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Bilawal Bhutto says committed to Benazir’s mission

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday said the PPP was fully committed to the ‘mission’ and ‘vision’ of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, and “she continues to guide the party and its leadership from her eternal abode”. “It was the sacrifice of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto that strengthened democracy,” Bilawal said while addressing a large number of jubilant leaders and party workers who celebrated the late Bhutto’s 64th birthday. People from various parts of the country gathered at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh where they cut the birthday cake and paid tribute to the slain leader who was assassinated on December 27, 2007.
During the ceremony at Naudero, Bilawal cut the cake of his mother’s birthday and visited Garhi Khuda Bakhsh where he along with other leaders laid floral wreath on the graves of his mother Benazir, grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and others.
Many party leaders, including Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Faryal Talpur, PPP Sindh President Nisar Khuhro, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Waqar Mehdi, political secretary to chairman Jameel Soomro also participated in the event. However, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was missing from the event. Bilawal reiterated Bhutto’s message that ‘democracy is the best revenge’, pointing out that it was Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who challenged extremism and militancy and commanded the nation during the fight against terrorism, eventually embracing martyrdom.
He said Benazir lived and laid down her life for the cause of downtrodden people while fighting tyranny.
“Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was dragged from court to court for three decades and held in solitary confinement by the dictatorial regime and their handpicked henchmen. But she remained steadfast and fought against undemocratic forces valiantly till her last drop of blood,” PPP chairman said. He said that the people of Pakistan were indebted to the great icon of democracy who sacrificed her everything for them and their future. Pledging that the PPP would continue its struggle where Shaheed Bibi left, Bilawal said that he would follow the guidelines of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to get rid of “injustices, inequality and exploitation” and for an egalitarian and welfare state of Pakistan.
On the other hand, the PPP Karachi division also organised an event in connection with the birthday celebrations of Benazir Bhutto. PPP Karachi division president Dr Asim Hussain, Nabil Gabool, Zulfiqar Qaimkhani and others attended the event held at PPP secretariat. The leaders cut cake and paid tribute to Benazir Bhutto.

Marching with the Mahatma Gandhi of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s killing field

