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.