Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cameron confronts ‘shameful’ colonial crime in India

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site of a colonial-era massacre in India on Wednesday, describing the episode as "deeply shameful" while stopping short of a public apology. On the last leg of a three-day trip aimed at forging deeper economic ties, Cameron took the bold decision to visit the city of Amritsar and tackle an enduring scar of British rule over the subcontinent, which ended in 1947. Dressed in a dark suit and bowing his head, he laid a wreath at the memorial to the victims at Jallianwala Bagh where British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed protesters in 1919. In a message in the visitors' book, he wrote: "This was a deeply shameful event in British history and one that Winston Churchill rightly declared at the time as 'monstrous'. "We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world." He later defended his decision not to say sorry, explaining that it happened 40 years before he was born and "I don't think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologise for". "I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened," The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying. The number of casualties at the Jallianwala Bagh garden is unclear, with colonial-era records showing about 400 deaths while Indian figures put the number killed at closer to 1,000. S.K. Mukherjee, the secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial trust, spent half an hour guiding the British leader around the site, showing him a well into which 120 people jumped to their deaths as well as bullet holes in the walls. Mukherjee said Cameron had struggled for words but had told him he was "regretful and this should not happen ever again" as he left the memorial which has 20,000 visitors a day. The incident saw soldiers under General Reginald Dyer's command open fire on men, women and children in the enclosed area in one of the most infamous episodes of Britain's colonial rule that helped spur the independence movement. But the move to visit the site is seen as a gamble by Cameron, who is travelling with British-Indian parliamentarians, and could lead to calls for similar treatment from other former colonies or even other victims in India. It immediately invited a debate about why Cameron was opening up wounds from the past -- and was stopping short of saying sorry -- during a visit designed to stress the future of Indo-British ties. Cameron said Monday in Mumbai that he wanted Britain to be India's "partner of choice", stressing their shared history, democratic values and the 1.5 million Britons of Indian origin as a foundation for a deeper alliance. "Writing a note in the visitors' diary is a half-hearted approach. He should have met us to say sorry," Bhusan Behl, who heads a trust for the families of Jallianwala Bagh victims, told AFP. He has campaigned for decades on behalf of his grandfather who was killed in the shooting, which was immortalised in Richard Attenborough's film "Gandhi" and features in Salman Rushdie's epic book "Midnight's Children". Cameron is the first serving British prime minister to visit the site, diplomatic sources said, but not the first senior British public figure. In 1997 the Queen laid a wreath at a site during a tour of India. But her gaffe-prone husband Prince Philip stole the headlines by reportedly saying that the Indian estimates for the death count were "vastly exaggerated". Daljit Kaur, a 29-year-old British citizen of Indian origin, praised Cameron, who has visited India twice and made building an alliance with New Delhi a foreign policy priority since his election in 2010.

Bangladesh: '' The Language Martyrs' Day ''

A little more than six decades ago today, we raised our fists demanding Bangla's rightful place in the then Pakistan. We were arrayed against a powerful state machinery hell-bent on suppressing our struggle to defend our mother tongue against vicious onslaughts on it. Some of our young people took up the cause from where it was left off from 1948 to early 1952, when their seniors had powerfully articulated an opposition to the imposition of Urdu solely as state language. But for the ultimate sacrifice of Salam, Barkat, Jabbar and others who laid down their lives, the language movement wouldn't have gathered the momentum it did. As we pay homage to our first martyrs, we also recall the contributions of the other heroes in strengthening the movement for establishing our cultural identity. In fact, voicing a right to defend our language was at the heart of our struggle for establishing a distinct cultural identity against the forces of linguistic subjugation and communalism. The rest is history replete with one success after another: Cultural emancipation leading to emergence of independent Bangladesh through processes of education movement, launch of 6-point charter of demand 1966, 1969 popular uprising against totalitarian Pak regime, freedom struggle of 1971 and the anti-autocracy movement in 1990. And now we have a renewal of youth resurgence at Shahbagh square in a splendid replay of history upholding the cause of justice. The UNESCO's appellation of the day as International Mother Language Day bears a number of messages for us. It is the world's way of paying homage to our language heroes and a tribute to our mother tongue. But there are other points of significance and pride associated with the internationalisation of the day. Actually, it has increased our obligation manifold to not just develop our own language and literature but also to get connected with the languages and literatures of other countries. Moreover, it is a clarion call for saving mother tongues that risk being extinct. Specifically, our endeavour should be to grow effectively bilingual in the very least like India and Sri Lanka where people speak English with ease and competence, communicating with the business world in a more proficient way than us.

