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Archive for category Pakistan Fights Terrorism

KARACHI MASS MURDERER ALTAF HUSSAIN AGAIN IN TROUBLE WITH LONDON MET POLICE:​ Imran Farooq murder: Two men sought by UK authorities

 
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​Imran Farooq murder: Two men sought by UK authorities
 
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by Owen Bennett-Jones
29 January 2014
 
UK prosecutors have asked Pakistan to trace two suspects believed to have been involved in the 2010 murder of Imran Farooq, a senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). He was stabbed outside his home in Edgware, London, close to the Pakistani political party’s international HQ.
 
Documents obtained by BBC Newsnight name the suspects as Mohsin Ali Syed and Mohammed Kashif Khan Kamran. They are believed to be in Pakistani custody but not under formal arrest. The investigation into Mr Farooq’s murder has seen more than 4,000 people interviewed, but so far the only person arrested in the case has been Iftikhar Hussain, the nephew of MQM’s London-based leader Altaf Hussain.
 
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Iftikhar Hussain was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, but is now on police bail. It is an arrest the party says was based on wrong information. MQM senator Farogh Naseem has described Iftikhar Hussain as “not a person who is really with himself mentally”. He said Iftikhar Hussain had suffered at the hands of the Pakistani authorities.
 
In November 2011 – 14 months after the murder – Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said his force was liaising with Pakistani authorities over two arrests believed to have been made in Karachi. Since then, however, the force has refused to confirm or deny that it is seeking Pakistani assistance. The Pakistani government has denied anyone has been arrested and officials have failed to respond to questions about the request from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.
 
The documents, obtained by Newsnight from official sources in Pakistan, suggest Mohsin Ali Syed and Mohammed Kashif Khan Kamran secured UK visas on the basis of being granted admission to the London Academy of Management Sciences (LAMS), in east London. The documents name two other men. One is Karachi-based businessman Muazzam Ali Khan, of Comnet Enterprises, who is believed to have endorsed the suspects’ UK visa applications and was in regular contact with Iftikhar Hussain throughout 2010.
 
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In 2011, police released an e-fit image of a suspect in the murder case
 
The other is Atif Siddique, an educational consultant in Karachi, who is believed to have processed them. Atif Siddique said he was not the agent of LAMS and did not know the two suspects. Mr Ali Khan has not responded to e-mails and phone calls offering him the chance to respond. A director of the college, Asif Siddique – Atif Siddique’s brother – has confirmed the two students were meant to study there. One of them registered, but failed to attend.
 
LAMS is designated as a “highly trusted” partner of the UK Border Agency, which means it is supposed to report the non-attendance of students within 10 days of the 10th missed student encounter with staff. Asif Siddique said the college had reported one of the student’s non-attendance to the UK authorities in May 2012.
 
‘Under surveillance’
 
The Home Office has refused to say whether or not it believes LAMS broke the rules for reporting non-attendance, but has said it is not currently investigating the college. Mohsin Ali Syed, in his late 20s, arrived in the UK in February 2010. He moved between a number of London addresses, including bedsits in Tooting, in south London, and Whitchurch Lane, in Edgware.
 
Mohammed Kashif Khan Kamran arrived in the UK in early September 2010. Phone records indicate the two moved around together and it is believed they kept Mr Farooq under surveillance.
 

 

Altaf Hussain is from Karachi but is based in Edgware, London
 
The murder weapons were left at the scene of the crime and the documents seen by Newsnight state that the British authorities are seeking DNA samples as evidence that could be used in a British court.
 
Records show that both men left the UK on 16 September 2010, a few hours after the murder had happened, and flew to Sri Lanka, and then on to Karachi on the 19 September. According to immigration officials in Pakistan, security officials picked them up on the tarmac before they left Karachi airport. Pakistani security sources deny that the men were picked up as a result of a British tip-off.
 
