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  • Interesting interview with one of the Baluch rebel leaders

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011
    Dr Nazar’s perspective on Balochistan situation

    You’ve probably never heard of Balochistan. A resource rich province of Pakistan wedged between Afghanistan and Iran, it is an area of great geo-political importance that includes the port of Gwadar, which many eye as a profitable road to China and Central Asia. Balochistan is also the site of what historian Selig Harrison has called “a slow motion genocide” of the Baloch people.

    Despite its strategic importance and harrowing human rights scandals, however, the region and its problems go virtually unreported because Pakistani authorities rarely grant journalists permission to travel beyond the capital of Quetta and its intelligence agencies routinely monitor and mistreat those journalists who do enter the province.

    When Pakistan was carved out in 1947, British drew lines through tribal lands regardless of the indigenous people who lived there, and the centuries-old Balochistan was tucked into Pakistan with the coerced signing of an accession agreement. The Baloch have been struggling for decades to gain back their independence — sometimes violently.

    Deprived of education and their own country’s resources, Baloch resistance fighters are made up of youth, farmers, shepherds, traders, salesmen, doctors, and ordinary citizens. The Pakistani government often conflates them with the far more violent extremist Taliban, waging all-out war against the secular Baloch resistance, imprisoning dissidents, abducting not only suspected fighters or sympathisers, but uninvolved citizens and, often, killing them. In February 2011 Amnesty International wrote in a press release: “The Pakistan government must immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months.” In their effort to win independence, Baloch fighters have bombed gas pipelines, sabotaged railway lines and allegedly attacked persons regarded as collaborators, although in an area with limited freedom of the press, it is difficult to parse the truth of who did what.

    In a rare glimpse into this conflict and into a region veiled by its near-blackout media status, Dr Allah Nazar, one of the best-known and revered Baloch resistance leaders with boots on the ground, agreed to an interview. The questions to Dr Nazar were delivered to him at an undisclosed location by an intermediary.

    Q: What draws people to advocate on behalf of the Baloch?

    A: Those who know the history of the Baloch, those who see that Balochistan is being used as a colony, support our struggle for freedom. Those who have a conscience and are men of reason understand that it is our right to live as an independent people on our homeland. Some are attracted by our bravery, some appreciate our traditions, such as “mehman nawazi” [translates as ‘hospitality’. Mehman is ‘guest’ and nawazi is ‘supporting’], some voice their concerns over the violation of human rights in Balochistan by the Pakistan army.

    Q: You founded the student political group BSO (Azad) in 2002. What were your goals at the time?

    A: We founded it on February 2nd 2002 to do two things. One was to announce that the Baloch want a free homeland and the other was to say no to the politics of vote and parliament, as it was one of the biggest hurdles between us and freedom. [By that I mean] the politics of the groups that were said to be nationalist parties were ambiguous at the time we founded the BSO. Most of them were demanding provincial autonomy and asking the people to vote [for them] in order [to] achieve their ideals. But what they actually did was to enjoy the luxuries of life in the Pakistani parliament. Plus, their ideals were not clear at all. They couldn’t say what exactly they wanted. This ambiguity had turned the students as well as the general public into a frustrated lot. We wanted to give the people a clear direction, and today I feel we succeeded in doing that.

    Q: You were arrested shortly after founding this student political organisation, but released following a hunger strike on the part of your supporters. Who arrested you and what were you arrested for?

    A: I was the chairman of the BSO and was arrested by the police in Quetta for protesting against unjustly sacking some employees from the Bolan Medical College on the grounds that they were Baloch.

    Q: In March 2005 you were re-arrested with six friends. Who arrested you and what for?

    A: We were arrested by the personnel of the Pakistani intelligence agencies in Karachi and kept in illegal detention for about four months. They thought I was one of the top leaders of the armed movement and getting rid of me would weaken the Baloch armed struggle. They picked us — I use the word ‘pick’ because they didn’t show us any document or a FIR nor did they [acknowledge] we were in their custody in the following days — to eliminate us. But later they had to reject the idea, perhaps because they thought they were making a hero out of me as the Baloch people had protested against our unlawful detention.