Saudis hold fresh ant-regime demo in Qatif

People have taken to streets in eastern Saudi Arabia to protest against the detention of protesters. The anti-regime demonstration was staged in the town of Qatif in Eastern Province on Wednesday. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the kingdom’s ruling monarch and denounced the suppression of the protests in the oil-rich Eastern Province. “We will never tolerate humiliation,” the protesters chanted. There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province since February 2011, with protestors calling for political reform. Anti-government protests have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protestors in Qatif, killing five people and leaving scores more injured. Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. In October 2012, Amnesty International called on the Saudi authorities to stop using excessive force against pro-democracy protestors. “The Saudi authorities must end their repeated moves to stifle people’s attempts to protest against the widespread use of arbitrary detention in the country,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said on October 16. “The right of people to peaceful protest must be respected and the security forces must refrain from detaining or using excessive force against people who exercise it,” he added.

President Obama: Immigration Leak Won't Block Reform

President Barack Obama on Wednesday confidently promised that Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, saying that a leaked copy of a White House proposal won't jeopardize the effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. A draft White House immigration plan leaked to the press over the weekend, which frustrated some Republicans working on a bill, since Obama pledged to withhold his plan while lawmakers crafted their own. The White House claimed this week that the leak was unintentional and the president phoned GOP senators to reiterate that he supports the negotiations in Congress."It certainly did not jeopardize the entire process. The negotiations are still moving forward," Obama said during an interview with Univision San Antonio affiliate KWEX. "Information floats out of Washington all the time; that shouldn't prevent anybody from moving forward." The president said that the fact the White House is drawing up its own plan should come as no surprise. "I've said repeatedly that I want Congress to go ahead and negotiate and get a bill done. But what I've also said is we're preparing a bill so that if Congress doesn't do its job, we're going to go ahead and put a bill on the floor of the United States Senate," he said. While immigration talks in Congress continue, at least one Republican lawmaker voiced deep concerns with Obama's plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the proposal "dead on arrival," saying that it would repeat the same mistakes as past immigration reform efforts in 1986 and 2007. Rubio aides have pointed out that Obama's plan does not include several items that are included in the Senate proposal, such as a specific "trigger" mechanism that would ensure that a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. could not be activated until certain border security metrics are met and an effective visa entry and exit tracking system is put into place. While some differences between the White House and Senate plans exist, the president said that on the whole, they are very similar since they both include an earned path to citizenship, enhanced border security measures, and tougher crackdowns on busineses that hire undocumented immigrants. "I think that most of the proposals being talked about by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House are roughly in the same area that I am," he said. When asked about ending the record pace of deportations that have marked his presidency, Obama again shot down the possibility of taking executive action to halt deportations in the midst of negotiations over a bill. He very confidently promised that an immigration bill would pass. "What I can promise is that we are going to get comprehensive immigration reform, but my job is to carry out the laws that are already in place," he said. "I have extended as much flexibility as I can," he added. "That's why we've been able to do the deferred actions that have helped the DREAM Act kids. I can't go much further than this. At this point, I need Congress to act and I am very eager for them to get the job done."