Rose petals welcomed “Mama” Qadeer Baloch and his small band of marchers on a rainy evening at Faizabad Junction. The next day he would wheel a small cart with framed photographs of the dead young men and women of Balochistan to the Islamabad Press Club. Rose petals covered their faces.
The province which was annexed from the erstwhile Kalat state wants freedom from Pakistan, and the army has been repeatedly crushing the so-called miscreants there in large numbers. The young men are insurgents or rebels depending on which side you are on, and the Pakistan government is fairly convinced that India has a role to play in fomenting trouble in this massive province bordering Iran, and has submitted a dossier to this effect to the UN. The excuse for the many detention camps, and torture and the army being sent out to crush rebellion is fear of another secession. Pakistan is clear that India is doing what it did to support the Mukti Bahini in the war for Bangladesh all over again. The popular belief is that Balochistan and its aspirations are being melded by a RAW conspiracy to unsettle Pakistan. And the arrest in 2016 of Kulbhushan Jadhav, who, the Pakistanis alleged, was an agent of RAW, was shown as proof that its charges were right. I was repeatedly asked on TV about India’s role in Balochistan—it is a recurring theme in the pantheon of accusations. I tried to tell people that I wasn’t sending agents into Balochistan and that I worked for an independent newspaper which was not the government. But conveniently, my Indian-ness would morph into being a representative of my government when it suited some, while otherwise I would be just another ordinary Indian to be loved or hated. The turmoil in Balochistan is often compared to Kashmir. If I as an Indian wrote about Balochistan and its situation and/or interviewed a person like Mama Qadeer, then why didn’t I write about the freedom or azadi aspirations of Kashmir and its freedom fighters? If I didn’t, I was given to understand that I had no right to write on Balochistan. But we are getting ahead of the story.
It was Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir who first compared “Mama” Qadeer Baloch to Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, Qadeer’s arduous exercise was inspired by Gandhi’s 390-kilometre Dandi march, only he walked longer than Gandhi—the distance from Quetta to Islamabad is about 3,300 kilometres. The cause was just as searing. It was a long march to the capital to demand justice for the thousands of missing persons in Balochistan. Death threats, generous bribes and attacks did not deter Qadeer who founded the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons in 2009, and his small band of followers. He was seventy-two then (March 2014) and the youngest marcher was eleven-year-old Ali Haider. The cases that Qadeer filed led to the Supreme Court establishing that it was the security agencies—the ISI, the Frontier Corps and the military intelligence—that picked up the young men and women. There have been so many orders to produce the missing persons but no one does anything. The security forces defy the orders and it is of no use, Qadeer said.
when they were camping outside the Karachi Press Club in December 2013 after walking 700 kilometres. Sixteen-year-old Sammi’s father was picked up from a hospital four years ago. She could march again if it meant bringing her father back, she said. Her family was in penury. But the real dread is that many of the missing persons could be dead. People are picked up by security agencies and many of them don’t come back for ten years; sometimes they never do; and their bodies are dumped here and there with slips of paper in their pockets. Most of the children who took part in the protest, like Samina, a seventh-class student, and her younger brother, Ali Haider, had left school to take part in the protest. Their father, Mohammed Ramzan, was missing. During the march, people would abuse and threaten them, and in some instances some people even fired at them from moving vehicles. A truck hit two of the supporters, injuring them. Qadeer said he had requested a meeting with the UN working group when it visited Balochistan in 2012. “We were invited to meet them in Islamabad and we decided to walk the over 3,000 kilometres from Quetta in a bid to highlight our situation and seek UN intervention,” he said.
The group set out on 27 October 2013, and would cover forty kilometres a day; finally, it took them 100 days to get to the capital. Mohammed Ali Talpur, a senior activist, who was part of the march from Karachi, said that this was a message of defiance to the government and by bringing the march to the heart of the establishment, the people of Balochistan wanted to publicize their plight. Garlanded with roses and wearing a traditional cap, Qadeer, a former bank employee, was friendly and told me he wanted to visit India, a wish that was granted just when I was leaving. He has documented over 19,200 cases of missing persons and recovered 2006 bodies. The issue of missing persons began in 1947 when Balochistan was forced to join Pakistan after it was freed from the Kalat state, he said. His thirty-year-old son Jalil Reki was picked up because he was the Baloch Republican Party’s (BRP) central information secretary. His body was dumped in a village bordering Iran. His son’s death fired his zeal to set things right and he founded this organization dedicated to focus on the tragedy of the people in Balochistan, wracked by struggles for independence, counter-insurgency, terrorism and action by security forces.
He said it was the intelligence agencies who killed his son because they called and said so to someone who was with him at that time. His grandson, too, was part of the march. In 2012, his organization filed two cases in the Supreme Court on the missing persons; the petitions asked for these persons to be produced in court. He said the conditions in the detention centres were terrible. People could not even stretch their legs, the rooms were tiny, and the prisoners were blindfolded. And in some of the bodies that the group recovered, there were holes drilled in the legs. He said there were also bodies with the vital organs removed. Sana Sangat, a senior leader of the Baloch Students Organization (Azad) who later joined the BRP, was pumped with twenty-eight bullets. Among those documented as missing, there were about 170 women. In one instance, a schoolteacher, a mother of a one-year-old son, was picked up. At times, children, too, were taken away.


