
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz: Rape Case (Part III) - Subsequent Events
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz - Rape Case (Part IV) – Latest Update
The Glasshouse - A Sonia Naz Update - 26th September
The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz : A Victim of Grubby Punjab Politics?

The Glasshouse - Sonia Naz – The Unfolding Tragedy – April 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Month Later: 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'

As a Pakistani it has become awfully hard for me to concentrate my blog on anything other than immense tragedy that has befallen our people. So many have died and tragically many more are going to follow their fate in the compassionless cold of the bleak Himalayan winter.

After this update I will make a conscious effort write on some other topic, but today I will once again concentrate on the subject that has managed to rock most of us to our very bones. This going to be a longish piece, so please bear with me.


The Good (brave lad)

There are so many new stories one hears every day – like the 13-year old boy from Balakot, now recovering at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital with a damaged spine, who tells us:

As the ground began to shake, the teacher yelled at us to get out as fast as we could from the classroom. Only a few made it; most of us got trapped in the falling masonry. Most died, some of injuries, others of thirst as there was no water to be had for those trapped under the rubble for the many days that followed.
So we continue to shed fresh tears every day as it’s impossible to become immune to tales of such unfathomable horror.


The Bad (politician)

And then we get messages from others who tell us of the indescribable incompetence of our exalted and pampered leadership. It appears Shaukat Aziz appeared on BBC’s Sunday programme ‘Talking Point’ on 31st October. This is what one American had to say in an email that was forwarded to me by a mutual friend:

You may or may not have seen it, but Shaukat Aziz appeared "live" yesterday on the BBC program "Talking Point" with Yvette Stevens, who is Head of the UN relief effort (Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). She was appealing for more aid, while Shaukat was going out of his way to stress that "no Pakistani victim of the earthquake is hungry," I believe were his words. Even as she continued to appeal for urgent, incremental contributions, Shaukat was explaining that "these people are used to stockpiling food for the winter" and that "they are not hungry!" I could not believe my ears. He might have qualified his statements by suggesting that food is perhaps less urgent than shelter (on the theory that people will freeze to death before they starve to death.) But he didn't. Nor did he go out of his way to support the UN's appeal for more aid. In fact, he undercut it.

Yvette must have been stunned, thinking, “Here I had a global audience and was appealing urgently for more aid which is desperately needed, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan was taking the wind right out of my sails!"

What kind of false pride authorizes a Prime Minister to deny his own people aid that his own government cannot understandably itself deliver?
I did not see the programme but it is clearly evident that this foreign emailer was stunned by our prime minister’s response. (If any reader watched ‘Talking Point’ please do add your comments as I have been unable to obtain transcript of the programme).

Having suffered, in recent months, Shaukat Aziz’s political and verbal progress (on television and in newsprint) I find little reason to doubt the American emailer’s honesty, and his obvious concern for the plight of the earthquake victims comes out all too clearly in his message. On the other hand, unlike him, our present leadership seems to suffer from a most callous and completely dim-witted form of verbal diarrhoea.


The Ugly (reality)

The current situation is so grim that even the normally timid ‘Granny’ of local newspapers
reported today:

A large number of shocked people interviewed by this reporter last week in many areas battered by the October 8 earthquake complained they were still without any help from the government and whatever little assistance that could reach them had come from non-governmental sources, including political and religious parties and groups, besides some international donor agencies.

A large number of people were still desperate for tents to save themselves from the cold. The government’s directives to manufacturers not to sell their product to anyone else, perhaps to neutralize the impact of religious and jihadi outfits and other opposition groups, is proving counter-productive.

“This will result in more deaths,” said Abdul Jabbar, who had trekked down to Muzaffarabad after negotiating a dangerous mountain route for two days from his hamlet in Jhelum Valley. “When TV teams and other people could get to difficult areas immediately after the earthquake, why couldn’t the military-men?” he asked.