Peaceful Afghanistan suits Pakistan

While advocating a sustainable Islamabad-Washington relationship, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has called for responsibly bringing the decade-old Afghan war to a close. "We want to help the US manage a smooth and responsible transition in Afghanistan. To that end we would like the US to lay down the foundations for Afghanistan's future political and economic stability. This is in Pakistan's self interest. Peace in my Pakistan is difficult without peace in Afghanistan," she said in a speech at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics on Wednesday. With the US planning to exit from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Sherry called for a reality check and the need for a decision based on the ground realities. "Do not go crashing out in an exit that run the risk of sinking Afghanistan into instability and economic un-sustainability," she said adding, "More than a military victory, what the US must now try to ensure is to leave an economic infrastructure behind that allows the Afghans to build on after US departure. After fighting the war, the US must win the peace." She said, "Pakistan will support all roadmaps for a negotiated settlement of the war. What we’ll not do is support any groups, or play any favourites. Let me say unequivocally, the government and state of Pakistan do not see Afghanistan as our strategic backyard. "We want to see Afghanistan as a united, independent and sovereign state. We urge all concerned to join the reconciliation process, because we recognise that Pakistan has vital stakes in a peaceful, self-ruled Afghanistan, just as we have the most to lose from a turbulent neighbour." Sherry's wide-ranging speech at the prestigious forum covered Pakistan-US relations beyond 2014 US drawdown in Afghanistan, Islamabad’s regional pivot, future of Afghanistan, women’s empowerment and Pakistan’s democratic march. She especially reminded the audience of the words former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to the US Congress in 2009, “The people we are fighting today, we funded twenty years ago. We then left Pakistan, we said okay, fine you deal with the stingers and you deal with the mines along the border, and by way, we don’t want to be dealing with you, and in fact, we are sanctioning you.” "You can all understand just how crucial it is that the principal actors in this fight – the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan - get it right this time round,” Ambassador Sherry said adding Islamabad cannot afford a repeat of the 1990s, when the Soviet withdrawal led to the same by the US and Afghanistan sank into a devastating internecine conflict. "We hope the international community can see a clear learning curve and rethink the approach to the region. Afghanistan is entitled to the same consideration and respect from us as we expect for ourselves. It is our neighbour, not our sphere of influence. We do not wish to impose a government in Afghanistan or work with only select partners. Rather, we’ll do our best to work with whichever government the Afghans choose for themselves, and convince it of our respect and friendship." On US-Pakistan relations, Sherry said, "If we are to move forward we have to understand each other.” She listed a series of things the countries could do to avoid a repeat of history of fluctuations in Pakistan-US ties, most notably the estrangement that followed the 1989 US abandonment at the end of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Sherry, who assumed her ambassadorial assignment in Washington at a troubled time for bilateral relations over a year ago, said the two countries have come a long way since then, with the revival of their dialogue at the institutional level on several strategic subjects of common interest. “The level of confidence is returning between Islamabad and Washington, after the unprecedented ebb witnessed in bilateral ties in the year 2011.” Still, as they approach the 2014, the two countries, she stressed, should build trust and communication through formal channels, not the media since coercive diplomacy through the media is not the way forward. Secondly, the two countries should strive to understand each other’s challenges and show strategic sympathy. Differences of approach should not be interpreted as duplicity and capacity issues should not be confused with any perceived lack of will, she said. Sherry offered some reality checks on Afghanistan, saying the multi-dimensional problems in that country require comprehensive solutions with the recognition that force alone cannot resolve problems. “There has to be an equal emphasis on a political solution,” she noted, while referring to the importance of bringing more Afghan groups into the reconciliation fold, including the human rights and women’s rights advocates. “We are glad to see emphasis on talking.” Ambassador Rehman also said that Islamabad wants to bring down trade barriers with India, including extending the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to it. "Our regional pivot focuses on bringing down an architecture of trade barriers both with India and Pakistan, and we are on course, despite flare-ups on the Line of Control in Kashmir, to forge with building investments in peace, trade, economic integration and opportunities for our huge youth cohort," she said, adding a dialogue with India at multiple levels was also underway. "Pakistan's cabinet is considering extending Most Favoured Nation status to India while pressing India to dismantle its tariff and para-tariff barriers to Pakistani exports. The two countries recently agreed on an expanded visa agreement and some experts see bilateral trade touching $ 7-8 billion within a couple of years," Sherry said.