In the midst of Trump administration developing its policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the experts in Washington, are divided. The key question seems to be how to make Pakistan cease its support to the Haqqani Network and other militant groups that are destabilizing the region, especially Afghanistan. Moeed Yusuf and Stephen Hadley wrote an op-ed published by The New York Times offering some insights on the subject. In War on the Rocks, Christine Fair responded critically. Having myself been involved in Pakistan’s foreign and security policy both, as a state employee in a senior advisory role and a scholar, it seems to me the two articles misconceive not only Pakistan’s threat perceptions but also the ability of the United States to influence Pakistan’s behavior. Hence, the two articles offer the same old tried, tested, and failed approaches to handling Pakistan.
First, both opinion pieces re-package an archaic understanding on Pakistan’s strategic anxieties. Yusuf and Hadley drum up the old narrative peddled by the Pakistani establishment of its fear of being squashed between Afghanistan and India as a reason to resort to militant support. They write, “To get Pakistan to alter its approach in Afghanistan, the United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties.” Christine Fair, on her part, provides an equally dated response that the United States needs to “signal to Pakistan that it does not consider its Indian fantasies to be credible.”
These two approaches are part of longstanding debate between two camps in Washington that seek to, respectively, appease or punish Pakistan. This debate hinges on a core question: Is India really an existential threat to Pakistan? In making their cases, however, the two camps resort to extreme positions allowing no room for a middle ground — essentially applying a reductionist Indian-centric approach to Pakistan’s national security policy. For instance, in one of my meetings with a senior Pakistani intelligence official in 2013 for a research project, he was candid, telling me that “Pakistan is a lot more under a threat from internal actors, as it is from India.” I interpreted this as, in part, a sort of acknowledgment that Pakistan’s support for Islamist militants was backfiring due to some of them going rogue and peddling their own sectarian and political agendas. But these militants were not the only “internal actors” the intelligence official was referring to. In this person’s view, there were and still are many others, including some who cloaked themselves in the garb of democracy and freedom of speech to destabilize the military. Essentially, the Pakistan Army’s strategic anxiety is also a lot about the continued supremacy of its institution as it is about defending the country from India — a nuance sometimes missed in the polarized debate on Pakistan in Washington.
However, by mid-2014 that threat indicator took a sharp turn when Narendra Modi ascended to power in India and took a hardline against Pakistan, taking a strong position on Baluchistan that was interpreted in Pakistan as Modi calling for an insurgency in the Baluchistan. Such a strong tirade coming from the very top of the Indian government brought the Pakistan Army’s focus back to India — the external threat took over the internal one. With the recent arrest of Kulbushan Jhadev, an India spy caught in Pakistan, and increased skirmishes on the border, for the United States then to “signal to Pakistan that it does not consider its Indian fantasies to be credible,” as suggested by Christine Fair, is somewhat impractical and would generate a strong reaction from Pakistan.
Second, on the question of specific U.S. policy action on Pakistan, neither of the parties to this debate provides any credible suggestions. Yusuf and Hadley suggest that the U.S. government works to “facilitate an India-Pakistan dialogue on the full range of economic and political issues,” find a political solution to Afghanistan via Pakistan, etc. Christine Fair rightly points out that these measures have been tried, tested, and have failed. For her part, she calls for a more hawkish approach to threaten Pakistan that “the United States will declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror,” “impose special sanctions,” and “cease all Coalition Support Funds” to get Pakistan to change its behavior on support for militants. Central to her suggestions is a false assumption that the United States possesses sufficient leverage to coerce Pakistan to stop it from supporting the Haqqani Network and other militant groups in the region. In one of Fair’s other articles on Pakistan she suggests,
The only way to motivate change is by developing a coercive campaign that diminishes the advantages of Pakistan’s use of militant proxies under its nuclear umbrella while also increasing the costs of doing so.