To be fair the magnitude of the catastrophe would have been beyond the control of most governments but doesIslamabad’s top hierarchy have to issue orders restricting the sale of tents? Their time would perhaps be better spent addressing other more urgent issues; the same newspaper reported in a separate article:

Doctors said most of the hospitals in Rawalpindi and Islamabad had already become overcrowded, while hundreds of patients along with their attendants were coming in Islamabad and Rawalpindi everyday. They suggested establishment of more hospitals in the twin cities.

“Unfortunately, the government is not realising the gravity of the situation when thousands of people will leave Kashmir due to extremely cold weather and rush towards the hospitals of Rawalpindi and Islamabad,” they said.

Doctors said hundreds of amputees and injured people admitted in the tented hospitals would not survive if properly equipped hospitals were not set up for them on a war footing.

“You can’t treat an amputee with a plastered leg in the tented hospitals because they cannot be provided with proper medical treatment and the weather in Islamabad, which is getting colder day by day, might cause an increase in mortality rate,” they feared. “In these circumstances, the government should either hire more buildings or get some school buildings to properly treat the injured. If such steps were not immediately taken, the nation will be heading for another catastrophe,” they suggested.


Monday, November 07, 2005

One of the Numberless ‘Good Guys’

There have been literally thousands of people who have given their hearts and souls to help the earthquake victims. It is of course impossible to refer to even a fraction of them by name, so I’ll mention just one.

Why this particular one? I think because it seems to me that he is one of the individuals presently ‘thinking outside the box’. There are others I am sure doing the same, but for the moment he is the only one I know doing it.

This ‘good guy’ – Aamer Ahmed Khan - happens to be a senior Pakistani journalist working with the
BBC who has spent most of the last four weeks in the earthquake zone and has undoubtedly witnessed loads of extremely horrendous and harrowing scenes.

The dreadful reality that many of the victims still remain beyond reach, despite the passage of a month, has preyed upon Khan's mind. So with the help of local officials he has been able to identify 22 locations with a total population of 40,000 where the situation is believed to be ‘particularly bad’. These are reportedly the hamlets and villages of:

Chaliana, Riyali, Jagirpatti, Pahelian, Kath Chungi, Kath Ban, Jargi,Chilai, Barian, Saidpur, Bharoha, Mirpura, Flakan Tarban, Ashkot,Guhl, Yaswa, Bandi, Jora, Manduk, Islampura, Parnai, & Seemari.
The local military commander has informed Khan that it is ‘safe to assume’ that none of the above places have received any sort of assistance so far.

According to my information Khan is now urgently raising a supply chain of porters and voluntary mountaineers who will soon hopefully be daily delivering half a ton of basic rations to these remote areas to help locals withstand the ravages of oncoming winter.

I would therefore request all readers who are concerned by the plight of these haplessly remote victims to join Yahoo! Groups : neelamvalley and follow Aamer Ahmed Khan’s progress.

And if you can help him succeed in his mission with funds, volunteering your services or just offering a message of moral support, all the better!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nutcases Across the Border

Soon it’ll be a month since parts of our northern areas were completely devastated by the earthquake. Agonisingly we now watch the death toll heading towards the 100,000 mark. While we can verbally lambaste our military government for its overwhelming inadequacies, the picture emerging from certain sectors of the Indian populace can hardly be described as edifying either.

An activist Indian journalist J. Sri Raman

Like every humble scribe forced to speak up now and then against fascists, I am used to hate mail. But this was different. In my last article of October 13 on the earthquake and its aftermath in South Asia, I hardly mentioned my otherwise favorite subject of the subcontinent's far right. Even the title, "Disaster Finds India, Pakistan Divided Still," I thought, testified to an even-handedness.

The mere suggestion that India had not exactly rushed relief to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which bore the brunt of the tragedy, however, sufficed to elicit a hate-dripping e-mail. At the end of a diatribe, the Indian reader declared: "Not a penny from my pocket for the terrorists."

