Original Articles

Faisal Shahzad’s case and Pakistan’s conspiracy brigade

Source: Pakistan Media Watch

The conspiracy brigade strikes again, and right on cue. When I first saw the news that some Pakistani had been arrested for the plot to bomb New York, I knew it was just a matter of time before the conspiracy wallahs were out in force.

True to form, Talat Hussain ranted on Aaj that there is some secret plan to pressurise Pakistan to ‘do more.’ He even tried to revive the stinking corpse of the Seymour Hersh conspiracy and Kerry-Lugar by saying that bills such as this are just there to offer a price.

This is the same nonsense that was being recited by Kamran Khan on Geo. Whatever channel I turn to, I am hearing echoes of the same utter nonsense about how maybe the timing of Hakimullah’s statement suggests a conspiracy against Pakistan.

The only surprising thing about the return of the conspiracy brigade is that they took so long to get their story worked out! I’m especially surprised that it took them so long since they seem to have only been able to revive some old dead conspiracies from the past. Really, guys, I expect you to put a little more effort into your work!

But seriously, let’s consider the facts here. This idiot Faisal Shahzad tries to blow up a car bomb – he even admits to it. For the conspiracy brigade, though, it is everyone’s fault but Faisal and his jihadi mentors.

Why can’t this idiot just be an idiot?

For the conspiracy brigade, it’s always the same story. After Mumbai, same thing. These conspiracy theorists want us to live in denial always. The fact that these conspiracy wallahs are hawking this nonsense on TV really makes my blood boil. For all their complaining, our problems will not be solved by pointing the finger at India or some blaming some conspiracy in Washington every time some idiot decides to blow himself up.

Guys, I hate to tell you this, but there are actually some idiots in our country. We need to face that fact so that we can do something about it. Because there is one conspiracy against Pakistan that is very real – the conspiracy by the terrorists who continue to attack us.

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  • American newspaper Boston Globe published an editorial today titled, “Pakistan’s paranoid press.” And it gets worse from there.


    The Boston Globe newspaper has a history of treating the government and President Zardari critically.


    Yet it is also this newspaper that says Pakistan’s media “plays into the hands of violent groups that recruit susceptible youth to conduct terrorist operations.” The authors call the reports in our press, “paranoid propaganda.”

    It is bad enough that so much of our media is well-known a joke in our own country, but when it gets noticed by the international press, it’s truly humiliating.

    Have we already forgotten about the foreign policy journal publicly saying that Ahmed Quraishi misrepresented their work to support his conspiracy theory?


    Now we have another foreign newspaper referring to the conspiracy theories that are circulating about Faisal Shahzad “paranoid propaganda.” This has got to stop.

    When the American law enforcement arrested the members of a Christian terrorist group, the media did not report that it was some conspiracy by Pakistan or any other country to embarrass Christians or Americans. They can admit that there are some Christians and Americans who are idiots. Actually, they call them ‘evil.’ Why can’t we do the same?


    There is a real world here in which idiots like Faisal try to blow people up. There is important information that can be reported about these incidents to help stop this madness from happening again. Why can’t our media be a part of the real world, part of the solution? Dear media, stop being part of the problem, please. Your country needs you in the real world. At the very least, stop making the rest of us look bad!

    Source: http://pakistanmediawatch.com/2010/05/07/pakistans-paranoid-press/

  • Another master piece from Pakistan Media Watch:

    It’s time to grow up
    May 8th, 2010

    Okay, this must be the biggest mess of a conspiracy theory I’ve seen in some time. Kamran Khan and Talat Hussain may have been first out of the gate on this one, but it is spreading like a wild fire, and it threatens to burn up any credibility left in our media. Today, Mohammad Jamil spends far too long drawing out this nonsense about Faisal Shahzad case being a plot to put Pakistan under pressure. Let’s take a look at Jamil’s piece in full, and hopefully put this nonsense to rest.


