Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book review: ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai

By Marie Arana
Marie Arana is the author of the memoir “American Chica” and the biography “Bolivar: American Liberator.” She was also a scriptwriter for the recently released film about education in the Third World, “Girl Rising.” Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls. Capture them in that fleeting window between the ages of 10 and 14, give them an education, and watch a community change: Per capita income goes up, infant mortality goes down, the rate of economic growth increases, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection falls. Child marriage becomes less common, as does child labor. Educated mothers tend to educate their children. They tend to be more frugal with family money. Last year, the World Bank reckoned that Kenya’s illiterate girls, if educated, could boost that country’s economy by $27 billion in the course of a lifetime. Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.” Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory. And nowhere did that lesson go more rebuffed than in the verdant Swat Valley, where hard-line jihadists swept out of the mountains, terrorized villages and radicalized boys, and where — one muggy day last October — a Taliban fighter leapt onto a school bus, shouted, “Who is Malala?” and shot her point-blank in the head for speaking out about her God-given right to attend school. Malala tells of that life-shattering moment in a riveting memoir, “I Am Malala,” published this past week even as she was being cited as a possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-written with Christina Lamb, a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls. The story begins with Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of an imam (a preacher of Islam), who was instilled from boyhood with a deep love of learning, an unwavering sense of justice and a commitment to speak out in defense of both. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Ziauddin was convinced that aside from the sword and the pen, there is an even greater power — that of women — and so, when his firstborn turned out to be a bright, inquisitive daughter, he raised her with all the attention he lavished on his sons. Ziauddin’s greatest ambition, which he achieved as a relatively young teacher, was to establish a school where children could be raised with a keen sense of their human potential. As a Pashtun, he came from a tribe that had migrated from Kabul and settled on the lush but war-weary frontier that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan; as a Yousafzai, he was the proud inheritor of a rich legacy that could be traced to the Timurid court of the 16th century. But he was also a poor man with high ambitions and not a cent to his name. Malala was born in 1997, as her father was struggling to found his school against a sea of troubles: a deeply corrupt government official to whom he refused to pay bribes; a mufti who lived across the way and objected to the education of girls, a practice he denounced as haram, or offensive to Islam; and the vicissitudes of a fierce jihad, visited upon them from time to time in Taliban raids that evolved from harsh rhetoric to outright killings. By the time Malala was 10 and the top student in her father’s surprisingly flourishing school, radical Talibs had penetrated the valley all the way to the capital of Islamabad and were beheading Pakistani police, holding their severed heads high on the roadsides. “Moniba and I had been reading the Twilight books,” Malala recounts, and “it seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires. They appeared in groups, armed with knives and Kalashnikovs. . . . These were strange-looking men with long straggly hair and beards and camouflage vests over their shalwar kamiz, which they wore with the trousers well above the ankle. They had jogging shoes or cheap plastic sandals on their feet, and sometimes stockings over their heads with holes for their eyes, and they blew their noses dirtily into the ends of their turbans.” That was when the school bombings began and Maulana Fazlullah, a young extremist who had once operated the pulleys at a river crossing, became known as the Radio Mullah, a direct arm of the Taliban, installing a systematic rule of terror over the Swat Valley. Fazlullah announced the closing of girls’ schools; he lauded the killing of a female dancer; his goons killed a teacher for refusing to pull his trousers above the ankle the way the Taliban members wore theirs. “Nowhere in Islam is this required,” the teacher had cried out in his defense. “They hanged him,” Malala relates dryly, “and then they shot his father.” But for all the terror around them, Malala and her family were hardly cowed into submission. Ziauddin continued to rail at his country’s Talibanization in government offices, to the army, to anyone who would listen, gaining a name throughout Swat for his rectitude and courage. And although Malala learned to go to school with her books hidden under her shawl, she continued to study and excel, eventually giving public speeches on behalf of education that her father would help write. By 12, even as she pored over “Anna Karenina” and the novels of Jane Austen, she was writing a BBC blog about her experiences under the pen name Gul Makai. When, in 2009, the family was forced to abandon the increasingly violent border area in “the biggest exodus in Pashtun history,” the Yousafzais made their way to Peshawar, where Malala did radio interviews, met Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, turned 13 and continued to speak out for girls’ education. Passing through Abbottabad as they made their escape, the family could not have imagined that Osama bin Laden himself had found refuge there. Finally winding their way home, they discovered that their beloved school — in a metaphor for their own defiance — had become a holdout against the Taliban for the Pakistani army. We know how this story ends, with a 15-year-old child taking a bullet for a whole generation. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one. Disfigured beyond recognition by her assailant’s gun, Malala was rushed to Peshawar, then Rawalpindi and finally to Birmingham, England, where doctors reconstructed her damaged skull and knit back the shattered face. But her smile would never be quite the same. Resolute, Malala has never hidden that face — not when the Taliban insisted on it, and not when she emerged from her battle for survival to stand before the members of the United Nations in July and deliver her message yet again, a little louder. “There is good news coming from the U.K.,” the head of military operations in Swat had told Malala’s desperate parents as they awaited word of their child’s condition. “We are very happy our daughter has survived.”
“Our,” Malala points out, because she had become the daughter of a nation.
But she is ours, too, because she stands for the universal possibility of a little girl.
Marie Arana is the author of the memoir “American Chica” and the biography “Bolivar: American Liberator.” She was also a scriptwriter for the recently released film about education in the Third World, “Girl Rising.”
I AM MALALA The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban By Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb Little, Brown. 327 pp. $26