I try to answer my critics, and have convinced some of them that talking peace is not necessarily traitorous. I tried telling the present reader that not all quake-hit Kashmiris could be "terrorists." My persuasive powers were no match to a provoked "patriotism" in this case. The next e-mail only asked me to go and settle in Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. I politely informed the detractor that fascists here had not yet acquired the power to dispatch anyone to any place, and closedthe correspondence.

This, however, was not the only response of the kind to an appeal for a greater relief effort by India. And, more importantly, I was not the only one to receive a response of this kind.


For the sake of our millions of poor uneducated masses we can only hope that the fundamentalists on both sides of the border get a grip on their sanity. Let us forget this Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc. divide - when humans suffer such a profound tragedy it is time to focus on the issue of humanity instead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Your Blogger Will Be Away For a Week

Apologies dear readers

I have to be off for a few days. In the meantime I do hope General Musharraf manages to resolve his personal crisis over the use of Indian helicopters.

The truth is that many of the survivors are in remote mountains or deep valleys, and helicopter is the only way to reach them. If Pakistan had accepted the offer made by the Indians ten days ago then a large number of lives could have been saved.

Realising that his earlier decision might possibly backfire on him, Musharraf has now offered to accept the Indian helicopers sans Indian pilots.

Even if the Indians accepted this condition - which they most likely won't - we just bloody don't have the pilots to fly these extra machines!

Who does Musharraf think he is kidding?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Earthquake & the Pakistani Leadership (Part II)

The crass egotism and stupidity of our leadership never ceases to amaze your blogger. Here is a tale which I have received from an unimpeachable source, which as yet has not been published in our local press.

Neelum Stadium, Muzaffarabad, Thursday 13th October, 2005

The whole stadium ground has been converted into 8 helipads for the fifty or so helicopters that are working extended shifts providing relief to earthquake victims in isolated mountainous areas.

Helicopters are continuously landing at the pads disgorging casualties, quickly refuelling and stocking up with relief goods before taking off again. Thousands of lives are being saved by tireless efforts of these nameless and faceless people.

None are perhaps more driven than the pilots of Pakistan army’s 19 helicopters (now sadly 18 due to yesterday’s tragic crash). Calling them ‘heroes’
BBC says they were the only group of people ‘that have delivered more than was ever expected of them’.

"Each one of the 20-odd chopper pilots employed by the Pakistan army has been doing 12 to 16 hour days since the quake struck. For the first two days, they were even flying during the night - a practice strictly forbidden under normal circumstances.
…The commanders of these pilots say they will not stop their aid efforts, and when ordered to do so they fight and resist to the point of insubordination. "

It is believed that the army's fleet of the 10 Russian-built MI-17s - along with a few smaller ones - has rescued 6,000 people so far.

As the helicopters and crew were working their hearts out in non-stop emergency shifts last Thursday, a phone call was made from the PM’s Secretariat to the army demanding three of the army's ten large MI-17 helicopters and reservation of three of the eight helipads at Neelum Stadium for a period of two to three hours (during this time of peak relief activity).

The reason for the request? Shaukat Aziz wished to visit Muzafarrabad - he needed a single helicopter for himself and two for his security staff.

The purpose for the journey? Obviously to be the lead item on PTV’s evening news, as well on the news bulletins of the dozen or so private TV channels. And if he struck it lucky, then a spot on CNN and BBC as well.

I am told that the Lieut. General in charge of the relief efforts replied to the effect: ‘we will pretend that you never made such a crass and stupid request’.

Your blogger thinks Aziz got off too lightly. While all of Pakistan is in a state of anguish and bereavement, all this fellow can think about is polishing up his image and his ego. A sharp kick up his backside (preferably administered by someone from the Balakot or Bagh area) ought to have been the very minimum in punishment.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Earthquake & the Pakistani Leadership

As we face the largest natural disaster since 1970, it is an opportune moment to take a brief glance at our leadership.

Blundering ineptitude on part of the government during the devastating cyclone of 1970 not only led to the
death of 500,000 Pakistanis but also helped add fuel to the fire that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh a year later.

So what do we have now?

