Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pakistan: Persecution forces 60 Hindu families to migrate to India

Amid increasing cases of violence and lack of security against their community, 60 Hindu families from Balochistan and Sindh have decided to migrate to India, Express News reported on Thursday. Four out of the 60 families left for India during midday via Samjhota Express from Lahore Railway Station. The rest of the families are expected to travel by today. According to Express News correspondent Aftab Bukhari, five families residing in Aatma Raam Haweli – joint residence – vacated it this morning in order to move out to India. Bukhari said that the families had complaints that their shops were looted, their houses were raided by unknown men and their women were forcefully converted. He said that the visas on their passports were not permanent, however, he said that chances of them coming back to Pakistan were slim. A resident in the locality informed Express News that the families who have vacated their houses had to sell them off at half price. Express News’ correspondent from Lahore, Naeem Qaiser, reported that the families have been planning on leaving since the last 6-8 months. Qaiser said that the members of the four families who left for India had refused to talk to the media. However, when their relatives were approached by Express News they said that they could not endure the violence and that even moving to another province was not an option. Migration reports just propaganda: Malik Responding to news reports that Pakistani Hindus were being driven out of Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik dismissed the reports of migrations as propaganda. He said that propaganda is being made at the international level about the migration of Hindus from Pakistan. In an interview‚ he said Indian High Commission has been asked to explain why it issued visas to 250 Hindu citizens of Pakistan. Strangely enough, Mukesh Chawla, a member of the Sindh Provincial Assembly on a Pakistan Peoples Party ticket – much like Rehman Malik, had dismissed the travel of the Hindus and explained their visas as 40 day pilgrimage travel permits. Malik added that the DG FIA has been instructed to pursue the matter. CM takes notice Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the pleas of Hindu community and formulated a three-member committee comprising minority ministers to look into the matter. Babu Mahesh, the representative of Hindu community in Jacobabad, has also expressed concern over the migration. He appealed to the Hindu families to take back their decision and stay in Sindh which is their “motherland”. He added that he will hold a conference in the evening to talk to the families. Human rights activist Farzana Bari, talking to Express News, said that the issue is of a very serious nature and that the religious minorities in Pakistan do not get enough security. “It is not easy to leave your settled life and move somewhere else. They are really afraid and this is a continuous phenomenon which we have been seeing in Sindh,” she said. Bari maintained that it is the responsibility of the state to provide protection to its people. “What if this starts happening with Muslims in India and they migrate to Pakistan? Will we be able to give them adequate protection?”she questioned. ‘Families not migrating’ Sindh Minister for Excise and taxation Mukesh Kumar Chawla, who’s also heading the committee formed by the chief minister, denied reports that Hindu families in large numbers are migrating to India. Talking to Express News, Chawla said, “I want to clarify this: Around 200-250 of the people leaving are going for a pilgrimage. They will come back after their 30-40 day stay.” He admitted that there was a poor law and order situation in Sindh but the government has done everything to get rid of the problems. When asked about families who leave on a visit visa, but apply for residence in India and stay over there, Chawla said that it was true and people did it for business purposes, “but 99% of the people come back”. He added that the three-member committee will go to Jacobabad tomorrow to investigate the matter and will present a report within 2-3 days. “Security is being provided to the minorities,” he maintained.

Arsalan case hearing yet in doldrums

Malik Riaz’s counsel Zahid Bukhari has said that there is no progress in Arsalan Iftikhar case.It is wrong impression to say that the investigation is underway, said Bukhari. Talking to the media in Islamabad, he said that Arsalan Iftikhar has not appeared before the investigation officer even once. The officers objected by Arsalan were excluded from the investigation, said Counsel for Malik Riaz. He further said that the investigation should not be stopped after the statement of the Prosecutor General. Zahid argued that this is wrong impression that he wanted to put off hearing of Arsalan Iftikhar and Malik Riaz case for long period; rather he is desirous that decision of the case should be made as soon as possible.

Top Afghan Peace Negotiator Cancels Visit To Pakistan

Top Afghan peace negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani has cancelled a visit to Pakistan. Zardasht Shams, the Afghan embassy spokesman in Islamabad, confirmed to the DPA press agency that Rabbani had cancelled his visit but refused to give a reason. Officials said he was to meet Pakistan's civil and military leadership to seek assistance in negotiations with the Taliban. Rabbani was also expected to demand the release of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who Afghans believe could aid the reconciliation process. Rabbani was invited to Pakistan by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who was in Kabul in July. Rabbani was named the head of the High Peace Council after the assassination of the former chief, also his father, Burhanuddin Rabbani, last year.

