Wednesday, February 19, 2020
By Nilesh Kunwar
Readers would recall that after last year’s terrorist car bomb attack in Pulwama, J&K, when CNN asked Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about the whereabouts of its mastermind Maulana Masood Azhar, who is also chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) ), confirmed that “He is in Pakistan, according to my information” and then went on to say “He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house, because he’s really unwell.”
But a year down the line we find Islamabad telling Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that not only Azhar, (who was supposed to be “unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house,”) but his entire family are “missing.” Could it be that this UN designated global terrorist has ‘fled’ Pakistan as he feared persecution in Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan”?
The same seems to be the case with former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan whose terrorist outfit was responsible for the Army School Peshawar massacre in which 132 students and eight staff members lost their lives. He is also behind the cowardly and unsuccessful attempt to murder Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
Ehsan had apparently ‘surrendered’ to the Pakistan army three years ago and for reasons unknown, instead of being lodged in a jail as one would have expected, he was accommodated in a ‘safe house’ alongwith his family.
The Pakistan army decided that Ehsan would be tried by a military court but once again for inexplicable reasons, Rawalpindi didn’t even care to file a charge-sheet against this unrepentant murderer. So, could it be that despite enjoying a blissful life with his wife and children without any fear of being brought to justice for his terror related acts, Ehsan still chose to fly the coop along with his family because he feared that Khan would make an example out of him?
Speaking of making examples, by convicting Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) co-founder and the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed on whom the US State Department has announce a bounty of $ 10 million, Pakistan has shown to the world how serious it is when it comes to dealing with those who plan, perpetuate or finance terrorist activities.
Having found Saeed and one of his associates guilty on two counts of terror financing and money laundering, a Pakistani court has sentenced both to five and half years in prison on each count. Both have also been fined a sum of Rs 15,000 each. But, since both sentences will run concurrently, the duo will only have to serve for five and a half years each in prison and remission for good behaviour will reduce this period significantly.
Since Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism, why are its courts still so casual and lenient while dealing with terrorism-related is difficult to explain.
Whereas Khan may boast about Pakistan having a robust and independent judiciary, there is very strong evidence of Rawalpindi’s interference in the judicial process. Then, last year we heard Khan saying that “Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will (to act against Pakistan based terrorist groups)” and admitting “we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.”
Today, when PM Khan says that there are no more safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan, one is tempted to ask him as to where has this humungous body of “30 to 40 thousand-armed people” gone? Is it that just like the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and former TTP and JuA spokesperson, these veterans of irregular warfare in Afghanistan and Kashmir too have fled Pakistan out of fear and simply disappeared without any trace? Or is it just that they have been instructed by Rawalpindi to lie low and cool their heels till the FATF meet concludes? Could Khan’s threat that “This government will not allow Pakistan’s land to be used for any kind of outside terrorism” forced those who have “fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir” to leave the country to search for new safe havens?
A supposedly ailing Pakistan based terrorist leader who could be a source of embarrassment to the government at FATF meeting suddenly goes ‘missing’. Another terrorist who had a hand in the murder of 132 innocent students negotiated his ‘surrender’ with the army and then manages to escape from custody, while a terrorist with $10 million bounty for master minding the Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead and 293 injured is instead tried only for money laundering and terror financing, and given such a lenient sentence that makes mockery of the law.
Welcome to Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’!
By Kyle Mizokami Missiles, carriers, and more. Key point: India is faced on two sides by powerful, nuclear-armed countries it has fought wars with—China and Pakistan. India occupies one of the most strategically important locations in the world. A short distance from the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, India has been an important hub for ideas, trade and religion for thousands of years.That geographic positioning has its disadvantages. India is faced on two sides by powerful, nuclear-armed countries it has fought wars with—China and Pakistan.India’s most formidable rival is China, with whom it fought a short, sharp border war with in 1962. China’s growing military has transformed it from a mainly ground-based threat to a multifaceted one with powerful assets in the air, at sea and even in space. India’s second most powerful rival is Pakistan, which was also part of the British Raj. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since 1947, and frequently appear on the verge of a fifth. Complicating matters for India, the two countries are allies. Advances in military technology mean India’s large reserves of manpower are no longer as useful as they once were, and India will need to favor the former over the latter if it wants to match—and deter—Chinese and Pakistani forces. AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III Attack Helicopter Indian selection of the AH-64D Apache as its future attack helicopter is a prime example of technology over manpower. The Apache’s versatility means that it will be able to do everything from engage tank formations in a conventional war to hunt guerrillas in a counterinsurgency operation. The heavily armed, fast-moving Apache can counter a number of land-based threats to India, sensing enemy armored vehicles with its mast-mounted millimeter-wave radar and destroying them with Hellfire missiles, Hydra-70 anti-armor rockets and a 30mm chain gun. The helicopter can also detect insurgents under heavy cover using its thermal imaging sensor and engage them with anti-personnel rockets or the 30mm chain gun. INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier Commissioned in November 2013, INS Vikramaditya is India’s newest aircraft carrier and the only aircraft carrier that calls the Indian Ocean home. In the event of war, Vikramaditya will be used to blockade Karachi, Pakistan’s largest port, or sever China’s economic lifeline to the Persian Gulf and beyond. Vikramaditya is 282 meters long and displaces 44,000 tons, making her about 20 percent smaller than China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning. Unlike Liaoning, however, she is a fully operational carrier, with an air wing capable of executing air superiority, anti-surface, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. The carrier air wing is expected to consist of twenty-four MiG-29K or Tejas multirole fighters and ten anti-submarine warfare helicopters. India has ordered forty-five MiG-29Ks. Vikramaditya will operate as the centerpiece of a full carrier battle group, protected by the new Kolkata air-defense destroyers. A further two carriers of indigenous designs are planned, bringing India’s total carrier force to three. BrahMos Anti-Ship Missile A joint Indian-Russian project, BrahMos is a short-range supersonic cruise missile capable of being launched from a wide variety of platforms. BrahMos is one of the most advanced missiles in the world, capable of hitting targets on land and at sea with precision. The versatility of BrahMos means it could equally target enemy ships and terrorist training camps with ease. A ramjet propels BrahMos to speeds of up to Mach 3, or 1,020 meters a second. The anti-ship version is a so-called “sea skimmer,” flying just over the wavetops to give enemies as little as 35 seconds’ warning time. Depending on the variant and method of launch, BrahMos is armed with a 440-660 pound penetrating high explosive warhead and has a range of 186-310 miles.The combination of speed and hitting power makes BrahMos a particular concern to the Pakistani Navy, whose surface ships lack adequate area air defenses. Even the Chinese Navy will find BrahMos formidable, as it would face the daunting prospect of a Mach 3 missile threat launched by aircraft, coastal defense batteries, destroyers and submarines.One of India’s newest fighters is an updated design dating back to the late 1970s. An evolution of the Su-27 Flanker, the Su-30MKI has been extensively upgraded, and the result is a long-range, twin-engine fighter with a powerful radar and amazing twelve hard points for the attachment of weapons. The Su-30MKI’s air-to-air armament includes R-73 infrared guided missiles and R-77 and R-27 radar-guided missiles. Of particular interest is the upcoming Novator K-100 “AWACS killer” missile, capable of engaging targets at up to 300 to 400 kilometers. Against targets on the ground, the Su-30MKI can employ laser-guided bombs, Kh-59 standoff land-attack missiles and the BrahMos missile.The Indian Air Force has 200 Su-30MKIs air superiority fighters in service with another seventy-two on order. A portion of the IAF’s Su-30MKI force has been modified by Israel for the strategic reconnaissance role. INS Chakra Nuclear Attack Submarine India’s first nuclear attack submarine, INS Chakra, started life as a Russian Navy submarine funded to completion by the Indian Navy in return for a ten-year lease. Based on the Soviet Union’s Akula II class, Chakra displaces 8,000 tons, making it more than twice as large as any of India’s German-made Type 209 or Russia Kilo class submarines. It can sustain a speed of 30 knots submerged and can dive to a depth of 520 meters. The submarine has eight submarine tubes enabling it to launch regular homing torpedoes, Kh-55 “Granat” cruise missiles, and “Shkval” supercavitating torpedoes, capable of traveling at 220 knots to ranges of 15 kilometers. As a nuclear submarine, Chakra will be able to spend prolonged periods underwater, making it difficult to detect. During wartime, the advanced submarine will go after high value targets, such as Pakistani submarines (possibly carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles) and Chinese submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and submarines. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/indias-military-quite-deadly-china-and-pakistan-should-worry-124671
The plenary meet of global terror financing watchdog FATF began on 16 February and it will announce its final assessment on 21 February.With just two days left for the final assessment by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary, it seems clear now that Pakistan will continue to remain on the grey list of the global terror financing watchdog. Islamabad has been trying hard to exit the grey list, failing which it runs the risk of getting automatically blacklisted, ThePrint has learned.
According to FATF norms, if a country fails to meet its parameters within a prescribed time-frame, it automatically gets blacklisted.
“Pakistan is trying to get out of the grey list. They have mounted a diplomatic offensive. So far, there are not many takers and therefore they will remain under scrutiny. FATF will take a decision (on Friday) based on the progress made by Pakistan on well-defined parameters,” a top Indian official told ThePrint.
The plenary meet of the FATF began on 16 February and it will announce its final assessment on 21 February.