Afghanistan’s Fawzia Koofi will stand in presidential elections
Popular female MP has launched a campaign website ahead of 2014 elections with a platform supporting women's rights and opposing corruption.
There are two Afghanistans, old and new. The old Afghanistan was the front line of the war on terror, manned by thousands of western soldiers fighting to prop up the government in Kabul and bankrolled by billions of dollars in aid money. But the war’s battlefields have shifted elsewhere. The new Afghanistan faces an unknown future. Fed up with a decade of military misadventures, NATO and the Pentagon are planning a fast exit as Taliban insurgents step up their attacks. Aid money is drying up, and Afghans with connections or cash are leaving for Dubai. But there is a flash in the dark, a sign that the Afghanistan project perhaps wasn’t a failure. Popular MP Fawzia Koofi has declared her intention to run for president. She has launched a campaign website ahead of next year’s elections with the slogan “the voice of hope for the future of Afghanistan” and a platform of supporting women’s rights and opposing corruption. The educational opportunities available to young women over the past decade of western intervention have brought social change, Koofi, 38, told American political satirist Jon Stewart on his television show last week. “With all the changes that have happened I give myself all the eligibility to run for president,” she said confidently, to rapturous applause. Koofi is feted in the West. She is invited to speak at august think-tanks such as Chatham House in London, was a guest of the first lady at George W. Bush’s state of the union address in 2006, and was selected as a young global leader at the World Economic Forum in 2009. But her life story is quintessentially Afghan. Born in a village in northern Badakhshan province, she was left to die in a field because her mother, with seven other mouths to feed, could not look after her, Koofi writes in her new book The FavoredDaughter. But her mother took pity and saved her. Like the majority of her compatriots, Koofi has suffered appalling hardship at the hands of all players in the country’s conflicted past, which contributes to her mass appeal. The mujahideen killed her father, an MP for 25 years, before the 1979 Soviet invasion. Her husband died in 2003 of tuberculosis he had contracted in a Taliban prison, leaving her to look after their two daughters. Koofi studied in Pakistan and after the American invasion in 2001 got a job with UNICEF in Kabul. She launched her political career in the capital but returned north to campaign for a seat in the 2005 parliamentary elections in the villages where her mother and siblings once ran for their lives along the riverbanks from mujahideen gunmen. To women she had an immediate appeal. Her male constituents remembered that her politician father built an important road across a treacherous mountain pass, she wrote. Koofi won by a landslide in both the 2005 and 2010 elections. Afghanistan has its own ancient democratic traditions, not a House of Commons but local jirgas where community leaders are selected by consensus, she wrote in her book. “America has supported democracy but in no way forced it upon us,” she wrote. In her memoir she included earnest letters to her daughters about the importance of her duties as an MP, even on mornings when long lines of people waited at her front door looking for help. “This is a lesson I want you to learn,” she wrote. “Never turn anyone away from your door because you never know when you need to throw yourself at the mercy of another.” Since she became a national figure, Koofi has survived several assassination attempts, including a 30-minute assault on her armed convoy while she cowered in the back of her car. She travels with eight bodyguards. Is Afghanistan ready for a female president? “She may lose at elections but she will win the fight for Afghan women and the fight for democracy, and I think that is a much bigger cause than winning an election,” said Barry Salaam, a political analyst in Kabul. “We have got to support her as best as we can because her fight is not just for herself but for our entire country.” The Atlantic magazine, which named her as one of 2012’s Brave Thinkers, put it another way: “In Afghanistan, the only noble causes left are the lost ones.”

