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Taliban Attack On Intelligence Agency Office Kills At Least 11, Wound Dozen Samangan province

A major Taliban attack on the offices of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency has killed at least 11 security personnel and wounded dozens of others, mostly civilians.

A group of militants detonated a car bomb at the entrance of the National Security Directorate (NDS) offices in Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan, and then stormed the building.

Provincial Governor Abdul Latif Ibrahimi told RFE/RL that the ensuing hours-long gunbattle ended with the death of all four attackers.

Ibrahimi said all 11 government personnel killed in the clashes were members of the NDS.

He said 63 people, mostly civilians, were wounded in the attack.

Mohammad Hashim Sarwari, deputy chief for the provincial council, said a suicide car bomber targeted the NDS office and the blast was a signal for other Taliban fighters to storm the building.

The Taliban routinely stages such complex attacks on government targets in urban centers.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed both the bombing and the subsequent attack.

The attack came as the Taliban intensified attacks in northern Afghanistan.

On July 12, the Taliban attacked checkpoints in northern Kunduz Province, killing at least 14 members of the Afghan security forces, according to Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Overnight, local officials also accused the Taliban of attacking several security checkpoints, killing seven personnel in the northeastern province of Badakhshan and four in the northern province of Parwan.

A peace deal signed by the Taliban and the United States in February calls for direct negotiations between the militant group and the Western-backed government in Kabul aimed at putting an end to the nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and government forces have been exchanging accusations over a recent surge in attacks across Afghanistan — even as efforts continue to try and bring about the start of direct peace talks between Kabul and the militants.

Mujahid on July 12 accused the government of delaying the start of talks, saying the militant group was “left with no option but to continue the war.”

President Ashraf Ghani warned on July 6 that the spike in violence posed a “serious” threat to the peace process with the Taliban.

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Truckers Cite Corruption, Distress At Pakistan-Afghanistan Border

KHYBER PASS, Pakistan – Truckers hauling cargo from Pakistan into Afghanistan though the main border crossing between the two countries have complained of bribes, long delays, and harassment by police and transport union officials.

In interviews with Radio Mashaal, several Pakistani and Afghan truck drivers say that going through the Torkham border crossing connecting northeastern Pakistan with eastern Afghanistan in the historic Khyber Pass is now an obstacle course that frequently results in stress and a loss of both business and time.

Muhammad Iqbal Afridi is one among the hundreds of drivers who frequently cross at Torkham as part of the more than 1,800-kilometer journey from the southern Pakistani seaport city of Karachi to the Afghan capital, Kabul. He says they are tormented by a recent government decision that forces truckers to make a stop at a terminal in Bara, some 50 kilometers from Torkham. Bara and Torkham are towns in the western Khyber district, which is named after the historic Khyber Pass, a historic trade route and invasion path.

Afridi has been waiting at Bara’s Akkakhel terminal for more than two weeks for the authorities to allow him to take his haul of sugar, flour, and cement into Afghanistan.

“Everyone is forced to wait endlessly,” he told Radio Mashaal. “There is nowhere for us to sleep or rest in the scorching heat. We are just forced to try to survive in the shadow of our trucks.”

Muhammad Gul, an Afghan trucker, has been waiting for three weeks. With his container truck of rice, Gul reached Bara on June 18. He frequently wipes the sweat from his face, visibly agitated about the delays in crossing into Afghanistan.

“How can we protect ourselves from the coronavirus when we don’t have soap or water? It is very difficult to stay away from others in this crammed space where we stay for days or weeks,” he told Radio Mashaal. “Truckers who pay bribes are allowed to go through. Our rights are being violated. Someone needs to sort this mess out.”

Traders in the region say cumbersome border protocols have reduced the number of trucks crossing daily from 800 earlier this year to around 200. This has also resulted in decreasing custom revenues for Islamabad, according to reports in the Pakistani media.

But officials in Khyber district deny they are harassing truckers or forcing them to make bribes. Mazhar Afridi, a senior police official in Khyber, says that based on an understanding with Afghan officials they are allowing only 200 trucks to pass through Torkham daily.

“If presented with evidence, we will prosecute any police officers, transport union officials, or truckers who are involved in giving or taking bribes,” he told Radio Mashaal, alluding to a recent directive by the head of police in Khyber district.