    Jamil begins by saying that there is a bias in Western media by referring to Faisal Shahzad as a Pakistani and not an American. This is just silliness. For one thing, do we deny that he was Pakistani? More importantly, though, a search of Google News for ‘Faisal Shahzad Pakistani-American’ shows almost 2,000 articles. A search of Google News for ‘Faisal Shahzad American Citizen’ found over 3,000 articles. All the media – including American and Western media are very open about his being American.

    Next, Jamil jumps straight to his point:

    If one glances through the reports by Reuters and other news agencies, it is not difficult to conclude that this is a gimmick to keep Pakistan under pressure and push it to go after the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

    Actually, I think it’s pretty difficult to come to that conclusion. In fact, I think you have to throw logic and reason out the door in order to come to that conclusion. Consider Jamil’s logic:

    The Reuters report said, “Any links between Pakistan’s Taliban and a failed bombing in New York’s Times Square could put the country under renewed US pressure to open risky new fronts against Islamic militants.” US agencies and investigators are trying to find a link between him and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who reportedly accepted responsibility. Many security experts are sceptical about the ability of the TTP to stage terrorist attacks outside Pakistan. In April 2009, Baitullah Mehsud had claimed responsibility for being behind the attack by a US immigrant of Vietnamese origin who went on a murderous rampage killing 13 people. However, his claim was dismissed by Pakistani security officials and US investigators as rubbish. From his statement to the police, it appears that he is not at all a trained terrorist. His statement about changing of cars, forgetting the keys and use of firecrackers sounds intriguing.

    In order for Jamil’s article to make any sense, you have to believe that TTP is conspiring to put more pressure on Pakistan to expand the war on TTP. How do you even begin to respond to something this silly?

    Jamil then says that “The US has repeatedly called on Pakistan to do more.” While it may be true that some Americans have said this, he conveniently ignores the chorus of high-ranking American officials who have been very grateful to Pakistan.


    Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered strong praise Friday for Pakistan’s efforts to root out extremist militants amid concern about potential links between the failed Times Square car bombing and Pakistan-based Taliban forces.”The Pakistanis have been doing so much more than 18 months or two years ago any of us would have expected,” Gates told reporters traveling with him from Washington to this Army post on the banks of the Missouri River. He referred to Pakistani Army offensives, dating to spring 2009, against Taliban extremists in areas near the Afghan border, including in south Waziristan.

    Gates said the Obama administration is sticking to its policy of offering to do as much training and other military activity inside Pakistan as the Pakistani government is willing to accept.

    “It’s their country,” Gates said. “They remain in the driver’s seat, and they have their foot on the accelerator.”

    Robert Gates is the Defence Minister of the US and he is hardly being disrespectful here. Actually, he is full of praise. So, what’s the problem?

    Jamil then makes a turn for the truly bizarre:

    It should be borne in mind that an act by a Pakistani does not mean that Pakistan as a state is involved.

    Who has ever said this? Does anyone truly believe that the Pakistani state was involved? Why would you even write such a thing?

    Immediately after this sentence, Jamil contradicts everything he has written so far.

    There is a perception that it could be part of a conspiracy to neutralise the goodwill Pakistan has earned by decimating the terrorists’ infrastructure and strongholds. And it seems to be an artifice to de-track the US government, which has decided to help Pakistan to overcome its economic difficulties and also to equip the Pakistan Army to effectively take on the militants.

    This is the first thing he’s written that makes some sense – after all, wouldn’t Faisal (even if he wasn’t working with TTP) have wanted to de-track the growing Pakistan-US partnership? Okay, but that completely contradicts Jamil’s conspiracy theory! What is he thinking?

    Okay, so now he has contradicted himself. But Jamil is not satisfied with merely making a fool of himself – he wants to be the biggest fool of all. Look at what he writes next:

    Having said that, the US government should strive every nerve to ensure protection for Americans of Pakistani origin, who have to face the brunt after every botched attempt or real terrorist act. There are many questions: how was the suspect able to drive the car all the way to Times Square, and why had agencies failed to check the car on the way? And if, at all, the suspect had been able to reach the ‘destination’, what stopped him from carrying out the blast?