History Shows You Invade Afghanistan At Your Peril

A new book, "Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839-1842," draws on Afghanistan's violent history to provide lessons for its future. RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique spoke with the book's author, Scottish historian William Dalrymple.
RFE/RL: Can you tell us about your recently published book, "Return of a King"?
William Dalrymple: "The Return of a King" is about the first British assault on Afghanistan. In 1839, 18,000 East India Company and British troops marched through the Bolan and Khojak passes and conquered Afghanistan and [placed] on the throne Shah Shuja-ul Mulk, the grandson of Ahmad Shah Durrani -- the first ruler of the first Afghan Empire -- and threw out Dost Mohammad Khan, who the British were worried was flirting with tsarist Russia.
RFE/RL: What essentially is the story of the First Anglo-Afghan War -- how did it start, what were its main events, and who won in the end?
Dalrymple: The story in a nutshell is that 18,000 troops march into Afghanistan. They install the puppet king, Shah Shuja, on the throne. An insurgency breaks out a year and a half later, and the British are catastrophically defeated. They are completely unprepared for the insurgency which breaks out. They are quickly surrounded. Their two leaders are killed. They surrender and they are promised safe passage back to India. In that retreat, 18,000 men, women, and children march out of the Kabul cantonment. Only one single survivor makes it through to the Jalalabad cantonment, Dr. [William] Brydon.
RFE/RL: How do the Afghans remember the First Anglo-Afghan War?
Dalrymple: Well, for the Afghans, this is a great national liberation struggle. What the Battle of Britain or Waterloo or Trafalgar is to the British or what the Easter Rising is to the Irish or what Gandhi and the freedom struggle is to the Indians, this is to the Afghans. This is their great supreme triumph because they take on the British at the very peak of the British [Empire]. And for the Afghans it is a miraculous [event] and to this day the diplomatic area in Kabul is called Wazir Akbar Khan after the main Barakzai leader [of the uprising against the British].
RFE/RL: What is your take on modern perceptions of Afghanistan after researching a war that took place 160 years ago?
Dalrymple: Just like a modern ignorant Fox News commentator in Afghanistan thinks that anyone who resists the Americans is a Taliban, thinks that he is a bigot or a fanatic, so the British at this period are apt to just see masses of bearded Afghans fighting them and assume that they are all religious fanatics. But the Afghan sources allow you to go beyond that and allow you to understand individual motives, individual reasons, for taking up arms. And like a good reporter today who can give complexity to anything that happens, a good journalist working in Afghanistan today will be able to explain the motivations of every side.
RFE/RL: How relevant are the lessons of the First Anglo-Afghan War to the situation today?
Dalrymple: Well the most obvious lesson is that you will occupy and invade Afghanistan at your peril. It famously is a place which defends its independence very resolutely. It is also a place which is very expensive to occupy, and I think this is an underrated factor. ​​ Everyone knows that the Afghans are fierce fighters. I think few people have taken in that each successive occupation of Afghanistan is undone ultimately by the cost. It's not that the Afghans can't be defeated -- they can be if you throw enough military might and money at it. But to do so you have to throw in thousands of troops. You have to garrison every valley. You have to supply the troops in every remote valley that you have a garrison there. It's an expensive business. It broke the back of the East India Company. It breaks the back of the Soviets in 1970s and 1980s; their economy was wrecked by their invasion of Afghanistan. And finally, it has broken the back of the American balance of payments. Americans have lost a fortune in Afghanistan for very little gain.
RFE/RL: How relevant are the lessons of the First Anglo-Afghan War for Afghanistan's future, as another great power prepares to leave the country?
Dalrymple: One thing to state clearly is that Afghanistan is a difficult place to rule -- for anyone to rule. There are many different [ethnic] groups. The geography does not lend itself to centralized government based on one place. And there have been very few periods in history when Afghanistan has been successfully centralized and ruled from a strong center. In general, Afghanistan has been fractured, decentralized, and, as the Pashtun saying goes, "Every Afghan is a khan" -- is a king. I think the most likely outcome of the next few years is again a period of decentralization -- when Kabul will [cease] to be as central to the affairs of Afghans on the periphery as it is today. And I fear we are in for another period of bloodshed and decentralization. And possibly warlordism again. I don't think many people are very optimistic about the future.

Eliminate LeJ or we will, Malik tells Punjab govt

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday blamed the Punjab government for harboring Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants and said he had directed the Punjab government to take stern action against the outlawed outfit. Giving a speech in the Senate, the interior minister said if the provincial government led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would not take action against the militants, he would himself raid the hideouts. “The central headquarters of Jhangvi is in Punjab while their sub-headquarters are in Karachi,” he said, adding that almost 30 terrorists belonging to LeJ, Jaish Muhammad and Sipah-e-Sahaba were arrested in Karachi. He stayed firm on his earlier statement of warning people of Karachi of more violence in the city and said the miscreants were planning to disrupt peace in the metropolis. Responding to question on the Quetta attack, he said the attacks were not carried out by the Taliban, instead they were carried out after a call from Switzerland. “Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Balochistan Liberation Army are united and destabilising the province,” he added Malik added that his ministry had sent three terror alerts to the provincial government before the Kirani Road attack. “The first alert was issued on January 27, second on February 1 and the third on February 5,” Malik added.