Why Pakistanis Are Talking About Salman Rushdie Again

Malik Siraj Akbar
Salman Rushdie and his controversial 1988 novel The Satanic Verses have ignited a series of fresh zealous discussions in Pakistan, a country known for its love for conspiracy theories and controversies. We vividly remember books, such as The Satanic Verses and movies like The Innocence of Muslims that sparked violent protests in Pakistan, as well as in many other Islamic countries, where the Muslims insisted that the book and the movie had separately insulted Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws recommend the death sentence for anyone who insults Muhammad.
While Rushdie may not even know what he has actually done this time to outrage that Muslim-majority country's conservative commentators, Malala Yousafzai, the teenage campaigner for girls' education, has indeed landed in hot water for even mentioning The Satanic Verses only once in her recently released autobiography I Am Malala. Yousafazi, 16, was shot last year by the Pakistani Taliban for transgressing their restrictions in Swat valley on girls' education. She openly campaigned for the reconstruction and reopening of more than 400 schools destroyed and closed down by the Taliban. The right-wing commentators are manipulating a portion of Malala's book in which she had described her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, as a strong believer in freedom of expression in the context of anti-Rushdie protests that erupted in Pakistan. Her father had implored fellow Muslims to respond to Rushdie's "anti-Islamic" book with a better pro-Islamic account instead of protesting violently. "My father also saw the book [Satanic Verses] as offensive to Islam but believes strongly in freedom of speech," wrote Malala in her book and quoted her father as saying, "Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!" I Am Malala is not only the autobiography of a courageous girl who was shot by the Taliban but it is an exposé of the Pakistani state's deep-rooted connections with radical Islamists and social fault lines that lead to discrimination against women. The book tells the story a Pashtun girl who is profoundly perturbed by increasing radicalization of the Pakistani society which consequently curtails women's freedoms and access to education. She explains how a young generation of Pakistanis is deeply disconnected from the rest of the world because their biased text books distort history and glorify wars in the name of Islam. Malala offers her unconventionally candid opinion and criticism on several issues which are still deemed as taboo for public debate in Pakistan. By discussing her country's internal policy failures and the army's tolerance, encouragement and protection for the Jihadist elements, Malala has alarmed the nexus between the mullah (clergy) and the military in her country. Ironically, books that often generate public reaction in countries like Pakistan are the ones that have even not been read by those who condemn the publication. This time, most Pakistanis have also not read I Am Malala for two reasons. Firstly, a significant majority of Pakistanis simply cannot read English. Secondly, the Pakistani Taliban have warned bookshops not to sell copies of the book. Hence, this has made conservative commentators' job easier to spread disinformation among the masses in a country with millions of illiterate but religiously passionate citizens. The campaign in Pakistan against I Am Malala is spearheaded by Orya Maqbool Jan, a conservative columnist for an Urdu language newspaper; Ansar Abbasi, a journalist infamous for his orthodox religious views and rigid anti-American views and Syed Talat Hussain, a nationalist broadcast journalist. On October 21, Mr. Jan, while writing in his article "Malala and her promoters" in Dunya newspaper, was the first columnist from the mainstream media to denounce Malala's book on the charges that it had defamed Islam and Pakistan. "If you read excerpts from the book," he wrote, "you will wonder who has put such abusive words in this 16-year-old girl's mouth against my religion, Pakistan and its people. The first person she has mentioned [in the book] is Salman Rushdie, who used disgusting language against our Prophet Muhammad, his wives and his family." Malala had blamed an unknown cleric allegedly linked with Pakistan's intelligence agencies for instigating anti-Rushdie protests in Pakistan in 1988 while Mr. Jan, the columnist, described it "the worst lie of the history." Unlike their English counterparts, the Urdu media have phenomenal accesses to and influence over millions of Pakistani readers and viewers. On October 24, Jang, Pakistan's most circulated Urdu newspaper, published a provocative column by Ansar Abbasi, who heads the newspaper's investigative team. In his article, "Is it the same Malala?", Abbasi said he wished Malala had not written the book because it had hurt the feelings of the Muslims. "Describing the Satanic Verses as an issue of freedom of expression is one such topic that has caused tensions between Muslims and the non-Muslims... we curse upon such freedom of expression that ridicules our Prophet," he wrote. Mr. Abbasi published a follow-up column in the same newspaper on October 28 wondering why the Pakistani media did not expose the "anti-Islam" portions of Malala's book. He insisted that the media should openly debate why it was wrong for Malala to say her father believed in Rushdie's right to free expression. In both of his articles, Mr. Abbasi has questioned Malala's commitment to Prophet Muhammad and Islam as he absurdly whines that the teenage girl did not use "Peace Be Upon Him" or (P.B.U.H.) each time she mentioned Prophet Muhammad in her book in order to show respect for Muhammad. The debate over I Am Malala is gradually shifting from newspapers to news channels. On October 26, Mr. Jan and Abbasi, both critics of Malala, bullied Pervez Hoodbhoy, a prominent liberal intellectual, so much that he had to quit the live show. I Am Malala provides the Pakistanis another opportunity for self-reflection. Malala did bravely survive the Taliban assault and managed to escape from her country in in the wake of a Taliban warning to target her once again if she returns to Pakistan. However, her battle is not over. Now, she has been pushed into totally different, or even unpleasant, media warfare against the pro-Taliban writers. Few writers, such as Khaperai Yousafzai, a columnist for The Baloch Hal, have rebutted the conservative propaganda against the teenage girl in what she billed as right-wing's "Malala-phobia". "This is very typical of writers like Orya Maqbool Jan to manipulate public sentiments in the name of religion," she wrote in her article on October 22, "they attack a women's character or accuse her of being anti-Islamic when they actually fail to support their arguments with facts and logic." World governments, writers and intellectuals must not leave Malala in lurch. They have to stand by her side as the pro-Taliban media in Pakistan seems to be intentionally preparing a very dangerous blasphemous case against Malala which could potentially jeopardize her safety, even in the United Kingdom where she currently lives.

My father made personal issues political: Amir Hoti

The son of Azam Hoti, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti said Tuesday that his father had made personal issues political. Hoti held a news conference in response to his father’s allegations that Awami National Party (ANP) leaders Asfandyar Wali Khan and Afrasiab Khattak had a secret deal with the US.
“There have been internal issues within the party which have led to differences between members,” Amir Haider Hoti told reporters. The former KP chief minister said the ANP had always been subjected to allegations which over the course of time had proven to be baseless. “We have been accused of being agents of US, India, Russia and even Kafirs.” He added that such allegations had been leveled during dictatorships and even during the tenure of elected governments.

Pakistan: Govt confused about Taliban issue

Opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has said that government is utterly confused over the “Dialogue with Taliban” issue. Talking to journalists in his National Assembly chamber, he said that PPP would strongly resist any attempt at privatization of steel mills, warning that any further attempts to privatize any other public assets, or downsizing of employees would be strongly challenged in courts, Media Reports said. Declaring terrorism as an endemic morbidity, he said that even Ulema had issued their edict against terrorism, stressing government to evolve a comprehensive strategy to eliminate this menace. He cited the disastrous end -result of some privatizations carried out by PML-N led governments in the past.