Torkham is the largest of several border crossings along the more than 2,500-kilometer Durand Line, the 19th-century demarcation that forms the border between the two restive neighbors. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Islamabad closed its border with Afghanistan in March. But by late June, Pakistani officials said they had reopened three major border crossings with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in Chaman, a border crossing connecting Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province with southern Afghanistan, traders and activists are protesting border restrictions. Their monthlong sit-in protest demands the complete reopening of the border to restore hassle-free trade with Afghanistan, which is the mainstay of the economy in the arid region.

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Despite Protests And Promises, Pakistani Regions Denied Internet Access

As the Internet emerged as the backbone of global communications during the coronavirus pandemic, activists and students in some remote Pakistani regions braved beatings and arrests to protest a lack of Internet access during lockdown.

But online and street protests, court cases, and resolutions in the parliament have all so far failed to prompt Pakistan to grant Internet access to millions in regions reeling from decades of conflict, poverty, and underdevelopment.

In the latest development, the provincial legislature in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province this week adopted a unanimous resolution calling on the federal authorities to “provide Internet on an emergency basis” to parts of the province that once served as the key theater in the global war on terrorism.

“In the 21st century, districts from Bajaur to South Waziristan are deprived of 3G and 4G networks or any Internet connectivity,” lawmaker Mir Kalam Wazir told Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly on July 6. Bajaur and South Waziristan are at the northern and southern ends, respectively, of the 600-kilometer strip that previously formed the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan. “This is a major issue for us,” he added.

Since March, students across FATA have protested the lack of Internet access since the coronavirus pandemic forced universities to shut down campuses and instead rely on online classes. Late last month police in Quetta, capital of the restive southwestern Balochistan Province, arrested some 100 students who rallied to demand Internet access. In the mountainous northwestern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China, students protested this week with the same demand.

While Islamabad has promised Internet access to these regions, senior officials say a lack of funding and infrastructure prevents them from successfully bridging the widening digital divide where many rural areas have little or no Internet access.

Islamabad has mobilized some public and private resources to build the infrastructure, but senior officials have yet to say why tens of millions of Pakistanis still cannot access the Internet despite education and many businesses depending on connectivity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Pakistani state often cites security reasons for denying the basic right of the Internet, which is linked to accessing the right to freedom of expression and the right to information,” Usama Khilji, the director of Bolo Bhi, an Internet freedom and advocacy watchdog, told RFE/RL’s Gandhara website. “This narrative must be challenged, as millions of Pakistanis are being denied the basic linked rights of education and access to critical health-related information, as well.”

Khilji says Islamabad has announced access for a few districts of former FATA. “But matters for most other tribal districts, Balochistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan remain outstanding,” he said. “There has been radio silence on this issue, which is unacceptable.”

Authorities have never explained how exactly access to the Internet endangers or threatens security, but Khilji says there is little evidence that depriving entire communities of the Internet somehow protects them.

“Instead of shutting or denying the Internet, they should go after the militant groups, some of whom are regrouping in the tribal areas,” he said, alluding to increasing violence in former FATA, where tens of thousands of civilians were killed and millions displaced during a decade of unrest following the emergence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

In April, a court in Islamabad ordered the government to restore Internet to former FATA. But the country’s supreme court later set aside the order. The country told the court that the Interior Ministry had suspended Internet access to former FATA due to security concerns, according to reports in the local media.

Amin ul Haque, Pakistan’s information technology minister, says some 35 percent of Pakistan’s nearly 800,000-square-kilometer territory lacks Internet infrastructure. “There is an urban and rural divide,” he told Diplomat magazine. “Most private companies invest in urban towns for commercial reasons and benefits. They refrain from investing in rural and far[-flung] areas.”

In April, the Universal Service Fund, an entity established by the government and funded by mobile operators, awarded a contract of more than $550,000 to establish broadband infrastructure in Kurram, one of the former FATA districts.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, the main telecom regulator, told a parliamentary committee in the Senate or upper house of the Pakistani Parliament that authorities were adding some 4,900 new landline Internet connections to the existing 9,000 in former FATA. With a population of more than 6 million, a few thousand connections, mostly limited to government offices, cannot meet the rising demand for Internet in the vast region.

In Balochistan, nine of its 32 districts have no Internet access. The vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan has been reeling from a separatist insurgency for more than two decades, and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in militant attacks and military operations.