Pakistan: Another massacre, another mass burial

The Express Tribune
Amid scuffles and protests, and tears and sobs, the Shia Hazara community buried the victims of Saturday’s blast in the Hazara Town graveyard on Wednesday. While the official death toll is 89, the Shia representative organisation Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) said 114 bodies were buried on Wednesday. The mass burial brought to an end a three-day sit-in protest by relatives and members of the Hazara community after they accepted a government request to call off the nationwide protests. Families and community members had refused to bury the victims of Saturday’s bomb attack in Hazara Town – which came just over a month after twin blasts killed over 100 people, mostly Hazaras – until Pakistan Army took control of the provincial capital. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf constituted on Tuesday a special committee – headed by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira – to hold talks with the protesting community. MWM General Secretary Allama Amin Shaheedi along with the victims’ relatives announced at a news conference late Tuesday night that they would bury the bodies on Wednesday at 9am. But for many of the mourners, the deal was insufficient. On Wednesday, some angry relatives and community members, crying and screaming, initially refused to bury the dead. Mourners threw stones at some media persons and the car of Quetta’s Deputy Commissioner Abdul Saboor Khan Kakar as burials got under way, prompting security forces and then protesters to fire gunshots into the air. Five people, including four security men, sustained injuries in the melee. A large number of paramilitary Fortier Corps and police personnel rushed to the spot and managed to bring the situation under control. The angry mob finally dispersed and as the bodies were buried in a row of graves, hundreds of volunteers formed a human chain in a symbol of solidarity and protection. Mourners told AFP they thought nothing would change. “We are in severe shock, we want the government to take visible steps,” said college student Kazim Ali, mourning a relative. “The army is our last hope. We want a comprehensive military operation.” Ali Raza, 35, asked how up to 1,000kg of explosives were smuggled into Hazara Town. “Why are they killing us? What is our crime?” Raza said. “How did terrorists transport such a huge amount of explosives here? The government will have to take some serious steps.” Soldiers from the paramilitary Frontier Corps and police were deployed in all markets and on roads in Quetta city as the burials took place, while troops searched every vehicle heading towards the Hazara Town area. Case registered against trouble-makers Quetta police chief Mir Zubair told reporters that a case had been registered against the men involved in firing and pelting stones at the police in the graveyard. Around five security forces, including the three policemen and two Balochistan Levies personnel, sustained injuries. The windows of the deputy commissioner’s car were smashed after it was hit by a bullet, eye witnesses said. The MWM central vice president said they had convinced to relatives of victims to end their protest and bury their dead; yet, some elements wanted to disrupt the peaceful burial. Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, he called on the government to change newly appoint police chief Mushtaq Sukera.

Baluchistan: '‘Situation is not so bad’'

