Tuesday, August 13, 2013
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/Human rights groups have lashed out at a Commons inquiry into Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain after MPs gathered secret evidence from BAE Systems. The pressure group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) wrote to Conservative MP Richard Ottaway, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, condemning the decision to meet representatives of the British-based multinational defence company behind closed doors. The committee met Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and international business development director to BAE, and the company's head of government relations, Bob Keen, in March. Specific details about the meeting have not been disclosed. Amnesty International also shared concerns over the secrecy of the meeting. Its UK arms programme director, Oliver Sprague, told The Times: "BAE Systems has form when it comes to secretive arms deals with Saudi Arabia."It's worrying that once again it seems to have been able to get away with a behind-closed-doors and undocumented meeting." In his letter to CAAT, seen by IBTimes UK, Ottaway said: "The committee invited Sir Sherard to give evidence in public, but neither Sir Sherard nor any other representative from BAE was willing to provide oral evidence. Though frustrating, the committee judged that it was better to hear from Sir Sherard informally than not at all and we therefore agreed to hold an informal meeting on 19 March." He said that no transcripts or official minutes were made though a committee member took notes. A spokesperson for BAE Systems told IBTimes UK: "We agreed with the committee to give evidence informally, in order to be as helpful as possible, without compromising diplomatic and commercial sensitivities. "The discussion drew on Sir Sherard's wide experience of Saudi matters, and his knowledge of the region, and also touched on BAE Systems' position in the kingdom." CAAT also complained over the committee's choice of adviser, Sir William Patey, an Arabist who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2007-10. His appointment raised fears of bias, according to Ann Feltham, CAAT's parliamentary coordinator. "As a recent former ambassador, Sir William has been closely involved in implementing the current policy with regards to Saudi Arabia, policy that has remained the same for decades," reads a letter to Ottaway seen by IBTimes UK. "In consequence, he could not be expected to approach the inquiry in a disinterested and questioning manner. "His appointment raises major questions over the impartiality of the inquiry and its openness to new approaches with regards to the UK's relations with the two countries." The MP replied saying that the committee was free to accept or reject Patey's advice. But CAAT said: "This indeed may be the case but public perception is important and Sir William is seen as someone very much involved with the established UK-Saudi Arabia policy and relationship." CAAT said it welcomed the enquiry when it was announced in September 2012 (as exclusively disclosed by IBTimes UK), but "has been concerned about some aspects of its work". "This includes, the appointment of Patey as adviser, the secret evidence of BAE, and the delayed publication of many of the evidence statements, including those of CAAT and other critical voices. [The first set of statements was published in early January 2013, the second was delayed till the end of July)]," Kaye Stearman, media co-ordinator for CAAT, said. Bahrain is in talks with Saudi officials over a £1bn deal for a delivery of BAE-made Eurofighter Typhoons.
Journalists in Bahrain are being arrested and mistreated in a bid to prevent reporting of mass protests today demanding democratic rights in the island kingdom where the majority of the population is Shia but absolute power is in the hands of the Sunni monarchy. In a further sign of nervousness on the part of authorities in Bahrain ahead of the protests, the country’s prime minister issued an ominous warning in an apparent attempt to deter protesters from taking to the streets. “The government will forcefully confront suspect calls to violate law and order and those who stand behind them through decisive measures,” Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa was quoted by the official Bahrain news agency as saying. The warning comes just days after a Royal decree was issued that outlawed the holding of demonstrations and sit-ins in the capital Manama. The decree also introduced a new law that would impose penalties on parents who allow their children to take part in protests. Bahrain saw giant demonstrations during the Arab Spring of 2011, but these were brutally crushed by the security forces aided by the armed intervention of 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. A report commissioned by the Bahraini government itself revealed that there had been unlawful killings and widespread torture by the Bahraini security forces. Tension is increasing again as the security forces focus on detaining print journalists, cameramen, photographers and bloggers in the run up to today’s “Tamarrod” (“rebellion” in Arabic) protests, which are modelled on those in Egypt that led to the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi on 3 July. “The authorities plan to impose a news blackout on the 14 August demonstration,” says the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, a lobbying group seeking to protect journalists, adding that the authorities “have no hesitation about arbitrarily arresting news providers and denying them access to lawyers.” At least one foreign journalist has been prevented from boarding a plane to Bahrain. Blogger Mohammed Hassan was arrested at his home at 2am on 31 July and taken to El-Hod El-Gaf prison at the same time as photographer Hussain Hubail was detained