Posts Tagged ‘Baloch’

By Jane Perlez

Zia Ur Rehman Contributed Reporting

For New York Times

Published : Nov 18, 2010

KARACHI- Pakistan, The chaotic city of 18 million people on the shores of the Arabian Sea has never shrunk from violence. But this year, Karachi has outdone even itself.

Drive-by shootings motivated by political and ethnic rivalries have reached new heights. Marauding gangs are grabbing tracts of land to fatten their electoral rolls. Drug barons are carving out fiefs, and political parties are commonly described as having a finger in all of it.

Angry Pakistanis in Karachi, responding to a political killing, set a bus on fire in August; the city has had more than 1,350 such killings in 2010, a report says.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently reported that more than 1,350 people had been killed in Karachi in targeted political killings so far this year, more than the number killed in terrorist attacks in all of Pakistan.

That tally has solidified Karachi’s grim distinction as Pakistan’s most deadly place, outside its actual war zones, where the army is embroiled in pushing back a Taliban insurgency.

Indeed, it is the effect of the war, which has displaced many thousands of ethnic Pashtuns from the northern tribal areas and sent them to this southern port, that has inflamed Karachi’s always volatile ethnic balance. For the most part, extremists who torment the rest of Pakistan with suicide bomb attacks exploit the turmoil here to hide, recruit and raise funds.

The attack last week on the police headquarters by a suicide bomber that killed dozens was the exception, the first attack by extremists against a government institution in the city. Far more common have been killing by gangs affiliated with ethnic-based political parties hunting for turf in a city undergoing seismic demographic change.

Karachi has long been dominated by ethnic Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking people who left India in the 1947 partition and who have been represented politically by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, commonly known as the M.Q.M.

The M.Q.M. has a long association with violence. In 1992, the army moved into Karachi to suppress it, accusing it of a four-year rampage of torture and murder. During what amounted to a two-year occupation by the army, “several thousand” people were killed, according to accounts at the time.

The latest challenge to the M.Q.M.’s hold is the influx of Pashtuns who have fled the war to seek work and shelter in Karachi’s slums. Though the Pashtuns number some five million here now, they remain politically underrepresented, and the frustrations of the newcomers have increasingly been channeled into violent retribution by the Awami National Party, or A.N.P.

The two sides have set their gangs on each other. In August, after a senior M.Q.M. member was shot to death at a funeral, more than 100 people were killed in a weeklong orgy of violence.

The army, asked by some political parties to move in again and keep the peace, declined. During the by-election last month to fill the provincial assembly seat left vacant by the murder, more than 30 people were killed.

In that rampage, members of a self-styled people’s peace committee affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party, which leads the national government and considers this province, Sindh, its base, stormed an outdoor market on motorcycles and shot 12 Mohajir shopkeepers, the police said.

Hours later, seven men of ethnic Baluch origin were killed, apparently in revenge for the deaths of the Mohajirs, said Zafar Baloch, a spokesman for the peace committee.

Amber Alibhai, the secretary general of Citizens for a Better Environment, said: “If our government is not going to wake up, I fear Karachi will have ethnic cleansing like Bosnia. There’s no one to stop it. Who’s going to stop it? The police? The army? They can’t.”

The cost of Karachi’s violence hurts all of Pakistan. More liberal than the rest of the country in decorum and religious belief, Karachi is the economic engine of the nation, home to petrochemical plants, steel works, advertising agencies and high-tech start-ups.

The rich live in grand houses in gated communities paved with broad boulevards. The poor live in neighborhoods like Lyari, a slum with little sanitation, fleeting electricity and hardscrabble roads that sits under an expressway.

Other megacities in the developing world — like Shanghai and Mumbai — manage law and order through political leadership that is absent in Karachi, said Farrukh Saleem, a political analyst who writes in The News, a national newspaper.

A scared, understaffed and in some cases complicit police force compounds the problem. That was the message of a new report by a parliamentary committee that said 603 police officers had been assassinated since 1996. This year, 33 officers have been killed, the report said.