Ethics A Discriminating Subject In Pakistani syllabus

Leader of Pakistani Minorities’ Teachers Association writes to the Prime Minister about a discriminating subject in the school syllabus.
Professor Anjum James Paul leader of Pakistani Minorities’ Teachers Group has written to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif alleging that ethics textbooks show prejudice against non-Muslims. He stated that his group, are preparing to boycott these ethics textbooks. He said, “There is Islamization of textbooks as Islamic prayer is written almost on each and every textbook while these books are for all the students regardless of any creed”.
In his letter to the PM Paul says:
“Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal citizenship to all Pakistanis as it describes, ‘All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. It is a sorrowful state that there is the violation of the constitution in this regard. There is discrimination with the fundamental rights of the students of the religious minorities. There are biases and propagation on the religious basis against Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs in the contents of the present curriculum and the textbooks. Muslim students have been provided the facility of the subject of Islamic Studies and of the teachers but the minority students have been have been deprived of their fundamental right to study their own religion/s. It is the responsibility of the state to provide equal opportunity to all citizens without any discrimination. Due to this the parents and students from the minorities are in oppression and depression. They feel insecure to send their children even to the public sector educational institutions because anything wrong can happen to them. The minority students have to suffer due to the biased curriculum, biased textbooks and biased environment of the educational institutions. Sir, the subject of Ethics has been introduced only for the minority students though it is the utmost need of all the students to have the human values such as tolerance, patience, human dignity and human rights. The minority students have to study mythology and comparison study of religions from grade 3 to grade 11 which is a master level course while the majority students have to study only the fundamental teachings of their own religion. The subject of Ethics is like a poison for these innocent minority students of the age 6 or 7. This is the age for them to know their own religion/s but they are going to be confused in the forthcoming textbooks. The curriculum in the subject of Ethics is biased and even there has not been any role of Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs to develop the textbooks according to their beliefs. The subject of Ethics is being imposed on the minority students. The minorities have always demanded the subject of “RELIGION” for their children as their constitutional and fundamental right but unfortunately no government has paid heed on this genuine demand.”
Following are the demands Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association has put forth on behalf of the religious minorities of Pakistan.
1. The subject of ‘Ethics’ must be replaced into the subject of ‘Religion’. 2. There must be separate textbooks and teachers for Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Parsi and other minority students as it is in the case of the majority students. 3. The curriculum and textbooks in the subject of ‘Religion’ must be developed by the educationists and the theologians of the relevant religion/s. 4. The biased and hate promoting material against Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other religions must be abolished from all the textbooks. 5. Comparison between or among religions must be abolished from all the textbooks as it is described in the instructions of the Curriculum Wing, but deliberately violated while the textbooks are developed by the publishers. 6. There must be chapters on peace, human rights, human dignity, social and interfaith harmony at all levels. 7. The role of all the Pakistani heroes in different fields must be included in the textbooks without the distinction of race or creed as all the Pakistanis have played their role in the creation and construction of Pakistan.
, the rights of child are guaranteed not only in the Constitution of Pakistan but also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.”
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/ethics-a-discriminating-subject-in-pakistani-syllabus-pmta/#sthash.JagXqaT6.dpuf

Malala and Nirbhaya: what Pakistan can learn from India

BY Usman Javaid
We can take lessons from our friends across the border in India and not deny the existence of violent impediments to girls’ education in Pakistan out of shame and denial.
“I want to live!” were the last words of the brutal gang rape victim in Delhi that touched millions of hearts across the globe. As young Nirbhaya struggled for her life, people from around the world, particularly those in India, backed their feelings of sympathy, anger, and sadness with action. Thousands took to the streets in India demanding justice. They called for the trial and punishment of her abusers and strengthening of Indian laws to prevent such actions in the future. Just a few months before that tragedy, the young Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for demanding girls’ right to education in Pakistan’s Swat valley. The Pakistan government and the international community came together for an unprecedented international rescue effort to save the young champion of education. Young Malala survived and became a symbol of education for girls worldwide. Unlike Nirbhaya in India however, Malala’s episode received mixed reactions at home. Far from coming out in the streets in large proportions to protest against the suppression of girls’ education, the same way the Indian people came out to condemn violence against women, some Pakistanis expressed a wide array of negativity towards Malala. Some became defensive, saying that children suffer abuse in other parts of the world so no one has the right to judge Pakistan. They went on further to say that there are a thousand Malalas so why should we care about this one? Others made it about the west, citing its record on military interventions and civilian casualties. They said that the west is using young Malala to pursue its own agenda. Some went as far as accusing Malala and her father of being CIA agents, and saying that the attack never really took place. They said that the purpose of the staged attack was to humiliate Pakistan. We Pakistanis certainly have a lot to learn from how people reacted to Nirbhaya’s case in India. In India, people did not say that there are many Nirbhayas so why care about this one. They did not say that the west has a poor record on gender equality so why should we be judged. They certainly did not say that Nirbhaya was never assaulted, and the incident was a western plot to demonise their country. Instead, they accepted that this tragedy happened due to shortcomings within their own society and vowed to improve on them. Nirbhaya became a symbol of women and the people of India decided that the current state of their country was unacceptable to them. They envisioned a better and safer India, and took to the streets to fight for it, regardless of how other countries or societies fare on the matter compared to it. Instead of questioning it, they welcomed international support and violence against women became a key development priority in India. Within a year, the perpetrators were brought to trial and sentenced. Furthermore, the Indian parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, improving Indian laws related to sexual offences. It would be wonderful if we in Pakistan showed Malala the support that Nirbhaya received from her country. We, at the very least though, can refrain from reacting negatively towards her. Reservations towards young Malala, who is nothing short of a hero, are baseless and unnecessary and I would like to touch on a few of them here. First, there is no need to feel offended or judged by the international attention Malala has received. It does not paint Pakistan as a place where girls cannot get an education. It also does not portray Islam as a religion that suppresses women. International aid organisations, governments and media have been very good at not pointing fingers at Pakistan or Islam but rather at the Taliban, who are militant extremists. To feel judged by international attention would be equating Pakistan and Islam to the Taliban. This is a prime opportunity for us to distance ourselves as far from the Taliban as possible. The best way to do so is to show our support for Malala and rally behind her cause for girls’ education. Second, pointing out western shortcomings on foreign policy misses the point. Malala Yousafzai is a child who demands no more than her right to education. We should support that right regardless of politics. I have had the pleasure of seeing Malala speak in person. Her articulate, well informed and passionate support for children’s education is beyond her age. Moreover, her wonderful smile, sense of humour, and stories of sibling rivalry are a joy to experience. Efforts to support Malala are about this child and millions like her around the globe. We should give Malala and these children unqualified support irrespective of what the west chooses to do. Third, helping Malala takes nothing away from all other children in need in Pakistan but helps them instead. Malala is shouting out for Pakistan and the world is listening. She spoke of the need for education to combat extremism in her speech to the UN. In her meeting with the World Bank President Jim Kim, she secured $ 200,000 for the Malala Fund, which is already planning its first school for girls in Swat. In her meeting with US President Barack Obama, Malala opposed drone strikes. Is this not helping Pakistan? Is this not what we wanted all along? After all those years of foreign governments speaking to the military and politicians, here is the US president listening to an ordinary young girl who is extraordinary in so many ways. Pakistan is lucky in that its ambassador for girls’ education survived. Not only is she not deterred, rather she is ready to fight even harder. We can take lessons from our friends across the border in India and not deny the existence of violent impediments to girls’ education in Pakistan out of shame and denial but rather rally together to remove them. Like in India, we must not be opposed to international attention and resources but rather welcome them to help fight extremism in our country. In addition to these lessons we must also understand that objections against young Malala are baseless and unnecessary, and that Malala is not only a positive force for girls’ education but a Pakistani ambassador to the world.