    Q: Why were you tortured this time? What information were the authorities looking for?

    A: We were subjected to brutal mental and physical torture and put in inhuman conditions all the time. They abused us, didn’t let us sleep for days, beat us with iron rods, cut parts of our body with blades, etc. I can’t narrate all the details of torture I had to endure as time and space will not allow me to do that, but I say this: the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) and MI (Military Intelligence) have absolutely no respect for basic human rights, they have no dignity.

    A: Among many other questions, they kept asking us who led the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), who funded the Baloch armed movement and on which country’s behalf we were waging a war. They would torture me after each question they asked.

    Q: Why were you released?

    A: It is something those who released me could better answer. I had refused to fight a case in the court, as I don’t believe in the Pakistani justice system — which becomes a supporter of the intelligence agencies when it comes to dealing with the Baloch. I think they thought I was going to die anyway, as my health had deteriorated by then, and they didn’t want to be blamed for my death.

    Q: Following your release, where did you go?

    A: From Quetta I went to my hometown Mashkay, stayed at home for 17 days and on the 18th day went on the mountain. In the Baloch national struggle, ‘taking to the mountain’ is a euphemism for joining the ranks of the freedom fighters, who mostly hide in mountains.

    Q: There is a photo from August 21, 2005, that has become one of the iconic images of the Baloch resistance. In it you are gaunt and shackled. Men are transferring you to an ambulance. Who are these men?

    A: The people putting me into the ambulance are, apart from the ambulance staff, officials of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, police and anti-terrorist court.

    Q: Where are they taking you?

    A: To a detention centre of the Anti-Terrorist Force in a Quetta cantonment. After being kidnapped by the ISI and MI officials from Karachi, I had remained in their illegal custody for more than four months, first in Karachi and then Quetta. After experiencing months of beating and humiliation at the Quetta’s Quli Camp — an illegal cell of the Pakistani intelligence agencies where Baloch political activists are subjected to mental and physical torture — I was thrown into a police station and was later brought to the ATF [Anti Terrorist Force] detention centre. The suffering had done my health lots of damage and that’s why they had to take me to a doctor. This is where this photo was taken.

    Q: In the past, going to prison was almost a rite of passage for Baloch political leaders, but generally families knew where their loved ones were held and could visit. In the last decade that has evolved. First there were the abductions and enforced disappearances. The recent development is for agencies to dump tortured and bullet-riddled bodies at the roadside. Often in groups of two or three. Why this change?

    A: After failing to break the political activists in torture cells — and knowing that their brutality can’t make them stop speaking about the Baloch cause — the army is now killing them to spread terror. The marks of severe torture on the bodies of the martyrs are a proof of that. It’s state terrorism at its ‘best.’

    Q: Are persons at the top of the military-intelligence complex giving orders to abduct, kill and dump Baloch citizens?

    A: All the state terrorism being carried out in Balochistan has been ordered by the higher authorities. Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik recently told the intelligence agencies to wage a ‘guerrilla war’ against Baloch political activists. An organisation has been made by the name of Sipah-e-Shauhda whose job is to eliminate the politically conscious Baloch. Both Chief Minister and Governor of Balochistan have called for and supported military’s operations against the freedom fighters.

    Q: Today there are Baloch who would still prefer to stay within Pakistan, but to enjoy more autonomy. Is that still a possible option? Do any of the rebel groups desire this outcome?

    A: It’s an old trick of colonial powers to support certain groups to weaken revolutions. The Baloch today accept nothing less than complete freedom. There may be Pakistani establishment-supported groups in Balochistan that speak of provincial autonomy but they have no support among the public. They are small groups. The Baloch today know who the real custodians of their land are and are supporting the freedom fighters.

    Q: How does current American foreign policy affect Baloch youth?