Whereabouts unknown
 
Documents lodged with Sindh High Court refer to another man, Khalid Shamim, who is believed to have helped the two suspects return to Pakistan. His wife has started legal proceedings in the court in an attempt to trace his whereabouts. The MQM, Karachi’s dominant political party, describes itself as a modern, secular and middle class party. Senior party figures say it offers the best chance of opposing the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan’s largest city.
 
It insists it is a peaceful party, but its opponents complain that the UK allows it to use London as a safe haven from which it can organise its violent control of Karachi. The party says it wants to co-operate with the murder inquiry, but insists it has nothing to do with the case and accuses UK police of harassment.
 
Last month, Altaf Hussain complained police were making his life “hell”. Watch Owen Bennett-Jones’s investigation in full on Newsnight on Wednesday 29 January at 22:30 on BBC Two, and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
 
MQM UNDER INVESTIGATION
 
  • The British authorities are currently running three investigations into the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
  • Firstly they are assessing whether Altaf Hussain’s speeches amount to incitement to violence. One of the difficulties is that any translations of Altaf Hussain’s speeches could be challenged by defence lawyers.
  • There is also a substantial UK investigation into possible money laundering. Two men were arrested in December and have been bailed.
  • In December 2012, UK police seized £250,000 in mixed currencies at MQM party headquarters. In June 2013 they seized another £230,000 from Altaf Hussain’s home.
  • People close to the party say that if cash is moved in from Pakistan to the UK in batches of less than £7,000, then no regulations are broken. They say businessmen in Karachi have written affidavits stating that they freely donated the money.
  • Thirdly, the UK tax authorities are investigating unpaid tax. People close to the MQM say the party does expect to face a large tax bill, which it will pay.
Watch Owen Bennett-Jones’s investigation in full on Newsnight on Wednesday 29 January at 22:30 on BBC Two, and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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USA responsible for making Pakistan most dangerous country

USA responsible for making Pakistan most dangerous country

 by

Asif Haroon Raja

 

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The US leaders and media often cite Pakistan as the most dangerous country in the world. If it is true, it didn’t attain this status at its own. Outsiders are responsible for making Pakistan a nursery of terrorism, or epicenter of terrorism, as recently described by Manmohan Singh, or the most dangerous country. Ironically, the ones responsible for converting a law abiding and peaceful country into a volatile country are today in the forefront censuring it. Till the onset of Afghan Jihad in 1980, Pakistan was a moderate and nonviolent country. It did suffer from the pangs of humiliation for having lost its most populous East Pakistan and  grieved over non-resolution of Kashmir dispute pending since January 1948 UNSC resolution. Both wounds had been inflicted upon Pakistan by its arch rival India. Pakistan had to perforce go nuclear in quest for its security because of India’s hostile posturing and nuclearisation.

 

Invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces in December 1979 brought five million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. These refugees disturbed the peace of Frontier Province and Balochistan where bulk got permanently settled. 2.8 million Afghan refugees have still not returned to their homes and besides becoming an economic burden, have posed serious social and security hazards. Foreign agencies carrying an agenda to destabilize Pakistan have been recruiting bulk of terrorists from within them.

 

Once the US decided to back proxy war in Afghanistan, CIA commissioned thousands of Mujahideen from all over the Muslim world and with the assistance of ISI, motivated, trained and equipped them to assist Afghan Mujahideen in their fight against Soviet forces. Large number of seminaries imparting religious training to the under privileged children were tasked to impart military and motivational training as well and prepare them for Jihad. FATA and Pashtun belt of Balochistan contiguous to Afghanistan were converted into forward bases of operation from where young Jihadists were unleashed. For next nine years the youth were continuously recruited and launched to fight the holy war against evil empire. Saudi Arabia became the chief financer of Jihad. It provided heavy funds to Sunni Madrassahs only. ISI took upon itself as the chief coordinator of the entire war effort while CIA restricted its role to providing arms, funds and intelligence only.

 

The whole free world led by USA enthusiastically applauded the heroics of holy warriors and none cared about astronomical fatalities and critical injuries suffered by them. The maimed for life, widows and orphans were patted and told that it was a holy war fought for a noble cause and huge rewards awaited them in the life hereafter. The single point agenda of the US was to defeat the Soviet forces with the help of Muslim fighters. Not a single soldier of any country including Pakistan took part in the unmatched war between a super power and rag-tag, ill-clothed and ill-equipped Mujahideen.