Gilgit-Baltistan, home to some of the tallest mountains in the world and bordering China and the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir with India, also lacks digital infrastructure. “I have to walk kilometers daily to attend my classes,” Rasheed Kamil, a student from the region, wrote on Twitter. Students in the region have been trending #Internet4GilgitBaltistan this month to demand Internet connectivity.

With 78 million broadband and 76 million mobile Internet (3/4G) connections, Pakistan’s Internet access rate stands at around 35 percent for a population of more than 220 million. It ranks 76th out of 100 worldwide, according to the Inclusive Internet Index 2019.

Students from Janikhel, a town in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, protest to demand internet access on April 10

SEE ALSO:

Pakistani Court Orders Internet Access For Pashtun Students During Coronavirus Lockdown

Bolo Bhi and Digital Rights Foundation, two Pakistani organizations advocating that Internet access be recognized as a fundamental right, have warned of the dangers of a widening digital divide in the country.

“During these times, the digital divide will exasperate the existing structural inequalities in society as services and resources will concentrate among the already connected, leaving behind those who are most vulnerable to economic and social upheaval,” they warned in a March statement.

The protests across the country since then show that many Pakistanis are increasingly mobilizing and organizing to demand what they view as a basic right and fundamental necessity of the modern age.

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اٹھارہویں آئین ترمیم سے چھیڑ چھاڑ کا مطلب وفاق پر حملہ ہوگا، زرداری

آئین، جمہوریت اور پارلیمنٹ کی بالادستی کے اصولوں پر ثابت قدم ہے، اس پر کوئی سمجھوتہ یا سودے بازی نہیں ہو سکتی، یوم سیاہ کے موقع پربیان
اسلام آباد(این این آئی) سابق صدر پاکستان آصف علی زرداری نے5جولائی یوم سیاہ کے موقع پر مادر جمہوریت بیگم نصرت بھٹو، شہید جمہوریت محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو سمیت ان تمام سیاسی کارکنوں ، طالب علموں، مزدوروں اور صحافیوں کو خراج عقیدت اور خراج تحسین پیش کیا ہے جنہوں نے 1973ء کے آئین اور جمہوریت کی بحالی کیلئے شہادتیں قبول کیں، کوڑے کھائے، جبر اور تشدد برداشت کیا۔ ایک بیان میں سابق صدر نے کہا کہ کچھ لوگ آئین کی اٹھارہویں ترمیم کو ختم کرنے کے خواب دیکھ رہے ہیں، وہ لوگ ذہن نشین کر لیں کہ اٹھارہویں آئینی ترمیم ملک کی تمام اکائیوں کا وفاق سے ایک معاہدہ ہے، اٹھارہویں آئین ترمیم سے چھیڑ چھاڑ کا مطلب وفاق پر حملہ ہوگا۔ سابق صدر نے اپنے اس عزم کو دہرایا کہ آئین، جمہوریت اور پارلیمنٹ کی بالادستی کے اصولوں پر ثابت قدم ہے۔ اس پر کوئی سمجھوتہ یا سودے بازی نہیں ہو سکتی۔ آصف علی زرداری نے کہا کہ جمہوریت قوم کو تحفے کے طور پر نہیں ملی بلکہ اس کے لئے محترمہ بینظیر بھٹو شہید سمیت ہزاروں کارکنوں کو جان کا نذرانہ دینا پڑا۔ انہوںنے کہاکہ جسمانی تشدد برداشت کرنا پڑا اور زندگی کے سنہری دن قید خانوں کی نظر ہوگئے۔ سابق صدر نے کہا کہ آمریت جہاں ملکی آزادی اور قومی خودداری کو نقصان پہنچاتی ہو تو وہاں معاشرے کو بھی اندھیروں کی طرف دھکیل دیتی ہے۔ آصف علی زرداری نے کہا کہ جمہوریت ملک کے عزت و وقار کا تحفظ کرتی ہے اور معاشرے کومہذب بناتی ہے اور صبر اور برداشت کا کلچر پروان چڑھتا ہے۔ سابق صدر نے کہا کہ پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کی قیادت اور کارکن جمہوریت کے تحفظ کے لئے کسی بھی قربانی سے گریز نہ کرنے کا حوصلہ رکھتی ہے۔ آصف علی زرداری نے کہا کہ 1973ء کا آئین انسانی آزادی کے ساتھ ساتھ وفاق کی تمام اکائیوں کی خودمختاری کی ضمانت دیتا ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ پارلیمنٹ ہی سپریم ادارہ ہے جس کی تعظیم کرنا تمام اداروں کا آئینی فرض ہے۔