    Jamil says the American government should do everything to protect the rights of Pakistani-Americans. I agree 100%. Then he wonders why the American police didn’t stop this Pakistani-American from driving and why weren’t the American intelligence agencies following him. WHAT!?! Does he truly believe that FBI should be stopping all Pakistanis to question them? Faisal was able to drive to New York and park his car without being checked by some intelligence agency because he was treated with respect. FAISAL is the one who spit in the face of those who were trusting him not to be an idiot.

    Jamil then goes on to list other people who have tried to attack America: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Nidal Hasan and David Headley. He says that these are all people who were educated in America, so America must be the problem! Here is what he writes:

    The moot question is, what is wrong with the US system?

    I will not suggest that there is nothing wrong with the US system. After all, certainly there are idiots in America like Columbine killers and Timothy McVeigh. But does Jamil dare to look in that mirror himself? What will he see? If America is to blame for the acts of Americans, who is to blame for the acts of Pakistanis? After all, it is our own fellow Pakistanis who are blowing themselves up in Karachi and Peshawar, killing our own children across the country. Why can we not admit that there are idiots here, too?

    Jamil does make one point that I think is difficult to understand, but we must if we are ever going to move beyond this tit-for-tat killing.

    In fact, the US has made many enemies by bombing other countries. It also has the reputation of hatching conspiracies that were responsible for the assassination of Lumumba, overthrowing Dr Mossadaq and the removal of President Soekarno. And the US had reportedly played its role in stoking the Iran-Iraq war, Arab-Israel conflict and support for the Contra saboteurs against the revolutionary government of Nicaragua. The list of its interferences, subversions, control and overthrowing of Third World governments is too long to be elaborated.

    This is true, certainly. But we must remember that a son should not bear the crimes of a father. Zardari is not Zia, and Obama is not Bush. If we are ever to see an end to the senseless killing, we must be able to overcome history. We should never forget the past, but we must learn to heal and move on. Otherwise, we are doomed.

    Ultimately, Jamil concludes his awful column by saying that America and Germany were responsible for 9/11. This is just stupid. Actually, this is so stupid that I do not know why anyone would ever let this man write for their newspaper again.

    I don’t know how many times I can say this. There is a real world here. It is not some B-movie drama. Yes, I like to make some jokes about the sub-par Bollywood scripts that our news resembles. But this is no joke. Mohammad Jamil is a grown man, and yet he is writing silly stories for children. In the real world, there are some true idiots that are killing people in Peshawar, Islamabad, Karachi, New York, Mumbai, London, Gaza etc. Some of these people are from US, some are from Israel, some are from India, and…guess what? Some are from right here in Pakistan.

    It’s time to grow up and face the truth.

    Source: http://pakistanmediawatch.com/2010/05/08/its-time-to-grow-up/

  • let us assume taht this a conspiracy but our question from the conspiracy brigade is that “who are the actors in this conspiracy” and to whom to blaime for the conspiracy and how to deal with this conspiracy.i am sure they will never give you a word like Dr Shahid Masood’s Program Meray Mutabiq always spread hatred,hopless and never gives conclusion or solution so if we ask these conspiracy brigade such question i hope they will work in positive directions