 

None bothered about the ill-effects this long-drawn war will have upon this region in general and Pakistan in particular acting as the Frontline State. Although Pakistan was only supporting the proxy war and was not directly involved, but it remained in a state of war and it faced continuous onslaughts of KGB-RAW-KHAD nexus as well as attacks by Soviet trained Afghan pilots and soldiers in the form of air assaults, artillery barrages and missile/rockets attacks.  Throughout the nine-year war, Pakistan faced twin threat from its eastern and western borders. By virtue of occupation of Wakhan corridor by Soviet troops, USSR had become immediate neighbor of Pakistan and had hurled repeated threats to wind up training centres and stop meddling in Afghanistan or else be prepared for dire consequences. Moscow’s age-old dream of reaching warm waters of Arabian Sea through Balochistan haunted Gen Ziaul Haq, but he stoutly held his ground. Pakistan’s relentless support ultimately enabled the Mujahideen to achieve the miracle of the 20th century. They defeated the super power and pushed out Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989.

 

All foreign Jihadists who had come from other countries were not accepted by their parent countries. They had no choice but to stay put and get settled in Afghanistan and in FATA since they had collectively fought the war and had developed camaraderie with the Afghans and tribesmen. The US who had enticed and displaced them and used them as cannon fodder to achieve its interests was morally bounded to resettle them. It was honor bound to help Pakistan in overcoming the after effects of the war. FATA that had acted as the major base for cross border operations deserved uplift in socio-economic and educational fields. Afghanistan required major rehabilitation and rebuilding after its devastation. Nothing of the sort happened.

 

The US coldheartedly abandoned Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jihadists and instead embraced India which had remained the camp follower of Soviet Union since 1947 and had also partnered Soviet Union in the Afghan war and had vociferously condemned US-Pakistan proxy war. This callous act opened the doors for religious fanaticism and militarism. Pakistan suffered throughout the Afghan war and continues to suffer to this day on account of the debris left behind by Soviet forces and proxy war. By the time last Soviet soldier left Afghan soil, Pakistani society had got radicalized owing to free flow of weapons and drugs from Afghanistan and onset of armed uprising in occupied Kashmir.

 

Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the fallout effects of the war got seriously hampered because of harsh sanctions imposed by USA under Pressler Amendment in October 1989 and political instability throughout the democratic era from 1988 to 1999. Besides, Iran and Saudi Arabia started fuelling sectarianism in Pakistan throughout 1990s in a big way. Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan and Majlis-e-Wahadat ul Hashmeen were funded by Iran and Sipah-e-Sahabha Pakistan, now named as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Sunni Deobandi) were supported by Saudi Arabia, which gave rise to religious extremism and intolerance and sharpened Shia-Sunni divide. Masjids and Imambargahs as well as religious clerics were incessantly attacked by the zealots of two communities. Threat of sectarian violence that had become menacing in Punjab in 1997-1998 had to be dealt with sternly. But the Punjab Police operation had to be curtailed because of severe pressure from Human Rights activists and NGOs on charges of extra judicial killings. Resultantly, the disease remained uncured.

        

Unseating of democratically elected heavy mandate of Nawaz Sharif led government by Gen Musharraf and the latter opting to ditch Taliban regime and to fight global war on terror at the behest of USA energized anti-Americanism, religious extremism and led to creation of Mutahida Majlis Ammal (MMA), an amalgam of six religious parties, which formed governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. MMA on the quiet nurtured extremist religious groups that were also funded by foreign powers.

 

The fact that after 9/11, the US chose Pakistan to fight the war as a Frontline State is a clear cut indication that Pakistan at that time was viewed as a responsible and valued country and not a dangerous country. However, Pakistan’s nuclear program was an eyesore for India, Israel and USA. The planners had made up their minds to intentionally create anarchic conditions in Pakistan so that its nukes could be whisked away under the plea that it was unstable and couldn’t be trusted.

