Tuesday, January 24, 2006

UK Times on Pakistan Army's 'Summary Executions'


Your Blogger just came across this story in today's UK Times, together with a brief piece in the Financial Times (links are provided)

I'm glad to see that the heat is slowly but surely building up on Musharraf's latest misdeed.

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The Times
January 24, 2006

Asia
Captured rebel tribesmen 'shot on the spot' by army

FROM ZAHID HUSSAIN IN DERA BUGTI

THE Pakistani Army has been accused of carrying out summary executions as fighting intensifies between rebel tribesmen and security forces in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Weekend clashes in the dusty town of Dera Bugti, a centre of the rebellion, left nine tribesmen dead and four soldiers injured. The nationalist rebels, who are fighting for greater autonomy, attacked an army base, a telephone exchange and government offices. The sides exchanged rockets and mortar fire.

The Pakistani military, which is confronting al-Qaeda-backed Islamic militants in the North West Frontier province, is having to commit increasing resources against the separatist movement in Baluchistan, where the provincial capital, Quetta, is under tight security.

“There were alarming accounts of summary executions, some allegedly carried out by paramilitary forces,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a report last weekend.

It also said that there was evidence that indiscriminate bombing by the security forces had resulted in deaths and injuries among the civilian population.

Asma Jehangir, the chairman of the group, said that there was a warlike situation in the province. “The HRCP team found widespread instances of disappearance, of torture inflicted on people held in custody and on those fleeing from their houses,” Ms Jehangir, a former UN human rights rapporteur, said.

The strategic region, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is the largest and most impoverished in Pakistan. It is sparsely populated but rich in mineral resources, and it supplies 50 per cent of the country’s natural gas.

Baluchi nationalists, who demand control over their natural resources, have led four insurgencies — in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63 and 1973-77 — which were brutally suppressed. There have been sporadic clashes in the past two years, but the situation flared last month after the rebels launched a rocket attack during President Musharraf’s visit to an army garrison in Kohlu district.

The rebels also hit an army helicopter that was carrying senior officers. A shadowy militant group calling itself the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks on the government forces and installations.

The BLA originally drew on veterans of the insurrection of the 1970s, but its ranks have been joined by educated young people. One of its leaders is Akbar Khan, the chief of the Bugti tribe who, in the 1950s, was briefly the Pakistani Defence Minister and later became governor of the province. When I visited him recently, the charismatic, British-educated septuagenarian was presiding over his followers from a bullet-ridden fort in the dusty town that bears the name of his tribe.

He was surrounded by heavily armed tribesmen with flowing beards and huge turbans. Some had taken positions in the bunkers around the fort. Akbar Khan, whose grandfather, Shahbaz Khan, was a British knight, has accused the Pakistani Government of colonising Baluchistan.

He said: “We are fighting for the control of our national wealth and for political rights. It is a war now.”
He is understood to have moved since to a mountain hideout,
where he is leading the guerrilla war.

Down the road Karim Baksh, a thin-framed man with a cropped beard, was leading another group of tribal guerrillas. They had dug in under a huge rock, only a few miles from a Pakistani Government paramilitary post. Machinegun fire echoed in the distance.

“Let them come here,” Mr Baksh said with a laugh as he stroked his Kalashnikov. “They will not be able to go back alive.”

His fighters, who claimed to be members of the BLA, appeared to be well trained and were armed with machineguns and rocket launchers. A radio operator was receiving information regarding the movement of government troops.

“Our men are spread all over,” Mr Baksh said, pointing towards the parched hills of Baluchistan.

ROCKY BUT RICH

  • Forms 44 per cent of Pakistan’s land mass; has a 480-mile (770km) coastline
  • Economically rich in minerals and gas deposits
  • Consists of vast rocky desert with extremes of climate and very low rainfall
  • Baluchi tribes live in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and can speak a form of Persian; today about half live in Baluchistan territory
  • Five million people live in Baluchistan

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Financial Times

Human rights violations

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan yesterday accused the government of gross human rights violations in the province of Baluchistan.

Tensions in Baluchistan have mounted in recent months as tribal militants have attacked government facilities and cars, following demands for greater provincial autonomy and control of large gas fields in the province.
The report said up to 85 per cent of the 24,000 residents of Dera Bugti had fled their homes after the town was shelled by government troops.

Farhan Bokhari, Islamabad

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1 comment:

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