‘More or less decided’ that Pakistan won’t be blacklisted
Blacklisting will be a big blow to Pakistan
During the FATF’s last plenary meet in October, the Paris-based body had issued a stern warning to Pakistan to meet all the parameters. The plenary is the FATF’s highest decision-making body.
The next FATF plenary meet is scheduled in June.
‘More or less decided’ that Pakistan won’t be blacklisted
Blacklisting will be a big blow to Pakistan
by Shah Meer Baloch and Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Injuries and fatalities are common among thousands of debt-bonded men and children toiling in one of the world’s harshest work environments.The specter of death hovers over the coal mines of Balochistan. Under scorching skies, this turbulent south-west region of Pakistan is home to one of the world’s harshest work environments, where tens of thousands of men and children descend below the surface each day to dig up thousands of tonnes of coal.
The threats of underground explosions, methane gas poisoning, suffocation, or mine walls collapsing are omnipresent and there is barely a single worker across the state’s five massive commercial coal mines who has not been touched by the fatalities that are common here.
“Twenty people that I know of have died underground,” says Luqman Shakir, a 24-year-old from Swat, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Nine years ago, aged 15, Shakir travelled to Balochistan looking for work; he has been a miner ever since. “People often die because of a mine collapse and it takes us 18, sometimes 24, hours to take them out because there is no machinery to remove the collapse; we are on our own.”
Wiping his dust-blackened face, Shakir sighs. “When we pull them out, often their bodies are so mangled they cannot even be recognised. Every time I go down the mine, in the back of my mind I always know there is a possibility that I might not come back up.”
Shakir hasn’t seen a sunset for almost a decade. He goes underground before dawn and emerges after dark six days a week, and sleeps for most of his single day off. “Summers are suffocating,” he says, explaining that his impoverished background and lack of education make the mines his only option for work.
“This is my life now.”
Coal was first extracted in the mineral-rich Balochistan in the 1850s by the British, who built the railway line still used today to transport the coal through the treacherous mountains of the Bolan Pass.
It has grown into a massive modern industry. With five major coalfields – Mach, Shahrag, Dukki, Chamalang and Quetta – Balochistan still has approximately 2.2bn tonnes of coal reserves. As a result, the mining operation across the state is huge; at least 15,000 tonnes of coal are produced daily, selling for an of average 14,000 PKR (£70) per tonne.
It is big business for the country’s coffers, too. The provincial government takes a cut of 130 PKR (£0.65) per tonne and the federal government 500 PKR (£2.50).
An operation on this scale requires a massive workforce; at the Mach coal mines alone it is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 workers. Child labour is rife: at all the coal mines visited by the Guardian in January, child labourers were seen working above ground sorting coal, collecting iron and picking up pieces of coal spilled across the fields.
“Coal workers in Balochistan are orphans,” says Asif Qambrani, a research scholar whose work focuses on the mining industry in the region.
At the mine in Shahrag, sitting on the floor working to remove impurities from freshly mined coal, are Noor Mohammed Marri, 15, and nine-year-old Gul Zaman Marri, who earn between 300 and 400 PKR (£1.50-£2) a day.
“My father had died due to an accident so I am an orphan and I have no one except a few family elders and one of them is working here,” says Noor. “We come here to do some work under his supervision. We can’t survive if we don’t work.”
There have been multiple recent reports of child sexual abuse at the mines in Shahrag, and while Noor is adamant he has not been harassed, he says he fears for other young orphans who have no family working in the mines to look out for them.
The story of the coal miners of Balochistan is one of debt bondage and human rights abuses, an absence of basic health and safety measures, and brutal working and living conditions. Many of the conditions of modern slavery are evident across these mines, which have not modernised in decades. Adult miners earn around £5 a day.
Pakistan’s first Mines Act was passed in 1923 to enshrine workers’ rights. It stipulates that canteens, shelters, medical equipment and first aid rooms should be provided at every mine where more than 100 people are employed. Yet there was no obvious sign of these facilities when the Guardian visited the Mach and Shahrag mines. At Mach, the workers’ quarters were a mud building in which more than 10 people shared each tiny room. There was no electricity, running water or a proper bathroom, and drinking water was not provided.
The issues are compounded by the fact that that many of the workers have either migrated from Swat or neighbouring Afghanistan, and are not legally registered, meaning their very existence – and therefore their rights – can be easily dismissed. According to the Mines Act, all workers should be registered with firms and leaseholders. But there is little pressure from the authorities to enforce this.
“The problem in Balochistan is that most coal mine owners and leaseholders are either influential people in Karachi and Lahore who took ownership in the 1950s and 1960s and have never even visited the mines themselves to see the conditions, or they are politicians, feudal or tribal chiefs who are in provincial and central government,” says Qambrani. “These owners never enforce registration of mine workers because then they have to provide all basic facilities, which would decrease their profits.”
