Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall...

George W. Bush’s recent trip to South Asia exposed some harsh truths that Islamabad is now desperately trying to fudge over.

In today’s Dawn the columnist Irfan Husain does a good job of dissecting reality from the spin.


A tale of two countries By Irfan Husain

IN the recent parliamentary debate on foreign policy, speaker after speaker lambasted the government, comparing the far-reaching nuclear deal with India announced by President Bush in New Delhi with his homilies in Islamabad.

According to General Musharaf’s critics — a rapidly multiplying tribe — this imbalance is a reflection of Pakistan’s failed foreign policy. Although official spokesmen tried to put their usual spin on this obvious reality, the truth is that Bush’s priorities during his visit ought to have served as a reminder of the changing equation in the subcontinent.

Khurshid Kasuri, our foreign minister who normally weighs his words, termed the American tilt towards India as “unacceptable”. Excuse me? I don’t recall either Washington or New Delhi seeking our “acceptance” of a bilateral deal. Even General Jehangir Karamat, our ambassador in Washington, thought he should lecture his host country on the subject. He was quoted in this newspaper as saying:

“Instead of a country-specific deal on a subject as critical as nuclear technology, there should be a package for both India and Pakistan.” The thread running through the statements of various official spokesmen seems to reflect a common Pakistani perception that somehow, Washington should treat India and Pakistan as equals.

The problem is that reality dictates otherwise. By any measure, India has emerged as a major player on the global scene. Pakistan, on the other hand, has moved in the opposite direction, descending into sectarian and ethnic strife, and seen to be harbouring gangs of terrorists on its soil. Granted, 9/11 has boosted its economy as well as its standing as a strategic ally in the American ‘war on terror’. But remove the ‘9/11 factor’, and we are left with a dysfunctional state in terminal decline.

These are harsh, unpalatable truths that are difficult for Pakistanis to accept. But unless we face reality unflinchingly, we will be unable to understand why the rest of the world views us as it does. Equally importantly, we need to see Indias rise not in relation to Pakistan, but as an important regional and global event in its own right.

For much of the half century after its independence, the Indian economy grew slowly, stifled by red tape and over- centralization. By contrast, the Pakistani economy grew more rapidly, propelled by a greater commitment to the free market. But in the nineties, the picture changed: plagued with political instability and military interventions, the Pakistani economy went into a sharp decline while terrorism destabilised the entire system.

India, on the other hand, freed from some of its self-imposed shackles, began making rapid progress. Its large pool of well- educated computer personnel drove Indian information technology to the centre of the world economy, apart from moving to American firms in large numbers. A rising middle class provided the market for a consumer boom, and now, Indian entrepreneurs are competing for business around the world. Bollywood movies are hits abroad, and Indian fashions are seen on catwalks from Milan to Madrid.

Currently in London, a trial of seven young men on terrorism charges is making headlines across Britain. Six of the seven are of Pakistani origin, and are alleged to have received training in bomb making in Pakistan. The prosecution has produced a staggering amount of evidence, so whatever the outcome of the case, it will not be ideal publicity for Pakistan. Similarly, most of the suicide bombers involved in the terror attacks in London last July were of Pakistani origin.

At a conference on Pakistan organised by the Economist in London last month, several speakers, both Pakistani and British, dwelt on the investment opportunities available, as well as the liberal government policies. But the elephant in the hall everybody skirted around was the appalling security problems. One British chief executive of an energy firm operating in Pakistan did speak about the need to hire security guards, and mentioned the recent killing of three Chinese engineers in Balochistan. But the Pakistani speakers did not discuss the issue, perhaps because they are so accustomed to the situation.

The real bottom line here is that for investors, the physical security of their employees is even more important than profits. When extremist mobs torch outlets of western fast food chains, for example, images of the burning buildings flash across the globe in a matter of minutes. The most recognisable image of Pakistan abroad is now one of angry eyes, long beards, and men armed with Kalashnikov rifles.

Musharraf has often boasted of Pakistan’s credentials as a key ally in the ‘war on terror’ by pointing to the large number of Al-Qaeda suspects killed or captured on our soil. But the question to ask — and one asked frequently abroad — is what they were doing in Pakistan in the first place. In investigations into Islamic terrorism across the world, the Pakistan connection has cropped up time and again.

In the nuclear context, we forget just how much damage Dr A.Q. Khan’s supposedly freelance activities have done to Pakistan’s image. If he acted on his own, it is a poor reflection on the control exercised over our nuclear installations by the army. The other (and stronger) possibility is that he was officially encouraged to export atomic secrets to foreign buyers. In either case, to imagine that the Americans would now supply us with the latest nuclear technology is to live in a fool’s paradise.

So when we ask to be treated at par with India, foreigners may make polite noises, but everybody knows where the reality lies. Had it not been for 9/11 and the ongoing western operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan would have been relegated to the backwaters of the world, together with Myanmar, Somalia and Rwanda.

We dug ourselves into this hole, and we can climb out of it, provided we accept the fact that we are in a hole. The first obvious step is to understand that there is no place in today’s world for state-sponsored or even state-tolerated terrorism. The presence of thousands of armed men loosely organised under various fundamentalist and ethnic banners is unacceptable to the rest of the world, and should be unacceptable to us.

Musharraf must realise that words are not enough to combat this plague of mindless violence. His litany of ‘enlightened moderation’ must be matched with action, something that has long been missing from his agenda. What is needed is a sustained, consistent campaign. But political will is required, and for this, a consensus has to be built up.

Unfortunately, our current military dispensation has been just as divisive as the previous ones were. Now, even when he makes eminently sensible proposals, they are rejected by a fractious opposition that no longer trusts Musharraf.

Far from providing a solution, he has now become a part of the problem.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Some Glasshouse News for March 2006

According to Asma Jehangir (Chairperson HRCP) during her recent visit to Dera Bugti she was told by the local DCO Abdus Samad Lasi that ‘whatever happens in the future, it will be made certain that Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri are killed’

Brave words from a lowly provincial pen pusher.

According to a reader (see his posted comments on my blog: Poor Shazia Khalid vs. A Sleazoid )

Abdus Samad Lasi was inducted into Balochistan’s civil service on the basis of sifarish , bypassing the normal channels of recruitment which require a public advertising of jobs, followed by competitive examinations held by the Balochistan Public Service Commission. Not surprisingly therefore, while most of Lasi’s batch mates in the civil service got promoted to the next grade (BS-18), the duffer failed in his departmental examinations. So, his grade stayed where it was. Today, despite being one of the junior most officers, he has been specially selected to be the District Coordination Officer in Dera Bugti District. In addition to this post, he also holds the offices of DAO (law enforcement) and EDO (Revenue).

Obviously this idiot has been handpicked by Islamabad to follow its instructions dutifully without question. After his wierd remarks on the rape victim Shazia Khalid I referred to him as a sleazoid. I find no good reason to take my words back.


News from the UAE suggests that the local authorities have detained Hairbeyar Marri, the son of one of Musharraf’s loathed troika of Baloch sardars - Khair Buksh Marri.

According to my sources it appears that the Pakistan Embassy had previously confiscated Marri’s passport when he had sent it in for renewal. Subsequently the Embassy told the local authorities that Hairbeyar Marri, as he lacked legal travel documents, was an illegal alien and therefore ought to be detained. So under pressure from Pakistan the UAE authorities have decided to detain him.

No one is quite sure what the next move will be.


It seems Wasi Zafar is back in the news again for another bout off public misbehaviour (for his previous acts of delinquency see my blog: Thugs R Us ).