  • ‘Pakistan Taliban’ behind Times Square bomb plot

    The United States says it has evidence that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square.
    Attorney General Eric Holder said they helped to facilitate the plot, and “probably helped finance it”.
    US officials had previously rejected claims by the group that it was behind the 1 May plot.
    A Pakistani-born US citizen has been charged with the attempted bombing in New York’s tourist quarter a week ago.
    Faisal Shazhad, 30, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, has co-operated with investigators, and admits receiving bomb-making training in the Pakistan region of Waziristan, prosecutors have said.
    “We’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack,” Mr Holder said on ABC television’s Sunday current affairs talk show “This Week”.
    “We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it, and that [Shahzad] was working at their direction.”
    Mr Holder said there was nothing to suggest the government of Pakistan was aware of the plot.
    He also said the Obama administration was satisfied for now with the level of co-operation it was receiving from the Pakistani authorities into the investigation of the attempted bombing.
    The bomb was discovered last Saturday evening in Times Square, which was busy with tourists and theatregoers at the time.
    The bomb was discovered and dismantled after a street-vendor noticed smoke coming from a Nissan Pathfinder, which had been left with its engine running and hazard lights flashing.
    The unexploded bomb left crucial evidence intact that detectives used to trace Mr Shahzad.


  • حمید گل : اوے تو تو اجمل قصاب سے بھی اناڑی نکلا ،یہ کیا ہو رہا ہے میری ساری محنت پر پانی پھر رہا ہے

  • اگر فیصل شہزاد ایسے ذہنی طور پر غیر متوازن نوجوان نیویارک کے بے گناہ شہریوں کو قتل کرنے کی کوشش کرتے ہیں تو ہمارے رہنماؤں او ردانشوروں کو بھی گریبان میں جھانکنا چاہئے۔ ہمارے قومی مزاج میں خرابی کیا ہے؟ جہاد اسلام کا کبھی نہ الگ ہونے والا حصّہ ہے مگر یہ جہاد نہیں ، فسادہے ۔ جہاد انتقام نہیں ، خود اپنی اصلاح او رظلم کے مقابلے کا عزم ہوتاہے۔ اس موضوع پر قرآن کی 28آیات میں سے صرف آٹھ کا تعلق قتال سے ہے جنہیں واعظ کثرت سے دہراتے ہیں۔ تزکیہ نفس ، پاکیزگی، خیرخواہی ، بغض ، حسد ، عناد اور نفرت سے نجات پر اصرار کی بیس آیات کیوں نہیں؟ جہاد کی شرائط ہیں اور سب سے بڑھ کر یہ کہ کسی بے گناہ کو ہدف نہ کیا جائے گا۔ بچّے ، بوڑھے ، خاتون او رعام شہری کو نہیں ، حتیٰ کہ شجر نہ کاٹا جائے گا اور فصل تباہ نہ کی جائے گی۔ مغرب کے شہریوں کو ہم کیسے نشانہ بنا سکتے ہیں، عراق پر حملے کے بعد، عالم اسلام کے عوام سے کہیں زیادہ، ایک ایک شہر میں لاکھوں کی تعداد میں اپنی حکومتوں کے خلاف جنہوں نے احتجاج کا علم بلند کیا۔ جڑواں میناروں پر حملے میں مرنے والے بے گناہ شہریوں او ران کے خاندانوں کا قصور کیا تھا؟ ظاہر ہے کہ جہاد نہیں، یہ انتقام ہے۔اور اس دین میں انتقام کی کوئی گنجائش نہیں، جس کے بنیادی اصولوں میں سے ایک یہ ہے”الدّین نصیحہ”دین تمام مخلوقات کی خیر خواہی کا نام ہے۔
    افسوس کہ مذہبی تربیت اور تعلیم کے نظام کو ہم نے فرقہ پرست اور تنگ نظر مولوی کے حوالے کر دیا۔ بیسویں صدی میں کارِ تجدید کا سب سے بڑا معرکہ سر کرنے والا اقبال# ، مسلم برصغیر جس پر متحد تھا، چالیس برس تک روتا رہا کہ “دینِ ملّا ،فی سبیل اللہ فساد”او ریہ کہ
    میں جانتا ہوں انجام اس کا
    جس معرکے کے ملّا ہوں غازی
    ہم نے مگر غور کرنے سے انکار کر دیا۔ سب سے زیادہ اہم اور بنیادی علم کو انہیں سونپ دیا ، جو گھٹن، حسد ، تقلید اور تنگ نظری میں پرورش پاتے ہیں۔ کیا تعلیماتِ اسلام کی تشریح ان کے سپرد ہونی چاہئیے؟کیا ابھی وقت نہیں آیا کہ ہمارے حاکم ، لیڈر اور دانشور ان سوالوں پر غور کریں ، نئے وطن میں جن پر سب سے پہلے سوچنا تھا۔ آخر کو زندگی ترجیحات کی موزوں ترتیب ہی سے بارور ہوتی اور نشوونما پاتی ہے۔
    اللہ کے بندو ،کتنے طوفانوں کے بعد ادراک کرو گے کہ زندگی دوسروں کے عیوب نہیں، اپنے محاسن پر بسر کی جاتی ہے۔