In recent days much has been made of the inability of the party in government – the Pakistan Army – to deal with our present calamity. This comes as a bit of a surprise. If there is any outfit that ought to be primed for crises it has to be the military. War, after all, is technically an emergency of major proportions as turbulent events take place on multiple fronts. And yes, battle success often depends upon superior organisational and logistical skills.

Television news reports coming from Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Bagh, etc., reveal that the Azad Kashmiris have been accusing General Musharraf and his military government of being slow to respond to the catastrophe.

For once the Commando-in-Chief decided to take it on the chin. Four long days after the earthquake, he appeared on television on the sixth anniversary of his military coup and
regretted the delay in helping the earthquake victims.

OK, so the army may have been found wanting in dealing with the current crisis – which perhaps could be attributed to the organisation’s institutionalised boneheadedness. And so, it may have taken a day or so for the awful reality to dawn upon Musharraf and his men that the disaster encompassed more than just the collapse of Islamabad’s Margala Towers. Having said that, it must be also be mentioned that no government can really be completely prepared for a disaster of such enormity.

Having taken a brief glimpse at the most powerful political and governing force in the country, a cursory look at the army’s traditional consort-in-power - the senior bureaucracy – is also due.

Now this calls for confession time on part of your blogger who in his dealings with the senior bureaucracy has mostly found them to be:

  • Corrupt and self-seeking
  • Having a heightened sense of self-regard for their own intellect and abilities
  • Stuck-up when dealing with their supposed inferiors (the general public)
  • Profusely sycophantic to their superiors in power or political influence
  • Generally dim-witted and prone to tunnel-vision
  • Perpetually obsessed with bureaucratic rankings and their allotted perquisites
  • Purposely indecisive, so they can never be blamed for anything.
  • Grammatically challenged - being devotees of obsolete Victorian Raj bureaucratese

Rather than waste our mutual time discussing the bankruptcy of leadership of this generally unpleasant, incompetent species of mankind, one need look no further than the recent example set by some very senior bureaucrats.

According to a press report (Friday Times, October 14-20, 2005) at a dinner hosted by Punjab’s irrigation secretary, the former chief secretary of Punjab, Hafeez Akhtar Randhawa violently set upon the current chief secretary Kamran Rasul.

The account asserts that ‘Randhawa questioned Rasul, then threw him to the ground and beat him’. Apparently this thuggish assault was a result of an ongoing professional row between two powerful groupings of senior bureaucrats.

Randhawa, the attacking ruffian in question, is Musharraf’s classmate, while Kamran Rasul, was a firm favourite of the Choudhries of Gujrat, having for a time been even employed by them. Rasul, as chief secretary, had been allegedly using his official powers to pursue a campaign of vendetta against Randhawa and his bureaucratic associates.

Considering our patently ‘un’civil service is headed by the likes of such squabbling third-rate yobs (who enjoy patronage from the likes of Musharraf and the Guju Choudhries) what expectations can anyone – including our millions of distraught earthquake victims - have from them?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Heartbreaking Facts about the Quake

Having just spoken at length on mobile telephone to a senior Pakistani journalist, who has spent the last four days in Muzaffarabad, Balakot and Bagh, a truly horrifying picture has begun to emerge:
  • The destruction is so vast and so complete that it is impossible to convey through images on television, words spoken on radio or by written words in newspapers.
  • With the enormity and spread of the earthquake a final figure around 100,000 fatalities is not impossible.
  • The suffering of the victims is quite appalling - especially those wounded with broken limbs or other injuries – having to spend four days and nights out in the open without food, water or warm clothing. The journalist’s voice broke with emotion when he described a two year old child, he had seen, with a broken arm sitting in the darkness by the roadside shivering with cold.
  • The work involved is completely beyond the ability and competence of the Pakistani army.
  • Sadly even the volunteers who have rushed from Karachi, Lahore and other centres are contributing to the problem. In the Bagh area people tried to drive trucks on narrow roads meant for motorbikes only. Ths has resulted in blocked routes and logjams which have further delayed the arrival of relief in the more issolated areas.
  • For most victims the lack of shelter has become the most serious concern number one problem. The nights are getting colder in this mountainous region and deaths by hypothermia become a serious reality.