as he was about to leave Manama international airport. They have been charged with being members of the 14th February media network, calling for participation in an illegal demonstration and being in contact with members of the Bahraini opposition in exile. A sign of a harsher attitude by the government is the increasing number of allegations of torture, which had diminished after the publication of the Bassiouni report in November 2011. Reporters Without Borders says that Mr Hassan alleges he was tortured during his detention, with mistreatment including beatings to the back, lower abdomen and hands. He says he was given electric shocks and forced to sign documents which he had not read. Mr Hubail, a freelance photographer who has worked for Agence France-Presse and Voice of America, says he was compelled to remain standing for three days without rest while being punched and kicked. The harsher actions of the Bahraini security forces may be because repression on the island over the last two-and-a-half years has failed to prevent nightly protests in Shia villages. Sectarian animosities between the Shia and Sunni are acute. The crushing of peaceful protests demanding democratic rights in Bahrain has caused some embarrassment to the US and Britain which were so vocal in denouncing similar repression in Syria and Libya. By contrast, criticism from Washington and London of the persecution of dissidents in Bahrain has been so mild as to reassure the government that they support its continuation in power.
Pakistan-based militants are preparing to take on India across the subcontinent once Western troops leave Afghanistan next year, several sources say, raising the risk of a dramatic spike in tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. Intelligence source in India believe that a botched suicide bombing of an Indian consulate in Afghanistan, which was followed within days last week by a lethal cross-border ambush on Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir, suggest that the new campaign by Islamic militants may already be underway. Members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit in Pakistan, the group blamed for the 2008 commando-style raid on Mumbai that killed 166 people, told Reuters they were preparing to take the fight to India once again, this time across the region. And a U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to the attack in Afghanistan, said "LeT has long pursued Indian targets, so it would be natural for the group to plot against them in its own backyard". Given the quiet backing - or at least blind eye - that many militant groups enjoy from Pakistan's shadowy intelligence services, tensions from a new militant campaign are bound to spill over. Adding to the volatility, the two nations' armies are trading mortar and gunfire across the heavily militarized frontier that divides Kashmir, and accusing each other of killing troops. Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and came close to a fourth in 1999. The tension now brewing may not escalate into open hostilities, but it could thwart efforts to forge a lasting peace and open trade between two countries that make up a quarter of the world's population. "With the Americans leaving Afghanistan, the restraint on the Pakistani security/jihadi establishment is going too," said a former top official at India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence arm. "We are concerned about 2014 in either scenario. If the jihadis (Islamist militants) claim success in Afghanistan, they could turn their attention to us. Equally, if they fail, they will attack in wrath." But Pakistan, which has a border with India to the east and with Afghanistan to the west, has concerns of its own. It sees India's expansive diplomacy in Afghanistan as a ploy to disrupt it from the rear as it battles its own deadly Islamist militancy and separatist forces. Vying for influence in a post-2014 Afghanistan, it worries about India's assistance to the Afghan army, heightening a sense of encirclement. "I'm shocked by these allegations. Pakistan has its own insurgency to deal with. It has no appetite for confrontations abroad," said a Pakistani foreign ministry official referring to the Indian charges of stirring trouble in Afghanistan and on the Kashmir border. "If anything, we are looking at our mistakes from the past very critically. These accusations are baseless. India needs to act with more maturity and avoid this sort of propaganda." Both U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke during visits to India recently of the need for New Delhi and Islamabad to resume their stalled peace process as the region heads into a period of uncertainty. FULL-SCALE JIHAD At the core of that uncertainty is the pullback of militants from Afghanistan as U.S. forces head home. Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the LeT, has left no doubt that India's side of Kashmir will become a target, telling an Indian weekly recently: "Full-scale armed Jihad (holy war) will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan." The retreat of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 brought a wave of guerrillas into Kashmir to fight India's rule there. This time the additional risk will be the rivalry between India and Pakistan over Afghanistan itself, one that threatens to become as toxic as the 60-year dispute in Kashmir. The LeT has said it is fighting Indian forces in Afghanistan as well. A senior LeT source in Pakistan told Reuters: "It is correct that the LeT cooperates with the Afghan Taliban (insurgents) when there is a question of attacking Indian interests." Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated last week after five Indian soldiers were killed close to the de facto border in Kashmir. India says Pakistani special forces joined militants to ambush a night patrol, a charge Pakistan denies. Just days earlier, three men drove an explosives-laden car towards India's consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan. The blast missed its target and killed nine civilians, six of them young Islamic scholars in a mosque. It is too early to say conclusively who was behind these and other attacks, but Indian and Afghan officials see in them the handiwork of the LeT and its allies. Such groups have doubled their attempts to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir this year, according to Indian defense ministry statistics. The result has been the first increase in Kashmir militant violence since a 2003 ceasefire on the border, which led to a decline in attacks, partly because Pakistan and the jihadi groups were preoccupied with Afghanistan during this time. In the first eight months of this year, 103 casualties in militant-related violence were recorded in Indian Kashmir, compared to 57 in the same period of 2012, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a think tank. $10 MILLION BOUNTY LeT was founded in 1990 in eastern Afghanistan by Sayeed, a Pakistani Islamic scholar whom India accuses of masterminding the rampage in Mumbai. The United States placed a $10 million bounty on his head for his alleged role in the attack, but he remains a free man in Pakistan, where he preached to thousands last week. Although the group has global ambitions, LeT's primary aim is to end India's rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. India and Pakistan each control a part of the heavily militarized land of lakes and orchards once known as "paradise on earth" and both assert claims over the whole Himalayan territory. LeT has been working this year with several other Islamist outfits to train and push more Pakistani militants over the heavily guarded border into India's side, a veteran LeT fighter told Reuters in Pakistan. "Jihad is being stimulated and various militant outfits are cooperating with each other under the platform of the United Jihad Council," said the veteran, referring to an umbrella body. Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, came to power in May vowing to improve ties with India and - until last week's flare-up along the Kashmir border - the two sides looked set to resume talks. Their prime ministers were planning to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next month. The trouble is, says a retired senior Pakistani diplomat, there are "spoilers" on both sides who are not interested in seeing a rapprochement. In Pakistan, these include the militant groups, which he said operate independently. "They don't seem to be able to control other non-government actors like the LeT. So that's the biggest worry," he said. The Pakistan military's refusal to dismantle groups such as LeT infuriates New Delhi and fuels hawkish demands for the kind of tough action that would risk escalation. The senior LeT source in Pakistan denied the group was involved in the failed consulate strike in Afghanistan, but officials in New Delhi - citing intelligence intercepts - said they had been forewarned about LeT-trained hit squads plotting the attack. Pakistan, whose intelligence agency is regularly accused of quietly supporting Afghan Taliban insurgents, says India's aid and missions are cover for carrying out covert operations there. "Jalalabad was a message from the ISI in a long line of such messages," said an Indian intelligence official, referring to Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). TIGHT SECURITY Further east, on the line dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India, ceasefire violations are up 80 percent compared to last year, according to India. On Friday night, the two armies exchanged 7,000 rounds of mortar and gunfire, according to Indian media. Anti-Indian sentiment in Kashmir provides fertile ground for groups seeking to revive the militancy that roiled the region through the 1990s, but New Delhi has two things in its favor. First, despite the uptick, violence in the state is still close to the record low it reached last year. Second, the Indian army has to a large extent sealed the rugged, fenced and land-mined border that divides Kashmir, leaving militants with a critically small number of cadres and weapons. "We cannot send jihadists into India in big numbers like in the past because of tight security at the Indian side," the LeT source in Pakistan said. Speaking on the lawn of his official bungalow in the restive Indian town of Baramulla, J.P. Singh, the police chief for northern border operations, told Reuters the army and police had stopped most attempted militant crossings this year. Still, India is preparing for an influx. "(Pakistan's) agents and their protégés, the militants, are getting disengaged from the Afghan border and they have nowhere else to keep them and engage them, other than to push them to Kashmir," Singh said. "Their presence inside Pakistan is dangerous for the internal security of Pakistan."
http://www.khaama.com/According to reports Afghan president Hamid Karzai will visit Pakistan at the end of this month to meet with the Pakistani officials regarding the Afghan peace process. An official in presidential palace speaking on the condition of anonymity said that president Hamid Karzai will visit Pakistan on 26 August. Foreing ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai earlier said that the work on a comprehensive agenda for president Hamid Karzai’s visit to Pakitan is in process. Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process is seen as critical to get the Afghan Taliban to sit down to talks about ending the 12-year war as most foreign troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. The Afghan peace process was stalled following the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar, after president Hamid Karzai was angered over the Taliban displaying a banner and a flag.
