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Every year on March 2, Baloch Cultural Day is being celebrated with the aim to highlight and promote the diversified and rich Balochi culture. The importance of this very day could be judged from the fact that it is being commemorated not only in various districts of the Balochistan province but also throughout the country besides in Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai, Muscat, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and India. The Visionary Group of Gwadar, involved in developing, construction and social services in Balochistan, has taken the initiative of highlighting and promoting Balochi culture and language beyond the borders of Pakistan.
Various shows including musical programmes are being organized in various cities and towns of
Balochistan, Sindh and Balochi speaking districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
On the occasion, various processions of youth, students and people from all walks of life would be taken out from various parts of the provincial capital of Balochistan with the distinctive Balochi dress, turban, and embroidered dresses.
A celebration of the said event started during 2011. Baloch community in Pakistan and abroad organizes various programmes to highlight different shades of Baloch culture/traditions. Appreciable media coverage of various programmes also gets coverage in local and domestic media.
The strong traditions and cultural values are important to Baloch people and have enabled them to keep their distinctive ancient cultural identity and way of life with little change to this day.
Last year, various musical, cultural and literary ceremonies were held in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan in connection with the Baloch Culture Day—ceremonies were also organized in other countries where Balochs are residing, including Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai, Muscat, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and India. In Quetta, a huge ceremony to mark Baloch Culture Day was held at Balochistan Arts Council which was attended by hundreds of people, including women and children dressed in the typical Balochi dress. Cultural and musical shows were held at Arts Council in which youngsters and children exhibited their talent by singing Balochi songs and performing a Balochi dance. “This is a big day for us. We are excited and proud of our culture and tradition which teach us, love, tolerance, and bravery”, said Ibrahim Rakhshani, a 28-year-old young man wearing a Balochi turban and trouser with typical Balochi shoes. Yar Muhammad Badini, a Baloch intellectual and researcher says, Balochi literature is the best way to understand Baloch people and their culture. “Balochi culture and language have its own uniqueness and richness which needs to be promoted in the country,” he stressed, adding, that Baloch people besides in Pakistan were also residing in different other countries particularly in Iran, Afghanistan, Oman, East Africa and Turkmenistan. “Baloch woman dress is also recognized as national woman dress of Oman,” he added. However, he does not seem satisfied with the efforts of the government to promote Balochi language and culture in the country. “Balochi language is one of those languages which is struggling hard for its survival and needs the immediate focus of government,” he added. Meanwhile, Baloch Culture Day was also celebrated in other towns of Balochistan, including Nushki, Turbat, Gwadar, Mastung, Chagai, Sibi, Naseerabad and Jaffarabad where different musical and cultural shows were organized to mark.
During this very day, it is also of particular attention that since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and the province, peace has been restored in the province.
But, it is the misfortune of Pakistan that foreign-based entities have again started terror attacks in the country, especially Balochistan. In this regard, at least 88 people were martyred and 343 were injured on February 16, this year when a suicide bomber attacked the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh province of Pakistan.
At least 13 people were killed on February 13, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck outside the Punjab Assembly on the Mall Road in the eastern city of Lahore during a peaceful protest of the chemists and pharmacists against a new law.
The affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA) took responsibility for the deadly suicide bombing in Lahore.
While, terror attack in Lahore coincided with the incident in Quetta-the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where at least one policeman was killed and five people were injured on February 13, 2017, in an explosion occurred on Sariab road.
At least 65 people were killed when a blast struck at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Balochistan’s Hub Tehsil on November 12, 2016. Terrorist organization, the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Besides other terror attacks of the recent past, earlier, the affiliated group of the TTP, TTP-JA took responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing in Quetta, which killed at least 74 people on August 8, 2016, in an assault at the government-run Civil Hospital.
In this respect, a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that senior Afghan diplomats were summoned to the General Headquarters (Of army) over the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan and asked to ensure that immediate action was taken against the Pakistani terrorists living in safe havens in their country.