Pakistan: Two new polio cases take national count to 29

It is a little too soon for Pakistan to be bragging about a decline in the number of polio cases. With the confirmation of two new cases on Wednesday, the country’s national polio case count has risen to 29 so far this year. The new polio victims are 19-month-old Safina, daughter of Omar Zada, and 8-month-old Basituallah, son of Hussain Sher. The children belong to Charsadda and Peshawar, respectively. Unless all remaining challenges are tackled with an iron hand, particularly in the three major poliovirus transmission zones in Pakistan — Fata, Quetta and adjoining districts, and parts of Karachi — it would be premature to celebrate the successes achieved so far. Similar sentiments were expressed by the WHO Regional Director Dr. Ala Alwan who briefly visited Pakistan on Tuesday to take stock of the country’s polio situation. According to a press release issued by WHO here on Wednesday, Dr. Alwan underscored that polio eradication cannot be achieved in Pakistan until the children in Khyber Agency, particularly Bara, who have been inaccessible to the programme since 2009, are reached and vaccinated. “Pakistan has turned the corner through its Emergency Action Plan,” said Dr Alwan, “Nevertheless, the deteriorating security situation in Karachi, impaired access in Bara in Khyber Agency and the recent ban in North and South Waziristan Agencies constitute a substantial risk to all the efforts.” The Regional Director put special emphasis on reaching and vaccinating high-risk and highly mobile groups. The common denominator linking the main transmission zones are communities which are under-served by health services: 73% of polio cases this year are from Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Dr. Alwan raised the alarm over the situation in North and South Waziristan agencies where a locally announced ban on vaccination has put more than 200,000 children at immediate and escalating risk of polio. If not addressed, this ban will seriously jeopardise the efforts of the government and partner organisations. On Quetta and surrounding districts, Dr Alwan noted that although remarkable efforts made by the provincial administrative leadership have resulted in recent gains, ongoing managerial weaknesses, particularly in Pishin, endanger the gains. Later in the day, the Regional Director met President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the progress and the challenges to the polio programme in Pakistan. He urged the government to make additional substantial financial contributions, similar to those made by the governments of India and Nigeria. Dr. Alwan informed the president that he was very encouraged by the growing interest among countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to support polio eradication activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the Islamic Development Bank.

Khyber IDPs struggling to survive

Save the Children, on Wednesday, said that the internally displaced families of Khyber Agency were struggling to survive as they continued to live in cramped conditions with very little food to go around. Islamabad Save the Children Emergency Response and Recovery Program (ERRP) Media and Communication Coordinator Muhammad Farouk said that the humanitarian needs of the IDP population were increasing. He said that the access to basic services and facilities was challenging for many vulnerable families who had been displaced. Local authorities have requested support from the humanitarian community to assist in meeting the unmet needs, he added. “The recent food shortages have resulted in World Food Programme (WFP) announcing that food baskets given out as part of their food distribution initiatives will decrease,” he added.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Industrial growth slows down