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My Baba Will Come – Mehlab Deen Baloch

Author: Mehlab Deen Baloch

Iwant to escape from all of what I have around me, from my home, from friends and from my birth place and also I want to escape from this world. I want to escape from my home because I cannot bear the pain my family is experiencing on daily basis. I cannot see my Mom’s sorrowful eyes nor do I have enough courage to tolerate the heart wrenching feelings of my elder sister Sammi. It is heart breaking when I see my elder brother he is also helpless in doing something for our consolation.

I want to escape Balochistan because I do not have a heart to see people who are desperately waiting for their loved ones. Children of Balochistan, instead of living their childhood peacefully and playing with toys, are chanting slogans for the release of their disappeared family members. Almost every child of Balochistan is Sammi waiting for Deen Mohammad, Every mother is Khadija waiting for Zakir Majeed, Every sister is Seema Baloch Waiting for Shabeer. I want to escape the land which has been blood bathing from innocent blood. Killers of humanity have complete immunity here, they can kill mother of Bramsh before her eyes and they can stab to death Kulsoom freely. No one is here to stop this brutality nor anyone pays heed to missing persons’ grievances. The families are roaming city to city to register their protest, but their never-ending struggle does not seems to bear any fruit.

I have spent my childhood in these worries. At a time when my age fellows were playing with their toys, I was recording protest and knocking every door of justice for the safe recovery of my BaBa. 11 long years have passed, but I and my family are still in a distressful situation, the situation in which we are spending our lives, is with us from June 28, 2009 when we heard the devastating news of abduction of my Father.

I recall those days when we had a happy family with my father among us. My father was a medical officer in district Khuzdar. He used to come to Mashkai, our home town, after every 4 months. I was not even able to wait those 4 to 5 hours when my father would tell us he was leaving for Mashkai. Baba always brought me toys. We used to protest to our father that we cannot wait for 4 long months. At that time we were living at Nali Mashkai. Nali is a beautiful place surrounded by date palms. Mashkai River glows across the village. On the southern side of the village there is an Army camp. The security personnel always used to interrogate my Baba where he was and why he always goes out of Mashkai. Despite knowing the fact that Baba was a medical doctor and his posting was in Khuzdar, the security personnel always used to torture us and my father by asking irrelevant questions.

When Baba was with us, all our relatives used to be so nice to us. They used to come to our home to visit us and always asked us if we needed their favor. But when BaBa went missing, all their artificial love also faded down.

But the person who to this day is raising us through all these difficulties is my mother. My mother has given us the reason to live. She has motivated us for searching and struggling for my Father. She put all her efforts for educating us. She gave us courage to go out and struggle for missing Baloch people.

My mother also spent her childhood in difficult conditions like baloch of that time did. She used to go a long way for bringing water for household use. She wanted to study in schools but there were no schools available for girls at that time. Because of not having school facilities, my mother did not study in schools. But after marrying my Father, Dr Deen Mohammed, my mother had learnt so much from him. It was my father’s company that made my mother strong enough even after his abduction my mother fought all difficulties alone. After my father’s abduction, my mother is all for us. I even cannot imagine how much my mother has faced difficulties for us. In front of us she pretends to be brave, but we know that there is a limit of patience. Perhaps sorrow can be hidden for one or two days, but it is not possible to hide it for 11 years.

Now we are passive toward each other’s feelings, because we are out of words, there are no words for our consolation. Distress of my father’s disappearance is unbearable, but we are still living with it. I still hope my father will come one day, this hope is the reason I am still alive. All courts and human rights groups have disappointed me. But I will never give up the hope of getting justice.

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Enforced Disappearances and Balochistan

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The scourge of enforced disappearances in Pakistan has severely eroded the foundations of society’s conscience and confidence. This crime against humanity has been going on for so long and so systematically in Balochistan that it has come to be considered a normal state of affairs. But a vast majority remain unperturbed by the atrocity inflicted on the victims and all those connected to them.