 

The initial attempt towards that end was to first allow bulk of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders and their fighters to escape to FATA from Afghanistan and soon after forcing Pakistan to induct regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) to flush them out. This move created a small rivulet allowing terrorism to seep into FATA, which kept gushing in because of RAW led and CIA backed covert war at a massive scale and turning the rivulet into a river. Likewise, another rivulet was created in Balochistan. Concerted and sustained efforts were made to destabilize FATA and Balochistan and gradually sink Pakistan in sea of terrorism. Six intelligence agencies based in Kabul kept sprinkling tons of fuel on embers of religious extremism, sectarianism, ethnicity and Jihadism.

 

The US instead of helping in resolving Kashmir dispute misguided Gen Musharraf to forget about UN resolutions and float an out of box solution and try and resolve the dispute in accordance with the wishes of India. In order to woo India, Musharraf gave it in writing that he will not allow Pakistan soil to be used for terrorism against any neighboring country including India. While making this commitment unilaterally, he committed the fatal mistake of not imposing this condition on India. To further please USA and India and make the latter agree to sign peace treaty, he bridled all Jihadi groups engaged in Kashmir freedom struggle as well as in sectarianism. He also allowed India to fence the Line of Control. These moves did please India but angered Jihadis and sectarian outfits and in reaction, they hastened to join Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and turn their guns towards Pak security forces dubbed as mercenaries of USA fighting US war for dollars.

But for phenomenal clandestine support by foreign powers to the TTP in the northwest and to the BLA, BRA and BLF in the southwest, extremism and terrorism could have got controlled after major operations launched in Malakand Division including Swat, Bajaur and SW in 2009 and minor operations in other tribal agencies. The disarrayed network of TTP was helped to get re-assembled and regrouped in North Waziristan and that of Maulana Fazlullah in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan. As opposed to good work done by Pak security forces in combating and curbing terrorism in Pakistan, the US-NATO forces operating in Afghanistan along with Afghan National Army kept making one blunder after another and in the process kept sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire. Rather than correcting their follies, they chose to make Pakistan a scapegoat and declared it responsible for their failures. Rather than doing more at their end, they asked Pakistan to do more which was already doing much more than its capacity.

 

Since the aggressors underestimated their enemy they took things too lightly. Their intentions lacked sincerity and honesty and their stated objectives were totally different to their actual unspoken objectives which were commercial in nature. Above all they had no legitimate grounds to destroy a sovereign country and uproot its people which had played no role in 9/11. As a result, rather than devotedly fighting to win the war in Afghanistan, the assailants got deeply involved in drug business and other money-making schemes. The ruling regime led by Hamid Karzai became a willing partner in such shady businesses. American security contractors, defence merchants, builders and intelligence agencies started multiplying their wealth and lost their moral and professional ethics. Other than materialistic ventures, they got more involved in money-spinning covert operations against Pakistan, Iran, China and Middle East than in fighting their adversary. Taliban and al-Qaeda combine took full advantage of their self-destructive activities and opening of the second front in Iraq. After regrouping and re-settling in southern and eastern Afghanistan, they started striking targets in all parts of the country. War in Iraq helped al-Qaeda in expanding its influence in Arabian Peninsula and turning into an international organization.

 

The US has made a big mess in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Libya and is now making another mess in Syria. It has lost the confidence of its most allied ally Pakistan by mistreating and distrusting it. Having lost on all fronts because of its tunnel vision and mercantile greed, it now wants the most dangerous country Pakistan to ignore the raw deal it gave all these years and to not only help ISAF in pulling out of Afghanistan safely but also to convince the Taliban to agree upon a negotiated political settlement. At the start of the Afghan venture, Pakistan was chosen by Washington to ensure success and in the endgame Pakistan is again being relied upon to bail it out of the mess. In the same breadth, the US is unprepared to cease drone attacks in FATA despite repeated requests that drones fuel terrorism. It is still focused on carving a lead role for India in Afghanistan. It is not prepared to stop its interference in internal affairs of Pakistan or to dissuade India from destabilizing Balochistan. Whatever socio-economic promises made are futuristic in nature and tied to conditions. US media and think tanks continue to demonize Pakistan. Its tilt towards India is too heavy and prejudicial behavior towards Pakistan conspicuous.