The army, which took the lead in dealing with Afghanistan over the terrorist sanctuaries there, had announced the closure of the border crossings with Afghanistan citing security reasons.
According to the statement of the DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor, on February 17, 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa appealed to the nation to stay calm by saying, “our security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed…each drop of nation’s blood shall be avenged and avenged immediately…no more restraint for anyone.”Pakistanis do not forgive or forget, they get EVEN.
Gen. Javed Bajwa had called Gen John Nicholson, commander of the US’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan through a telephone call to protest continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan perpetrated from Afghanistan, saying that they were testing Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint.
Gen. Bajwa told Gen. Nicholson that recent incidents of terrorism in Pakistan had been claimed by terrorist organizations whose leadership is hiding in Afghanistan, and asked him to play his role in “disconnecting this planning, direction, coordination and financial support”.
In a terse message, during the conversation with Nicholson, Gen. Bajwa also informed him of the list of 76 “most wanted” terrorists handed over to Afghan authorities earlier—operating from Afghan territory or hand them over to Pakistan for trying them over their involvement in terrorism.
As regards the terror assault on the Police Training College in Quetta, IG FC Major General Sher Afgan had informed the press that the attackers acted on directions from Afghanistan and the initial investigation suggested that the terrorists were affiliated with the outlawed Lashkar-e- Jhangvi Al Ali militant group. He elaborated, “We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan.”
Notably, as part of the dual strategy, CIA, RAW, and Mossad are in connivance with the Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) and other terrorist groups. With the latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS backed terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. These external secret agencies are particularly supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly, Mullah Fazlullah led TTP was being prepared to carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has become the center of the Great Game owing to the ideal location of Balochistan.
It is of particular attention that arrest of the Indian spy Kulbushan Yadav in Balochistan has exposed Indian undeclared war against Pakistan. While addressing a joint press conference with the then Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rasheeda and former Director General of ISPR Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said on March 29, 2016, “Kulbushan Yadav’s arrest is a rare case that does not happen very often.” He disclosed that Yadav was an active officer of the Indian Navy prior to his joining RAW. He also served as a scrap dealer and had a jewelry business in Chahbahar, Iran, after he joined RAW in 2013.
A video was also shown during the press conference in which Yadav confessed that he spied for India. Yadav admitted that he was assigned with the task to create unrest in Karachi and Balochistan by stating, “I supported the individuals who worked to destabilize Pakistan…I promoted the criminal mindset that was there in Balochistan.” Another task assigned to him was to target the Gwadar Port. Yadav also confessed—funding Baloch separatists along with other terrorists. During the investigation, RAW agent Yadav Gulbhushan admitted that during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents, including Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, to execute the task to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s security agencies uncovered another ring of Indian spies in the country, working as under covert agents, found involved in subversive activities to destabilize Pakistan. In this connection, on November 2, last year, Islamabad disclosed that five Indian diplomats who were serving at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad found to be part of the RAW spy network and were involved in subversive activities by facilitating and funding terrorism. They were declared as persona non grata and expelled from the country.
Undoubtedly, almost all the terrorists or terrorist groups and insurgency in Pakistan, especially Balochistan have their connection in Afghanistan. The porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides an opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the effective counter-terrorism measures strong border, control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect.
Taking cognizance of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided to build a fence along the border and to control the border crossings. The strategic project of the 1,100-kilometre-long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed last year. In the next phase, the project will be extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this plan.
While, from time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous border, situated between both the countries.
During his visit to Quetta, the former Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif on April 15, 15 warned foreign forces and spy agencies against destabilizing Pakistan by supporting insurgents in Balochistan. Gen. Raheel elaborated, “Army will continue supporting the Balochistan government till terrorism is wiped out…those found involved in funding and facilitating terrorists will be dealt with iron hands.”