Everyone believes if we had more helicopters relief would have reached the victims much quicker. So when Musharraf appealed to the world for more helicopters it made a lot of sense.

But how many people know that on Sunday when India offerred to place several helicopters at the general's disposal the nitwit turned the offer down. One really wonders what sort of world do these swaggering armymen live in?

Musharraf - Has he goofed badly yet again?

Over the past six years we have grown accustomed to Musharraf’s regular and lengthy homilies to the nation on television. At the drop of a hat it has become his wont to appear and sermonise almost endlessly on some issue or another.

And yet last weekend when the country emerged battered and bruised from nature's devastating onslaught, the man (and his voice) was missing. Ironically, for once it actually made sense for him to appear on television and display genuine leadership by explaining to the nation how he planned to deal with the catastrophe that had affected the lives of so many Pakistanis.

Further, as a former Pakistani district officer suggested on BBC Television, Musharraf should have temporarily shifted his office to a camp at Muzaffarabad and personally taken charge of the relief efforts. Not only would his presence have helped sort out the perennial confusion that results from joint civil-military ventures but it would have given him a chance to prove his competence and leadership.

So it is not surprising Musharraf is facing increasing criticism. Yesterday UK’s Daily Telegraph took him to task for his ‘depressing lack of imagination’ and held him responsible for ‘small-mindedness at the highest level’ of our government.

Read on.

Daily Telegraph: Musharraf misses chance to mend fences

The earthquake in the Hindu Kush literally shook the foundations of the boundary between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. Yet it took a while to jolt General Pervez Musharraf out of accustomed ways of thinking on one of the great political faultlines of our day.

On Sunday, India offered to put helicopters at the general's disposal. At first, Islamabad said they weren't needed, which, given the scale of the disaster, was manifest nonsense. Then it came up with the feeble excuse that there could be no question of joint rescue operations because there was no population on the line of control. Finally, it agreed yesterday to accept a 25-tonne planeload of relief supplies.

The greatest natural disaster in Pakistan's history offered a rare chance to warm the slight thaw in relations with India. By first prevaricating, then accepting only limited help from a neighbour with vast resources, Gen Musharraf has displayed a depressing lack of imagination. And that small-mindedness at the highest level was yesterday reflected in the refusal of the Pakistan High Commission in London to grant a visa to Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 News presenter, because his parents were born in India.

Natural disasters and shared grief have the power to break barriers of prejudice. That happened after the earthquake in northwest Turkey in 1999, when the Greeks sent rescue workers and ships and planes loaded with relief supplies, bridging the gap between neighbours who had been at odds for decades over the Aegean and Cyprus.

A few weeks later, the Turks were able to reciprocate when a smaller earthquake struck Athens. More recently, the Indian Ocean tsunami hastened a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh movement, thus ending a struggle that had lasted nearly 30 years and taken 15,000 lives. However, there was no breakthrough in Sri Lanka, another tsunami sufferer, which has long been racked by a vicious war between the government and the Tamil Tigers.

In the wake of Saturday's earthquake, Pakistan has not totally snubbed India. But it should have made much quicker and more extensive capital out of New Delhi's offer. With a faultline like that across the sub-continent, you need leaders with the political courage to seize the moment.

In failing to do so, Gen Musharraf has let down the earthquake victims and damaged the long-term interests of his country.

And today in the same newspaper Ahmed Rashid takes the Pakistan Army to task for its incompetence in coping with the disaster.

Daily Telegraph - Musharraf is facing his 'Katrina moment' - by Ahmed Rashid

The last time the Pakistan army rode to the rescue of its citizens after a massive natural disaster, the result was a civil war and the loss of half the country.