According to news reports he occupied a seat on a PIA flight which had been allocated to another passenger. When a young passenger brandishing his boarding card politely asked him to vacate the seat, the Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights not only broke loose with the foulest words possible in the Punjabi language but threatened to rearrange the lad’s face.

The shell-shocked young man had to be comforted by a helpless member of the cabin crew who found him an alternate seat.

Just in case anyone is wondering why Wasi Zafar chronically gets away with this kind of criminal behaviour, I may have the answer. According to a reliable source I have been informed that this ill-mannered thug happens to be a brother of a Corps Commander.


A visiting contact of mine was recently honoured by Musharraf who hosted him to a private dinner at his residence. When asked about Balochistan the General reassured his guest that he would lift Balochistan out of Stone Age and develop it to everyone’s benefit.

The question remains: To whose actual benefit, General sahib?

According to reliable reports there are about 500 plus young and educated Baloch who have travelled from as far as Karachi, Makran and Gwadar to fight in the Marri-Bugti hills. These people are said to be convinced that they are facing political and economic subjugation and are determined to resist it with their lives.

I wonder who is right- the general or these young men?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Naked 'Field Marshal' and Another Story

With the death of John Profumo, one of UK’s greatest scandals can be finally laid to rest.

I wonder how many realise the minor Pakistani link in the scandal that eventually brought down Prime Minister Macmillan’s conservative government.

The scandal was centred on Dr Stephen Ward, a Harley Street osteopath who socialised in high-ranking circles. Ward operated as a pimp, using a cottage on the Clivedon estate, he made pretty call-girls available to the upper-class set. Cliveden was a manor owned by Lord Astor, an aristocrat. It was a custom at the manor for guests to swim naked in swimming pool. Ward used this opportunity to introduce his nude call girls – including the subsequently notorious Christine Keeler – to meet with equally nude influential men.

The scandal broke, at the peak of the cold war, in 1963, when Minister for Defence John Profumo was compromised by his affair with Christine Keeler. British parliamentarians were stunned to learn that Keeler had also been sleeping with a top Soviet KGB agent in London, Capt. Yevgeny Ivanov. Profumo had to resign in disgrace.

What was not well known at the time was that one among the many nude swimmers, who enjoyed the rewards available at Cliveden, had been General Ayub Khan, then military dictator of Pakistan. It is
said that in her juicy memoirs Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the Cliveden call girls, accuses Ayub Khan of attempting to get physically close with her in the swimming pool. The same did not apply to Christine Keeler who is believed to have had a sexual fling with Ayub before he ducked for cover once the scandal broke.


The local chattering classes had a field day after Sindh chief minister’s recent broadside against one his Sindhi cabinet members.

An incensed Arbab Rahim went on warpath against his own provincial minister for population, Syed Ali Bakhsh Shah alias Pappu Shah, accusing him of plotting to replace him as chief minister. In his accusation he implied that Pappu Shah had willingly provided the services of his wife, currently a senator in Islamabad, to Musharraf to win his favour.

A bowdlerised news report (
Cold war between CM & Pappu Shah) recently stated:
This was clear indication that cold war between chief minister and Pappu Shah has intensified. It is also learnt that Pappu Shah has "Aashirwad" of Islamabad but they are waiting for suitable time to change the guard. Dr Rahim had publicly said that some members want to grab power by using influence of their wives which was clear indication to Pappu Shah as his wife Bibi Yasmin Shah is Senator.
You may well ask, who exactly is this Pappu Shah?

All that I have been able to discover about him is that until recently he was a relatively unknown politician from Badin, who was originally a member of the ruling Muslim League (Nawaz), until switching sides after the military takeover.

Pappu Shah contested the 2002 provincial elections on a basis of
a fake internet-bought degree from a Norfolk Island (it’s in the Pacific near Australia somewhere) company calling itself ‘International University of America (London Campus)’. When this dubious bit of paper was challenged in the High Court, Islamabad intervened and Pappu Shah was allowed to contest.

The story about Pappu Shah temporarily gifting his wife to the Head Chowkidar was subsequently ‘confirmed’ by another senior minister in the Sindh cabinet.

Is your Blogger shocked? Not really. The history of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is replete with such instances. So, sadly, what’s new?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


The death of that loathsome murderer Slobodan Milosevic brought back memories of Yugoslavia and the strenuous efforts made by the Serbian nationalists to dominate that doomed country.

It got me thinking.

When Tito died in 1980, the Serbian leadership, promoted the concept of a strong centralized state under Serbian domination; this antagonized the other republics – Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. Disaster ensued.

While the barbarity of ethnic cleansing is luckily not practiced in Pakistan, other parallels with Yugoslavia do exist. Simply juxtapose Punjab with Serbia and you will begin to get my drift.

A few years after partition, when Pakistan’s political leadership (mostly West Pakistani and Punjabi) realized that elections had to be held, it was decided to deny the East Pakistanis their rightful majority by the creation of the ‘One Unit’ system. Under this ‘parity’ system equal seats were given in Parliament to both wings, despite the fact that East Pakistan had a larger population.

By 1970 the Bengalis had had enough of being treated as a colony by the Serbian – sorry Punjabi – ruling elite and after violent upheaval Bangladesh was created.

In what remained of Pakistan, Punjab now held 56 percent of the population; Sindh with 23 percent; NWFP 16 percent; and Balochistan 5 percent. And yes, now that Punjab finally had a majority, the concept of parity with minority provinces disappeared out of the window.

Simply put, since the late 1950s Pakistan has been dominated by the Army – which is essentially regarded by many to be just an adjunct of Punjab. As far as many people in the three minority provinces are concerned the Army’s mindset can be summed up as follows: ‘What is good for Punjab is in the national interest’. And whosoever holds a view contrary to the Army’s viewpoint is automatically deemed to be ‘anti-State’.

Take for example the current opposition to the Kalabagh Dam, particularly by the Sindhis. It is based upon a complete lack of trust on any commitment made by Islamabad on behalf of Punjab. As far as the Sindhis are concerned when the Water Accord of 1991 was not correctly implemented, thereby harming Sindh, nothing was done. The non-implementation of the accord, according to the Sindhis, did not just enable Punjab to ‘steal’ water intended for Sindh but a lot of this water was used to irrigate newly developed agricultural land owned by army officers and bureaucrats belonging to Punjab.

The people of Balochistan have similar grievances against the Punjab. To them all the new mega-projects planned for their province will economically benefit only Punjabis and other ‘outsiders’. Islamabad views these objections as anti-state and blames three local sardars for it, which is a load of codswallop.

The simple reality is that in ‘Yugo-pakistania’ a domineering Punjab-centric mindset reigns supreme.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Report: Living With the Baloch Insurgents.

I came across this recent piece by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo-journalist by the name of John Moore.

Moore apparently was ‘the first foreigner' to visit the Baloch insurgents since the recent fighting started. He spent a week in the Bugti area, followed by several days with the Marris until his equipment ran out of battery supply.

It makes for very interesting reading.


Tribal Rebellion in Balochistan
by John Moore
March 2006

The tribal chief sits next to a campfire in his mountain hideout discussing his chances against the Pakistan government that his tribe, the Bugtis, are fighting for autonomy in Balochistan, the country's poorest province. "We have three things on our side — time, space and will," says Nawab Bugti, age 79, gazing into the flames.

The Bugti tribe and their allies, the Marris, to the north attack Pakistani garrisons daily, exchanging mortar fire with the much larger and better equipped army. They say they are fighting for a larger share of the wealth from Balochistan's vast natural resources. First among these is natural gas that the federal government pumps from the arid Baloch soil for use in other parts of Pakistan.