 

As a result of the US skewed policies with ulterior motives, Pakistan is faced with the demons of ethnicity, sectarianism, Jihadism, religious extremism and terrorism. While TTP is aligned with about 60 terrorist groups, in Balochistan there are more than two dozen terrorist groups. In Karachi, other than armed mafias, political parties have armed wings and are involved in target killings. Rangers and Police are engaged in targeted operation in Karachi and are producing productive results. 150,000 troops combating the militants in the northwest enjoy a definite edge over them. Major parts of Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and Police are fighting the Baloch separatists and sectarian forces targeting Hazaras and have contained anti-state forces. All major cities are barricaded with road blocks and police piquets and yet terrorists manage to carryout acts of terror. The miscreants are fighting State forces with tenacity because of uninterrupted financial and weapons support from foreign agencies. Once external support dries up, their vigor will wane rapidly and sooner than later they will give up fighting.

 

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, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s hands remained full. He has saddled the COAS chair for six years and during this period he had to face many a critical situations. It goes to his credit that he handled each crisis competently, astutely and honorably. During his eventful command, he tackled the challenge of terrorism, which he rightly described as the biggest threat to the security of Pakistan, boldly and produced pleasing results. Above all, he kept the morale of all ranks in the Army high and earned their respect and admiration. The list of his achievements is long and I have been highlighting those in my articles off and on. His successor has so far not been named but whosoever replaces him will find it difficult to fit into his shoes. I am sure he will breathe more freely and relax once he retires on November 29, 2013. We thank him for his laudable contributions and wish him sound health and happiness in all his future doings. Let us hope and pray that this senseless war comes to an end at the earliest, putting an end to chirping tongues deriving sadistic pleasure in describing Pakistan as the most dangerous country.

 

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, historian and a researcher. asifharoonraja@gmail.com 

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Escaping Pakistan’s poverty trap

Escaping Pakistan’s poverty trap

Millions are working their way out of poverty in Pakistan thanks to one man’s vision

Shoaib Sultan Khan, who set up the Rural Support Programme 30 years ago

Shoaib Sultan Khan, who set up the Rural Support Programme 30 years ago Photo: Eduardo Diaz
 

7:00AM GMT 04 Mar 2013

 

We were on the road from Gilgit to Sost, in the far north of Pakistan, a journey that follows the Silk Route taken for millennia by merchants on the road to China.

We passed the site of the battle of Nilt, where three Victoria Crosses were awarded after a desperate fight in 1891 between British forces and local tribes.

We reached a great gorge where, according to geologists, the subcontinent of India crashed into Asia, the catastrophic event that threw up the Karakoram mountain range through which we were travelling. Around us were glaciers and great snow-packed mountains of 25,000ft or more.

The Karakoram mountains have still not settled. Three hours’ drive north of Gilgit, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan province, we reached the spot where in 2010 a mountain had collapsed into the Hunza river, destroying the road and creating an enormous lake.


Lake Attabad, between Gilgit and Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

My travelling companion, 79-year-old Shoaib Sultan Khan, was taking me back to where the final stage of his awesome life story had begun.

Exactly 30 years ago, when General Zia-ul-Haq was in power in Pakistan, Khan was commissioned by the Aga Khan to combat the endemic poverty and backwardness of Pakistan’s northern areas. Khan, who was working in a Sri Lankan forest village when he was hired, had spent his life in development work. He was already convinced that democratic village institutions held the key to releasing the rural masses from poverty. He set up the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme to put his insights into practice.

Khan stayed for 12 years in Gilgit and Chitral, a town 100 miles to the west, moving from village to village and living among the people. The only money he had at his disposal came at first from a $400,000 annual grant from the Aga Khan – a pinprick in such a vast area. Though other donors (including Britain’s Department for International Development) followed, the small sums involved meant the only way he could bring about change was by persuading local people to do it themselves.