Now, the Baloch people know about a foreign conspiracy against Balochistan. A majority of the Baloch persons have understood that Balochistan’s mineral resources and geo-strategic location with deep Gwadar seaport, connecting rest of the world with Central Asia have further annoyed the US and India because China has already invested billions of dollars in developing this seaport. It is due to multiple strategic designs that the US which signed a nuclear deal with India in 2008 seeks to dismember both Pakistan and Iran.
They are well aware of the fact that with the tactical support of American CIA and Israeli Mossad, Indian RAW has continuously been assisting the Baloch separatist groups and Baloch Sub Nationalists to conduct subversive acts—and using terrorist elements in Balochistan to threaten Chinese interest in the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. And, Afghanistan has become a hub from where external secret agencies have been funding and arranging subversive activities in other parts of Pakistan—particulrly in Balochistan through their affiliated militant groups at the cost of Pakistan, China and Iran. In the past few years, they abducted and killed many Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan.
It is mentionable that as a result of the general elections 2013, the government led by the nationalist leader Chief Minister Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch was established in Balochistan, while on December 7, 2013; local bodies elections were largely held in a peaceful manner in the province. These elections proved that majority of the Baloch are loyal to the federation and have rejected the case of separatists, being projected by foreign forces which are destabilizing Pakistan by supporting anti-state elements in Balochistan.
Notably, in the recent years, Pak Army has made strenuous efforts to develop the infrastructure in Balochistan by providing the people employment opportunities to bring the Balochis in the mainstream of the country. For this purpose, the army has not only established schools and colleges in Balochistan but also set up technical and industrial institutes in the province, besides giving military training to the youth.
Various development projects and progressive works, undertaken by Army in Balochistan are Military College SUI Balochistan, Balochistan Public School at SUI, Quetta Institute of Medical Sciences, Gwadar Institute of Technology, Chamalang Beneficiary Education Program, Balochistan Institute of Technical Education, Army Institute of Mineralogy, Assistance to Ministry of Education Balochistan, Baloch Youth Enrollment in Pakistan Army, Dera Bugti Development Projects, Development Projects Kohlu and Nasirabad Division, and Pakistan Army Assistance in Development of Road Networks including Assistance to Ministry of Education Balochistan, Provision of Free Gas & Water, Construction of 50 Bed Hospital at SUI, Chamalang, Musa Khel & Dukki Coal Mines, KASSA Hill Marble Project, Dates Farming at Panjgur, Garrison & Musa Sports Complex, Free Medical Camps, Earthquake 2008 and Pak Army Relief & Rehabilitation Efforts, Flood 2010 and Pak Army Relief & Rehabilitation Efforts, and many other similar projects and provision of services.
Nevertheless, army’s positive steps will increase the income of the Baloch youth and reduce their dependence on sardars who are working on the agenda of some foreign powers. Now patriot Balochis have come to know that Pak Army is neither mercenary nor occupying force; while external-backed insurgency has hampered the growth and development of the province. They also know that the province lacked engineers and skilled workers. In this respect, measures of Pak Army have been ensuring local enterprise, local manpower and local skill among the Balochis.
In 2011, I had visited Balochistan along with other journalists. I saw a number of institutes, set up by the army, and these were providing especially technical training to thousands of Balochis. I had also a trip to far-flung areas of the province and witnessed various mega projects and mineral sites. I was greatly surprised that no military operation is going on in Balochistan as propagated by the foreign elements. People told me that some subversive events are taking place by the minority separatist elements so as to create instability in the province.
No doubt, army’s progressive role through numerous schemes and projects for the development of Balochistan will change the fortune of the Baloch people very soon, which is likely to castigate the foreign conspiracy against the province.
It is worth mentioning that Balochistan had been hit in the past by some phenomenally devastating calamities like floods of 1950, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the drought of 2000 and cyclone of 2007. The real saviors of people of Balochistan were Armed Forces and FC which quickly responded to the call of duty by extending helping hand to fellow countrymen, conducted exceptionally dangerous rescue missions and provided relief to the victims. Similarly, on September 24, 2013, Awaran district of Balochistan was hit by an earthquake. Pakistan Army and FC promptly acted as asked for by the government. Although FC personnel located in the area were equally struck by the earthquake, yet they were the first ones to respond to the situation. And the Army units hastily moved from Khuzdar and Karachi.
