Pakistan torturing Balochistan activists, report says

Pakistan torturing Balochistan activists, report says

Cover of HRW report
HRW accuses the security forces of brazenly killing people

Hundreds of political activists are being held and tortured by security forces in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Human Rights Watch says.

The region is currently the centre of an insurgency by local tribesmen fighting for greater political rights.

A new report by the rights group focuses on political activists detained without charge. Many of them were later killed, the report says.

The Supreme Court is investigating the killings and disappearances.

Entitled “We can torture, kill and keep you for years”, the report completes a three-part series of investigations on Balochistan by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan says that taken together they present a disturbing and violent picture of what many are calling Pakistan’s secret dirty war.

“Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear’ and in many cases are executed,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said.

“The national government has done little to end the carnage in Balochistan, calling into question its willingness or ability to control the military and intelligence agencies.”

Pakistani authorities routinely deny claims of abuses in Balochistan.

‘Propaganda’

The latest 132-page report says state security remains responsible for most of the abuses.

This includes holding detainees as young as 12 years old without charge – as well as the increasing torture and killing of those held, it says.

File photo of paramilitary soldiers on guard near the site of a shooting on the outskirts of Quetta June 22, 2011.
Balochistan is the scene of frequent attacks

The report details 45 alleged cases of enforced disappearances, the majority in 2009 and 2010. It says that while hundreds of people have been “forcibly disappeared” in Balochistan since 2005, dozens of new enforced disappearances have occurred since Pakistan returned to civilian rule in 2008.

The report is based on over 100 interviews by HRW in Balochistan in 2010 and 2011 with family members of “disappeared” people, former detainees, local human rights activists, lawyers and witnesses to government abductions.

It says that those targeted are primarily Baloch nationalist activists or suspected Baloch militants.

“Pakistani security services are brazenly disappearing, torturing, and often killing people because of suspected ties to the Baloch nationalist movement,” Mr Adams said. “This is not counterinsurgency – it is barbarism and it needs to end now.”

Security officials in Balochistan routinely dismiss such claims as part of propaganda by separatists.

They say all those arrested have been produced in courts.

In a recent interview, the top security official in Balochistan told the BBC the killings were the result of infighting amongst the nationalists.

But other security officials have also told the BBC that they have detained the activists.

They say the insurgents are being supported by India and it is the duty of Pakistan’s security forces to do their utmost to suppress them.

The report also highlights how difficult conditions are getting for ordinary citizens in Balochistan. The province has strategic importance as it borders Iran and Afghanistan.

US officials say the Afghan Taliban leadership have their headquarters in the province, a claim Pakistan denies.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and most sparsely populated province, is also rich in minerals – with vast untapped deposits of oil, gas, copper and gold.

But locals say most of this remains under the control of the federal government – its policies have left them little choice, many say, but to side with the insurgents.

Musharraf Wakes-Up

Musharraf’s APML in tatters

Azim M Mian
NEW YORK: Despite the fact that Pervez Musharraf had very cordial and encouraging meetings with some US Congressmen and senators and was assured of some support in his mission to return to Pakistan next March, he had to face strong criticism from his own friends and political supporters of his party, the APML.

His close confidant for the last nine years and former chairman of Pakistan Cricket Control Board, Dr Nasim Ashraf, has resigned from all positions and basic membership of the party. He was the top boss of his party in North America with the title of Chief Coordinator of APML in North America. Dr Ashraf had established 11 chapters of APML – eight in USA and three in Canada.

The reasons for his resignation are not known and all efforts to reach Dr Nasim Ashraf failed. He did not respond to phone calls. However, Pervez Musharraf did attend the wedding of Dr Nasim Ashraf’s daughter in Virginia on July 22 before he left USA.