For coercion to work, it has to be credible and the United States needs to have the capacity to deliver sufficient punishment. The U.S. government cannot meet either of these standards at the moment. The Pakistani security establishment is well aware that cutting aid and imposing sanctions would not have a major impact on Pakistan’s development or economy, given that Pakistan barely receives the promised aid due to the overhead costs and bureaucratic processes that also require national security waivers to release the aid. The inability of aid agencies and the local government to put the allocated aid into action on ground also reduces the subsequent year aid budget, as can be seen under the Kerry Lugar Berman Act of 2009. As for the Coalition Support Fund, it is meant to reimburse the military costs incurred to the Pakistan Army in its war against terrorism, not the overall economic, political, and psychological cost that the country pays to be in the war. Hence, this is a tiny fraction of what Pakistan has to pay and the moment the United States cuts it, the Pakistan Army will have all the more reason not to support the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Such cuts could perhaps even lead Pakistan to enhance low cost unconventional warfare in the region, making the situation worse.
Given, especially the increasingly large presence of China in Pakistan due to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, threats of economic or military sanctions on Pakistan don’t appear credible, nor does it appear the United States has the capacity to pursue that course of action. If anything, Washington’s failure to stop Pakistan from pursuing efforts it deemed vital to its national security interests – such as developing a nuclear weapon, despite sanctions via the Pressler Amendment, — should, perhaps, be instructive on this front.
In my recent briefings with members of the Pakistani security establishment, the underlying sentiment was clear. Top Pakistani officials truly believe the United States does not have the capacity or credibility to provide a long-term solution in Afghanistan. If anything, the Pakistani security establishment sees China as playing a major role in the Afghan peace process – something that Pakistan is a lot more comfortable with. Hence, the decision has already been made. There is no mood to cut any deal on the Haqqani Network. There was a time when Pakistan supported the Haqqani Network out of uncertainty, but that is no longer the case. The Pakistani establishment sees the Haqqani Network as not just its trump card but also the only card to stay in the game in Afghanistan — especially when the United States inevitably, in its view, fails to deliver. The continued American push on the Haqqani Network, therefore, is unlikely to force Pakistan to change its behavior, as it goes directly against its national interest. Truth be told, the situation, context, and mindset of the Pakistani security establishment has changed in the region, but Yusuf, Hadley, and Fair continue to see Pakistan through an older Cold War era prism.
The chatter in the Pakistani security establishment is that almost all players in Afghanistan have their preferred militant outfits that they support (American policymakers should keep in mind how Pakistan views the various forces under the umbrella of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces). Why, then, should Pakistan give up on its long-held assets? Also, with the growing Chinese presence in the region, Pakistan does not need the United States as much as it used to. This is not to say Pakistan doesn’t want good working relations with the United States or continued transfer of military technology, but any desperation to act in order to stay on the good side of the United States is dissolving.
The reality is that the United States and Pakistan may have the same goal of bringing peace in Afghanistan, but what shape that peace structure would take, the actors involved, and how to achieve it has strong divisions. As such, Washington and Islamabad do not and perhaps cannot have a shared pathway to peace in the region. Whether one follows the advice of Hadley and Yusuf or Fair, the United States is in no position to influence Pakistan’s security policies in a meaningful way. It’s about time it is recognized and understood by the experts in Washington who still find themselves under this illusion. The United States under President Donald Trump should either find a third way, beyond the debate between the two camps in Washington that has so far failed to produce a result, or it must come to terms with Pakistan’s way — because, we have all been here before, and there is really no other way with Pakistan.