Nonetheless, the every Pakistani must celebrate the Baloch Culture Day with full zeal by giving importance to the Balochi traditions. The occasion must be utilized by highlighting positive developments taking place in Balochistan as a result of a harmonious relationship between political and military authorities vis-à-vis Baloch culture traditions.
Implications of War on Terror
Asif Haroon Raja
Unlike late Hakimullah Mehsud who disfavored talks, his deputy Waliur Rahman favored dialogue and had convinced sizeable number of TTP Shura members to make an offer of dialogue to the government. His group suggested Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Munawar Hassan, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to act as guarantors to preclude possibility of backtracking from the agreement. The offer was not taken seriously by the PPP led regime and it made it conditional to renunciation of violence.
Talks offer was renewed once rightist PML-N and PTI were voted to power after May 11 elections. Offer of talks created division in TTP as well as in the society. A stage was set for a big breakthrough when Waliur Rahman who was the moving force behind peace talks was killed by a drone on May 29, 2013. Jundul Hafsa took revenge by killing ten foreigners at base camp of Nanga Parbat on June 23, 2013.
It was generally expected that the TTP leading militancy in the northwest and in Punjab would tone down its acts of terror particularly against civilian targets once PML-N and PTI formed governments in the centre and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) respectively. As a result of their soft approach the TTP had spared these two parties and targeted liberal political parties during election campaign. ANP suffered the most in terms of human losses and in elections.
Contrary to high expectations, the Taliban accelerated their terror strikes after the new government took over in early June 2013. Bulk of attacks took place in KP and PTI lost three sitting MPAs. This surge occurred in spite of APC called by the government on September 9, 2013 in which it was agreed by all the participants belonging to different parties and religious groups as well as the Army to enter into dialogue with the militants without pre-conditions and give peace a chance.
The government stuck to its standpoint despite lot of noise made by the liberals. Anti-peace talks lobbies supported by foreign powers and backed by liberals and segment of media launched a concerted campaign to sabotage proposed peace talks and kept picking fault lines in the resolution passed by the APC. Drone strikes also continued.
When the TTP offered to talk and welcomed the initiative taken by the APC, it was taken as a sign that the road had been cleared for negotiations. KP government felt so confident that it announced phased withdrawal of troops from Buner, Shangla, Dir, Chitral and Malakand districts starting mid October 2013 and handing over responsibility to civil administration. While the ground was being smoothened for the meeting, an unexpected incident took place. On September 15, Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi and two were martyred at Upper Dir on account of IED planted by Fazlullah’s militants.
We’ve been talking about the financial cost of the War on Terror, and this graphic from our colleague Molly Zisk draws from different studies and sums up the toll in blood and treasure rather concisely, if rather grimly:
Peace process got a big jolt when TTP claimed responsibility and vowed to continue hitting military targets. This hostile act in response to Government’s policy of appeasement was regrettable. It angered the rank and file of the Army and put the Federal and KP governments in awkward position but gave a strong handle to the anti-peace lobbies to beat the peace makers with and make fun of them. As the debate between pro-peace and anti-peace lobbies intensified, another gruesome act of terror took place on September 22 in Peshawar where a church was struck by two suicide bombers soon after Sunday prayers killing 84 people and injuring 175.
While TTP denied involvement, Jundullah Hafsa, a faction of TTP comprising Punjabi Taliban and led by Asmatullah Muawia claimed responsibility of church attack. In the wake of widespread denunciation inside and outside the country over the dastardly attack on church and condemnation by Ulemas of all schools of thoughts terming the act against the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, TTP Shura urged Muawia to disown the act. Soon after his disownment, another group Jundullah led by Ahmed Marwat based in NW claimed responsibility. In reaction to series of terrorist attacks, precision guided air attacks were carried out on militant’s hideouts in FATA which caused casualties and compelled the militants to declare unilateral ceasefire on March 1 for one month.