Another staunch supporter of Pervez Musharraf since his days in power has also announced his complete dissociation with Musharraf and his party. Arshad Khan, a New Yorker, who held rallies to support Pervez Musharraf till recently, has publicly blamed Musharraf for making wrong decisions, promoting his relatives and those who can organise colourful evenings for him. “We cannot support his objectionable activities and wrong decisions any more. I have been supporting him for too long, even after he had resigned; but now I cannot take his nepotism, faulty decisions and struggle to capture power again,” said Arshad Khan of New York’s Pak-America Rabita Council. He also pointed out that Pervez Musharaf’s public meeting in New York was a total failure as hardly 250 people came to listen to him.

Nasim Ashraf’s resignation has caused gloom among APML supporters in New Jersey, Houston and other parts of USA. Imran Siiddiqi, who was made APML coordinator for Canada by Pervez Musharaf last week, however, claims that there is no rift or unrest in his party in Canada and he will do his best to resolve issues through dialogue among members. But sources say that other party chapters in Canada have not accepted Pervez Musharaf’s decision to promote Imran Siddiqui from Ontario to the top party post.

Insiders have disclosed to The News that Dr Nasim Ashraf has informed Pervez Musharaf about his plan to quit politics completely. He plans to return to his medical profession after long absence. According to his family sources, Dr Ashraf plans to spend some time with a hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Hindu militant linked with Hizbul Mujahideen killed in encounter

Hindu militant linked with Hizbul Mujahideen killed in encounter

Express news service

He was a Hindu by birth who got buried in the martyrs graveyard at Marwah with all Muslim rites this evening after his parents refused to take his body from the police. Identified as Subash Kumar Shan alias Wasif alias Qamran, the first Hindu divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen for Kishtwar division, he was killed in a fierce gun battle with police and security forces on Tuesday.

Subash along with his three accomplices had got trapped in Gokund area of Renie Nallah, some 20 kms from Nawapachi in Marwah tehsil after police and security forces launched a joint combing operation following specific information on Tuesday morning. However, when the combing operation was in progress, militants opened fire on the police and security forces who retaliated.

Inspector General of Police for Jammu zone, Dilbagh Singh, said that apart from Subash, the other three militants engaged in the encounter included Jahangir, Riyaz and Sajjad. However, while Subash was killed, Sajjad got injured. The later along with two others, however, managed to escape.

Initially the slain militant was identified by police and security forces as Sajjad Ahmed Mir alias Rizwan of Tachna Dachhan. An AK 47 rifle along with ammunition, one wireless set and two Chinese greades were seized from him.

However, as the body of the slain militant was shown to his relatives, they denied him being Sajjad. Following a controversy over his identity, the slain militant was brought to Marwah where people identified him as Subash, son of Jeevan Lal Shan, an ex-serviceman, of Palmar, Marwah.

Though he happened to be the second Hindu militant having been killed in the hilly district during the last two years, police said that Subash was a hardcore militant involved in a number of killings. He had joined militancy in 2001 and he was made divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen for Kishtwar division after the surrender of Furdaus Ahmed Matoo alias Prince in 2009. The first Hindu militant killed in the district was Kuldeep Kumar of Puneja.

As Subash had joined militant ranks against the wishes of his family members, his parents after the postmortem refused to take his body from the hospital. The body was later handed over to some local Muslims for his burial at martyrs graveyard at Marwah.

With his killing, the Hizbul Mujahideen has received a major set back as Subash being a Hindu was a source of inspiration for other militants operating in the area. The slain militant commander was a great motivator and he was, at present, busy recruiting new youth to his ranks.

Pakistan and India Determined To Keep Talking

Peace talks pick up pace as India, Pak skirt blocks

Sachin Parashar, TNN

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan on Wednesday pressed ahead with their peace engagement, steering around contentious issues — particularly Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism — that bedevil their ties.

Erasing the scars of last July, when their foreign ministers clashed in full public view in Islamabad, India and Pakistan on Wednesday managed the rare feat of speaking in one voice. They agreed to invest in a relationship of “trust and mutually beneficial cooperation”.