the frontier post
The federal government on Tuesday refused to accept the demand of Shia leadership and Hazara community for army deployment in Quetta on a flimsy, heartless and cruel logic that the Law Minister Farooq H. Naek offered to the press after a meeting between President Asif Zardari and Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani that ‘the situation is not so bad that army should be deployed in the city.’ None can believe his ears and eyes that what Naek was talking about yet the wounded souls of the bereaved families of Quetta blast victims must have digested the cold-hearted, the unsympathetic and the insensitive rhetoric of law expert of the federal government with heavy hearts. If the repeated scenes of hundred bodies kept on the roads with thousands of mourners sitting besides them in rain under the dark chilly sky, books, bags and shoes strewed all over in pools of blood and human organs smashed on the walls around the blast sites do not win sympathetic consideration of the powers-that-be living in calm, comfortable and cozy residences and offices then what else do they want to see to move there the best foot forward to revert the situation prevailing across the country. Today they think it is not enough or it does not warrant the extreme steps like calling in Army revoking Article 245 of the Constitution. On the mass mourning, the gentleman is saying “all is well”. The mourners across the country will bear it the way they bore the loss of their dear ones. For sure, the approach has exposed the mindset of the rulers and particularly their love for the people and rule. Soon after the deadly blast in Quetta, surprisingly the FC received a sudden tip-off about a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi hideout in the suburbs of Quetta and carried out an operation in which four terrorists were killed and seven, including a high value target, were arrested, and media was told some of them were from other provinces. Alas! Once again the people are left to sulking and believe the right or fake claims of otherwise callous, incompetent security agencies acting in haste yet the delayed action against terrorists leaves a question on lack of will of the political leadership to resolve the issue. Interior Minister Rehman Malik responsible of the security of the country landed in Quetta on Tuesday three days after another mass massacre of Hazaras with a measure that the localities in Quetta having population of ethnic Hazara Shia community will have to be declared as red zone in order to maintain security of the community. The man-who-knows-all-but-do-nothing Rehman Malik reveals there that four months earlier he knew that three banned organizations, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Al-Qaeda, had set up their triangular syndicate and would unleash new wave of bomb blasts to hit their targets. If he does not lie then he must also disclose the name of the leadership that stopped him from taking concert security measures to avoid the repeated genocides taking place in Quetta and Karachi or anywhere else. Unstoppable Malik must tell the nation why not he pounced at the killers at once what he was waiting for, and most importantly why do the states raise herds of security agencies if they cannot be unleashed on the anti-state elements when and where the need arises. Are they here to protect their incompetent but talkative rulers? Today the rulers are well-protected but tomorrow there will be a different ball-game. Apparently, the government’s unwillingness to army deployment lies in the fear of losing more space to the army on national security, which is already dominated by the armed forces. But the point to ponder is if the government is adamant to safeguard itself with such cosmetic measures or believes it can use the deteriorated law and order created by the so-called banned outfit to prolong its rule, the political leadership is grossly mistaken –such strategies have not worked in the past and will not work in future. It must take much-needed bold and harsh decisions to deal with the situation. Pakistan Army, showing a remarkable patience and commitment to their professional duties, has nicely cleaned up Swat and today, its brave and sustained efforts are bearing fruit in the FATA areas where the foreign militants have already vacated their strongholds and the rest are on the run. The case of local militants is no different. The government should impose confidence in the forces endorsing their policy of non-interference in the political affairs of the country. Repeated genocides and thereafter calls for army help from masses echoing across the country can provide enough justification to derail the hard-earned system in the government. The history is there to learn a lesson or two.

Pakistan risks sanctions over Iran gas deal

Pakistan risks imposition of stringent US and UN sanctions if proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline deal goes through, Wall Street Journal says in a report. “Washington has made it clear that it will impose economic sanctions on Islamabad if it begins to buy gas from Iran. Besides, the UN mandated sanctions on any trade with the oil-rich country,” the newspaper said. In a written reply to The Wall Street Journal, the US embassy in Islamabad reiterated the US position and said: “Our policy on Iran is well known. We have made it clear to all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by United Nations sanctions or sanctionable under US law.” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Tuesday that the pipeline would be a “big leap forward” in resolving country’s crippling power crisis. The WSJ says: “While the pipeline could bring relief to energy-starved Pakistan, analysts say that the deal reveals more about the geopolitical dynamics between the US, Pakistan and Iran than about the government’s commitment to address the energy