The Afghanistan’s natural resources are considered to be a silver lining for the economy of Afghanistan, as the NATO-led international coalition security forces are preparing to leave the country. The withdrawal of the NATO troops and reduction of international community’s aid to Afghanistan has created fears of economic crisis among the Afghans, however, there are optimisms that the natural resources of Afghanistan could play a vital role in economic development of the country. U.S. agencies estimate Afghanistan’s mineral deposits to be worth upwards of $1 trillion. Afghanistan’s copper, cobalt, iron, barite, sulfur, lead, silver, zinc, niobium, and 1.4 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REEs) — may be a silver lining. A classified Pentagon memo called Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” (Although lithium is technically not a rare earth element, it serves some of the same purposes.) Jim Bullion, who heads a Pentagon task force on postwar development quoted by The American said, the maps reveal that Afghanistan could “become a world leader in the minerals sector.” There are optimisms that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth may be able to help knit the country back together after decades of war, having Rare Earth Elements (REEs), which are high in demand. The REEs are are essential to the manufacture of a host of modern technologies, including cell phones, televisions, hybrid engines, computer components, lasers, batteries, fiber optics, and superconductors. According to the American, congressional findings have called rare earth elements “critical to national security,” and understandably so. REEs are key to the production of tank navigation systems, missile guidance systems, fighter jet engines, missile defense components, satellites, and military grade communications gear. Currently, China is considered to be one of the major suppliers of Rare Earth Elements, and produce 97 percent of the world’s REEs. However, the global market has reportedly been manipulated by China. The overall exports of REEs were reduced to 72 percent in the second half of 2010 following a maritime dispute with Japan, and China stopped supplying REEs to Japanese customers. There optimisms that Afghanistan can be part of the long term solution to the REE supply problem in the long term. However, concerns regarding the corruption and security remains a challenge. The rule of law, human capital, and infrastructure which are critical to attract foreign investment is yet another challenge, which prevents to build a rare earth mining system from scratch in the short term. In the meantime, china is considered to be a vital player and can play an important and constructive role in Afghanistan, as the country is is eager to develop Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. China is one of the major foreign investment in the mining sector of Afghanistan, it has so won exploration rights for copper, coal, oil, and lithium deposits across Afghanistan.
مختلف شہروں میں بجلی کی آ نکھ مچولی پھر سے شروع ہو گئی، فیصل آباد میں غیر علانیہ لوڈشیڈنگ کا دورانیہ 18گھنٹے ہوگیا سہراب گوٹھ کراچی میں بجلی کی کئی کئی گھنٹے بندش کیخلاف مکینوں کا احتجاجی مظاہرہ، پشاور میں چارسدہ روڈ بلاک کر دی
After a weekend of escalating tensions in the disputed territory of Kashmir, the Indian army on Monday again accused Pakistan of violating the 2003 cease-fire at the border between the two countries. A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry told the Indian press that Pakistani troops had targeted Indian military posts with heavy firing for several hours early Monday morning, from around 1:50 a.m. to 6 a.m., in what the government says is Pakistan’s fifth cease-fire violation in the past three days. No deaths were reported overnight. Pakistan in turn accused India of launching “unprovoked” artillery fire across the Line of Control (LoC), which divides the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled halves of Kashmir, claiming that the shelling had killed a civilian and severely injured another. The Pakistani military said that the Indians had also opened fire on two check posts.The tumult comes less than a week after the Indian government accused Pakistani specialist troops of killing five Indian soldiers on Aug. 6 in the Poonch district along the LoC. Pakistan denied any role in that attack, but the event nevertheless quickly rekindled the long-standing ill will between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Before last week, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made overtures to New Delhi to get the governments’ relations back on track. Both countries stand to benefit greatly from increased trade and regional security cooperation, particularly ahead of the pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014. A date was being worked out for the resumption of bilateral talks, and plans were under way for a meeting between Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next month in the U.S. Now all of that may be on hold, as the two governments’ are seemingly once again consumed with lobbing accusations of “unprovoked attacks” at each other while civilians in the region endure another spasm of violence. In an online poll currently running on Indian news website Firstpost.com, 85% of responders say they think India should call off talks with Pakistan.After the military clashes resumed on the border last week, communal riots between Muslim and Hindu groups started in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and quickly spread to other areas in the region. At least two people were killed and dozens were injured in the chaos, and curfews have been imposed in several districts. On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced on Twitter that he had ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence, and New Delhi has also requested a report from the state on the weekend’s events. The outbreak of communal violence and its repercussions is being hotly debated in the so-called monsoon session of Parliament that is now under way in New Delhi. Both upper and lower houses were adjourned after rowdy disruptions over the issue in the morning, and statements are expected from both the opposition leadership and government. Meanwhile in Islamabad, Pakistani media has reported that the government is considering whether to recall diplomatic staff in New Delhi because of concerns for their safety. Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/08/12/ceasefire-violations-continue-along-the-india-pakistan-border/#ixzz2bpSsuTHv
By: ZAHID HUSSAINA MACABRE dance of death continues to grip the country. There is little hope that it will be stopped. Deaths have become mere statistics while the country is being turned into a killing field. The killing of some 30 policemen in Quetta in a suicide bombing during a funeral and the death of 11 young boys in a terrorist attack at a football stadium in Karachi were perhaps the two most gruesome incidents highlighting the latest bloody wave of violence. Not a single day passes without terrorist strikes taking their toll. From the storming of the D.I. Khan jail to the brutal slaughter of foreign mountaineers in the remote northern areas, the incidents illustrate the growing stridency of the militants and collapsing state authority. Even the country’s capital has virtually been under siege with the looming threat of a major terrorist attack. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous points in the country’s history. An implosion is waiting to happen, threatening the unity of the country. Yet there seems to be no realisation on the part of our political leadership of the gravity of the situation. There are mere words of condemnation; there is no action. While the country has been drenched in blood the prime minister was away on a weeklong private trip to Saudi Arabia. There seems to be no urgency in dealing with the scourge threatening national security. Confusion and dithering have gravely affected the nation’s response to this daunting challenge. The policy disarray in various state institutions has become more pronounced with the latest surge in terrorist violence. The prevailing inertia in the government and widening differences among the political parties ruling different provinces have resulted in complete policy paralysis, providing the militants the space and environment to operate more freely. The audacious raid on the D.I. Khan jail and the escalation in targeted killings of policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to a large extent are the result of the unwillingness of the new provincial government to take on the militants. The soft-pedalling of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has led security agencies to lower their guard thus giving new impetus to militancy in the province. Despite the intelligence report about the impending jail raid, the administration failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the attack. A demoralised and ill-equipped police and other civilian security agencies could hardly match the heavily armed and well-trained raiders. Most appalling, however, is the callous attitude of the political leadership towards the victims of terrorism and the security personnel killed fighting the militants. The funeral of the policemen — many of them senior officers — killed in Quetta last week took place without any senior member of the provincial or central government attending it. Perhaps, it is far worse in KP where dozens of policemen have been killed in targeted attacks by the militants over the past two months since the installation of the PTI-led government. Unlike in the past during the Awami National Party government, let alone attending the funeral of policemen who have been killed, no minister even visits the venue of a terrorist attack. Since the outbreak of militant violence in the province, the police despite their few resources and lack of counterterrorism training have fought valiantly. They have been on the frontline in the battle against the Taliban in the province. Many high-ranking police officers are among those who have fallen victim to targeted killings. But the morale of the KP police has now hit a new low under the PTI-Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) administration. Instead of strengthening the capacity of the police force, the ministers spout the mantra of ‘peace negotiations with the Taliban’ after each terrorist attack. KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak is not even willing to call the Taliban (who themselves have claimed responsibility for most terrorist attacks), an enemy. How can one expect the police to defend the post when the administration appears so eager to make peace with the militants? Can one blame the prison guards and the policemen for not offering any resistance to the D.I. Khan jail attackers and for fleeing the scene and taking off their uniform? The present PTI-JI government seems to be reminiscent of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal rule that allowed the Taliban to expand their influence in the province. What is most pitiable is that we don’t even honour and acknowledge the sacrifices of the officers and soldiers killed in the battlefield or in terrorist attacks. More than 4,000 soldiers including nine general officers have so far been killed battling the