What The 'Zero Option' Would Look Like In Afghanistan

What if the United States pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan?
The general assumption is that as Washington and Kabul work to hammer out a long-term security agreement, a way will be found to maintain a U.S. troop presence after 2014. The two sides have reached a preliminary agreement on a deal. But a key U.S. demand -- that its troops be granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan law and be tried only in the United States -- remains a major sticking point. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has put the final decision on a deal to a Loya Jirga -- a traditional gathering of tribal, ethnic, and religious leaders -- that will meet and give its verdict next month. Washington has made clear that the "zero option" of pulling its forces out entirely -- as it did in Iraq after it failed to work out a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Baghdad -- is a very real option. Graeme Smith, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Kabul, says a complete U.S. pullout would be a game changer, given Washington’s vast footprint in Afghanistan. "The U.S. presence is tremendously entrenched in all spheres of life in Afghanistan," Smith says. "So much of life in this country hinges on this question of whether or not there will be U.S. forces after 2014." The zero option, if it comes to that, would exacerbate the already formidable security, financial, and regional challenges facing the Afghan government:
The United States would not keep a residual force in Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, nor would it maintain a counterterrorism force there to pursue remnants of Al-Qaeda. Likewise, NATO would not keep a training mission, as that is dependent on Afghanistan and the United States reaching a security deal. The absence of any Western forces would deprive Afghanistan's nascent security forces of much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence. A complete pullout would also likely see Kabul receiving much less of the $4 billion in annual military aid pledged by foreign donors to sustain the Afghan army and police. David Young, a civilian adviser to NATO in eastern Afghanistan and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project in Washington, says the "zero option" would fundamentally change the whole military state of play. "No troops means fewer people to monitor how Western military financial support is spent, which, in my eyes, translates to less financial support," Young says. "So then, with morale sunk, attrition will be even higher, costing security forces even more money that isn't coming in. While Afghan forces can continue a stalemate with the Taliban without constant U.S. supervision, I don't think they can continue it without adequate funding."
A complete withdrawal of U.S. troops could also translate into much less of the $4 billion in annual civilian aid pledged by foreign donors reaching Afghanistan. Smith says that could prove disastrous for the many Afghan industries and the economy as a whole, which is heavily dependent on foreign funding. "Just the sheer amount of money that's going to be pulled out has the potential to be a fundamentally disruptive thing," Smith says. "There would be an abrupt deflation of that war bubble in the economy." Waning international aid could compound the ominous economic conditions in the country. With most foreign forces leaving, many Afghan businesses have already closed shop and their owners have left the country, taking much-needed cash with them. One sector of the economy that has already been hit is real estate. The housing bubble, fueled largely by the war economy, has already burst, with prices in the capital slashed by about half in the past three years.
Businesses Tied To U.S. Military
The financial effects of a U.S. withdrawal could be compounded by the absence of the U.S. military, which is a key employer of Afghan civilians and contributes significantly to the Afghan economy. Many lucrative businesses have been propped up by military spending. The logistics and construction sectors profit most. The U.S. military hires Afghan companies to transport supplies, equipment, food, water, and fuel to and from U.S. military bases from ports in Pakistan. Afghans have also been employed to build bases, including constructing watchtowers and other facilities. Afghan companies have also been paid to produce supplies for the U.S. military. As an example, several large bottle factories have sprung up to provide U.S. personnel with bottled water.
Civil Society
The international presence has also allowed a new civil society to take root in Afghanistan. Scores of women's groups, political movements, and organizations dedicated to upholding human rights and press freedoms and fighting corruption have sprung up in the past 12 years. Young says that without a U.S. military presence and accompanying financial support, many civil society organizations would be unable to work effectively, if at all. "Without Western troops, there won't be a safety net for international donors, which means less nonmilitary aid coming in," Young says. "There would be less support for improving political institutions, government accountability, women's access to resources, and countless other vital needs."
Foreign NGOs
Similarly, many foreign nongovernmental organizations, which rely on protection provided by the international military presence to work, could halt their operations. In anticipation of the scheduled drawdown, many such groups have already either left or cut their staff numbers to include only essential personnel. A complete withdrawal could deter even the most hardened NGOs from reevaluating such moves.
Regional Impact
A complete withdrawal of U.S. troops after 2014 could have a destabilizing effect across Afghanistan's borders but might also be welcomed by powers eager to expand their regional influence. Central Asian neighbors have already beefed up border security to stop the infiltration of militants, and also of drugs, from Afghanistan. Concern over those issues can be expected to rise with U.S. forces removed from the equation. But as Smith suggests, the "zero option" may be welcomed by other countries in the region. "U.S. troops withdrawals in the western provinces of Afghanistan may be welcomed by Iran, and could encourage Tehran's cooperation with the central government in Kabul," Smith says. "Similarly, some authorities in Pakistan are eager to see the Americans leave. On the whole, however, the neighborhood around Afghanistan is watching the situation with some concern."