Yet during this period living standards improved more than twofold, according to World Bank figures. Literacy rates soared from a negligible three per cent in 1982 to 70 per cent or more today. Women – hidden from view across much of the rest of Pakistan – have obtained a fuller and more confident economic and social role.

Today Gilgit and Chitral are two fragile islands of stability in a part of the world given over to terrorism and war, in the surrounding tribal areas of Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan. They alone have largely escaped the contagion. One of the most important reasons for this is Shoaib Sultan Khan. In the areas where he has worked there are jobs, means of livelihood, reasons for hope. So in the course of our journey, I asked him to explain how he set about transforming the lives of the people in these tough but incredibly beautiful areas.


Commuters cross Lake Attabad (EDUARDO DIAZ)

‘In every village I went to,’ he replied, ‘I was very blunt and would tell them that I have not come to listen to your problems nor your needs because I don’t have the resources to do anything about these. But I have come with the conviction that you have potential and we would like to unleash that. So I offered them a development partnership, which entailed their having to do something first before the programme can do anything. I told them that individually I would not be able to help and could only help if they got organised. And that organisation has to be in the common interest of the group.

‘My second condition to them was: you have to identify one of your own men or women as the activist who will lead the organisation. No outsider can do that. My third condition was saving. Since capital is power, you must generate your own capital through savings. However poor, you must save something – even one rupee a week.’

This model subverted the conventional model of social development, which assumed that either central government or outside agencies would lift people out of poverty. Years of experience had taught Khan that this method never worked, and that only the villagers themselves understood what they needed. Central to his vision were the community activists.

‘The basis of our system is to identify leaders,’ he told me. ‘I had no more than 200 of these at most at the start. Now we have 10,000. These were the ones who developed this area. I used to say these community activists are our diamonds. They gave the shine, glitter and permanence to our organisation. The qualities we looked for were twofold. First, they needed to be honest, because they had to do the work themselves and, second, they should be prepared to act for others besides themselves.’

It was the activists in Sost who came to Khan and told him that they wanted to build an irrigation channel deep into the mountain to reach the glacier.

‘Our engineers had a look and said that it was not possible,’ he said. ‘But when we came back three months later we found that they had started work by themselves and dug 200m without our help.’

Incredibly, no machinery of any kind was used. The villagers had hacked into the mountainside with the aid of nothing more than rudimentary equipment: shovels, pickaxes, digging bars and hammers of various sizes. ‘We thought, if they can dig 200m then they can dig for a kilometre and a half,’ Khan said. ‘So we gave them assistance.’


A worker in an irrigation tunnel dug through the mountain at Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

The initial grant amounted to only 55,000 rupees (about £700). Later the villagers were given materials worth a further £2,000. That was all it cost to turn thousands of acres of barren and desolate land into orchards, plantations and fields.

Khan himself comes from a thoroughly conventional background. Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, he was educated at Lucknow University and Cambridge, and then worked in the Pakistan civil service for two decades. But in Gilgit he found himself taking part in what amounted to a revolution. For centuries the Hunza Valley had been controlled by the Mirs, feudal rulers who denied rights to their people and demanded free labour from the villagers. It is no coincidence that many of his early activists had been involved in a revolutionary struggle against the Mirs in the three decades that followed Pakistan’s independence in 1947.

In the village of Karinabad I found Syed Yahya Shah, who told me how he had been incarcerated in Gilgit’s notoriously harsh Chilas prison for two years at the height of the struggle in the 1960s, before being released on the orders of President Ali Bhutto, who put an end to the power of the Mirs.

Now an old man with a white beard, Yahya Shah told me that ‘I was a hero to the people when I returned home.’ He said that when Shoaib Sultan Khan arrived, his method of ‘mobilising people at grass roots was something I had already done and that appealed to me. The first thing I did,’ he continued, ‘was to learn exactly what Shoaib Sultan Khan’s organisation, the Rural Support Programme, was saying. Then I went to all the villages and became part of the team. Our first achievement was to inculcate the sense of self-reliance.’