    یہ ہنگامہ اے خدا کیا ہے؟…ناتمام…ہارون الرشید

  • I am not sure how to convince the conspiracy theorists in Pakistan that it is in their interest to defeat the terrorists. It is Pakistan that is at risk more than any other country and for their own future, people in Pakistan must come together to realize that they have a problem, a very serious problem and they must not waste any more time. And if they really love Pakistan, they would do something about it instead of finding excuses for thugs like Faisal Shahzad. People like Faisal Shahzad should leave the country if they don’t like it. He has gone to prison for rest of his life, but it is the community, yes, and Shahzad’s community that has come under tremendous scrutiny just because Shahzad lost sanity.

  • Change of tone

    Pakistan has been sleeping with the enemy for far too long now. The message emanating from Washington is getting decidedly more aggressive and unrelenting with fresh revelations about the US’s belief that some Pakistani officials know of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omer. This public accusation, voiced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has brought into the open Pakistan’s perceived central role in not just harbouring jihadis but supporting them. Secretary of State Clinton has, until recently, been the spokesperson for improved Pak-US relations. However, this change in tone and tenor coming from the most powerful voice in Washington — second only to that of the President — is one that ought to nudge our establishment into waking up from its dual policy stupor to freshly reassess the ground realities.

    The past two years of army offensives in Swat and FATA helped overcome the massive trust deficit between Pakistan and the US. This has arguably now been thrust into reverse gear after Faisal Shahzad’s amateur attempt to bomb Times Square, New York. It is this episode that has made glaringly obvious Pakistan’s dual policy, where Pakistani Taliban are targeted for their challenge to the Pakistani state, but the Afghan Taliban are allowed safe havens in, amongst other places, the heartlands of North Waziristan because of the perceived political leverage they may help achieve for the Pakistani establishment in post-US Afghanistan. It is just such a policy that has morphed North Waziristan into terrorism central where a deluge of militant factions are on the rise, extending from the notorious Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Haqqani’s Afghan Taliban network to militants from Southern Punjab who are visibly more brutal and remorseless than their counterparts.

    Now is the time to weigh all the odds: is such a waiting game for imagined future strategic aims worth immediate US wrath? Even Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has cited Faisal Shahzad as the straw that may break the camel’s back of Pak-US relations. It is vital therefore that the escalating anger that is the subtext of the US charges be addressed. At stake could arguably be our economy, defence, security, and even lives. There are already calls in Congress for cutting down the Kerry-Lugar aid.

    The war on terror is now about to enter a new, more complex phase where the military and government must revisit the policy vis-à-vis the Afghan Taliban and our vested interests in Afghanistan. General Sardar Mahmood Ali Khan, the deputy chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff is right to say that an offensive in North Waziristan will require extensive planning and preparation. Be that as it may, the military needs to do the needful. The ‘successes’ in Swat and South Waziristan are already turning into ugly reversals as target killings and Taliban renewal are being witnessed once again in these regions. Displacing thousands of people and the death of many army men should not be in vain as the militants simply scurried off to North Waziristan to re-emerge with even more cunning and gusto.