Pakistan: New polio cases surface in the country

The Express Tribune
Three new polio cases surfaced from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the tribal areas on Sunday, while one was also reported from Karachi. The National Institute of Health, Islamabad confirmed the new cases. The infected children have not received a single dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV). Twelve-month-old Bushra, a resident of Hindi Khel, Frontier Region Bannu has not received a single dose of the vaccine as the area has been inaccessible for polio teams since June 2012. The second child confirmed to have the crippling disease is 12-month-old Tufail, son of Nair Shah and a resident of Mirdad Khel, Khyber Agency. Tufail has also not received any OPV dose. Two-month-old Nazeefa, daughter of Ziaul Haq and a resident of Miramand Banda, Swabi is also among the infected children. Although Swabi is one of the more accessible areas in K-P, the affected child has not received any OPV dose. Meanwhile, the fourth case to emerge on Sunday was 12-month-old Rehmatullah, son of Yar Muhammad and a resident of Gadap Town, Karachi. This is the second polio case recorded from Gadap this year. The total number of polio cases in the country has increased to 53 this year, as compared to 2012’s total of 58. Four cases have been reported from Sindh, three from Punjab, and the rest have been reported from tribal areas and K-P.

IHC bars Najam Sethi to work as chairman PCB

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday suspended the ad hoc committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board and issued contempt of court notices to the five committee members, which included the acting PCB chief Najam Sethi, and sought a reply from them within four weeks, DawnNews reported. A single-member bench IHC's Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui resumed the hearing over an appeal filed by the PCB against the decision under which interim chairman PCB was allowed to work only on a day-to-day basis and was asked to conduct the elections for the new chairman by Oct 18. The court while restraining Chairman PCB Najam Sethi from performing his duties gave the charge of acting chairman of Pakistan's cricket's governing body to the Secretary PCB. The court suspended the ad hoc committe and formed a commission to conduct the elections of the PCB's chairman while stating that the commission would be headed by Justice (r) Munir A Shiekh. The PCB's elections would be conducted in November, the court added. Earlier this year, the IHC, removed former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf from his post, while declaring his election as null and void. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had then appointed Sethi as interim PCB chairman (in place of Zaka), also in violation of the PCB constitution, because it was the domain of the PCB governing board members to elect an interim chairman. According to the PCB constitution, an interim chairman enjoys very limited powers. Though, the IHC judge further reduced the powers of Sethi by ordering him to work only as caretaker — and not as interim chairman. A contempt petition was filed by Ahmed Nawaz Khan against Najam Sethi saying that the court on July 4 had directed him to hold fresh elections within 90 days for the slot of PCB chairman but Sethi committing contempt of court has not taken any measure in this regard till this time.

Balochistan: Missing persons long march

It is difficult not to feel stirrings of sympathy for Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, the Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan. In his foray the other day to the Karachi Press Club, he was nothing if not candid. First and foremost, he admitted up front that he and his government had failed to resolve the issue of missing persons that has bedevilled the province for years. Although he asserted in one breath that the law and order and security situation in Balochistan had improved since he took over, the next moment he confessed the difficulties in the way of bringing peace and reconciliation to the troubled province. When questioned about contacts or talks with the Baloch nationalist insurgents, Dr Malik tried to put the best possible face on it by stating that his government was trying to find a ‘constitutional’ solution to the conundrum. Presumably what he meant was a negotiated settlement of the conflict without conceding the demand for separation. To create what he called the mechanism for contacts with the Baloch nationalist insurgents in the mountains and those in exile, his government has proposed a provincial All Parties Conference in December to deliberate upon the ways and means to achieve at least an opening to the aggrieved and angry dissidents in the separatist camp. Dr Malik’s small space for manoeuvre however, was exposed in his statement that until such time that the police and Levies in Balochistan were strengthened to take over security and law and order duties, reliance on the Frontier Corps (FC) would have to continue. Given how controversial the FC has become over the years in Balochistan, particularly with reference to the notorious alleged ‘kill and dump’ policy, there is a logical flaw in the CM’s argument. So long as the FC is deployed, and given that the government elected this year seems so far helpless to control the incidence of such incidents, one fails to see how the FC could be taken out of the equation. Rather, its posture and actions suggest the FC will be difficult to remove or replace for the foreseeable future. That cuts the ground from under the ground of the well-meaning CM. High hopes were attached after the May 2013 elections that the coming to power of a middle class Baloch moderate nationalist like Dr Malik offered the best hope in years of promoting a negotiated settlement and peace in Balochistan. Four months down the road, that appears a virtually lost cause, not the least because in practice the CM seems unable to rein in even the more objectionable parts of the FC’s campaign against nationalist dissidents. The CM has proved equally helpless when it comes to meeting the challenges of the earthquake-hit victims in Awaran. Whatever the provincial government, the military/FC and the National and Provincial Disaster Management Authorities have managed, and it could be conceded that their efforts are not inconsiderable, nevertheless they fall far short of the requirement, as Dr Malik himself has repeatedly said. Nevertheless, his appeals to the federal government to either do what is required itself or allow international aid agencies to come in and help have fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile persistent reports from the remote earthquake zones speak of immense deprivation and a humanitarian crisis, the claims of the authorities to have adequately met the emergency notwithstanding. To add poignancy to Dr Malik’s confession that he has been unable to do much about the missing persons conundrum, a brave group of men, women and children of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons has undertaken an arduous long march from Quetta to Karachi to highlight the lack of progress on recovery of missing persons in Balochistan, despite the efforts, amongst others, of no less than the Supreme Court. Of course, the difference between the journey of the CM to Karachi and that of the relatives of the missing persons agitating for the return of their loved ones since 2009 is that the latter are making the trek on foot, for 12 hours a day, resting wherever they find themselves at nightfall. Even the most hardened heart must feel for these unfortunate people, whose misery and grief knows no bounds and has seen no relief despite their best efforts. Neither Pakistani nor international human rights organizations have taken up this cause with the persistence it demands, occasional nods in its direction notwithstanding. Without a cessation of tortured dead bodies of nationalists turning up all over Balochistan and increasingly in Karachi, whatever hopes resided in a political reconciliation in Balochistan through Dr Malik and company seem ordained to end in failure. That implies a continuation, and perhaps worsening, of what Dr Malik described as troubles confined to a few districts. How long such complacency can hold the field is a moot point.