insurgents. But hardly ever have the country’s top political leaders bothered to condole with the families of those killed, let alone visited the battle zones. It is left to the military to honour their martyrs. The annual Martyrs’ Day observed by the military is never attended by the top political leadership. At the ceremony, the table for the families of those killed becomes longer each year. How would they be feeling about the rants of some leading political figures that ‘it is not our war’? Certainly such a flawed narrative will not boost the morale of the young officers fighting the enemy in the treacherous tribal regions. If it is not our war then what are they fighting for? With the spreading of militant violence the last thing Pakistan can afford at this point is to continue engaging in this inane debate of ‘whose war is it’. This becomes even more ridiculous as Pakistan’s own unity and integrity is under threat. The latest surge in terrorist attacks across the country should serve an eye-opener to political leaders still confused about the enemy. There is no time to lose as the country is fast sliding into chaos. The government must act before it is too late.
Daily TimesEid has come and gone. There were moments of joy on the occasion in the company of family, friends and acquaintances, visits to recreational sites (mercifully spared the malign attention of terrorists), picnics and merriment. However, this was the bright side of the country’s picture. The dark side was never far from the surface though, as events proved. This Eid, celebrated amid blood and fear, saw attempted terrorist attacks in Bara Kahu near Islamabad in which a suicide bomber was shot dead before he could explode his vest, but not before he had killed a security guard and injured a few prayer attendees at an imambargah. This foiled attack came in the aftermath of the bombing in Quetta Police Lines on the funeral of an officer killed that morning. While the country held its breath in trepidation at what might yet be in store, the security forces in select parts of the country were active over the holidays. Two attackers were killed in an assault on a Mastung, Balochistan, Frontier Corps (FC) check post. On the other hand, two FC men were injured in a blast on their convoy on the Quetta bypass. A landmine blast in Dera Murad Jamali killed one and injured three persons when their vehicle hit the landmine. A terrorist was gunned down in Matni, Peshawar. The security forces claimed having killed eight persons linked to the Machh area attacks in Bolan the other day in which FC personnel and bus passengers travelling home to Punjab were killed. Other than the fact that all this went on over the Eid holidays, it was business as usual on the terrorist front in the Islamic Republic. Since the PML-N government came to power two months or so ago, the intensity and frequency of terrorist attacks has incrementally increased. This despite the fact that the PML-N, like the PTI, fought the elections on a platform of initiating talks with the Taliban, an offer reciprocated by the TTP until the killing by a drone of their second-in-command Waliur Rehman. Subsequent attacks all the over the country have been justified by the TTP as revenge for Waliur Rehman’s killing. On the other hand, the governments, whether at the Centre or in the provinces, have appeared frozen in the glare of headlights like frightened rabbits. The much-touted “comprehensive” (Chaudhry Nisar’s term) national counter-terrorism strategy continues to elude the light of day. The redoubtable Chaudhry Nisar says the government does not want to launch the strategy in a hurry. That it is certainly not guilty of. But his (and others’) confusion is underlined by the usual mantra he trotted out in Quetta about all our troubles stemming from our involvement in a war that was not ours and into which we were forcibly thrust. Imran Khan echoes him in reiterating that ‘withdrawal’ from the US-led war on terror would deny the terrorists the space to project jihad as revenge for drone attacks and other sundry things. In case Chaudhry Nisar and Imran Khan have not noticed, or forgotten, the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan and the region by the end of next year. We should be worrying about the aftermath of that withdrawal instead of sitting complacently in our comfort zone of ‘not our war’. The Taliban have brought that ‘not our war’ home to us, so the whole chicken and egg conundrum of which came first, terrorism or the drone attacks, seems academic and futile, certainly in terms of policy prescriptions. Ambiguity on the approach to terrorism does not stop our leaders from making statements of intent and will. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterates his ‘determination’ to eliminate terrorism. Welcome. But now that ‘determination’ must find shape in the form of a policy, strategy, and implementation, all conspicuous so far by their absence. Vacuums are inherently subject to being filled. If the political forces seem paralysed so far in the face of the terrorist onslaught, the Supreme Court once again has stepped in with a suo motu on the recent violence in Balochistan. Having failed to achieve much in the case of the missing persons, let us hope the apex court has something more positive to contribute in this latest endeavour. Every drop that irrigates the killing fields of the terrorist landscape against them can only be welcomed. But we need more than drops of rain. We urgently need a national effort to tackle the terrorists and return this fertile land to its true self: a tolerant, progressive, modern, forward looking culture and society. Big challenge, so far inadequate response.