Bertolt Bretcht in his 1935 poem “When evil-doing comes like falling rain” has put this attitude very poignantly: “The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, no body calls out “stop!” When crimes begin to pile up, they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.”

The confidence has been eroded because no one is exempt, be it Ms Gul Bukhari, Comrade Wahid Baloch or Idris Khattak because those who commit this crime enjoy complete immunity in the prevailing culture of impunity for such crimes.

Pakistan has still not signed the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” because of reservations, especially regarding Section 26 which allows United Nations’ body to conduct surprise visits to check for missing persons. To date it has not criminalized enforced disappearances. All this certainly gives the confidence and immunity to those who are involved in this heinous crime.

Are surprise visits really an issue? Let’s see how the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) fared in its September 2012 visit here. A junior minister in the National Assembly criticizing it said, “It would be the first step leading towards the disintegration of the country.” The Chief Justice refused to meet as the matter was subjudice and the Inspector General of FC Balochistan declined too.

The icing on the cake was that on 24th September 2012 the Parliamentary Committee on National Security decided that in the future no United Nations group would be allowed to visit Pakistan to discuss “sensitive issues”. Senator Raza Rabbani asked the foreign and interior ministries to abstain from welcoming international intervention in local issues.

Apparently, it is futile to insist Pakistan to sign it because although Pakistan has ratified the Convention on Torture in 2010, those who ‘pick up’ people and the police of the area, violate it with impunity both in practice and spirit.

The scourge of enforced disappearances in Balochistan isn’t a recent phenomenon either. Baloch have been its victims since 1960s when Sher Mohammad Marri began resisting injustices against his people. I know Marris of that era who were picked up, tortured but were lucky to be released. This approach, however, changed during the 1973 Balochistan insurgency as most of those picked up were never heard of again. Asadullah Mengal son of Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Ahmad Shah Kurd were picked from Karachi in 1976 and there was no information about them.

My own friend Duleep Dass and Sher Ali Marri were picked up by the army at Belpat, Balochistan in 1975. We never heard of them again. My Marri friends Bahar Khan Lalwani, Shafi Muhammad Badni, Dost Muhammad Durkani and Allah Bakhsh Pirdadani were picked up and suffered the same fate. The same fate awaited those who were picked up from Mengal and other areas.

The last wave of disappearances began in Balochistan in 2002; Asghar Bangulzai was picked up and is still missing. Dr. Allah Nazar too picked up with others in 2005 but was released in a near-death condition. The vicious and vile ‘abduct, kill and dump’ ‘policy’ began in 2008 and has claimed thousands of victims.

There never has been prosecution let alone punishment for those responsible for enforced disappearances. During Iftikhar Chaudhary’s tenure as Chief Justice of Supreme Court, high profile hearings on missing persons were held but to no avail. During a hearing on 20th March 2013 in Quetta the DIG of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Balochistan Feroze Shah submitted a report. He told the Bench that, “Following the statements of 12 missing persons after they returned home the Balochistan police asked the Frontier Corps to trace the whereabouts of the accused army men including two Lt colonels, six majors and two subedars”. (Daily Times March 21st 2013) Not even a Subedar was punished.

The disease of enforced disappearances can never remain localized because with nothing to deter the perpetrators they make systematic use of it.

Moving on, in January 2017 bloggers Salman Haider, Asim Saeed, Waqass Goraya, Ahmed Raza Naseer, and Samar Abbas were disappeared and later released. No charges or court trial pointed out that they were incarcerated, tortured for criticizing the establishment’s policies; no one was held accountable for messing up their lives.

The situation for the victims of enforced disappearances has worsened as now even Courts refuse to take cognizance of the issue and people are now disappeared at will. The National Commission of Human Rights here is dysfunctional because they who disappear people do not want even an internal body to question them. The Commission for Missing Persons confounds the issue rather than solves it.

In the past few months some missing persons like Sagheer Baloch, Mohammad Atta Baloch, Abdul Wahab Baloch have been released as were Comrade Wahid Baloch and some others before. Release certainly is a relief for the victims and families and probably a consolation for the politicians who have agreed to support the government on condition of release of missing persons.