Many of these senior police officers were targeted, the report said, as retribution for the military action against the M.Q.M. in 1992, a sign of the long memory of the M.Q.M.

But it is the persistent lack of Pashtun representation in the city and provincial governments that underlies the troubles, said Abdul Qadir Patel, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report and a Pakistan Peoples Party member of Parliament. “The Pashtuns are frustrated and the A.N.P. says, ‘We’ll fight back,’ ” Mr. Patel said.

In rare candor for a Pakistani government document, his report said “ethnicity, sectarianism, perceived insecurity due to demographic changes, gang war between mafias and clash of interests among workers of political parties have been the real cause of violence in Karachi.”

Of 178 boroughs in the 18 towns of Karachi, only 4 are controlled by the Pashtuns. Of 168 seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh, where Karachi is located, the A.N.P., the party of the Pashtuns, has just 2.

Based on Karachi’s demographics, Pashtuns “could have up to 25 seats in the provincial legislature,” Mr. Saleem wrote. “That is political power way out of sync with demographic realities.”

As part of the push and pull in the demographic war, the major political parties use armed thugs to commandeer public land so they can gerrymander election districts, said Mrs. Alibhai of the citizens’ group. One of her group’s workers was killed last year trying to protect a park.

“Land grabbing is used by political parties to increase their electoral mandate and enhance their financial position,” she said.

A recent former M.Q.M. mayor of Karachi, Syed Mustafa Kamal, denied that his party, which has long been favored by Washington for its secular outlook, was involved in the killing of Pashtuns.

Mr. Kamal, who as mayor from 2005 until this year is credited with extending running water to several Pashtun neighborhoods, said Karachi was the rightful home of the Mohajirs. The Pashtun, he said, harbor the Taliban and foment terrorist attacks. “We are the victims,” he insisted.

The gruesome clash between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns has spread recently to the stalls in Gulshen Town, a Mohajir-dominated area, where people sip tea and chat.

There, Pashtun waiters who deliver hunks of roasted lamb to truck drivers at curbside tables, have become targets, said Noorullah Achakzai, the chairman of a union of hotel workers.

In April, Abdul Rehman, 35, said he was eating lunch with a friend when six men on three motorcycles fired at them. “I got one bullet, my friend got one, the others were scattered,” he said.

Mr. Rehman showed a long scar across his stomach. His friend died, one of the first, Mr. Achakzai said, of 52 outdoor waiters killed in Karachi this year.


‘The disappeared’

Posted: September 25, 2010 in The News
Tags: , , ,

As the world commemorates August 30 as the International Day of the Disappeared, we too must remind the government of the hundreds of the missing people in Balochistan and elsewhere.


Zia Ur Rehman

(The article was published in The News on 13 August 2007)

Story’s origional link

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, while hearing the disappeared or missing person case, called for the case-to-case details of each and every missing person from the Attorney General. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for first time after his re-instatement heard this missing persons’ case. The AG made a plea that he wanted to meet the family members of the missing persons, for which, he be given time. The Court adjourned the hearing of the case until August 20 and directed the AG to submit case-to-case details of each and every missing person in the next hearing. (The News, Aug 7, 2007)

In Balochistan, the military has been conducting operation since the year 2000. Since then hundreds of people have gone missing, according to the reports of human rights organisations and Baloch nationalist parties. The current rise of tensions flows from long-standing grievances felt by the local population in relation to severe economic underdevelopment and failures to receive the benefits of large-scale exploitation of the province’s natural resources.



Dr Jahanzaib Jamaldini, Acting Vice-President of Balochistan National Party (BNP) told this writer in Noshki that “We have a list of more than 3000 thousands people who have been arrested by the intelligence agencies from different parts of Balochistan.The agencies picked up the Baloch youths from different parts of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab and tortured them severely.” Aftab Sherpao, the federal interior minister had revealed when talking to media persons in December 2005 in Turbat that nearly 4000 people had been arrested from Balochistan but after a few days, official sources claimed that the federal minister had only referred to those illegal immigrants who had trespassed the Pak-Iran border in 2005.