Yahya Shah (EDUARDO DIAZ)

Yahya Shah said the most difficult task was to encourage farmers to act collectively. Thirty years ago one member of every household was brought up as a hunter, expected to journey into the mountains and kill wildlife. As a result the local snow leopard, ibex, Marco Polo sheep and markhor mountain goats were near extinction. The villagers also ruthlessly cut down trees for firewood in the higher parts of the valley, opening the way to soil erosion and floods.

But Khan’s Rural Support Programme taught the villagers a new way of doing things. Once they had formed village organisations, and started to cooperate instead of pursuing their separate interests, everything changed. They planted trees in the areas opened up for cultivation on the mountainside. Meanwhile, hunting was banned. The village hunters were hired instead as waged staff (initially paid by the project) to survey the wildlife and deter poachers, thus turning them into guardians rather than destroyers of the environment.

Every year a handful of international trophy hunters are now invited to bid on the internet for the privilege of killing a mountain goat, the proceeds being paid back to local people (and now covering the wages of the former hunters). The villagers opened up new irrigation channels and pioneered agricultural techniques. As a result the upper Hunza Valley is today an idyllic spot. Dominated by massive mountain peaks, it is full of poplar plantations, apple orchards and flourishing small businesses.

Women’s groups emerged. I visited one in Chinar, a suburb of Chitral, which started with only half a dozen members 15 years ago; more than 100 households have joined since. It has saved some four million rupees (£26,000), a colossal sum that dwarfs the 1.6 million (£10,000) raised by local men. Sitting cross-legged on a classroom floor, one member, Musarat, told me, ‘We used to be economically dependent on the men. Today they depend on us. They come to us to borrow money.’


Women trainees in a wood workshop in the Hunza Valley (EDUARDO DIAZ)

These women have never been allowed to attend the local bazaar, so they have set up a trading zone of their own higher up the hill. Each one I spoke to had started a business. Musarat, who runs a garment shop, told me how she had been sent by the Rural Support Programme on a course in management and enterprise. She in turn trained up Nazia, who now has a shop selling local vegetable produce, and Johanara, who sells ribbons and buttons.

These women have made use of their savings to set up an internal banking operation, with 1,131,000 rupees (£7,500) given out in loans this year alone. Musarat told me that they made a 200,000 rupee (£1,300) profit last year, and there has never been a default. She showed me three immaculately kept ledgers recording loans, savings, and the names of those present at their regular meetings, along with the minutes of their discussions. Since the arrival of the Rural Support Programme the lives of these women have become purposeful and confident. They have been given new lives.

Up in Sost the manager of the women’s organisation is Mehr Kamil, a very impressive 38-year-old mother of three who works as a teacher. Her organisation has 170 members and has amassed savings of three million rupees (£20,000). It operates an active loan portfolio, and has never had a bad debt.

I challenged Shoaib Sultan Khan with the claim that his concept of social development, which involves a rejection of the state, was essentially capitalist, and he pondered for a while. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Capitalism is about big ownership. We support small ownership and people in cooperation, the 100-hectare farmers.’

Khan’s teaching is highly sceptical of the state because of its remorseless insistence that villagers stand on their own feet and take care of their own lives. But Khan also recognises that just as the state can rarely produce sustainable change, people can achieve little unless they work as a community. His funding from the Department for International Development was ended two years ago, he said, with no reason given.

Gilgit and Chitral are oases of relative prosperity, but these two jewels in the far north nevertheless remain vulnerable to the terrorism that has become commonplace through the rest of this anguished part of Pakistan. As I left the country, the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, warned of the ‘wave of deadly sectarian violence that has gripped the tourism haven’. He was referring to the massacre a few weeks earlier of 24 bus passengers by Sunni terrorists near Gilgit.