However, these releases raise more questions than answers. It is essential to know who disappeared them, why were they disappeared, where they were kept, why weren’t they produced before courts, why were they tortured, has anyone been held responsible for the trauma the victims and their families suffered, why do released victims refuse to speak of their ordeals?

Unless these questions are answered and more importantly those responsible for the disappearances are named and punished the scourge of enforced disappearances will continue unabated. They will release a couple and disappear a dozen knowing that they can do this with impunity. Moreover, it is downright dishonest to say that the abductors are ‘unknown persons’ for only a state institution which knows it can get away with this brazen illegality keeps doing it.

More significantly it is not that all those disappeared are only kept indefinitely incarcerated because some of them like Gazzain Qambarani and Sulaiman Qambarani who were abducted in July 2015 from Qilli Qambarani ended up being displayed as terrorists killed in encounter on 13th August 2016. Again, on this March 4th two students, Hizbullah Qambarani and Hassaan Qambarani, were taken away from Qilli  Qambarani in broad daylight; Hassan is brother of Sulaiman and their families fear the worst.

In the transient euphoria generated by release of a few lucky ones the mass of missing persons keeps getting forgotten and forsaken and sadly those reported as killed in encounters get as much justice as did the hundreds of victims of notorious Rao Anwar did in Karachi. These disappearances and killings have dire consequences for the society and individuals because an atmosphere of fear and insecurity prevails and people are denied the safe environment conducive to development of a society necessary for a peaceful and civilized life.

Above all these enforced disappearances undermine the very basis of humanity by dehumanizing society as a whole.

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The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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Khair Bakhsh Marri

Afrasiab Khattak

In the general elections of 1970 my organization, Pashtun Students Federation supported National Awami Party (NAP), a party of progressive and nationalist political forces with a strong base in Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It was at this stage that I came to know about the main leaders of the Party. Khair Bakhsh Mari (or KB as his close friends called him) emerged as one of the top leaders of the party in Balochistan. To many, this powerful chieftain or nawab of Mari Baloch tribe with an impressive personality, remained a mystery as despite being a member of an established sociopolitical elite he maintained a consistent and active interest in theory and practice of Marxism. He also gradually came to be known for his straight talk on the national question. Like many young activists I also developed interest in knowing about his ideas. I followed his speeches in public meetings and media.

In January 1972 when Z A Bhutto took over power after the disintegration of Pakistan in December 1971, he lifted the ban on NAP that was imposed on the party by General Yahya Khan during the crises in 1971. Bhutto also invited the party to join the government as NAP had emerged as the largest party in Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa in the general election of 1970. Abdul Wali Khan, President of the Party convened a meeting of the central leadership in Greens Hotel Peshawar to discuss the emerging political situation and prepare a strategy for the future.

Khair Bakhsh Mari along with Ghous Bakhsh Bezjinjo and Attaullah Mengal came to participate in the meeting. Ajmal Khattak introduced me to Khair Bakhsh Mari and it was on this occasion that we had detailed discussion on 1971 crises leading to the disintegration of Pakistan and the shape of things to come in the ‘new Pakistan ‘ as Z A Bhutto used to call the remaining country. This was the beginning of a personal and political relationship that remained intact for decades to come during our political struggle including the time that we spent together in prisons and exile.

The Peshawar meeting of NAP leadership ( January 1972) held at the Green Hotel Peshawar Cant became a small public gathering as many party workers arrived at the venue and joined the proceedings. I also attended the meeting. Most of the Pashtun speakers were welcoming Z A Bhutto’s decision to lift ban on NAP and were in favor of joining the government with the PPP. But the scene changed when Khair Bakhsh started speaking. He questioned the concept of ‘ New Pakistan ‘ propounded by Mr. Bhutto in his first speech after taking power.

Khair Bakhsh Mari said what is new about the state which is clinging to the same old exploitative system? He opined that it’s old wine in a new bottle and it shouldn’t deceive us. He said the the hand of so called friendship being extended to us has the blood of Bengalis on it. The massacre in Bengal is too fresh to be forgotten. He said what’s the guarantee that the same hand will not shed our ( Baloch/Pashtun) blood? Khair Bakhsh suggested that we should first demand our national rights before we make decision about joining the government. Wali Khan who spoke at the end appointed the three Baloch leaders ( Bezinjo, Mengal and Mari) to meet Bhutto and present NAP’s viewpoint to him.