Gwardar Port warrants devotion

Pakistan on Monday formally awarded to China a multi-billion dollars contract for the operation of the Gwadar Port and the building of infrastructure around it. Thus the state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company took control of the strategic port in signing ceremony held in Aewan-i-Sadr, Islamabad. Under the contract, the port will remain the property of Pakistan but will be operated by the state-run Chinese company. Earlier, the contract was given to the Port of Singapore Authority that abandoned the project on the plea that Pakistan failed to meet obligations under the 40-year port-handling agreement signed in Feb 2007. The PSA, which was to spend $525 million on the project in five years, made no investment because of non-fulfillment of its demands for allotment of land worth Rs15 billion. Sadly enough, lethargy of the rulers to do what they promised in the contract signed with the PSA has wasted yet another five years of the nation desperately waiting new vistas of progress in Pakistan particularly poverty-ridden Balochistan. The decision to hand over the Gwadar Port to China, in fact, rectifies the wrongdoing of the Pakistan Government when it preferred the PSA over the Chinese interest. China is a time-tested friend more importantly a next door neighbour and a natural regional ally of Pakistan having keen interest to build short and cheep routes to meet its energy and maritime needs. But the port fell to the PSA perhaps the then rulers succumbed under the USA pressure hence committed one of the many follies the nation has witnessed. The latest decision of the Government to transfer the concession agreement from the Port of Singapore Authority to the Chinese company may change the destiny of the people of Balochistan even it may give a potential naval base that ultimately will make Pakistan’s defense impregnable. That may well be the reason that India and the USA are apprehensive over the transfer of the control and management of the deep-sea port to China, which had interests in ports encircling India. Regardless of the concerns and interests that the international forces have, the transfer and subsequently the development of the Gwadar Port will bring tangible benefits to Pakistan and China and contribute to peace‚ stability and development of the region, forming a part of greater framework of economic cooperation between the two states. To make the dream come true, Pakistani leadership needs to show greater maturity, dedication, honesty and commitment to the development in Balochistan particularly, that earlier was missing. The governments in Balochistan and the federal capital Islamabad now must show some urgency to allot much-needed land for the Gwadar Port and build the roads that Pakistan has to build under the agreement. Otherwise, even the Chinese take-over may meet the fate that the PSA met due to the inability of Pakistan. During era of Ms Benazir Bhutto, a Fish Harbour cum Mini Port was built at Gwadar that ultimately became the stepping stone for the Gwadar deep seaport. In 1993, Pakistan started feasibility studies for the development of a major deepwater seaport at Gwadar. The port project commenced on 22 March 2002 with the first phase completed in December 2005. Unfortunately, even today the provision of clean drinking water is non-existent there. Similarly, the construction of the port that spurred other major infrastructure projects that include Makran Coastal Highway, Ormara-Pasni-Gwadar road leading up to the Iranian border, Gwadar-Quetta-Chaman road and a link road to the town of Khuzdar in eastern Balochistan etc but the lackluster interest of the political leadership in the development of the Balochistan has kept the province backward or underdeveloped hence is more prone to extremism for which the nation is paying a huge price. China has paid about 75 per cent of the initial $250m used to build the port, thus soon it will take over the Gwadar Port but the question remains whether Pakistan lives up its commitment in raising infrastructure connecting the Gwadar Port with the rest of the country. Mere signing of the MoUs with China or anybody else is just neither enough nor is going to serve the interests of Pakistan and its people. For sure, the strategic importance of the Gwadar Port holds the key to bringing together Central Asian countries and China, integrating the economies of the countries in the region, Pakistan can benefit from China’s takeover of Gwadar, if it really stresses on the development of the connecting roads and expands Karakoram Highway that still needs to be finished. The Gwadar Port development deserves special attention to serve the interest of the country first.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's headquarters are in Punjab
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media outside the Senate on Wednesday that he has written to the Punjab government to take action against the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.Malik added that action against the banned outfit will also be taken in Karachi and Balochistan. This followed a similar though slightly different line of what Malik said during the senate session which discussed law and order situation in the country. According to sources, Malik told the senate that the responsibility of the federal government is to provide information about possible terrorist attacks to local law enforcement but it was up to the provinces to take action on that intelligence. He pointed towards Punjab, who Malik said had taken benefit of information provided and averted a number of terrorist attacks. The interior minister insisted that security agencies have carried out successful operations to curb terrorist activities in the country, with 31 people belonging to various banned outfits having been arrested so far. Malik has said some elements are trying to destabilise Pakistan by promoting sectarianism. Taking part in the debate Mian Raza Rabbani said the country is at a cross roads and it was time to take difficult decisions to save Pakistan. He said that internal situation of the country is very critical and only political stakeholders can resolve it. Rabbani explained that the Quetta incident happened at a time when Gwadar Port’s operation was being handed over to Chinese authorities which reflects that some powers do not want a progressive Pakistan. The senator also opposed implementation of governor rule under article 245 of the Constitution and said whenever this article was talked about‚ Pakistan faced martial law. Abdul Nabi Bangash said that it is the need of hour to speak truth‚ no matter how bitter it is. Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan lamented that the role of parliamentarians is confined to discussions in the Senate and the National Assembly sessions and there is an impression that they cannot do anything to improve the law and order situation outside of it.Zahid Khan stressed the need to collectively draw framework to combat terrorism.