  • After Bugti’s death in 2006, Syed Talat Hussain presented Baluch Leaders as Heroes and that was just to hound General Musharraf and now read the same Talat Hussain on Baluch Leaders. Separatist Sketches By Talat Hussain [Monthly Newsline Pakistan Issue of April 2010] A profile of separatist groups operating in Balochistan. 21 APRIL 2010

    The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) is currently headquartered in Afghanistan with proper training centres, and their recruits come and go through Chaman, Sarata and Panchpai. After the death of Balach Marri, his father, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, is believed to be its patron-in-chief. In Balochistan, it has training centres in Khuzdar, Quetta, Sibi, Ziarat and Mand. It wants Pakistan to break up. The BLA has the capability to effectively operate in Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Makran and in Hub. Its hit-men are infamous.

    The Baloch Republican Army (BRA) was created in 2007, after Nawab Akbar Bugti’s grandson Brahmdagh Bugti shifted to Kabul. Brahmdagh runs this organisation in a hands-on fashion and through middlemen. Initially, BRA activities were limited to Dera Bugti. But after Brahmdagh’s entrance in politics and the formation of the BRA, the organisation expanded its activities to Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Noshki and Chagi. Some reports suggest that other than the Bugtis, members from other tribes are also supporting him.

    The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) is known mostly because of its members who are educated young men and are ideologically driven. The Baloch Student Organisation’s (BSO) former chairman Allah Nazar Baloch is the guiding force of this organisation. Allah Nazar was arrested in 2004 for fomenting separatist sentiments. After nine months of imprisonment, he was freed in Dera Ghazi Khan. He was caught again and convicted for minor offences. He was freed later. He then took shelter in the mountains of Awaran. This organisation operates in Awaran, Makran and of late Quetta has become the centre of its activities, where BSO Azad is very active.

    The Baloch United Liberation Front (BULF) first emerged in February 2009 with the kidnapping of John Solecki, the UN head in Balochistan. In return for his freedom, they asked for the release of 1,100 missing persons. John Solecki was later freed through middlemen and after a lot of money changed hands. BULF targets are the security forces in Quetta and settlers. This organisation also accepted the responsibility for killing Balochistan’s education minister Shafiq Ahmad. Intelligence and security agencies allege that it is directly run by Nawab Khair Baksh Marri.

    Lashkre Balochistan was formed at the end of 2009, with Khuzdar as its centre. Apart from Khuzdar, it also operates in Kalat and Mastung. It has accepted responsibility for some sabotage activities in Quetta. According to security forces, former senator Javed Mengal, son of Ataullah Mengal, is its informal patron-in-chief. The purpose of this organisation is to counter the growing ambitions of the BLA and BLF, and to maintain the status of Mengal sardars in the area. http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2010/04/separatist-sketches/

  • Regime of Fear By Talat Hussain 21 APRIL 2010 http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2010/04/regime-of-fear/

    In Balochistan, hope is like water, marked only by its absence in some places and abundance in others. In some places, as in the vast sandy stretches of the Chagi desert, water is so far away that it cannot be found even 800 kilometres down – and then too bitter and unhealthy. But, in other areas, as in Barabcha, it flows at one-sixth of a fathom. You can literally reach it by scooping the earth with bare hands.

    It is a telling comment on the failure of the government and the military establishment that they have allowed the hopeful prospects in this half of Pakistan to become scarce, overtaken by gloomy forecasts of secession and separation. That is why now different groups operating in the name of Baloch rights seem to have seized the initiative. They are running an expanding campaign whose political and sabotage strategies co-terminate at the goal of opting out of the federation.

    The surest indication of the confidence and zeal with which the insurgents are operating lies in the regime of fear they have been able to create in different districts of the province. Additional checkposts on the roads have not stopped hit-men from taking out targets in broad daylight. With a perfection that would shame assassins in Hollywood movies, they have killed hundreds of settlers who came here decades ago from non-Baloch areas, primarily from the Punjab. The statistics are staggering. In just under a year, over 350 roadside bombings, grenade attacks and point blank killings. Many deaths are not even reported. Security agencies hide them for fear of demoralising the rank and file; ordinary citizens are quick to avoid more retribution and retaliation.