After getting report of the aforementioned NAP meeting Bhutto appointed PPP’s Hayat Mohammad Sherpao and Ghous Bakhsh Raisani as governors of Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan for putting pressure on NAP. In April 1972 when NAP’s negotiations with the ruling PPP succeeded and the party formed government in Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa, Khair Bakhsh as provincial president of NAP in Balochistan always insisted on taking a firm ideological position on political issues.

In February 1973 Prime Minister ZA Bhutto, after a visit to Iran, suddenly dismissed the elected provincial government of Balochistan. The unconstitutional dismissal of the NAP’s provincial government that enjoyed the support of majority of members in the provincial assembly of Balochistan created unrest and anger among the Baloch nationalists and some of them decided to launch an armed struggle. Pakistan army launched a large scale military operation involving thousands of troops. Reza Shah, the King of Iran sent helicopters to help Pakistan army. The federal government lost no time in arresting the senior Baloch leaders. In February 1975 NAP was banned and in March 1976, 55 leaders and activists were arraigned before a special tribunal for a trail of high treason in Hyderabad.

I was also one of the accused persons and spent time with others. Left leaning activists and leaders used to hold study circles in the prison for studying Marxism. Khair Bakhsh was a key figure in the study circle. Some of us would question his defense of tribal militancy and the armed struggle but he would defend his political/ideological positions with patience and composure through detailed arguments. During the trail ( which was held inside a hall in the prison) leaders like Wali Khan, Ghous Bakhsh Bezinjo, Arbab Sikandar Khan and others used to address the court but Khair Bakhsh would sit quietly among the young activists on the back benches. I remember an interesting anecdote from those days.

Our lead lawyer Mian Mehmood Ali Qasuri used to shake hands with each one of his clients when he would come for the trail after the interval of a few months. While doing so he came to the back benches and reached with some difficult to shake the hand of Khair Bakhsh who was sitting in a corner. After shaking Khair Bakhsh’s hand Mian Qasuri exclaimed, “ KB you sit in such far corners that it isn’t easy to reach you for shaking your hand.” Khair Bakhsh smilingly retorted, “ but Mian Sahib, Punjabis have long hands and they can reach anywhere they want.” Everyone had a hearty laugh. During the entire Hyderabad case he spoke only once when he was called by the judges for plea recording. He said, “ please don’t waste our time and your own time by telling us that the court is neutral.

You are part of the system and you are paid to defend the status quo”. At this Justice Abdul Hakim interrupted his speech and told him that the court is dealing only with legal aspects of the case and it has nothing to do with its political aspects. Khair Bakhsh said, “ you can’t bifurcate legal from political. It is a case against those who have challenged the exploitative system. The so called legal is a camouflage for political. I don’t expect it to be a fair trail. That’s why I didn’t speak here in the past. Today you invited me to speak so please bear with me. Have a heart. Bhutto will not punish you for listening to me. This is a case which will be decided by our people and by the history.

It’s not the first such case. Chiang Kai Shek in China alleged Mao Tse Tung of launching a mutiny but historical experience proved that actually it was a revolutionary process that led to the formation of a new China. Similarly dictator Batista in Cuba charged Fidel Castro and his companions of sedition but all of us know that the popular uprising led to the emancipation of the Cuban people. So taking decisions in such cases is beyond the capacity of the courts defending status quo”. Khair Bakhs spoke for about half an hour and he was heard in pin drop silence. General Zia overthrew Z A Bhutto’s government on July 5, 1977. After a few months he visited Hyderabad Jail to meet NAP leaders.

He invited Wali Khan, Ghous Bakhsh Bezinjo Attaullah Mengal and Khair Bakhsh Mari to the office of Jail superintendent one by one and talked to them. With each of the first three leaders he spent half an hour in assuring that it was Bhutto who had dismissed their provincial government in Balochistan and put them behind the bars but he is going to change that policy. He hoped that they will play an important role in an Islamic and democratic Pakistan.

But he couldn’t say all this to Khair Bakhsh who was wearing a big and prominent Lenin badge on his hand woven cotton shirt. Their meeting continued only for 2/3 minutes in which Zia asked the health and well being of Khair Bakhsh and the later told him that he was fine. Zia couldn’t dare invite him to the politics of his “ Islamic & Democratic “ Pakistan.