Balochistan: CM Baloch blows kisses in air

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch admitted his failure in resolving the issue of \'missing persons\'. He also said that success on any front in the province depended on how amicably the problem was solved. It means that Baloch\'s government has been unable to accomplish anything for the last over four months. On the very first day of his assumption of the office, Baloch had vowed to resign in case he did not succeed in finding and returning the missing persons to their homes. But Abdul Malik Baloch while accepting his inability in this matter has not shown any intention to resign. Had he, however, not admitted to the failure, it would not have made any difference because the whole country already knew of the situation in that province. The Balochistan chief minister is not naïve. He knew the situation fully well when as chief executive he promised to solve the many issues facing his province. He knew he was given the charge of the whole province in name only; though, his police could legally only act in ten percent of the area called the category \'A\"; though, he had pledged to make the whole province peaceful. The rest of about ninety percent of the area of called category \'B\' is in the hands of Baloch sardars or in the control of the army where the troops decided to take action in rare cases of extreme emergencies. In the \'B\' areas the sardar rules and conduct smuggling operations whether it is of drugs or weapons; organise armed attacks; give security to all kinds of criminals and foreign agents while the chief minister has no control over these activities. As such when Baloch became the chief minister of that province and vowed to make things right there, there were many knowing smiles from those who knew the situation. It was a given that the new chief minister was engaging in the usual oratory which all politicians do when anyone of them assumes the office of the chief minister. Had CM Baloch taken firm commitment from the concerned authorities regarding the recovery of missing persons and that the Nawaz government will change the category \'B\' areas to category \'A\', before he took oath of office, his promises would have been believable. But with ninety percent of Balochistan area not in his control, his vows to correct the situation in the whole province was nothing more than blowing kisses in the air. Things like jobs, education and better health facilities signify economic independence for the masses but are considered firing by death squads on the sardari system in Balochistan. The people living in ninety percent of the province will remain deprived of these facilities till the end of sardars\' rule. Most of the blames of the situation in that province is put on the security forces. Sometimes even when a vehicle engine refuses to start accusing finger is pointed at the forces. However, the fact is that changing the status of the category \'A\' areas to \'B\' is the job of the civilian government. The transformation of the areas can bring a positive change in Balochistan and any provincial government making sincere efforts to bring law and order under control will be more successful. However, if the said change is made, it will adversely impact the sardars and that is the point where all political governments have wavered in favour of the sardars, of course. All the militants, kidnappers, dacoits and armed separatists have their safe havens in the category \'B\' areas under the protection of the Sardars. The miscreants perform terrorist acts, kidnap people and take them to these areas to kill them or hold them hostage for ransom without least bit of worry about the law enforcing agencies. In case, the whole of the province is brought under the control of the regular law enforcing agencies and the jurisdiction of the judiciary is also extended there, the provincial government, if it wills, will be able to end the safe havens of the enemies of the country and the province, as the sardars will not be able to give them protection. Abdul Malik Baloch is considered as not to belong to that class of Baloch sardars who for their own personal gains are risking the territorial integrity of the country. He is said to be an enlightened person who has raised his voice for the downtrodden people of his province. He is not earning a good name as he continues to hold the office of chief minister under the circumstances. In fact, with each passing day, he is tarnishing his reputation as an upright man who is in politics to benefit the common man; he is more and more considered as a politicians who, instead of upholding principles, will do anything to hold on to his office. He should have resigned long ago when he judged that he could not do the job either because of the circumstances or something lacking on his part. Still, it is better late than never. He should resign if he cannot keep his promises which he made when assuming office.

Govt confused on Taliban issue, says Khursheed Shah

Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has said that government was utterly confused over the issue of dialogue with the Taliban. Talking to journalists in National Assembly chamber on Monday, he said that there was no talk between Nawaz Sharif and President Barrack Obama regarding Taliban issue. He said that Ulema had issued their edict against terrorism, stressing government to evolve a comprehensive strategy to eliminate this menace. To a question, he said that PPP would strongly resist any attempt at privatization of steel mills, warning that any further attempts to privatize any other public assets, or downsizing of employees would be challenged in courts. He cited the disastrous consequences of privatization carried out by PML-N led governments in the past. Shah said that when PPP left government, 85 institutions had 190 billion shares, which the current government cannot replace with privatizing just 35 institutions.