Their fight makes daily news in Pakistan but is virtually ignored by the foreign press that has eyes only for the elusive Osama Bin Laden. Along with Osama, the global media focuses on Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East with their imagery of guns and death. But, in fact, there are small regional conflicts all over the world. Most, like this one, are fought over scarce natural resources, and who gets to benefit from them.

I first contacted the rebellious Bugti tribe through a Pakistani journalist who had visited them several weeks before. I contacted the Nawab, or tribal chief, via satellite phone after I had been described to him as someone who could be trusted. The Bugtis agreed to my visit but the trip was complicated because my identity as a foreign journalist might draw attention to them. They move their base frequently to avoid attack by Pakistani forces flying drones overhead to locate rebel positions. I would be the first foreigner to visit them since the recent fighting started.

I flew to Balochistan and was driven into the rugged guerrilla territory in a white rebel 4x4 caked in mud as camouflage. We travelled cross-country, avoiding roads and the Pakistani military checkpoints along them. I wore a "shalwar kameez," the voluminous cotton garb worn here. As headgear, I donned a "pakul," the wool hat common along the Pakistan/Afghan border. Occasionally they outfitted me with a bulbous, Bugti-style turban.

The guerrillas showered me with an amazing level of hospitality. Polite refusals of food, tea or whatever was on offer were useless. Under tribal "guest culture," I feasted on huge meals of "sagi," a roasted goat and bread concoction cooked around a burning stone pulled from the campfire. The dish is delicious but it's all they eat. I ate sagi breakfast, lunch and dinner for two weeks with the rebels.

After each meal a tribal shaman would clean the last bits of meat from the scapulas of the slain goats and hold them against the sunlight to "read" the future in the lines of the bones. Sometimes, he said, the bones say nothing while other times they foretell the deaths of allies and enemies alike.

We spent days in their hidden headquarters. The Bugtis then transported me under cover of darkness to their capitol town of Dera Bugti that was virtually encircled by Pakistani forces. During a month of mortar exchanges between Pakistani forces and rebels, many civilians had been killed and some 20,000 had fled. I spent four days there taking refuge in bunkers during Pakistani mortar attacks. I ate a lot more goat and drank gallons of tea from glasses washed with a swish of cloudy well water. I charged my computer and satellite communications equipment with a small generator they produced for me. The Pakistani government had cut off power to the town ages ago.

After a week with the Bugtis, I contacted a leader of the Marri tribe to the north, located in an even more remote part of Balochistan. No journalist, Pakistani or foreign, had visited the Marris since the most recent fighting began last December. They agreed to take me in and we coordinated a handoff near a remote Marri outpost. A Bugti guide led me six hours on foot to reach the meeting point.

With the Marris, I came to fully appreciate the comforts of vehicular transportation I'd enjoyed with the Bugtis. We traveled some 10 miles a day on foot and by horseback. A camel in our entourage carried the rockets they would fire at Pakistani frontier garrisons along the way and also hauled my satellite transmitter and laptop. The territory was some of the most beautiful and rugged I had ever traversed.

Using satellite phones and radios the Marris coordinated the attacks. Unlike their adversaries, the Marris knew every mountain and valley in their district. On the other side, Pakistani grunts were brought in from other provinces of the country. While the Pakistani forces were hunkered down in visible firing posts, the guerrillas nestled into high crevices and rained mortars down on their foes from unseen positions. Rebel spotters in observation posts radioed in corrections to errant shots, guiding each guerrilla mortar closer to its target. The regular army soldiers returned fire but they launched their mortars haphazardly, oblivious to our location.

As it turned out, the greatest danger for me was not the incoming ordnance but our return to the rebel camp after the fighting. To avoid attack we traveled without the aid of flashlights. My guides led me down the mountain, bounding from rock to rock on the moonless night. They joked as we climbed down sheer cliff faces in the blackness, laughing as rocks slipped out from under my shaky feet, falling into the oblivion.

Finally arriving back to camp, which had been pitched in a deep gorge far from the Pakistani post, a roaring fire awaited with another steaming dinner of goat. Some talked about their time as university students in the provincial capital of Quetta before they followed the tradition of their fathers and grandfathers and took up arms against the Pakistan government.
The rebels say the Pakistani government takes their resources and gives them little in return. Some want a better cut. Others want Baloch independence from Pakistan. They all asked me if I thought that Pakistan would disintegrate as a country when they finally won their struggle. I told them that countries don't fall apart that often, no matter how bad the fighting gets. And when they do, I said, sometimes it just makes things worse.

After a few more days almost all of my equipment was dead. The rebels had small solar chargers they used for their Thuraya satellite phones but the chargers were insufficient for my computer and camera batteries, especially under a cloudy sky. After a few final helpings of "sagi," they guided me along the four-day journey out, handing me back to the Bugtis, who had shifted to another hideout. As the Bugtis guided me closer to home, I changed vehicles and guides four times along the way, starting with the guerrillas in a mud-camoflaged Toyota Hilux in the mountains and ending up in the provincial capital, Quetta.

Balochistan's bloody conflict cannot really be counted as one of the world's forgotten wars -- few even know it exists at all.

Many in Balochistan call it a just struggle. But other Pakistanis call them "miscreants" and see them as traitors. An acquaintance in Islamabad told me journalists should be banned from Balochistan so that the Army could massacre the lot of them and be done with it. But that has not happened yet so for now they are still up there, still fighting, using their advantage of time, space and will.

© John Moore
Email John Moore

John Moore, 38, is a 1990 graduate of the University of Texas. In 1991 he joined The Associated Press and was first based in Nicaragua, then India, South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt. He was part of an AP team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in Iraq. He joined Getty Images in July 2005 and is based in Islamabad, Pakistan, covering South Asia and the Middle East.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Valid Perspective on the Balochistan Crisis

For once a remarkably sensible comment on the situation on Balochistan. It is written by Aziz-ud –Din Ahmad, whom I gather is a former professor from Punjab University.

After being fed a diet of daily regime-instigated nonsense from Islamabad (which is regurgitated without much comment in our press), this article came like a breath of fresh air.

Any level-headed Pakistani, in my book, can only oppose the brutal suppression of human rights that is currently going on in Balochistan. The Baloch appear to be fed up with Islamabad. Contrary to Musharraf’s belligerent twaddle, the issue is not about three sardars, but actually about Islamabad’s insistence on ruling Balochistan as a colony. The Baloch are not anti-state but anti-Islamabad (and as a proud Pakistani, so am I)


Are tribal chiefs culprits in Balochistan?


Among the fallacies being spread about Balochistan is that the ongoing struggle in the province revolves around the interests of three tribal chiefs and that once they are disarmed or eliminated the problem will end.

These are Marri, Bugti and Mengal. Interestingly, none of the three has put up demands that would benefit his person or tribe alone. Sardar Akbar Bugti who is presently the most vocal among them sent proposals to the Parliament long ago, through his party’s representatives in the NA and Senate, aimed at solely securing the rights of the province. They have continued to gather dust there for the last two years.

It suits the government to present the Balochi people’s struggle for their rights as a challenge posed by a few tribal chiefs to the writ of the state. The present crisis in Balochistan was in fact provoked by the central government undertaking a series of mega projects, especially the Gwadar port, without determining the real needs of the people in consultation with their representatives. Sui gas had benefited only outsiders.

Gwadar was seen to be a similar project. The loot sale of the Balochi land in and around Gwadar, the prospect of large scale settlement by outsiders, the complete secrecy maintained about the details of the project and total control on it exercised by the center led to the perception among the vast majority of the people that they were being dispossessed of their land and resources and would soon be turned into virtual Red Indians. There was also a natural fear that with Gwadar turning into another Karachi in coming years, the outsiders would outvote the locals and seize the political control of the province through the electoral process.