It wasn`t easy given differences over the usual stumbling blocks that cropped up during the meeting between foreign minister S M Krishna (78), and his young counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar (34), but the two sides worked around them successfully enough for foreign secretary Nirupama Rao to later declare that the “fog has now lifted” over the relationship.

Khar too raised hopes when she described the relationship as entering a new era and stated that the mindset of people in both the countries had changed, allowing ties to move in the right direction. In terms of deliverables, a number of CBMs to enhance cross-LoC trade and travel were announced.

“It is our desire to make the dialogue process uninterrupted and uninterruptible,” Khar said after the meeting, summing up the determination to stay engaged. The restraint was evident at the press conference of the two foreign secretaries where neither rose to the bait of provocative questions.

Talks did not start on a very promising note though. The meeting started with Krishna strongly expressing displeasure to the Pakistani delegation over Khar`s meeting with separatist Hurriyatleaders on Tuesday evening ahead of the official talks.

Krishna wanted to know what was the locus standi of the Hurriyat as they were not representative of the people of India. He also took exception to the press statement Pakistan High Commission issued after the meeting with separatists.

Khar promptly assured Krishna that she did not intend to give offence to India.

The two sides did not let the issue overshadow talks even in public. Rao confirmed that India had expressed concern over the meeting and that it reflected divergences. “We have a different point of view from Pakistan on the meeting and we have expressed our concern frankly and candidly,” she said. But she also emphasized that the neighbours had the political will to work together.

Rao`s counterpart Salman Bashir also spoke in a conciliatory vein. He said the meeting with Hurriyat should not be construed as an attempt to cast shadow over the talks, adding that Pakistan`s intention was to reach out in the interest of democratic polity.

Sources said the Pakistanis chose not to be prickly also when Krishna forcefully raised the lack of credible effort to punish the 26/11 masterminds, and continuing hate propaganda against India by the sorts of Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed.

“We have made attempts to infuse the dialogue with the Thimphu spirit,” Rao said referring to the meeting between PM Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani in Bhutan last year when they paved the way for re-engagement.

Krishna also raised the confessions made by Pakistani-American Lashkar operative David Headleyduring the trial of another accused Tahawwur Rana in Chicago about the role of ISI but the Pakistanis quickly assured that they would investigate the matter.

Terror and J&K were discussed at length and this manifested itself in the joint statement which called for eliminating terror in all its forms and, on J&K, spoke of finding a “peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences”. They also agreed for a continued discussion on J&K in a purposeful and forward-looking manner.

Rao said there was “cautious optimism” in India-Pak relations. Krishna stated that things were “on the right track”. The two foreign ministers decided to meet again in the first half of 2012. “This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, and it is our desire… to make it an uninterrupted and an uninterruptible process,” Khar said.

“There has been a mindset change in the people of the two countries that we must acknowledge,” she added. Khar showed remarkable maturity for her age when during the joint press briefing after the talks, she resisted all temptations to play to the gallery by mentioning the K-word even though it figured prominently in the joint statement.

Bashir too said after the talks that the two countries needed to make a conscious effort to be respectful to each other to maintain the momentum and ensure deeper level of engagement. “Either of us should not seek advantage over the other as we go for a deeper level of engagement. It is also not appropriate to read into what is said and what is not. We have to understand that this is a work in progress,” said Bashir.

After the talks, when asked if the Hurriyat meeting was an attempt to establish “parallel” structures in the bilateral relationship, Rao said as far as India was concerned, there was only a “bilateral structure” between the two governments to address all issues. Hurriyat leaders had insisted before Khar in the meeting on Tuesday that Kashmiris too be made a part of the dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Shifting the National Conversation On Terrorism from Islamaphobia to Mass-Murderers

Norway Killings Shift Debate on Islam in Europe

By 

BERLIN — Less than a week after the mass killings in Norway, evidence of a shift in the debate over Islam and the radical right in Europe already appeared to be taking hold on a traumatized Continent.