U.S. Disrupts Afghans’ Tack on Militants

A bungled attempt by the Afghan government to cultivate a shadowy alliance with Islamist militants escalated into the latest flash point in the troubled relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, according to new accounts by officials from both countries. The disrupted plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to work with the Pakistan Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, in order to find a trump card in a baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year, the officials said. And what started the hard feelings was that the Americans caught them red-handed. Tipped off to the plan, United States Special Forces raided an Afghan convoy that was ushering a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, Latif Mehsud, to Kabul for secret talks last month, and now have Mr. Mehsud in custody. Publicly, the Afghan government has described Mr. Mehsud as an insurgent peace emissary. But according to Afghan officials, the ultimate plan was to take revenge on the Pakistani military. In the murk of intrigue and paranoia that dominates the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistanis have long had the upper hand. A favorite complaint of Afghan officials is how Pakistani military intelligence has sheltered and nurtured the Taliban and supported their insurgency against the Afghan government. Now, not content to be merely the target of a proxy war, the Afghan government decided to recruit proxies of its own by seeking to aid the Pakistan Taliban in their fight against Pakistan’s security forces, according to Afghan officials. And they were beginning to make progress over the past year, they say, before the American raid exposed them. Although Afghan anger over the raid has been an open issue since it was revealed in news reports this month, it is only now that the full purpose of the Afghan operation that prompted the raid has been detailed by American and Afghan officials. Those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss secret intelligence matters. The thinking, Afghan officials said, was that the Afghans could later gain an advantage in negotiations with the Pakistani government by offering to back off their support for the militants. Aiding the Pakistan Taliban was an “opportunity to bring peace on our terms,” one senior Afghan security official said. From the American standpoint, though, it has exposed a new level of futility in the war effort here. Not only has Washington failed to persuade Pakistan to stop using militants to destabilize its neighbors — a major American foreign policy goal in recent years — but its failure also appears to have persuaded Afghanistan to try the same thing. Worse still, for American officials, was the Afghans’ choice of militant allies. Though the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are operationally distinct, they are loosely aligned; the Pakistani insurgents, for instance, pledge allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder of the Afghan Taliban. In the estimation of American officials, support for one invariably bleeds into assistance for the other. At the same time, the Pakistan Taliban shares its base in the tribal areas of Pakistan with a number of Islamist groups that have tried to mount attacks in the West, including the remnants of Al Qaeda’s original leadership. The Pakistan Taliban have also showed a willingness to strike beyond the region, unlike the Afghan Taliban. Mr. Mehsud, for instance, is suspected of having a role in the foiled plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, American officials said. American officials said they were also worried that the Afghan actions would give credibility to Pakistani complaints that enemies based in Afghanistan presented them with a threat equivalent to the Afghan insurgency. No one in the Western intelligence community believes the comparison to be anywhere close, given that the Afghan Taliban insurgency, with help from its Pakistani allies, has killed tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan in the past 12 years, including more than 2,000 Americans. “What were they thinking?” said one American official of his Afghan counterparts. Both Afghan and American officials said the Afghan plan to aid the Pakistan Taliban was in its preliminary stages when Mr. Mehsud was seized by American forces. But they agree on little else. American officials interviewed about the raid say they saved Afghanistan from folly. Pakistan’s use of militants has left that country torn by violence with group after group spinning out of the government’s control — the Pakistan Taliban being Exhibit A. The Americans also said it was not clear how much help the Afghans could actually provide the Pakistan Taliban. In the Afghan telling, the theft of their prized intelligence asset is an egregious example of American bullying, and President Hamid Karzai remains furious about it. Afghan officials assert that Mr. Mehsud’s continued detention could still derail a pact to keep American troops here beyond next year, despite the progress toward reaching a deal made during talks this month between Mr. Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry. Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said that Mr. Mehsud had been in contact with officials from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, for “a long period of time.” The Pakistan Taliban leader “was part of an N.D.S. project like every other intelligence agency is doing,” Mr. Faizi said in an apparent reference to the support provided to the Afghan Taliban by Pakistan intelligence. “He was cooperating. He was engaged with the N.D.S. — this I can confirm.” Mr. Faizi did not elaborate on the nature of the cooperation. But two other Afghan officials, when asked why they were willing to discuss such a potentially provocative plot, said Mr. Mehsud’s detention by the United States had already been exposed — it was first reported by The Washington Post — ruining his value as an intelligence asset and sinking their plan. As a consolation, the Afghan officials said they now wanted Pakistan to know that Afghanistan could play dirty as well. One said they would try again if given the opportunity. Afghan officials dismissed American admonishments about the dangers of working with militants as the kind of condescension they have come to expect. No one in Mr. Karzai’s government was naïve enough to believe they could turn the Pakistan Taliban into a reliable proxy, said a former Afghan official familiar with the matter. “I would describe what we wanted to do was foster a mutually beneficial relationship,” the former official said. “We’ve all seen that these people are nobodies — proxies.” Another Afghan official said the logic of the region dictated the need for unseemly alliances. The United States, in fact, has relied on some of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords to fight the insurgency here, the official tartly noted. “Everyone has an angle,” the official said. “That’s the way we’re thinking. Some people said we needed our own.” Afghan officials said those people included American military officers and C.I.A. operatives. Frustrated by their limited ability to hit Taliban havens in Pakistan, some Americans suggested that the Afghans find a way to do it, they claimed. So Afghanistan’s intelligence agency believed it had a green light from the United States when it was approached by Mr. Mehsud sometime in the past year. After months of negotiations with Mr. Mehsud, the intelligence agency struck an initial deal, two Afghan officials said: Afghanistan would not harass Pakistan Taliban fighters sheltering in mountains along the border if the insurgents did not attack Afghan forces. Still, the Afghans decided to keep their relationship with Mr. Mehsud a secret and did not tell American officials. An American official briefed on Mr. Mehsud’s case said there was “absolutely no way” any American would encourage the Afghans to work with the Pakistan Taliban or do anything that could result in attacks on Pakistani forces or civilians, the official said. “If they thought we’d approve,” the American official added, “why did they keep it a secret?”

PAKISTAN: During the month of September 493 persons died and 555 were injured in different incidents of violence

September turned out to be the deadliest month so far this year. The total number of casualties during September touched amounted to 1048 persons with 493 being killed and 555 injured; an increase of 35% over the 744 casualties in August. More than 50% of all the total casualties were killed or injured during the last nine days of the month (22 – 30 September) when 240 persons died and over 370 persons were injured throughout the country. The statistics and report of the incidence of violence during the month was issued by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and based on the research by Mohammad Nafees. The detailed report may be seen here. Among all the provinces the death toll due to violence was the highest in Khyber Pakhtunkha (KPK) while the Sindh province recorded the second highest number of deaths followed by the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) and Balochistan province. From a figure of 84 persons that KPK and FATA recorded last month for the victims of violence (38 died and 46 injured), it jumped to 707 casualties (274 deaths and 429 injuries), eight times higher than those that occurred in the previous month. Violence-related incidents killed a total of 374 people in both Sindh and Balochistan province which was a marked decline of 40% in such deaths compared to previous months. (See graph 2). On the district level, Peshawar lost more lives than Karachi during the month in review, while Quetta, too, saw a far lower number of deaths in September. (See graph 3). A review of this change will be discussed in other chapters. Please see: PAKISTAN: During the last eight months 4,286 persons were killed in target killings, security operations, militant attacks and terrorism to access the data for the month of August 2013. The majority of the victims were civilians. In September, two places of worship, a Church and a mosque or Imam Bargah for Shiite Muslims were attacked. The important pillars of the state, government officials (including army personnel, FC personnel, and policemen) and politicians (including activists and supporters) also saw 84 deaths, more than the militants and criminals together (73 deaths) during this month. While most of the incidents of targeted killings happened in Karachi as usual, the Balochistan, KPK, FATA, and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) regions have borne the brunt of militant, sectarian and terrorist attacks. Sindh province lost 149 persons to various acts of violence during September. A total of 138 were from Karachi and the remaining were from Kashmore (6), Sukkur (4), and Larkana (1) (Refer to graph 6). Nearly 70% of the people were killed in target killings (106) and the remaining 30% were victims of security operations, sectarian attacks, attacks by militants, gang wars, and terrorism. To address the menace of these crimes, the government came out with a plan to convene an All Parties' Conference (APC) on 9th September 2013. Soon after the date of the APC was announced, a debate ensued among different political parties and opinion makers offering suggestions and evaluating the possibility of the effectiveness of such an endeavor that was attempted earlier and which had little or no results in the past.