Gwadar could have been made palatable if a massive attempt had been made prior to the announcement of the project to train the local population for jobs that were going to be created and the port was linked with the rest of Balochistan which is not the case at the present time. That this was not done makes the claim that the project would benefit the local population sound hollow. The government could have taken at least two measures needed to allay the apprehensions that the local population will be turned into aliens in their own land. It could have denied the outsiders the right to buy land and announce outsiders won’t be allowed to exercise the right of vote in the province. This is not unusual in federations. In India, to quote only one example, outsiders are not allowed to purchase land in sensitive states like Kashmir, Assam, or Himachal. In Assam, people from other Indian states cannot seek jobs when locals are avaialble or cast votes in state elections. That this was not done is partly because of the centrist mindset of the government which is unable to appreciate the ethnic sensitivities and because a powerful mafia wanted to mint money at the expense of national solidarity.

Those ruling Islamabad have always preferred to deal with a handful of Sardars rather than cater to the aspirations of the people of Balochistan. No government has ever been against the Sardari system, including the present one. The ruling alliance in fact has the most primitive representatives of the lot in its ranks. It demonises the three tribal chiefs simply because they defy the government. In case they were to agree to share in the loot of the province’s resources like the rest they would have been as welcome as others.

The operation in Balochistan has in fact been launched to divert attention from the demand for greater autonomy and the failure of the government to introduce the reforms suggested by the Shujaat parliamentary committee.

Why does the government hesitate from agreeing to greater autonomy which was promised while seeking the signatures of the representatives of smaller provinces on the 1973 constitution? Those in control of Islamabad want to keep the resources of the provinces at the disposal of the center to use them as they deem fit, doling out funds to the provinces as alms to the beggars. The struggle in Balochistan will continue irrespective of what happens to Bugti, Marri or Mengal chiefs as long as the centrist mindset alien to a federation persists in Islamabad.

Attempts to suppress popular demands for the province’s rights within an autonomous federation will continue to be challenged. The present crisis did not start from Dera Bugti or Marri area but from Makran where the hold of the chiefs and of the tribal bonds is the weakest. Among the most vocal proponents of the province’s rights are members of the nascent middle class like Senator Sanaullah Baloch and former MNA and Senator Abdul Hayee Baloch.

This is corroborated by independent observers also. For instance, Carnegie Endowment for Peace report “Pakistan, a Resurgence of Balochi Nationalism” released in January this year maintains, “Movement leaders have made it known that they would be satisfied with a generous version of autonomy. In the absence of their winning autonomy, however the medium and long term consequences of the struggle for independence cannot be predicted today. The outbreak of another civil war in Balochistan between the nationalists and the Pakistan army cannot be ruled out if the demands of the Baloch are not met.”

The fact that four months after the so called limited operation was initiated in Balochistan there is still no peace in the province indicates that an aggressive policy based on arrogance and contempt can only fuel anger and distrust. It is time Islamabad takes recourse to talks which is the only way to resolve the standoff. National solidarity must not be sacrificed to satisfy any individual’s ego.

E-mail queries and comments to: azizuddin@nation.com.pk

Monday, March 13, 2006

Who Killed Them?

Last Friday morning a tractor trailer carrying a wedding party hit an anti-tank mine in north-eastern Balochistan. In the resulting explosion thirty people - mostly women and children of the Masori clan of the Bugti tribe - died. The area, as we know, is presently engulfed in a raging armed conflict between the Pakistan military and Baloch insurgents.

The death of these women and children has opened up a brand new front - this time in the press - between the two warring sides.

Earlier reports from Islamabad kept alluding to the incident having taken place in the ‘Bekar area of Dera Bugti district’. Later these reports proved to be incorrect, but that didn’t stop the military regime from swiftly laying the blame for the landmine deaths on the Bugti tribesmen.

As Dawn reported on Saturday:
ISLAMABAD, March 10: Security personnel have arrested several tribesmen for their alleged involvement in laying mines in strife-hit areas of Balochistan, a senior official of the interior ministry told Dawn on Friday.

The official said that all those detained were members of the Bugti tribe. Now that outlaws’ camps have been dismantled by security forces and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti has fled the area, he said, “followers of the tribal chieftain” were planting landmines to further their anti-state agenda.

But subsequent reports indicate that the incident in fact took place outside the Bugti tribal zone altogether.

Balochistan government officials later revealed to the
press that the incident had actually taken place in the Rakhni area. This fact was later confirmed in Sunday’s Dawn by the pro-regime Sardar of the Khetran tribe, Sardar Abdur Rehman Khetran, who said that the ‘incident had occurred in the Khetran area in Barkhan district.

According to maps Rakhni lies midway between the town of Barkhan and the hill station of Fort Munro. Apparently the area is inhabited by the Baloch tribe of Khetran, so the Khetran sardar ought to know what he was talking about.

So it did not come as a surprise to learn that the Bugtis were dismissive of Islamabad’s claims. The first Bugti reply came in Sunday’s
Dawn :

ISLAMABAD March 11: Jamhoori Watan Party leader Shahid Bugti…dismissed as baseless the government’s claims that Friday’s landmine blast had occurred in Dera Bugti area or it had anything to do with the Bugti tribe’s struggle for its inalienable rights.

Talking to newsmen at Parliament House, senator-elect Bugti condemned the landmine explosion in which 28 people were killed, contradicting the government’s allegations against his tribe.

He said the incident had occurred in Barkhan district some 140km from Dera Bugti.

Then yesterday Akbar Bugti himself told Dawn:

QUETTA, March 12: Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti has alleged that security forces have planted landmines from Pakeel to Barkhan in areas controlled by them.

Talking to newsmen by satellite phone on Sunday, the Baloch leader expressed deep concern over the death of innocent Bugti people in a landmine explosion in the Kharcha area of Barkhan, saying the blast had taken place in an area controlled by security forces.

What does one make of these conflicting statements? And whose mines really did killed the innocents of the wedding party?

Apparently over the past few months the military has also been busy laying mines to encircle the Marri and Bugti tribal areas in an effort to restrict the movements of the marauding insurgents.

As this mine exploded at a distance of some 140 km from the heartland of the Bugtis – whom the Establishment has decided to blame for the explosion – it is more than likely that this particular landmine was not laid by the Baloch but by the security forces themselves.

Would Islamabad own up if one of its landmines killed a large number of innocent civilians? I leave it to the reader to answer this question for himself.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Let Them Eat Birkins

Some years ago your Blogger found himself visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg. Like any other visitor to these Russian cites, he soon found himself confronted by the stupendous riches and splendour of the Romanoff dynasty of Tsars. The displayed might and wealth of the Russian royals, as visible in the Kremlin and the Winter Palace (and its adjoining Hermitage), if simply taken at face value would easily demote the British royal house of Windsor – despite its acquired imperial accoutrements, such as the Kohinoor diamond - to the rank of some minor European nobility in comparison.

History clearly tells us, that while the Russian tsar luxuriated in mindboggling wealth, tens of millions of his peasant subjects – the serfs – lived in wretchedly impoverished conditions. Standing outside the fabulous Winter Palace, your Blogger could easily comprehend the grim reality that lay behind the 1917 Russian revolution. It dawned upon him that had he been a famished Russian serf, he would have been just as keen to put the Tsar to death.

Such an immense disparity in wealth, to a modern liberal mind, represents economic criminality at its wickedest.

Sad to say that 21st Century Pakistan, while not quite Tsarist Russia, is showing the same shameful signs of great economic disparity. While millions of Pakistanis remain below the absolute poverty line, some members of the wealthy elite have begun to flaunt their wealth with gratuitous vulgarity.