Members of far-right parties in Sweden and Italy were condemned from within their own ranks for blaming the attack on multiculturalism, as expressions of outrage over the deaths crossed the political spectrum. A member of France’s far-right National Front was suspended for praising the attacker.

Lurking in the background is the calculation on all sides that such tragedies can drive shifts in public opinion. The violent actions of a terrorist or homicidal individual can hardly be blamed on nonviolent political parties. But politicians have begun to question inflammatory rhetoric in the debate over immigrants, which has helped fuel the rise of right-leaning politicians across Europe in recent years.

The head of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, told the German news service dpa on Wednesday that a trend toward xenophobia and nationalism in the region had fostered the attacks in Norway. In a society where anti-Islamic sentiment and isolation were tolerated “naturally on the margins of society there will be crazy people who feel legitimized in taking harder measures,” he said.

“The center of society has to make clear that there is no room for this with us, even for sanitized versions,” Mr. Gabriel said. “There is a deep feeling in society that the pendulum has swung too far toward individualism.”

It is too soon to tell what the political fallout from the attacks will be. The left in Europe is out of power in major countries including Britain, France, Germany and Italy — and has struggled to find a cause to revitalize it, or at least to reframe the passionate debate overimmigration. The mainstream right, on the other hand, could find it more difficult to accept support from the far-right parties after the deadly events in Oslo and on Utoya Island.

“The biggest challenge is the opportunism of the center and I think this will change now,” said Joschka Fischer, Germany’s former foreign minister and a leading European voice on the left, pointing to the Danish government’s cooperation with the far-right Danish People’s Party, which has pushed through a partial reinstitution of border controls.

The political fallout will be unpredictable in part because Europe is still so varied in its political landscape, with each country’s different history and culture. Norway, for instance, is not a member of the European Union.

That may make it more difficult for a left-leaning politician to seize the initiative against conservatives the way that President Bill Clinton did in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which was carried out by a right-wing extremist. Trying to link mainstream politicians to the beliefs of Anders Behring Breivik, who authorities in Norway say has taken responsibility for the killings and his lawyer says is insane, is also risky.

Pascal Perrineau, professor at the Institut d’é(aigu)tudes politiques de Paris, where he directs the Center for Political Research, said that French parties were being “extremely cautious” in their approach to the tragedy out of fear of looking like they were exploiting it. According to Mr. Perrineau, it was unlikely to shift the larger balance of power between right and left in France, but would make it more difficult for the far-right Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen in elections.

Mr. Breivik 1500-page manifesto, while full of calls for violence, also contains some passages that echo the concerns of mainstream political leaders about preserving national identity and values.

“So much of what he wrote could have been said by any right-wing politician,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chairman of the Green bloc in the European Parliament. “A lot of arguments about immigrants and Islamic fundamentalism will now be much easier to question and to push back.”

The clearest evidence of a change in tone at this early stage may be the way anti-immigrant parties try to rein in their members. A member of the National Front, Jacques Coutela, was suspended for calling Mr. Breivik “an icon” on his blog. He replaced it with a note saying he denounced Mr. Breivik’s actions.

Murder of Afghan mayor deals new setback to Karzai

Murder of Afghan mayor deals new setback to Karzai

Associated Press

In this undated image made available by the provincial media center Kandahar Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi addresses a press conference in Kandahar south of Kabul, Afghanistan. The mayor of Kandahar was assassinated on Wednesday July 27, 2011 by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his turban Afghan officials said. The Taliban say they sent the suicide bomber who killed the mayor of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Hamidi was the third major powerbroker from the south to be slain this month. (AP Photo/Provincial Media Center )

An assassin struck at the heart of President Hamid Karzai’s political machine in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing the mayor of Kandahar with an exploding turban and deepening a power vacuum in the Taliban’s main stronghold.

The slaying of Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi was the third killing of a Karzai associate in a little more than two weeks. The attacks have jeopardized the Afghan government’s tenuous grip on the strategic south after recent success in routing the Taliban.