Similarly a list of missing people was released by Ghulam Muhammad Baloch, central president, Baloch National Movement (BNM) in a seminar on June 19, 2006 organised by Labour Education Foundation (LEF) in Karachi. Few days later, he was picked up by plain clothed officers of unknown law enforcing agencies and till today, no one knows about his whereabouts. Ghulam Muhammad Baloch, a vocal speaker and former chairperson of Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), was very popular amongst Baloch youth and students and disappointed with parliamentary politics.

A list of missing Baloch activists and citizens are also quoted in a pamphlet entitled ‘Waiting for Truth and Justice’ published by Balochistan National Party (BNP).

On the other hand, IG Police, Balochistan ,Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob said , “Those who are quoting 3000 or 4000 people as missing are in fact exploiting the figure in view of the present circumstances.” He challenged them to produce the names and addresses of all those 3000 people. Baloch nationalist parties refer to HRCP reports claiming that 3000 people are missing. However, according to the data collected by HRCP, 600 people have ‘disappeared’ in the country over the past five years. There is a very contradiction in figure of missing people in Balochistan.

The reports of HRCP, Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Amnesty International (AI) highlighted many cases of torture on Baloch activists under the custody of law enforcing agencies. Dr. Imdad Baloch, chairman of BSO, was detained in a military torture cell for 6 months, when he was finally released; he re-counted his ordeal to Zahoor Shahwani, representative of HRCP Balochistan and media in Karachi in November 2005. Details included how he and his colleagues were detained in an unknown location, where they were blind folded and only in absolute emergencies, they were allowed to take their blind folds off. They were beaten severely and were burned with cigarettes. One of Imdad Baloch’s legs was broken during the torture. When nothing was extracted from him, he was thrown to Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab.

Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, another leader of BSO, who was also arrested, was not only severely tortured but during his unlawful detention, he was forced to consume poison which has resulted in him not being able to recognise people properly an he has been permanently paralysed. Saleem Baloch, a leader of Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and a political activist of Karachi, also narrated his story of illegal detention and suffering at the office of HRCP, Karachi after release but sadly he was again picked up by law enforcing agencies from Lyari, Karachi. Ustad Sattar Baloch, a school teacher, was given electric shocks in the torture cell. HRCP’s annual reports and publications are full of similar stories of Baloch political activists and citizens.

Munir Mengal, missing Managing Director of the proposed Balochi TV channel, ‘Baloch Voice’ has surfaced after more than one year. He has been arrested at Karachi Airport on his return from Bahrain but his whereabouts could not be known for months. Munir had applied to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) for the license of TV channel.

Disappearances work on two levels: not only do they effectively silence those opposition members who have disappeared, they also sow uncertainty and terror in the wider community in general, thus silencing other opposition voices, current and potential alike. Disappearances entail the violation of a series of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. For the disappeared person, these include the right to liberty, the right to personal security and humane treatment, the right to a fair trial, to legal counsel, and to equal protection under the law, the right of presumption of innocence, etc. The families, who often spend the rest of their lives in searches for remains of the disappeared, also become victims of the disappearance’s effects.

Aug 30, as the International Day of the Disappeared is an annual commemoration day created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. The impulse for the day came from the Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (Federacien Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos, or FEDEFAM), a NGO founded in 1981 in Costa Rica as an association of local and regional groups actively working against secret imprisonment and forced disappearances in a number of Latin-American countries.

This Day is an opportunity to highlight these institutions’ work, increase public awareness, and to call for donations and volunteers. Amnesty International (AI), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are main international bodies and organisations who are the important concerned organisations. In Pakistan, HRCP is the body taking up this issue aggressively.

The human rights organisations, civil society and political parties demand that list of missing people should be made public, an independent tribunal consisting of Supreme Court, members of Parliament and representatives of Human Rights organisations should be formed and The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance to be ratified by the government.

The writer is social researcher and political analyst.