To bring to light this blameworthy behaviour, I’ll restrict myself to giving just one example.

There is a restaurant in Karachi apparently well-known for the high quality of its cuisine. Many people go there for the excellence of its food, but not all. There is a growing set of jaded Seth housewives who visit this eating establishment merely to display their handbags.

Sounds weird doesn’t it? But I kid you not.

These ladies , I am told, live a life engrossed in reading vacuous magazines (such as ‘Hello!’ and ‘Tattler’), watching mindless US Television shows (‘Sex in the City’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’), and are obsessed with the latest diet fads so they can look their glamorous best for the next high profile ball. Even if they lack dress sense, clothes have to be bought in Bond Street or Knightsbridge, shoes from Italian fashion houses and, yes - the ultimate – a handbag or two from Hermes.

The Parisian fashion house of Hermes is known, among other ridiculously expensive things, for its much hyped bag, the ‘Birkin’ – named after the 1960s French icon, the UK model, actor and singer Jane Birkin.
Fashion legend has it that in 1984 Jane Birkin was spotted by the chairman of Hermes struggling with an overfilled bag on a Concorde flight. Recognising her, he offered to improve upon the bag’s design. This led to the launch of ‘Birkin’ bag. The basic model of the bag costs USD 6,ooo and its fancier crocodile-skin versions, according to UK’s The Observer, fetch USD $80,000.

Now back to Karachi, Pakistan. As Ayesha Haq reported in the Herald magazine a few months ago, we have a bunch of housewives married to rich Sethia husbands, who try and one-up each other by exhibiting their Birkin bags during lunch. They are said to line their bags on the table for display, so even passing female diners can take note of these costly accessories.

Outside this restaurant one usually comes across poor beggar children trying to palm off small bouquet of flowers for Rs. 20. Less than half-mile from the restaurant lies Neelum Colony where some of the impoverished classes live. For these people the cheapest ‘Birkin’ bag (costing around Rs. 400,000) could feed and clothe a small family for ten years.

To my mind, each time some privileged and rather brainless woman flashes a ‘Birkin’ bag in Pakistan, it is tantamount to relegating her less fortunate countrymen to a class of sub-humanity – they and their basic requirements don’t apparently matter to her.

While on this topic of disparity of wealth, mention ought to be made of Musharraf and
his penchant for Armani suits. An average Armani suit is worth about USD 2,500 (Rs. 150,000). Watching our Head Chowkidar’s displays of sartorial splendour on television I imagine he owns, at the very minimum, ten of these suits. That would come to Rs. 1.5 million worth of these suits. I wonder how many kids could be educated for this sum of money?

At the time of the French Revolution the sans-culottes would have said, ‘Off with their heads’.

What should we say?

Friday, March 10, 2006

A ‘beleaguered’ and ‘isolated’ Musharraf ?

The latest Economist says that George Bush’s visit Pakistan not only did little to help a ‘beleaguered’ and ‘isolated’ Musharraf but officials in Pakistan have openly admitted that the public fallout of the visit has been “extremely negative” for the regime.


The Economist (print edition Mar 9th 2006)


George Bush comes and goes. And a nation goes into a sulk

AFTER George Bush's “historic” visit to India, his brief stop in Pakistan on March 3rd-4th was bound to be an anticlimax. But it turned out worse than that. It left Pakistan's large anti-American lobby with plenty of grist to mill into accusations of hypocrisy, fickleness and untrustworthiness. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, champion of the alliance with the United States, and a man Mr Bush calls “my buddy”, found himself looking more beleaguered than ever.

Mr Bush made history in India by rewriting the global rules governing nuclear power and weapons to make an exception for his hosts. Pakistan, which, like India, exploded nuclear bombs in 1998 and has never joined the global non-proliferation regime, is receiving no such favour. Of course, its record on proliferation is so nefarious that this was never on the cards. But there could be no starker example of the higher priority America now attaches to its relations with India.

Pakistani officials argue that, in substance, Mr Bush's visit brought them almost all that had been planned for it. The only failure was in not signing an intended “Bilateral Investment Treaty”, because of some outstanding differences. (So, wags said, India got a great nuclear deal; Pakistan not even a little BIT.)

However, even Tasnim Aslam, who speaks for Pakistan's foreign ministry, concedes that public perception of the visit was “extremely negative”. There was already a long list of popular grievances with America: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and an American air-strike in January inside Pakistan's territory, aimed at alleged terrorists, but also killing civilians. Against this background, big popular demonstrations last month over the publication in Europe of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, whipped up by Pakistan's Islamist parties, were transformed into alarming protests against General Musharraf and America.

In Islamabad, Mr Bush said he had come to see if General Musharraf was as committed as before to bringing “terrorists to justice”. “And he is,” he concluded. Pakistan says it has 80,000 soldiers deployed across the remote, rugged and lawless Afghan border region, where many believe Osama bin Laden to be hiding. But this week has seen a bitter row with the Afghan government. It complained that Pakistan was not doing enough to stop militants from mounting cross-border attacks. General Musharraf furiously made exactly the same accusation in reverse.

So Mr Bush's visit, instead of celebrating Pakistan's staunch friendship and military help, highlighted its ambiguous role in the “war against terrorism”. Just before Mr Bush arrived, a bomb attack on the American consulate in Karachi killed four people. During the president's stay, Pakistan's army was fighting one of its biggest battles yet, in which more than 140 people were killed, against pro-Taliban fighters in the tribal area of North Waziristan, next to Afghanistan.

For America, which says it wants to spread democracy, it is an embarrassment that General Musharraf remains army chief, and has only ever won rigged elections and referendums. So this week the Americans talked about the importance of free and fair elections being held when they are due, in 2007. But the leaders of the two main secular opposition parties remain in exile. The opposition, including even the Islamist parties, say they have had enough of General Musharraf, and are campaigning for a caretaker government to oversee proper elections.

The general himself is also facing a dangerous insurgency in Baluchistan, one of Pakistan's four provinces, and looks rather isolated. Mr Bush, however, offered little help. He made it clear that he would not do much to push India to make concessions on the general's great foreign-policy endeavour: the search for a just settlement of the dispute over Kashmir. From Pakistan's perspective, the peace process with India already looks as though it has stalled. If, as seems increasingly likely, a Pakistan-based group is blamed for the bombings in Varanasi this week (see article), it may now go into reverse

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The State of Musharraf's Khaki Republic

Our head Chowkidar’s benefactor’s had this to say about the state of the human condition in our lovely land.


Here are some pertinent excerpts from:

The US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Pakistan for 2005
(Released on March 8, 2006)

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Security forces extrajudicially killed individuals associated with criminal and political groups in staged encounters and during abuse in custody. Human rights monitors reported 189 instances of encounter killings.
Police said that many of these deaths occurred when suspects attempted to escape, resisted arrest, or committed suicide; however, family members and the press said that many of these deaths were staged.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, police and security forces held prisoners incommunicado and refused to provide information on their whereabouts, particularly in terrorism and national security cases.

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, security forces tortured and abused persons. Under provisions of the Anti-Terrorist Act, coerced confessions are admissible in special courts, although police did not used this provision to obtain convictions.
Security force personnel continued to torture persons in custody throughout the country. Human rights organizations reported that methods included beating; burning with cigarettes, whipping the soles of the feet, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, hanging upside down, and forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters. Security force personnel reportedly raped women and children during interrogations.

Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained subject to executive branch influence at all levels. Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent religious and political figures. The politicized nature of judicial promotions enhanced the government's control over the court system. Unfulfilled judgeships and inefficient court procedures resulted in severe backlogs at both trial and appellate levels. In nonpolitical cases, the high courts and Supreme Court were generally considered credible.

Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law requires court-issued search warrants for property but not persons, in most cases; however, police routinely ignored this requirement and at times stole items during searches. Police were seldom punished for illegal entry. In cases being pursued under the Anti-Terrorist Act, security forces were allowed to search and seize property related to the case without a warrant.

The government maintained several domestic intelligence services that monitored politicians, political activists, suspected terrorists, and suspected foreign intelligence agents. Despite a supreme court order, credible reports indicated that the authorities routinely used wiretaps and intercepted and opened mail without the requisite court approval.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and citizens generally were free to discuss public issues; however, journalists were intimidated and others practiced self-censorship.

There were numerous English and Urdu daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. All were independent. The Ministry of Information controls and manages the country's primary wire service, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), which is the official carrier of government and international news to the local media. The few small privately owned wire services practiced self-censorship.

The government arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists during the year. For example, on July 18, military police detained European documentary filmmakers Leon Flamholc, David Flamholc, and Tahir Shah in Peshawar on charges of filming military installations. On August 3, following questioning, Pakistani officials deported all three, who denied filming any military installations and claimed that the military treated them inhumanely during their confinement, denying them contact with their embassies and families. On July 24, police detained Rashid Channa, a senior reporter with the Star in Karachi, ostensibly on the orders of the Sindh chief minister and held him for more than 12 hours. Channa had written several stories critical of the chief minister and his cabinet.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government; however, this right was restricted in practice. President Musharraf has controlled the government since 1999 and dominated the PML federal coalition government.

Elections and Political Participation
Domestic and international observers found the 2002 national assembly elections, the most recent national elections, and the August local elections deeply flawed.

Government Corruption and Transparency
Corruption among executive and legislative branch officials remained a problem during the year, and public perception of corruption was widespread. The National Accountability Ordinance prohibits those convicted of corruption by the NAB from holding political office for 10 years (see section 1.d.). The NAB disproportionately targeted opposition politicians for prosecution and did not prosecute members of the military.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
President Musharraf criticized domestic women's rights organizations during the year. He discouraged their efforts to publicize rape and sexual abuse cases with the international community, claiming that such efforts damaged the country's international image.

Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; however, in practice there was significant discrimination based on these factors.

Although rape was widespread, prosecutions were rare. It is estimated that rape victims reported less than one-third of rape cases to the police. Police were at times implicated in the crime.
Honor killings continued to be a problem, with women as the principal victims. Local human rights organizations documented 1,211 cases during the year, and many more likely went unreported

The estimated 100 thousand Bohra Muslims practiced female genital mutilation (FGM).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hijacking Foreign Heroes

With the ongoing Karzai-Musharraf tiff, it is amusing to note that a fortnight ago an official complaint was sent by the Afghan Information Minister to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry about stealing the names of Afghan heroes for our strategic defence purposes.

According to the Daily Times
Makhdom Raheen, the Afghan information minister… [said] “We asked them not to use the names of great elders of Afghanistan on weapons of mass destruction or other war equipment”.
The Afghan minister was referring to the fact that in recent years the Pakistan military has named its three ballistic missiles after prominent Muslim rulers who invaded the Indian subcontinent from Afghanistan between the 11th and 18th centuries-
Ghaznavi, Ghauri and Abdali.

The next day Tasneem Aslam, Pakistan's foreign office spokeswoman told the
BBC that ‘the two countries shared heroes as part of their common history and culture’ and ‘naming missiles after them was not controversial’.

So, I reckon it’s time to look at these ‘shared heroes’.

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (998 – 1030)
Son of a Turkish slave is widely known for two events

  • His 17 invasions of India
    With the exception of Punjab, which Mahmud needed as his "forward operating base" for his Indian expeditions, he made no attempt to rule any of his conquests. His intent was economic and political.
A large number of Hindus lived in Ghazni, and they enjoyed religious freedom. Not only did he have many Hindu soldiers and officers in his army, one of his leading commanders was Tilak, a Hindu.

  • His obsessive love for a male slave
    Mahmud placed his beloved slave
    Ayaz upon the throne of Lahore, but their mutual passion gained them a place among the pantheon of great lovers in Persian literature (including the celebrated poet Sa'di).

Sultan Mahmud was born and died in Ghazni, which still exists as a city in modern Afghanistan.

Muhammad Ghauri- (1162 - 1206)

He was the brother of the Sultan of Ghor who appointed him as the governor of Ghazni from 1173 to 1206.

Muhammad attacked the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent many times. In the First Battle of Taraori in 1191 Prithvi Raj Chauhan captured Muhammad, who sued for his life. Prithviraj allowed him to go despite opposition from his generals. The following year Muhammad returned and defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan at the Second Battle of Taraori.

Within a few years Muhammad controlled northern Rajasthan and most of what is now called Uttar Pradesh. He was killed by members of the Khokar tribe near Jhelum River in 1206.

Ahmad Shah Abdali (1773–1724)
Born in Herat, Ahmad Shah was the son of the hereditary chief of the Abdali tribe. In 1747 Ahmad Shah changed his own name to Ahmad Shah Durrani (or 'Durr-i-Durran' means the 'pearl of pearls' in Persian) when he became the king of Afghanistan and founded the Durrani Empire.

Ahmad Shah and his sons were the first Pashtun rulers of Afghanistan, from the Sadozai line of the Abdali or Durrani group of clans. It was under the leadership of Ahmad Shah that the nation of Afghanistan began to take shape following centuries of fragmentation and exploitation.

Between 1747-67 Abdali invaded India 8 times. In 1756 he stripped and looted every corner of Delhi and took the treasures of the Mughul Empire. In 1757, he attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar once again and filled its sarovar (pond) with the blood of slaughtered cows which prompted the Maratha chiefs to declare holy waragainst him. In 1758 the Marathas wrested Punjab, but in 1761 they were routed by Abdali at Panipat. However the Sikhs rose again, and drove Abdali out of Punjab. He died at Murghah, in Afghanistan in 1773, leaving to his son Timur the new kingdom of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Shah and his sons were the first Pashtun rulers of Afghanistan, from the Sadozai line of the Abdali or Durrani group of clans. It was under the leadership of Ahmad Shah that the nation of Afghanistan began to take shape following centuries of fragmentation and exploitation.


The one thing that becomes most apparent is that all three of them - Ghaznavi, Ghauri and Abdali - were not only born in modern geographical Afghanistan, but all three of them were buried there. The 'claimed exception' is said to be Ghauri – this Afghan was killed by native Punjabis (Khokars) who wanted to get rid of the foreign invader from Afghanistan.

Pakistan foreign office’s Tasneem Aslam rather glibly had this to say:

“The grave of one of the conquerors, Ghauri, was in Pakistan's Punjab province and so to say they were solely Afghan heroes was not correct”.

What a load of bunkum. Someone should tell this woman to get her historical facts right.

While it has been argued by these ‘patriotic’ quarters that the tomb near the village of Sonara in Jehlum contains the remains of Muhammad Ghauri, this claim is of dubious authenticity. Historically slain kings and other rulers are never buried near the site where they met their deaths; their remains are always laid to rest in their native burial grounds. If there is any connection between Ghauri and the tomb at Sonara, then it is probable that the site is likely to contain his viscera, which would have been removed from his body to retard purification for its final journey home to Ghor, Afghanistan, where his tomb is said to exist.

So what is the connection between these Afghan invaders and geographical Pakistan? Zilch, really! Unless the Mahmud Ghaznavi-appointed homosexual slave ruler of Punjab or the killing of Muhammad Ghauri by Punjabi Khokars can be called legitimate historical linkages.