On July 12, a close associate gunned down Karzai’s powerful half brother at his home in Kandahar. Five days later, Karzai’s inner circle suffered another hit when gunmen in Kabul killed Jan Mohammad Khan, a presidential adviser on tribal issues and a former governor of Uruzgan province, which is also in the south.

The 65-year-old, gray-haired mayor was slain inside a heavily fortified government compound just before he was to meet with local residents caught up in a land dispute, according to Mohammad Nabi, an employee of the mayor’s office. The attacker was holding a piece of paper and trying to talk to the mayor when he detonated a bomb hidden inside his turban, said Nabi, who witnessed the killing.

“After that, there was some shooting,” he said. “I hid behind a wall. The windows were shattered. There was dark smoke.”

In the aftermath, part of the attacker’s black and gray-striped turban was strewn on the ground next to a blood-spattered tree.

One civilian was also killed and another civilian and a security guard were wounded, the governor’s office said.

Hamidi was buried Wednesday evening in a family plot near Kandahar University. Karzai’s elder brother, Qayyum Karzai, was overcome with grief at the funeral.

“It is a bad day for Kandahar and it is a bad day for Afghanistan. The Kandahar mayor was an honest Muslim who was serving the country,” Qayyum Karzai said, then wiped tears from his eyes with both hands and walked away.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the trio of killings. But the south is rife with tribal rivalries and criminals and it is not yet certain the group orchestrated the assassinations.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi called the killing a “big blow” to the Karzai administration. He told The Associated Press that the Taliban killed the mayor because he ordered the destruction of homes that city officials claimed had been illegally constructed. He said the mayor was killed to avenge the deaths of two children during the demolition work.

Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said the two children were accidentally killed by a bulldozer knocking down the homes.

During his four years as mayor, Hamidi had campaigned against warlords and criminals and was particularly harsh on people who took illegal control of property, according to his son-in-law, Abdullah Khan. Just before the killing, the mayor had ordered more than a dozen large homes torn down in the north end of the city, saying they had been built illegally.

“From day one, I was afraid,” Khan told the AP in a telephone interview. “I wanted to put pressure on him to leave.”

He expressed doubt the authorities were up to the task of investigating the killing.

The president denounced the attack, blaming “terrorists who don’t want this country to be rebuilt.”

Gen. John Allen, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, also condemned the assassination.

“Clearly a string of assassinations is not a good sign … but at the same time, this could be a sign of significant weakness on the part of an enemy who has had a pretty darn hard year,” Crocker told reporters at his first briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“I don’t think you can chart a straight line that says that three assassinations guarantees a total unraveling either of international support or Afghan confidence. It could very well go the other way.”

Kate Clark, senior analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said the loss of another presidential ally in the south _ Karzai’s main base of political support _ could weaken the president there. Insurgents are “doing very well if they’re managing to pick off these major figures,” she said. “These people are not easy to target.”

Hamidi, an accountant who also had U.S. citizenship and spent years living in northern Virginia, was considered an ally of Wali Karzai in Kandahar but he operated behind the scenes. His name was mentioned as someone who might take over Wali Karzai’s unofficial position _ a master operator who played hard-line tribal and political factions against one another to retain ultimate control over the restive province. However, some said his tribal contacts were not strong enough to assume that role.

Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq defended recent steps to improve security in the city.

“You can’t judge security through this single incident,” Razaq said.

Provincial intelligence chief Gen. Mohammad Naeem Momin said Kandahar would recover from the setback.

“Kandahar is like a base for the insurgents so they will try to show their presence, but it doesn’t mean that we have lost control here,” he said.

Agha Haji Lalai, acting head of the Kandahar provincial council since Wali Karzai’s death, said the province needs special attention from the government in the wake of the killings.

“It’s time for the government and the president to think about it and take some serious steps,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel secure now and the government structure in Kandahar is not strong.”