In Pakistan, scorching Ramadan month highlights chronic water, power shortages

By Pamela Constable

On May 27, in the date-growing desert town of Turbat in Baluchistan province, the temperature reached 128.3 degrees — the hottest ever reported in Pakistan. 
What followed was a month of intense heat and humidity nationwide coinciding with Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting and prayer that ended Sunday. Every day, millions of sweltering Pakistanis struggled to forgo food and water from sunrise to sunset, then roused themselves before dawn to wash, pray, cook and eat.
The Ramadan ordeal has brought into sharp relief the chronic water and power shortagesplaguing this arid, Muslim-majority country of 180 million. In cities, families had to fill jugs and bottles from public taps at 3 a.m. In villages, long daily electrical outages stopped fans from whirring and tube wells from pumping water to irrigate parched fields.
As the month dragged on, people lost patience. Violent protests broke out from the vast port city of Karachi to the hilly tribal region of Malakand. Electric company offices were looted, police stations attacked, roads blocked. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the electricity cuts shortened to several hours a day, but everyone knew that the move was only a temporary appeasement.
“Here I am, filling bottles while my kids wait in the car, because the water at home is not fit to drink,” fumed Shahadat Ali, 40, a printer lugging containers from a water station in the capital last week.
“This should not be happening,” Ali said as sweat poured down his face. “It’s all because of politics and mismanagement. It’s a disgrace.”
In a village of wheat and peanut fields 40 miles west of the capital, Rafiq Mohammed rested on a string bed in 97-degree heat, cooling his water buffaloes under a shade tree. The farmer said he was used to a hard life with hot summers. But he, too, said he was angry at the Sharif government, which won election in 2013 promising to end the power shortages but has struggled to fulfill that pledge.
“In our house, we can only use one fan and one light,” said Mohammed, 52. “We need the tube wells, but we can’t run them without power. Even when there is no power at all, we still get big bills we can’t afford to pay. The authorities come to get our votes, but after that they disappear.”
For years, Pakistan, an impoverished, mostly agricultural country with a fast-growing population, has faced a protracted problem of how to supply its farms, factories and urban households with water and power. But despite increasing public clamor and official investment, the shortages persist and are predicted to worsen.
The Sharif government can hardly be accused of ignoring the power issue. He vowed to make the problem a top priority, having inherited a system in shambles — with massive thefts of electricity, power plants operating far below capacity and a huge built-up debt to oil companies and other creditors.  
Soon after taking office, Sharif ordered finance officials to repay the power debt of $480 million. Since then, he has focused on generating new power sources. Every few weeks, he appears on TV newscasts, inaugurating a new coal- or gas-fired plant. Many are being built in partnership with China, Pakistan’s major foreign investor.
But critics say the government has focused too narrowly on such high-profile projects, while failing to grapple with festering problems such as antiquated infrastructure and consumer theft via illegal hookups. They also note that power blackouts tend to be worse in rural areas, in part because cities have more influence.
“On the surface, it looks like there is not enough power, but the root issues are governance and mismanagement,” said Asad Umer, a legislator in the opposition Movement for Justice party who has led public protests on the problem. He said that the power debt has already crept back up to its 2013 level. “The market is not regulated and investors are offered huge rates of return,” he said. “But if you can’t run the state efficiently, you can’t pass on the cost to the consumer.”
During a debate in the national legislature after the protests erupted, the minister for water and power, Asif Khawaja, complained that 89 percent of electricity was being stolen. He was met with cries of “thief, thief,” and an opposition lawmaker retorted, “billions of rupees are taken from the people but no electricity is given, yet the people are called thieves.”
Pakistan’s water problem runs much deeper, and has far more potential to devastate the country. Unlike power, water is a finite resource, highly vulnerable to global warming. Pakistan’s access to it depends partly on rivers from India, a hostile neighbor, and regionally on Himalayan glaciers that are beginning to melt. By midcentury, experts predict, the country could run out of water entirely. 
Many Pakistanis blame India for using dams to divert river water that, under a treaty signed in the 1960s, should be flowing into Pakistan. India has fought three wars with Pakistan, and people are concerned that the water dispute will intensify under its Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an ardent Hindu nationalist.
Yet according to experts, much of the water problem stems from domestic negligence and faulty policies.
Pakistan has five large dams and hundreds of small ones, with more planned or being built. But many are poorly maintained, and decrepit pipes leak millions of gallons. Fields are heavily flooded rather than using drip-irrigation, wasting water and ruining the soil. River water has been diverted to cities and mountain water has been pumped uphill at great cost.
“We blame India, but we can’t manage our own water,” said Arshad Abbasi, a water specialist at the Pakistan Institute of Sustainable Development. The water crisis, he said, “is really a crisis of bad governance and poor management. The politicians want to build big visible projects, but nobody sees the pipes and underground problems that are deteriorating by the day.”
Even in the capital, where affluent homes are equipped with generators and rains from the nearby Margalla Hills frequently drench the streets, the water and power crisis during Ramadan was hard to miss. In the suburbs, people complained of waiting hours for lights to come on, and of standing in long lines to fill bottles at night.
“This problem has been going on for years. If the leaders are sincere, they can solve it easily,” said Bedar Hussaini, 49, a pediatrician who was filling plastic jugs at a suburban water station. He said that enduring a hot Ramadan without water was frustrating, but that the future worries him more. 
“We have had times when India wanted to go to war with us, but if they try to take our water, or if we run out of it, that will be worse than war,” he said. “If the water stops, there will be no crops, and people will die.”

Parachinar tragedy: Protest by bereaved of victims continues for sixth day

The relatives of those martyred in the Parachinar bombings continued the protest for the sixth day on Wednesday, demanding that the demonstration would continue till those in authority arrive to hear the grievances of the bereaved. The relatives of the deceased have put forth the demand that Chief of Army Staff, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and other high-level officials should visit the area.
The business centres of the Turi Bazaar were closed down since the terrorist attack. The tribal leaders of the community said that the Bangash tribe is being targeted by terrorists.
The tribal leaders said that unlike the other areas, the injured were given only Rs 0.1 million rupees while the relatives of those martyred are given only Rs0.3 million.
Until the approval of demands, the protest would continue, added the protesting members of the community.
At least 72 people were martyred and over 300 injured after two subsequent blasts rocked a densely populated area of Parachinar in Kurram Agency on Friday evening. The bombings occurred as people were busy shopping for Iftar and Eid in the Turi Bazaar area, close to a crowded bus terminal in Parachinar.
The second blast took place as people rushed to provide aid and rescue the wounded from the first explosion.