Pakistan: Dear Mr Prime Minister

The Baloch Hal
By Sanaullah Baloch
In this very critical moment of history I am compelled to write this brief letter to remind you about your role as the chief executive of Pakistan, and the commitments you have made to the people of Pakistan, more particularly the downtrodden people of Balochistan. While your government may have pleasant stories for some, Balochistan is on the verge of death with a sharp increase in human rights violations, humanitarian crisis, and socio-economic erosion. It’s a heart-wrenching fact that since your takeover as prime minister around 90 barbarically tortured corpses of Baloch youth have been dumped in different parts of Balochistan and Karachi. Beginning from the All-Parties Conference held in London on July 7-8 in 2007, and as a leading opposition figure before the May elections, you made countless commitments condemning atrocities against the Baloch and demanded fair and just rights for them. The London APC’s resolution said that “today Balochistan bleeds under the heels of an army operation, where gunship helicopters are used for silencing dissenting political voices.” In reality, the current situation in the province is far worse than what it was in 2007. Balochistan’s sufferings have increased manifold. The province’s home and tribal affairs department’s recent report revealed horrific accounts of kill-and-dumps. The report says that 592 mutilated, killed and dumped bodies of Baloch political activists have been found from 2010 to September 2013. The worrying fact is that this barbaric trend has seen a sharp increase during the first three months of your government. Mr Prime Minister, Balochistan has unique socio-cultural and political characteristics including countless resources. This you are aware of and you recently signed a number of MoUs with Chinese companies without reaching out and initiating any ‘memorandum of political understanding’ with the people of Balochistan. My concerns are not just political – I worry because the ongoing conflict, military operation and immunity and impunity for crime and corruption have severely damaged Balochistan’s social, economic and political fabric. All this will have severe consequences both for the Baloch and the region. The province’s statistics depict a very bleak scenario – much worse than war-torn African states. Just imagine – 63 percent of its population lives below the poverty line compared to Punjab’s 19 percent. Data on health, employment, nutrition intake, infrastructure and education is equally grim and sadly terribly below the national average. Mian Sahib, there is a difference between being in opposition and being in power. The people of Balochistan are expecting much more from you. I would like to remind you that glitzy mega-projects without a genuine conflict resolution process are seen as an attempt to further exploit and marginalise the people. Skyscrapers and guzzling machines are no guarantee for peace. Huge, but controversial, mega projects failed to legitimise General Musharraf’s policies. His disguised-in-development colonisation didn’t envisage any political harmonisation, local participation and economic trickledown. His visionless and dictatorial policies further weakened the very delicate relations between the Baloch and Pakistan. Mr Prime Minister, it’s time to move on from political rhetoric. It’s time for genuine political action. If you remember, during our meeting in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on June 12, 2013, I shared a brief note with you on behalf of the Balochistan National Party – a list of CBMs and recommendations on political stabilisation, economic development and a plan for the socio-economic uplift of the people of Balochistan. But regrettably instead of taking into account those CBMs, your government unilaterally signed a number of controversial projects with Chinese companies on contentious projects. Gwadar is one of them. Instead of sober, genuine and tested political process, your government is encouraging further militarisation of the already heavily militarised Baloch region. The recent supply of bullets and machine gunsis not a political gesture; it symbolises war and conflict escalation. Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nine years; he used sophisticated weapons and barbaric torture methods but miserably failed to subdue the politically conscious Baloch people. Balochistan demands respect, justice, and fair political partnership, not machine guns and soldiers. It is a society deprived of basic human needs. Sixty percent of its people lack drinking water, electricity and basic health facilities. Despite sitting on the world’s largest copper-gold deposit, two million children in Balochistan lack decent education. Mian Sahib, it’s impossible to rebuild Baloch trust on the state and its institutions without a time-tested conflict resolution process. A policy of more guns and more soldiers will only lead to more chaos and distrust. There is no doubt that security-sector reform is a crucial aspect of the Baloch problem. But these reforms should not be limited to enhance the killing capacity of the non-ethnic Baloch security apparatus to single out and suppress the ethnic Baloch. Your government must engage experts and identify the victims and ‘beneficiaries’ of the conflict. ‘Baboos’ with fancy PowerPoint presentations have misled many leaders in the past – and I am scared that they will continue to influence your policies too. Death and destruction in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, have become a huge money-making opportunity. Many powerful elements within the state structure prefer a continuation of suppressive policies. The conflict in Balochistan has created a complex power imbalance. And genuine conflict resolution process will definitely expose such elements and diminish their unnaturally grown role and authority. The rubberstamped Balochistan Assembly has no value and has miserably failed to deliver on pertinent issues as a legitimate legislature. The May 2013 election was political management of high standards. In Balochistan, state machinery, as usual, ensured fulltime ‘free, fair and transparent selection’. Mr Prime Minister, it’s a harsh but undeniable fact that Pakistan has physically shrunk in a few districts. Except a few areas in central Punjab including Lahore and Islamabad there is no place where people walk or sleep without fear. Following political and economic marginalisation, ethnic and religious minorities are struggling for their physical survival. A transparent profile of killings, human rights violations and marginalisation indicates the systematic targeting of marginalised communities with impunity. Mian Sahib, a leader who believes on rhetoric can neither reverse this cycle of violence nor correct this deliberately created chaos. To deal with such complex issues a leader must demonstrate extraordinary courage and political will to undo the damage. Balochistan deserves a politically mature and daring solution such as a comprehensive peace agreement with the real stakeholders. The multi-step process must focus on issues such as cessation of hostilities, implementation of agreed CBMs, talks and agreements on political, economic and security aspect of the crisis. And most importantly, avoiding a complete sale out of the Balochistan coast, coal, copper-gold, gas and natural wealth until the conflict is fully resolved. Balochistan’s political conflict and its unaddressed genuine grievances need courageous decision-making by a brave leader.