    Emboldened by their successes, these groups now openly claim responsibility for these actions. With brazen pride and heartfelt joy, messages emanating from local mobile numbers justify the sorry end of the victims either in the name of revenge for “oppression of the Baloch” or “for the rightful struggle of liberation in an occupied land.” Even the Baloch are being downed. The rationale for killing their own kind is that they, the victims, betrayed their brothers either because they were not supportive enough of the “cause of liberation” or were suspected of spying for the intelligence agencies. This killing spree has also started to engulf members of the Pashtun community. Police officials admit that the trend in the killings in Balochistan has acquired a new and threatening dimension. “The Pashtuns are very well organised. They have the manpower and gunpowder to retaliate against those Baloch tribe members who are seen to be sanctioning these actions,” says a local police officer who wanted his name and area of deployment to remain anonymous. These killings take place primarily in Turbat, Khuzdar, Awaran, Pasni, Panjgore – the Makran Belt, with some parts falling in the Jhalawan Belt.

    So far there has not been any ethnically-driven retaliation. It may not remain so for long. Fears are widespread that one of these days a big incident could spark off a deadly feud between the Baloch and Pashtun communities. “Insurgents have a tendency to overplay their hands. One day a riot will break out. We are in touch with the Pashtun and Baloch political leaders on this count and hope that they will play their part in keeping the slowly rising tensions down,” says a top-ranking security officer in the province.

    However, it is open to question how much clout members of Baloch political parties have left in this province. The legend lurking on the streets of Quetta these days is, that Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, currently residing in Karachi, had recently sent a coffin to Chief Minister Muhammad Aslam Raisani, indicating that his days were numbered. But instead of returning the coffin in the typical Baloch tradition of fighting fire with fire, he wilted and dispatched boxes full of protection money to the old man. Of course, such stories are hard to verify, but their currency testifies to the public perception that the political leadership in the province has a pistol to its head and the trigger is controlled by the insurgent.

    This perception is reinforced by the conduct of the elected members, who, it seems, have all cut separate deals with the gun-toting militias. Deep background interviews with at least a dozen of them drawn from different regions indicate that they are all in mortal fear of being killed or have the sense that they are on their own. Some supported the Baloch taking up arms. Others laid blame at the doorstep of the federal government which, they said, was staging high profile political dramas such as the Balochistan package, but had delivered precious little. “All the applications for the jobs announced for the Baloch are being processed at a snail’s pace. How do we pacify them?” asks one member of the out-sized provincial cabinet.

    This partially explains a string of intelligence reports Newsline was able to access that speak of the link between provincial politics and violent groups’ expanding operations. The interior ministry is in receipt of dozens of cables from Balochistan indicative of this dangerous trend. One report makes the astounding claim that nearly 90% of the sitting ministers are in touch with the insurgents, and a vast majority of them actually shelter the gun-wielders. Anecdotes abound that point to such possibilities. On March 17, a daylight hand-grenade attack on a vehicle of the Frontier Corps resulted in an hour-long gun battle. Four law enforcement members were injured and one attacker was killed. Majid Lango was a proclaimed offender wanted, as far as police records are concerned, for serious charges including murder. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) (see Separatist Sketches) praised him as a valiant soldier of the resistance movement. The Balochistan Assembly passed a resolution condemning his killing as extra-judicial and held a special prayer for the departed soul.

    This incident shows the untenable situation where the lawmakers themselves are not sure about the status of the lawbreakers, nor indeed are they confident as to which side of the divide are they on. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that they are not even sure where the dividing line is actually drawn. This affords a formidable advantage to the insurgent groups. They can pursue hard core retaliatory and sabotage activity in the guise of justified reaction to the law-enforcement agencies’ high-handedness, and know that they also have political backing born of either compulsion or conviction.