That was in 1970, when half a million people in what was then East Pakistan drowned as a result of typhoons and floods, and the delay of the army in launching a relief effort led to enormous public anger and the eventual creation of Bangladesh.

The same army is once again in control of the country and of the desperately needed relief effort after an earthquake that in a breath has taken away 40,000 people - half of them children.

Western governments and Pakistanis will be looking closely at the political fall-out for President Pervez Musharraf, who remains a key Western ally, army chief, the supremo of the country and chief relief organiser. Will Gen Musharraf, like George W. Bush, have his Katrina moment, when the public turn against their leader?

For a country repeatedly facing monsoon floods, overflowing rivers, devastating storms and minor earthquakes, the army has been remarkably ill-prepared to face the current crisis.

Moreover, this is Azad Kashmir, where Pakistan has fought three wars with India, and invested trillions of rupees in military infrastructure to maintain 100,000 troops along the Line of Control.

Even though Azad Kashmir is supposed to be a model of development to expose the poverty in Indian-held Kashmir, the actual investment in social welfare and infrastructure such as roads and bridges has been minimal. The issue here is all about how much Third World governments are prepared to invest in their own people and disaster preparedness.

So far the army has been woefully slow in reacting to the disaster. Its much vaunted Crisis Management Cell - set up after 9/11, run by army officers and modelled on America's National Security Council - has itself been an abysmal disaster. Management on the ground has been superficial at best. Stories abound, such as the one about a 72-man team of Spanish rescuers and their sniffer dogs being kept waiting for 48 hours at Islamabad airport before someone told them where to go. But as the army operation kicks in, bolstered by foreign aid, money and helicopters, public anger will recede.

One may well ask why the seventh largest army in the world is holding its hand out for helicopters and tents when America has supplied dozens of helicopters since 9/11 and the country is one of the largest tent manufacturers in the world.

The army itself holds thousands of tents in stock, along with tens of thousands of tins of foodstuffs and blankets - which do not seem to have been released. Perhaps this is because the army continues to fight an insurgency in Balochistan and al-Qa'eda remnants in Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan. These operations are on-going even as the army runs the relief effort.

It has not gone unnoticed among Western intelligence agencies that the epicentre of the quake is also the epicentre of the camps run by Pakistani extremist groups affiliated to al-Qa'eda, where hundreds of Kashmiri militants and Afghans are being trained.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pointed the area out to visiting Western leaders on a map as being the centre of Taliban resurgence. The Kashmiris trained in this area still cross the Line of Control to ambush Indian patrols. The army, wishing to continue to exert pressure on India and Afghanistan, has turned a blind eye to these activities. While the army is likely to be wary of allowing Western aid agencies running pell-mell all over Azad Kashmir, it will now be impossible to keep these camps hidden and to continue training.

One positive result of the earthquake may be greater international and Pakistani civilian pressure to close these camps, thereby speeding up the peace process with India.
India has to respond to the tragedy not just by sending relief goods, but also by showing a greater willingness to start discussing Kashmir with Pakistan. So far India has refused to do so - insisting that many years of "confidence-building measures" are needed before it will discuss Kashmir.

But now that there are at least three million Kashmiris homeless on the Pakistani side and countless more on the Indian side, it's about time that India took the Kashmir issue seriously and both countries stop using these now totally destitute people as pawns.

Meanwhile Pakistan's political parties have rallied round the government in its hour of need. The Islamic fundamentalist leaders who have proclaimed that the earthquake was a result of God's anger at Musharraf cosying up to America and Israel have, thankfully, been completely ignored.

Once the relief effort is in place and the long, hard slog of rehabilitating millions of people starts, the heightened political awareness that catastrophes always bring in their wake will emerge.

For many Pakistanis, their first questions are likely to be: how long does their authoritarian military leader plan to rule over their lives, and when will they get a responsible elected government that is accountable for its failures?

In a few weeks, Musharraf will get back to the political business of trying to find a way to get himself elected as president in 2007 while staying as army chief. But he may find, just as President Bush did, that disasters make people much more reluctant to accept the status quo.