After spending more than two years in prison under Zia for opposing his martial law I went to Afghanistan in August 1980 in self exile. Khair Bakhsh Mari also arrived there after some time and we lived together in Kabul for long years. Some 15000 Maris joined him in his life in exile. They hoped to start a struggle for an independent Balochistan from Afghanistan. Khair Bakhsh Mari spent a lot of time in training political cadres among his followers. He also read a lot of books that broadened his vision about the future of his people. But neither the Soviet Union nor the Afghan government, despite their respect for the legendary Baloch nationalist leader, were ready to host a militant struggle for Baloch independence.

Quite contrary to the political fiction propagated by the western ideologues and Zia’s military dictatorship in 1980s the Soviets didn’t have any plan to expand towards the warm waters. But Khair Bakhsh, a man with iron will and strong nerves remained strongly committed to the ideal of an independent Balochistan. He wasn’t the type of political leader who would be either encouraged or discouraged over the foreign support or the lack of it for his cause. He remained steadfast until the very end.

_______________________________________________________

Afrasiab Khattak is a retired Senator and an analyst of regional affairs.

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وزیرستان: شدت پسندوں سے جھڑپ میں پاکستانی فوج کے کیپٹن سمیت دو فوجی ہلاک، دو زخمی ہو گئے

پاکستان میں شمالی اور جنوبی وزیرستان کے ضلعوں کی سرحد پر غوریم کے قصبے سے پانچ کلو میٹر جنوب مشرق میں سکیورٹی فورسز کے ایک گشتی دستے پر شدت پسندوں کی فائرنگ سے پاکستانی فوج کے ایک کیپٹن سمیت دو فوجی ہلاک جبکہ دو جوان زخمی ہو گئے ہیں۔
دوسری طرف پاکستان کے زیر انتظام کشمیر میں لائن آف کنٹرول پر سرحد پار سے ہونے والی فائرنگ میں ایک تیرہ سالہ بچی ہلاک جبکہ اس کی والدہ اور بھائی زخمی ہو گئے ہیں۔
ان دونوں واقعات کی تفصیلات پاکستانی فوج کے شعبہ تعلقات عامہ آئی ایس پی آر نے اتوار کو اپنی ویب سائٹ پر شائع کی ہیں۔
آئی ایس پی آر کی فراہم کردہ تفصیلات کے مطابق شمالی اور جنوبی وزیرستان ضلعوں کی سرحد پر شدت پسندوں کے حملے کے جواب میں کی جانے والی کارروائی میں ایک شدت پسند بھی ہلاک ہوا۔
یہ بھی پڑھیے
شدت پسند پاکستان کے قبائلی علاقوں میں دوبارہ اکٹھے ہو رہے ہیں؟
آئی ایس پی آر کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ اس کے بعد علاقے میں تلاشی کے دوران شدت پسندوں کے ایک ٹھکانے کا علم ہوا جسے تباہ کر دیا گیا۔
اس تصادم میں ہلاک ہونے والے کیپٹن کی شناخت صبیح اور سپاہی کی شناخت نوید کے نام سے کر دی گئی ہے۔
تصویر کے کاپی رائٹلائن آف کنٹرول پر فائرنگ، شہری پریشان
لائن آف کنٹرول پر پیش آنے والے واقعے کے بارے میں آئی ایس پی آر کا کہنا تھا کہ انڈین فوج نے گزشتہ رات حاجی پیر اور بدوری سیکٹروں میں بلا اشتعمال فائرنگ شروع کر دی اور شہری آبادی کو نشانہ بنایا۔
آئی ایس پی آر کے بقول بدوری سیکٹر کے مینسر گاؤں میں انڈین فوج کی بے دریغ فائرنگ سے ایک تیرہ سالہ بچی اقرا شبیر ہلاک اور ان کی والدہ اور بارہ برس کا بھائی زخمی ہو گئے۔
آئی ایس پی آر نے مزید کہا کہ پاکستان فوج نے انڈین فوج کی بلااشتعال فائرنگ کا مؤثر جواب دیا۔
واضح رہے کہ لائن آف کنٹرول پر اس سال جنگ بندی کی خلاف ورزیوں میں خطرناک حد تک اضافہ دیکھنے میں آیا ہے۔

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