As against high expectations of military action, PM Nawaz Sharif disappointed pro-war lobbies by giving peace yet another chance and formed a government committee. TTP responded by giving names of their representatives. After the initial breakthrough, government committee was rehashed. Seven hours long meeting of TTP nominated committee with members of TTP Shura at Bilandkhel village in Orakzai Agency on 26 March under cordial atmosphere has raised hopes and light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. Ceasefire which expired on 31 March is likely to be extended. As a confidence building measure the government released some prisoners and TTP is likely to reciprocate to generate goodwill. Decade old antagonism will take time to tone down and transform into conciliation and brotherhood.
Some of the implications of war are listed here-under:-
The war has halted investments and economic activity has almost come to a grinding halt due to energy crisis and disturbed law and order situation.
War has made Pakistan more dependent upon USA, forcing our rulers to continue clinging to the aprons of USA despite its biased behavior.
Infighting among the Muslims suits the US designs; hence it would like the war to continue.
While the US caught up in a blind alley in Afghanistan is clueless how to exit safely, Pakistan too had no strategy to end the futile war till the start of talks with TTP.
Paradoxically, the key to peace is with hardnosed Taliban.
Eleven-year war has not only given tremendous experience of fighting guerrilla war to both Pak Army and militants but also has removed inhibitions and fears of each other. Militants fear air power and drones only.
The militants could not have continued fighting for so long without external support and safe sanctuaries across the border. They are more dangerous in cities where they operate as faceless enemies.
Once NATO exits from Afghanistan, TTP will be left with no justifiable cause to continue spilling blood of Muslim brethren. Once external support dries up, their vigor will wane rapidly and sooner than later they may give up fighting.
The other view is that TTP may become stronger if Taliban government get re-installed in Kabul after 2014 and may then disagree to ceasefire unless all their demands are accepted unconditionally.
The low intensity conflict has caused substantial wear and tear to military’s weapons & equipment.
War has also fatigued the troops living in combat zone amid hazardous environment where life is cheap.
Situation will further worsen in coming months since militancy has spread to every nook and corner of the country.
Civil administration and law courts have not established rule of law in any of the areas recaptured by the Army thereby putting added burden on the Army to hold ground, provide security and carryout rehabilitation/development works.
Opinions on war on terror whether it is our war or someone else’s war, and whether talks should be held with militants or not are sharply divided. This division in perceptions is to the advantage of militants and disfavors security forces.
With so many grave internal and external threats, most of which were invented and thrust upon Pakistan by foreign powers and duly exacerbated by meek and self-serving political leadership, Army’s plate remain full.
War on terror poses a three dimensional threat when viewed in context with twin threat posed by India and Afghanistan.
In case of an Indo-Pakistan war, our current force structure is insufficient and ill-suited to confront three dimensional threats.
Peace is a key to Pakistan’s economic takeoff.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org
Missing persons facts must be exposed
From Sibi to Quetta the sight of beautiful train journey has now become unsafe because of attacks by foreign-sponsored terrorists. Of late UNO is concerned about ‘state terrorism’ in Balochistan. But strangely enough it is unable to see violations of human rights and state terrorism of Indian army in Indian Held Kashmir. It is not concerned about the genocide of Muslims in Arakan, Myanmar; the blockade of Gaza by Jewish terrorists and killings of Muslims are justified by the UN that is controlled and paid by Jews and anti-human government of the USA. The UNO does not object to the terrorists sponsored by CIA, RAW and MOSSAD enter Pakistan from Afghanistan, attack its defence installations, security personnel, the check posts on Afghan border, and murder innocent Pakistanis by attacking Pakistani markets. Why all types of human rights violations are visible to them only in Balochistan?