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.