The Baloch Hal
By Muhammad Akbar NotezaiMysterious valleys, juniper forests, long stretches of deserts and blue seas, rugged mountains enriched with natural resources and much more make Balochistan one of the most attractive and exotic regions in Pakistan for tourist attractions. Also, the province forms huge land mass of Pakistan, which is approximately 347, 190 Sq Kms. Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) are ideal times to visit its beautiful and wonderful places. This is when days are pleasantly cool, but nights get distinctly chilly. In spring, the valleys are carpeted with wild flowers, and in autumn, the orchards are heavy with ripe fruits. The summers are hot, even in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, though the nearby hills of Ziarat average a pleasant 27 degree Celsius , down the plains, for example at Sibi, temperatures go as high as 52?C. Balochistan is bestowed with great scenic beauty, including: panoramic mountains, rich cultural heritage, abundant resources, hilly stations, orchards, deserts, golden beaches, marine life, flora and fauna, archaeological sites, historic forts, prehistoric caves and rock shelter dwelling, mud volcanoes, etc. There are excellent hiking, trekking and caving opportunities. The geographical contrast from the golden beaches of the Arabian Sea to the Sulaiman Range is wonderful, especially for a newcomer. Ziarat, which is also known as valleys of juniper, is situated 133 km from Quetta at an altitude of 8,400 feet above the sea level. The local tourists mostly prefer Ziarat resort to visit. It possesses the oldest and largest junipers of the world. It is also said that some juniper trees are as old as 5,000 years. Besides, people from the other province of the country largely visit Ziarat district in summer season. The Shrine of Baba Kharwari is also situated in Ziarat. A large number of people visit his shrine and offer sacrifices. While during Eid holidays, local tribesmen gather around the shrine. Other exciting places of Ziarat are Zizree, the Gorges Ferntangi, Shaista Tangi, Sandeman Tagi, Chashma Walk and Karbi Tangi. Makran is the south-west administrative division of the province, with an area of about 24, 000 sq miles. It is bounded on the west by Iran with a common border of about 320 km and on the south by the Arabian Sea. The coastline of Makran is about 400 km long, which has geo-strategic significance due to its proximity with the straits of Hormuz. Gwadar is an important coastal town besides being the biggest fishing centre in the entire coastal belt of Balochistan. Today, Gwadar is a new seaport with an attractive beach. There is also a beautiful island named Astola. A few of the interesting places of Gwadar are Koh-e-Mehdi, Darya-e- Cham (eye of sea), Ghar (cave), Shrine of Nakhuda Bangti Ismail, and Pishukam beach. Quetta is a major tourist attraction. Hanna Lake, Urak Valley, Hazarganji, Chiltan National Park, Zarghun and Lak Pass, etc, are the most beautiful places for tourists. Despite having beautiful places, the government has not been able to exploit these as tourist resorts. After the 18th Amendment, all powers have been transferred to the provinces. But due to the element of corruption and bureaucratic lethargy, the devolution of powers seems to be slow. “Foreign and local tourists rarely visit places these days due to the law and order situation. Besides, investors do not invest in this sector,” laments Yaqoob Shah, Director of PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) Balochistan. “We can boost up our tourism economy if we succeed to bring investors’ attention towards this sector,” he adds. Tourists have been kidnapped in Chaghi district of Balochistan. The two Czech tourists are still missing in Chaghi.