There have been a string of government officials assassinated in Kandahar. Two deputy mayors were murdered last year, the provincial police chief was killed in April and the top cleric in the province was killed earlier this month when another attacker who stuffed explosives in his turban blew himself up in a mosque during a memorial service for the president’s half brother.

Shekaba Hashimi, a lawmaker from Kandahar expressed little hope that anything would be done to stop the assassinations.

“We have raised this issue many times in the parliament,” she said. “Nobody pays any attention.”

Hashimi, who has been critical of the president, said that while insurgents are attacking government officials, Karzai is telling them: “Come, my brothers and let’s have peace.'”

Fawzia Kofi, a lawmaker from Badakhshan, said she didn’t think Hamidi’s death would be a serious political blow to Karzai, but said it highlighted the lack of security for government officials.

“We are not safe in our offices. We are not safe in our houses,” she said. “It is a matter of concern. But in his case, I think this was about the land dispute.”

___

Associated Press writers Amir Shah, Patrick Quinn, Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Republicans Slamming the Brakes on Hillary’s State Dept. Spending

A key House panel is to vote Wednesday on a measure that would slash many areas of State Department and foreign aid funding, and place new restrictions on assistance to Pakistan, Egypt and Yemen.

The Republican-sponsored bill is expected to pass, since the party holds seven of the 11 seats on the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee. But the vote is just the first step in what is likely to be a drawn-out battle over funding for diplomacy and foreign aid in 2012.

The bill would roughly double aid to the so-called “front-line states” — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq — providing them with about $7.6 billion, in line with the Obama administration’s request. But it would reduce spending for the rest of State Department and foreign programs by around $5 billion, or 11 percent. If it were to become law — a big if — the cuts could be severe enough to necessitate furloughs at the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to some budget analysts.

The legislation reflects the determination of the Republican-dominated House to rein in spending at a time of record deficits, but to preserve military assistance and programs aimed at fighting drug-trafficking and terrorism.

“We have established tough oversight and accountability measures that will make sure my constituents’ tax dollars are not wasted overseas while making sure we support our national security priorities and key allies,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), head of the subcommittee, in a statement.

The bill will doubtless be a disappointment to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has made it a priority to staff up the State Department and the depleted ranks of USAID. The legislation would reduce the State Department’s operating budget by around 14 percent. It also would significantly cut development assistance and contributions to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

“At a time when the demands we place on our diplomatic and development workforce are increasing, it is short-sighted to downsize the Department of State and USAID,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the panel’s top Democrat. “Funding levels are also inadequate to maintain global leadership on global health, development, and disaster relief.”

The spending bill adopted by the House will have to be reconciled with one from the Democratic-majority Senate that will almost certainly look much different. If that doesn’t happen by Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, Congress may vote to continue spending at current levels.

The House bill slaps tough new conditions on aid to several countries. It would block aid to Pakistan unless the country shows progress on fighting terrorist groups and helps the U.S. government investigate Osama bin Laden’s network.

The measure would also cease funding for the Palestinian Authority if it continued to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations this fall. And it would hold up aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen until Clinton certified that their governments didn’t include terrorist groups or their sympathizers.

The bill also includes a Republican priority — reinstatement of the “Mexico City policy,” which bars U.S. assistance to non-governmental organizations abroad that promote abortion. That policy, in place under President George W. Bush, was reversed by the Obama administration.

Wana Taliban Waging War Against Immodesty with Bonfire of Sexy Fabric

Mulvi Nazir group bans phone cameras, transparent fabric

P G

Mulvi Nazir 

WANA: The Taliban’s Mulvi Nazir group banned the use of mobile phone cameras and the sale of transparent fabrics for women’s clothes in South Waziristan Agency, Dunya News reported July 26.

Nazir’s men seized and burned 10,000 sq m of fabric from merchants in Wana’s market.

The Taliban threatened punishment for any shopkeeper caught selling see-through fabric to women, media reported.

They also threatened severe punishment and fines of up to Rs. 50,000 (US $578) for anyone found with a cell-phone camera, media added.