Members of the women’s organisation in Sost (EDUARDO DIAZ)

I travelled along the road where this atrocity occurred on my journey between Gilgit and Chitral, a 14-hour marathon across the Shandour Pass, which at 12,000ft hosts the highest polo ground in the world. The villages we passed through looked peaceful, as farmers gathered in their harvest ahead of the coming winter. There was no disguising, however, the underlying nervousness and fear. At one of the security checkpoints a soldier asked us for a lift. The police had held him back for three days, he said, because they feared that as a Shia he would be killed if he continued on his own.

Such is the scale of the sectarian hatred that at another checkpoint my guides were asked to declare whether they were Shia, Sunni or Ismaili. I was later told that four hours after we had completed the journey the road had been closed. No reason was given but I was told that suspected terrorists had been captured on the road. In the town of Gilgit itself, life is now lived on sectarian lines. One local man told me that ‘there is one hospital for Sunni, one for Shia, one for Ismailis’, and claimed that such is the tension that the rival sects even choose different routes to work.

Much of the trouble comes from outside. Gilgit and Chitral have always been of importance because they are on the road that links India and Asia. That is why, ever since the days of British rule, there have been incursions into the area. With the war against the Taliban still raging, today is no different. But there is more to it than that. As one elder, Subiday Qlaudar Khan, from Paidendas, a village south of Gilgit, told me, ‘These people don’t descend from the sky. They rely on local leaders for support. The people in the villages have been asleep. The violence is our fault.’

The only way that Chitral and Gilgit can retain their immunity from the tragic violence that has disfigured neighbouring territories is by cooperating to block the outsiders who arrive in the area intent on bringing terror, and creating the jobs and prosperity that give people reasons for hope. Shoaib Sultan Khan may be 79 years old, but his work is more important than ever before. The guardians of his legacy are the village activists of Chitral, Gilgit and the Hunza Valley. But his influence stretches far wider. Khan’s social model is today being copied in India, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka and – most recently – across the border in Afghan­istan. It has already lifted some 30 million people out of poverty, and his unique insights have urgent lessons for the world.

 

Reference

 

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PAKISTAN SECURITY ALARM: PAKISTAN AIR FORCE DEVELOPMENT SUSPENDED: OVERSEAS PAKISTANIS & MEDIA MUST SPEAK-OUT

Published 30th May, 2013, 10:09 PM

 
 
 

ISLAMABAD: Due to financial constraints and non release of funds by the federal government, the Pakistan Air force (PAF) has suspended its up gradation and development plan called “Air Force Development Plan 2025,” says a report of the Senate’s standing committee on defence Thursday.

The committee quoted Air Chief marshal Tahir Rafique in its report, who, it said, told the committee members during its recent visit to the air headquarters that the AFDP 2025 programme was launched in 2003/04 by former president Pervez Musharraf aimed at making it at par with modern air forces of the world.


Unknown-50He said under the plan, the PAF received money by the federal government till 2007.

“After 2007 PAF did not get a penny from federal government and had to shelve the plan,” the air chief was quoted as saying in the report by its Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed.

The report further said that due to suspension of the development plan, PAF had to close number of projects which have affected the overall up gradation in the country including air bases, jets and other facilities.

The report also quoted air chief as saying that the PAF was also not given full share in the defence budget and it received only 60 per cent of the whole budget allocated for PAF.

 
 
 
 

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MQM and Opposition

LETTER TO EDITOR

May 27th, 2013

 Unknown-45

MQM and Opposition

 

In a news item Altaf Hussain was quoted saying that it was yet not decided whether the MQM would sit on the opposition benches or join the PPP in forming the government in Sindh.  Come on Tafu Bhai, people don’t have that short a memory and know it too well that in the Pakistan politics there are two shrewd politicians who can never afford to be out of the government – one the MQM and the other Maulana of the JUI(F)!  Their such “To be or not to be” stance and offhand talks and press statements are only to gain time and bargain for the ministries and committees, which they are unfortunately always in a position to do. They always make the hey while the sun shines for them and the other party(ies) need desperately their co-operation.

 

Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)

Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)

Rawalpindi 
Pakistan
E.mail: jafri@rifiela.com

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