Modern geographical Pakistan contained Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis and Baloch. Ghaznavi and Ghauri were of Turkic blood who were settled in geographical Afghanistan. Abdali, an Afghan Pakhtun, is the acknowledged founder of Afghanistan.


Commenting on the absurdity of it all the UK Telegraph noted:

the [Afghan] request is likely to fall on deaf ears as Pakistan, a young country where heroes are scarce, has made [these] Islamic warriors …its own.

Hang on we do have our own heroes, don’t we? After much research I have prepared a list.

According one source Punjab does have a list of warrior heroes who fought against foreign invaders to their land, they include:

  • Poros – who fought heroically against Alexander
  • Shaikha Ghakkar – who fought bravely against Taimur
  • Dulla Bhatti of Pindi Bhattian – who valiantly held out against Akbar for ten years.
  • Dhilloo and Saidoo Gondal - who fought bravely against the invader Nadir Shah
  • Mirza Qalandar (Gujrat) – who fought bravely against the invader Nadir Shah
  • Khoja Yaqub (Rav) – who fought bravely against the invader Nadir Shah
  • Maharajah Ranjit Singh of Lahore – who kept the British Raj out of Punjab

Sindh also has its share of warrior heroes who fought against foreign invasions of Sindh, they include:

  • Raja Dehar – who bravely resisted the Arab invasion under Muhammad bin Qasim
  • Jam Dodo Soomro – died fighting against the 14th Century invasion from Delhi by Allauddin Khilji
  • Jam Darya Khan - died fighting against the 16th Century invasion by the Turkic Arghuns
  • Mir Sher Muhammad Talpur – who died defending Sindh against the British.
  • Hoshu Muhammad (Shaheed) – who died defending Sindh against the British.

And the Pukhtun heroes of the NWFP:

  • Pir Bayazid Rokhan – A 16th Century Waziri who revolted against the Mughal invaders
  • Khushhal Khan – The poet warrior who rose against Aurangzeb
  • Abdul Ghaffar Khan – 20th Century nationalist, the only one from geographical Pakistan who led a bitter struggle against the British Raj

Lastly the unusual Heroes of the Baloch

  • Mir Chakar Rind – who fought Goharam’s Lashari Baloch for 30 years
  • Mir Goharam Lashari – who fought Chakar’s Rind Baloch for 30 years
  • Nawab Nauroz Khan Zehri – the 80 year-old who defied Ayub Khan’s One Unit
  • …and now perhaps Akbar Bugti – yet another 80 year-old Baloch currently defying Musharraf’s diktat.

As the names Ghaznavi, Ghauri and Abdali clearly belong to Afghanistan, your Blogger has prepared an idiosyncratic - after all that is what this Blog is all about – list of heroes from geographical Pakistan.

As the Baloch heroes will probably not suit the establishment's tastes, I have picked replacement names from the remaining three provinces:

  • The brave King Porus from the Punjab
  • The indomitable Raja Dehar from Sindh
  • The courageous Pir Rokhan from the NWFP

And if the establishment regards these names as not full of Islamic symbolism, then, as we are prone to borrowing other countries heroes, we might as well get some solid Muslim ones. So here is my idiosyncratic list number two:

  • Salahuddin Ayubi – the Kurd warrior who defeated the crusaders and taught them chivalry
  • Tipu Sultan – one of the very few sub-continental Muslims leaders who fought the British invaders to the death.
  • Muhammad Ali – the legendary black pugilist who defied US injustice and became the greatest sporting ‘warrior’ of the 20th Century.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Sticky Wicket for Musharraf?

For the past couple of days I have been scratching my head trying to work out what was achieved by Bush’s visit to Pakistan.

Admittedly, the main purpose of his South Asian trip was to meet with India’s leadership and envelop them in a warm friendly embrace. As we all know, India, after decades of self-inflicted a socialist/bureaucratic slumber, is heading to become a global economic powerhouse. Washington recognizes this reality and wants to harness India growing dynamism to US’s economic advantage - as a partner rather than a potential rival. Besides the US also wants to use India as a counterweight to China’s economic and military muscle in Asia.

The modern world inexorably revolves around international trade and strategic resources – such as oil. With the entry of China and India as major players, the international economic scenario is changing and Pakistan has, unfortunately, no role to play in it.

As we know, since 9/11, Pakistan’s role has been largely relegated to acting as a US appointed ‘Thanedar’ against the international threat of radical Islam. But now there appears to be growing suspicion that Washington might be having a rethink about this.

A Pakistani journalist,
Amir Mir, had this to say:
[W]ith the Taliban remnants nowhere near defeated in Afghanistan and the Osama-led al-Qaeda still unbroken (which were the two major reasons that the US solicited Pakistan's assistance in the first place), Washington is looking at its allies in Islamabad in a new light: Musharraf may be more the problem than the solution.
Some well-connected diplomatic circles in Islamabad are of the view that the Bush administration is almost convinced now that a weaker Pakistani army is as necessary now as a powerful one was when Islamabad opted for a U-turn on its support for the Taliban soon after September 11, 2001. They insist that this realization has taken root over the past few months and has set alarm bells ringing among the military leadership of Pakistan.
As for the Bush visit, whatever spin Islamabad may wish to put on it, the reality is that Musharraf emerged empty-handed – no mention of the much-hoped for trade treaty or any other benefit - from his meeting with the US President. To make matters worse, the US President indirectly rebuked Musharraf by publicly urging him to hold ‘open and honest elections’ in 2007 .

At last Saturday’s joint press conference Bush was his smug and cocky self, while Musharraf appeared tentative and a shade uncomfortable. At the conference Bush rather revealingly stated (
Daily Times):

The elections scheduled for 2007 are a great opportunity for Pakistan. The President understands these elections need to be open and honest. America will continue to working — working with Pakistan to lay the foundations of democracy.
Your Blogger sees two messages being conveyed here
1. Contrary to Musharraf’s claims about democracy, it was an implied US admission of the fact that previous elections in Pakistan have neither been ‘open’ nor have they been ‘honest’. Bush was now making it clear that the US expects the 2007 elections to be clean and above board.
2. That the US ‘will continue working’ with Musharraf up and until the 2007 elections but not beyond.

And, as if to further emphasize, Bush added:

[In] the long run [Musharraf] understands that extremism can be defeated by freedom and democracy and prosperity and better education. And we spent a lot of time strategizing on that subject today.
‘A lot of time’ spent on ‘strategizing’ on democracy? No wonder Musharraf looked to be strangely out of sorts that day.

Obviously Musharraf could not take his frustrations out on Bush, so yesterday he picked a fight with a weaker rival – Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. Yesterday a grim-looking Musharraf lashed out at the Afghan president, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Karzai is "totally oblivious of what is happening in his own country."

An abridged version of the interview appears on
CNN’s website:

Musharraf was furious over an Associated Press report that Karzai had given Pakistan intelligence suggesting that former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his associates are hiding in Pakistan.
The report also said Afghanistan gave Pakistan information about locations of alleged terrorist training camps along the border between the two nations.
"I am really surprised and shocked why they have disclosed this to the media," Musharraf told CNN.
"We've already gone through it, this list. Two-thirds of it is months old, and it is outdated, and there is nothing," he said. "What there was, the telephone numbers that they are talking of, two-thirds of them are dead numbers, and even the CIA knows about it, because we are sharing all this information with them.
"The location that they are talking of Mullah Omar is nonsense. There's nobody there."
He also accused Karzai of "waiting for a presidential visit to hand me over this list" -- an apparent reference to President Bush's visit to both nations this past week.
"Is that the way intelligence functions? I am totally disappointed with their intelligence, and I feel there is a very, very deliberate attempt to malign Pakistan by some agents, and President Karzai is totally oblivious of what is happening in his own country."
Musharraf accused Karzai personally of releasing the information publicly, saying he "has raised this accusation against Pakistan."
He added, "There is no need of releasing such sensitive information to the press. And he did that. His government people did that, and [that is the reason for] the response, the harsh response that I am now giving against that."
I imagine what really stung Musharraf was the fact that Karzai would not have embarked on such a course of action without US approval or complicity. Rather than unleash his fury at the mighty Americans, Karzai obviously presented a less threatening target to Musharraf.