    The insurgents have used this space for a successful ideological blitz, targeting most schools and colleges. Under the name of Sarmichar News – in Balochi Sarmichar means ‘those who lay down their lives for the right cause’ – a robust media campaign is run by Salam Sabir Baloch. The messages that emanate from this service go across to thousands of people. From carrying abuses (‘all Pakistanis are bastards’) to glorifying those who are killed in encounters or are missing (‘they are our real heroes’), the SMS service is meant to create awe and fear. Among impressionable minds it conjures up the picture that Balochistan’s independence is around the corner and the valiant fighters shall soon defeat the “occupiers (Punjabi army).” The disenchanted Baloch youth lap up these one-liners. For them, this and other propaganda that is spread through pamphlets and secret group meetings is revolutionary stuff, both cathartic and cataclysmic, carrying the tidings of a better tomorrow.

    This explains the social profile of the Baloch insurgency, which is shaped by recruits from professional groups. While intelligence and army officials privately refer to them as social outcasts who have a grudge, a gun and have taken to the mountains, the fact of the matter is that insurgents are found among teachers, students, lawyers, and perfectly reasonable and educated persons. “They can have a light and enlightened discussion with you during the day, and at night plan a grenade attack that they would happily carry out themselves,” says a mid-ranking army officer. “They are very few in number by the way,” he hastens to add. “Very, very few.”

    This qualification of “very few” holds good in conversations but in practical, day-to-day handling of the threat from the brazen attacker, it blurs the lines between the innocent and the accused. The same officer admitted that the insurgents have been able to create a tough situation where everyone with a Baloch identity has to be watched carefully and that plays to the advantage of those who are already crying hoarse over discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

    The case of Hasan Janan, a teacher of Balochi at the Balochistan University, is instructive in this regard. His supporters say that the accusation against him of hurling a grenade at the city police station was false. “Why did he have an honourable acquittal from the court?” one of Hassan’s students asks, now that his teacher is back at his teaching job. The police say that a year-long trial saw all of the eyewitnesses, including those who had grabbed him in the act, decide against testifying in court. “No eyewitness, no prosecution, no punishment. The man walks free and is hailed a hero,” says the police officer who eyeballed this trial helplessly. This state of affairs has proven to be devastating for the Punjabi settlers, who are migrating in huge numbers. There are thousands of applications in various government departments seeking immediate transfers. The worst sufferers are teachers, followed by doctors. Government officials of non-Baloch origin are scared to death. Even police officials live in secure compounds away from the reach of those who lie in wait.

    Photo: AFP

    On a flight back from Quetta, this scribe was approached by at least six persons who had just got themselves transferred out of Balochistan. “We are sitting ducks being taken out. Nobody talks about these killings because everyone is sensitive to the needs of the Baloch. In effect, the whole nation has sanctioned the killing of its non-Baloch citizens. The whole nation, including the media, has innocent blood on its hands,” exploded a young teacher who had lost his first cousin to a target killing only a month ago.

    This migration has worsened already pathetic governance levels. As experts in their fields leave the area for dear life, service delivery is suffering severely. Moreover, Pashtuns, with their money and a nose for business opportunities, have stepped in to buy lands in Baloch areas vacated by the settlers. Ironically, the so-called struggle for the independence of Baloch land is resulting in shrinking Baloch areas and the growing presence of Pashtun communities in the Baloch heartland. However, the biggest tragedy is that for all the high talk of Balochistan being the first priority, there seems no strategic or even operational strategy in place to handle a continuously deteriorating situation. The PPP government’s split-second attention span on pressing national issues has proven particularly ruinous for this part of the country.

    Balochistan is crying out for constant constructive engagement and, above all, a vision to integrate alienated youth and speedy, high-impact public utility projects that showcase the federation’s real concern about the future of the province. None of this is happening. Between ham-fisted law-enforcement agencies, ruthless separatists, and starkly incompetent provincial and national politicians, this magnificent land of lovely people is being deprived of the glory and prosperity that is its due, but which for now is as distant on the horizon as hope is from the hearts of its dwellers and water is from its wells.

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