For a decade industrial growth in war-torn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has steadily slowed down. The economic and industrial activities had remained at standstill amid the growing disparity of natural resources, which was not only caused acute shortage of electricity and gas for manufacturing and exporting units in the province, but also generated huge unemployment over past a decade. The energy sector is lifeline for accelerating industrial development with taming unemployment. Nevertheless, the indigenous potential resources neither support commercial nor industrial consumers in the KP as the current imbalanced share under present policy framework, mere benefiting to other provinces instead of this province. For the last three decades in war situation, the KP industrial stagnation had not only dwindling its' economy, but has also lowering the ratio of internal and external investment comparatively with other provinces. Almost 70 to 80 percent of KP industries either shifted to other provinces or abroad, while most of units turned to standstill in prevailing energy crisis and militancy situation, resulting downgrading the economy of the province. In the unfavourable environment, local investors in generally and foreign in particularly were reluctant to invest in the current circumstances. These facts and finding have been revealed in a report prepared by Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) on Economic Stagnation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Specifically with primarily focusing of "Energy and Banking Perspective Part-I". The report formally launched by the SCCI president Afan Aziz in a ceremony held here at the chamber. On the occasion, the chamber vice president, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, former presidents, Riaz Arshad, Usman Ahmad Bilour, member of executive committee, industrialists, and businessmen were present. The report said that the highly centralised regulatory and institutional framework at federal regarding control its direct and indirect natural resources of the provinces has not offered any leeway to take fully exploiting from their potential ambit by the industrial and commercial consumers. Differentiating statistics on natural gas consumption with other provinces, the document said the KP has net consumption of gas domestic, commercial, general industries transports CNG, remains 60, seven, 35 and 49 MMCFD respectively during 2011-12. Of the total gas consumption of 3,400, the Punjab consumes 1,807 MMCFD, Sindh 1,200 MMCFD, Balochistan 242 MMCFD, and KPK mere 151 MMCFD during the period. As per statistics data of gas consumption and production from July-2011 to March-2012, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has consumed less against its actual production ratio as compared to other provinces. The data showed that the Sindh province produces 2,849 MMCFD with 67.3 percent share, followed by KPK 369 MMCFD with 8.7 percent share, Punjab 205 MMCFD with 4.8 percent share, and Balochistan 813 MMCFD with 19.2 percent share of the total production of the country in the period. A whopping volume of 924MMCFD of natural gas was consumed for power generation during 2010-11, whereas an accumulated total of 1, 432,014 MCFT consumed for power generation during 2004-12, the document said. The figures further revealed that the industrial power, gas and electricity consumption has increased from 1,508 to 2,527 MMCFD during last a decade. The document also disclosed that the policy is being pursued to import Liquefied Nature Gas (LNG), which can be revised pricing and provincial distribution of the company. The plan would ultimate increase prices of gas, which could be equal enforce in the country, and business community would strongly resist any such plan, the document said. Despite the additional production of gas against the demand, the document said that the ban has been imposed to use additional industrial gas and new connections, and to tame the increasing industrial unemployment in the province. A 22,000 long pipeline has installed in past couple years with recent addition of 18,000 completing soon in Punjab province, which can lead immense shortage of gas in the province, the document disclosed, added that there was needed to establish a gas distribution company in the current circumstances. Comparing the energy consumption with rest of the country, the document said that a total electricity consumption of KPK has remained at 2,184 with mere 33 percent growth rate, whereas Punjab province has significantly increased growth at 20,605 consumption, followed by Balochistan 2,226 with share of 122 percent growth, Sindh 5,672 with growth ratio of 56 percent, and Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) with marginal growth of 825 during the 2010-11. According to province wise data, a total of capita electricity consumption stands at 435 per kilo watt, out of which Punjab province with 439KWh, Balochistan 446KWh, Sindh 376 KWh, KPK 367 KWh, and Fata 196 KWh. The document suggested that a nature resource management should be framed to extend full benefits of the natural potential resources to all provinces. The traditional approaches should also be avoided for provision of all those benefits to business community and other relevant stakeholders, he document added. The post 18th constitutional amendments, the document proposed that natural resources management structure by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for fast track development of its potential resources. "A new paradigm needs to develop natural endowment of KP and to makes sure pass on the economic benefits to industrial community to strengthen their competitiveness and reduce their cost of businesses", the document added. The new paradigm should focus for maximum extension of benefits of indigenous natural resources to local business community, then contribute their due share to the national supply pool after their need fulfilment, the document suggested.

Seminar on Balochistan: ‘Absence of political will behind crisis’

The Express Tribune
An absence of political will is behind the bleak situation in Balochistan, was the consensus of participants at a discussion forum organised on Tuesday by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) on ‘Balochistan: Beyond Government Claims’. A number of ex-military men, former ambassadors, academics and journalists were part of the forum, chaired by analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood. Participants called for free and fair elections in the volatile province as the only hope, according to a press release. Masood, in his opening remarks, outlined how from the enforced accession of Kalat state to Pakistan to the current insurgency in Balochistan, the government never took serious step to tackle the Baloch problem. He added that the government blamed foreign actors for fuelling the insurgency, but it was obvious that foreign powers would play a hand only if provided with the opportunity. Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo of Balochistan’s National Party said that everyone was aware of the gravity of the situation in Balochistan but a lack of will and sincerity – both in civilian and military leadership – remains the biggest obstruction. Taking a swipe at Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s recent claims in Senate about the root-causes of the Baloch insurgency, Bizenjo said official thinking was frozen in the 1970s, when Moscow-inspired socialists were leading a nationalist movement in Balochistan.