While officials in Islamabad, in private, routinely deride Karzai as an ‘ex-restauranter’, they conveniently overlook some basic truths, such as Karzai inherited his father’s role as the chief of the Afghan Popalzai tribe and as a leader of an Afghan political faction. In fact Hamid Karzai has on occasion displayed individual valour by personally leading armed resistance in the Kandahar area.

As far as the derisive ‘ex-restauranter’ taunt is concerned, the truth is that thanks to the Soviet invasion for many years the Karzais were refugees in Pakistan. In dire times people have to survive. So if Hamid Karzai supported himself and his family by running a restaurant, what of it? Should he have swept streets instead?

The other charge hurled against Karzai is that he would not have been elected President if he had not been supported by the mighty US. This is certainly true. On the other hand could Musharraf have ever called himself ‘President’ without the backing of the powerful Pakistan army? The truth to be told: neither of them can get elected if free elections were held in the two countries.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Kafka is Alive and Well in Pakistan

As of this morning some Pakistani bloggers (such as me) face a peculiar new reality. Apparently the Head Chowkidar and his minions, no doubt anxious and jumpy about increasing domestic protests, have decided to de-link Pakistan from a number of websites. Among these newly banned sites is one Blogspot.Com, which happens to the home of this blog.

So Readers, I now find myself in a rather Kafkaesque situation. While I can write my blog, once I publish it on the web I am unable (as I live in Pakistan) to access it. I do not know how long this ridiculous situation will last

As the visiting global village idiot George W. Bush, currently in Islamabad, insists that democracy and free speech is thriving in Pakistan, Musharraf will make certain that these kinds of weirdnesses will continue for some time to come.

So, if you do not see further regular updates then it is goodbye from me - for a while at least. In that event I would welcome any suggestions/comments from readers on how to overcome the hurdle.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bush in Pakistan

While Musharraf appears to be thrilled by the idea of George W. Bush visiting Pakistan and extolling his friendship with our Head Chowkidar, world attention is temporarily focused on Pakistan, much of it not to Musharraf’s advantage.

The Washington Post in a scathing anti-Musharraf editorial titled ‘A Message for Gen. Musharraf has this to say:

Gen. Musharraf clearly hopes to prolong his military regime indefinitely, while continuing to enjoy heavy political and economic support from an American president who has dedicated his administration to advancing democracy in the Muslim world… It's time for the United States to stop banking on this unreliable general and start planning for the democratic government that should succeed him.
An aggressive op-ed
The Japan Times opines:
If Bush really cares about Pakistan's future as a viable, modern nation-state, he should work to break its military's viselike grip on power. For a start, that means persuading Musharraf to give up his military office and hold free and fair elections.
And then there is the New York Times editorial -
Pointless Trip to Pakistan - criticizing Bush for cozying up to Musharraf:
Clearly, this is the perfect time for the American president to do some nurturing. Too bad the nurturing that seems to interest Mr. Bush is with Pakistan's military dictator, President Pervez Musharraf. General Musharraf has yet to permit the democratic elections he has repeatedly promised since his coup more than six years ago, but the Bush administration, which says it wants democracy in the Muslim world, has put little pressure on him for reform.

Then the UK Times didn’t spare him either.

[T]he real target of the demonstrations that have been going on, almost continually, for the past month is not the US President or even the publication of the notorious Danish cartoons; it is President Musharraf himself. Five years after he seized power in a bloodless coup with the declared intention to clean up corruption and punish venal politicians, the general is meeting increasing opposition.

In Baluchistan, a province rich in oil and gas, anger at the perceived failure to benefit from the export wealth has sparked a rebellion that is becoming more organised. A heavy-handed army attempt to crush the dissident tribesmen has only won them more support; President Musharraf’s openly voiced exasperation and threats have made a peaceful outcome more distant. In Sindh, the proposed construction of a large dam has stirred suspicion that neighbouring Punjabis are trying to steal “their” water. And in the tribal provinces bordering Afghanistan there is simmering resentment at the continuing army operations against the tribal kinsmen of the Afghan Taleban.

General Musharraf might, perhaps, have been able to weather these strains better had he not already antagonised the established political class, which he openly despises and to whom he appears to be in no hurry to return power. He has made no attempt to strike strategic alliances with either Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party or with Nawaz Sharif, whom he deposed. He has not shared political power with others, has made no clear provision for the elections due next year and has designated no deputy who might take over from him.

This is a flawed strategy…The US President should use his brief visit to nudge his host into the first steps back to democracy. The general promised to hold power only as long as it took to cleanse the body politic. Five years is a long time to wait.

There are other stories – just from their headings one can work out that they are not particularly complimentary towards our Chowkidar sahib. Here are a couple of samples : Associated Press’s

Pakistan Proves an Awkward Ally to US ; San Francisco Chronicle’s Bush's Pakistan problem

The Boston newspaper Christian Science Monitor has a former US Diplomat proposing an
itinerary for action in Pakistan for her much disliked president.

Bush's visit will provide him the opportunity to respond to these criticisms, especially on the democracy front. He has already taken the first step by stating in his predeparture speech to the Asia Society that the national elections scheduled for next year "will be an important test of Pakistan's commitment to democratic reform."

Those words in support of democracy in Pakistan should be reinforced by his actions during his visit. We recommend these steps:

Address the Pakistani parliament.

…This is the most meaningful tool we have to encourage an eventual return to real democracy. Bush should take time to meet with leaders of the political opposition, including the Islamist party coalition, the MMA, and secular parties.

Meet the press.

Although there are government attempts to manipulate and place certain restrictions on Pakistan's press...This would argue for a joint press conference, or better yet, for a meeting between the president and a small group of Pakistani editors including those from the major local language press.

Engage civil society.

Pakistan's civil society needs visibility and support if it is to play its role in laying the groundwork for a more democratic society... Bush should meet with a group of activists and philanthropists who have a track record of practical action.

Encourage Pakistani women's organizations.

Even more important than general purpose civil society organizations is US support for Pakistani women, and women's groups; this should be a central feature of the meeting with civil society. The government was embarrassed by the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai, but its initial attempt to limit her visibility and travel unfortunately compounded the horror of the initial assault. Bush needs to meet with those individuals who have made a real contribution to improving the lives of Pakistan's poorest and most vulnerable women.

Drop by a school with Musharraf.

Musharraf, like Bush, sees himself as an "education president" and education is one of the most central issues determining Pakistan's future... Bush should announce a doubling in the $66 million per year the US is currently providing Pakistan in assistance in the education sector.


Bush will of course not bother pondering over any of this sensible but largely gratuitous advice. He is , of course, an ‘action-orientated warrior president’, one who ducked serving his own country during the Viet Nam war; instead opting to indulge in a lengthy period of cocaine and alcohol-sodden revelry.

According to BBC there are some 800 US security personnel in Pakistan protecting their President – who is, by and large, an unwelcome visitor. I wonder where in the world – with the possible exception of Australia – would any of the general public actually be pleased with getting a visit from George W. Bush?