There is also little will or incentive for the state government to enforce the act’s provisions or subsequent iterations of the law intended to regulate the industry. Many key provincial assembly members are either owners of mines or have major stakes in Balochistan’s mining industry, including Jam Kamal Khan, who is both the state’s chief minister and minister for mining and minerals. Khan declined to comment when approached by the Guardian.
According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, between 100 and 200 labourers die on average in coal mine accidents every year, but many incidents go unreported. In January a Mach miner was trapped for over 48 hours and had to be dug out by fellow workers after the government failed to help with the rescue operation. In February, four miners died in a landslide at Duki. According to figures taken from records and news reports, from 2010 to May 2019 at least 414 miners were killed, though the real total is thought to be much higher.
The unforgiving conditions take a heavy toll on the body. Many workers spoke of the constant threat of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease, an incurable but preventable illness caused by inhaling coal mine dust.
Bakth Nazar, a 55-year-old coal manager at a mine in Mach, says he has worked in the coalfields for about 30 years. In that time he has lost three family members in coal mines – including his son – due to the unsafe conditions.
“We work with no facilities, no training and no safety measures,” says Nazar. “But the dilemma for us is that we don’t get paid when we don’t work. The company doesn’t care about our health.”
According to the law, the families of workers who died in the mines are entitled to 200,000 PKR (£1,000) compensation from the mine owners and 500,000 PKR (£2,500) from the government. But only workers from Pakistan are entitled to a government payout, leaving the Afghan miners, who make up around 50% of the workforce, unprotected by the state. Many families claim compensation has never been paid at all.
“The government did not pay a penny for my brother Azam Khan and cousin who got trapped in coal mines and died last year,” says Nazar.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one mine inspector candidly depicts the horrors he has seen workers endure. Necessary breathing equipment is deemed “too expensive” and therefore not provided, he says. He also describes how a lack of training for workers can have dire consequences.
He recounts one incident at a mine in Dagari in August 2019, where a cable caught fire underground and ignited gas within the mine, causing workers to fall unconscious and become trapped. Due to a lack of training for such scenarios, other workers and management turned on the fans, which only served to fuel the fire. In that incident two people died and eight suffered life-changing burns.
“There are no emergency ambulances in the majority of coalfields and their surrounding areas. There is a lack of basic health units and hospitals. And even if by luck there is a hospital, you won’t find a doctor or equipment there. There is nothing inspectors can do,” he says.
Khaliqdad Bugti, in charge of a mine in Shahrag, describes how during rainy season the roads often become blocked, leaving workers stranded without food for days and with only their mud huts to shelter in.
“There are no health facilitiesor ambulance and it takes hours for an ambulance to reach us from [regional capital] Quetta,” Bugti says, his voice rising in anger. “The government has established one hospital but there was no medicine. The government does not listen to us.”
Debt bondage is also a huge issue. Mohammed Ibrahim, a frail 40-year-old with one hand, explains that this is the situation in which he has found himself. Hundreds of miles away from his home and seven children in Afghanistan, Ibrahim works as a haulage driver to pay off the 50,000 PKR (£250) he borrowed from the manager of the coal mine to get this job in the first place.
“I chose this work because I couldn’t find any other work,” says Ibrahim, “It is very difficult but I have no other way of paying off the debt. I have to work here until I pay the debt.”
Jawad Ali, his manager, chuckles. “I can’t allow Ibrahim to leave without paying my debt. He has to work until he pays [it].”
As well as being a mine manager, Ali works as a jori-sir, whose task is to find and provide mine workers for the contractor – mainly from poverty-stricken villages. He earns at least 10 PKR for each labourer he provides.
“I find labourers and jobless people and provide them advance money if they need it, and in return bring them to work here in coal mines,” says Ali. “They will keep working until they pay the debts. I know who owes money and they are not allowed to leave. This business is being run on debt between labourers to petty managers. Labourers owe me money and I owe money to the contractor. In short, we both can’t leave until we pay our money.”
The fatalities keep coming. When the Guardian visited the Shahrag mine in January, an incident had occurred just 10 days earlier. Two workers, Faiz Mohammed and Samiullah, who had travelled from Afghanistan in desperate search of work and ended up in the mines, died after a mining trolley broke, throwing their bodies 1,000ft into the pit.
Ghulam Raza, another worker at Mach who is originally from Ghazni in Afghanistan, describes the daily fear that has haunted him since he witnessed a portion of a mine wall collapse, killing a co-worker. The death was never investigated. “I got really scared,” says Raza. “When the incident happened, no one came from the government, not even an ambulance. The Frontier Corps just came to inquire about what happened and then told us to take the body to the bazar.”
“Due to my debt, I cannot go back to my wife and son,” says Raza. “But if I had a choice, I wouldn’t stay an hour longer here.”