    A: It’s no secret that the Americans have an interest in this region. But in my opinion it’s the Baloch youth that could affect the American policies rather than the other way around. We are fighting for something we deserve, and we won’t agree on less than an independent country. The policy makers of the West must know that we are a peace-loving and secular people, and a free Balochistan is in the best interest of all those countries that love, and fight to maintain, peace — not only in the region but in the whole world.

    Q: Is radicalisation a threat? If so, how are youth being radicalised?

    A: It is becoming a threat as the ISI and MI are running a systematic campaign to radicalise the Baloch society. The Taliban are supported, patronised, given shelters and encouraged to spread religious intolerance in Balochistan by the intelligence agencies.

    Meanwhile, let me tell you something interesting here. The officials of the Pakistani intelligence agencies attack NATO’s supply trawlers — a large number of them have been set ablaze in the recent past in parts of Balochistan like Khuzdar — and then put the blame on the Taliban or some other religious organisation that is never heard of previously. Why? Because they want to give the world the impression there is radicalisation in Balochistan and that the Baloch too believe in fighting in the name of religion.

    Our national struggle has kept the threat of religious radicalisation at bay so far, as we don’t believe at all in violence in the name of religion. We are Muslims but we respect other people’s religions as much as we do ours.

    Q: In the February 1 issue of The National Interest, Selig Harrison titles his article ‘Free Balochistan.’ His argument for granting Balochistan independence is a dramatic departure for an American scholar. What is the rationale for granting Balochistan independence?

    A: An independent Balochistan will be a responsible and stable state that will respect the international law and live in harmony with the neighbouring countries. As I said earlier, the Baloch are a peace-loving and secular people. We will not at all be burden on the world as we have vast resources — be it our long coast, livestock, agriculture or mineral resources. Besides, we have a separate history, language, culture and traditions. We have our own geographical boundaries, and it’s our right to live as a free nation on the land our forefathers chose to inhabit centuries ago. The world should accept our right to freedom.

    Q: Is there any attempt on the part of Baloch political groups to reach out to non-Baloch residing in Balochistan?

    A: Yes. Through pamphlets and news statements we have time and again addressed them that if they share the pain we are suffering and stand with us through thick and thin, they will be respected and considered equal citizens of the country we’re fighting to achieve. But I’m sad to say that their role towards our national struggle has so far been awfully negative. Most of them collaborate with the ISI and MI in the killing of Baloch students and political activists.

    Q: Do the fighting groups in Balochistan coordinate actions at all?

    A: Yes. The coordination is very strong and we provide all kinds of support to each other, be it men, weapons, shelter — anything.

    Q: What would a successful and independent Balochistan look like?

    A: A free Balochistan will be a non-nuclear and democratic, secular country. It will be the safeguard of human rights and equality. Every one will enjoy the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to practice their respective religions. There will not be any kind of discrimination, be it ethnic, gender or class. The common people will be the real custodians of the state’s resources. There will be jobs and education and health care facilities. Art and culture will be promoted, and the state will do all it can to preserve the environment.

    Q: What would a Balochi bill of rights include?

    A: The Baloch bill of rights will be synonymous with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The citizens will enjoy their rights to freedom of speech and information, freedom of assembly, freedom of making trade unions, political parties. Facilities of education and health will be for every community and group without any discrimination. The Baloch traditions will be made a part of the bill, excluding the ones that are outdated. All the ethnic groups and religions will be respected and given equal opportunities to practice their way of life.

    Q: How would Balochistan’s vast resources be managed? Would the resources be shared?

    A: The resources will put to use by the government keeping in mind above everything else the needs and welfare of the general public. Besides, we will hire experts from the developed world to give suggestions to the government on how best to utilise those resources. In the meanwhile, the Baloch youth will be given professional training as it’s they who will eventually assist the government in managing the vast resources.

    Q: Would resources be controlled by respective tribes and/or regions?

    A: Tribalism is a forgotten concept now. It’s the commoners who are doing the fighting and they are the ones who will be the real custodians of the state’s resources. Those who shed blood for the cause will lead the government just like they are leading the national movement today. Moreover, there will be a proper system and the state institutions, including an independent judiciary, will make sure that the resources are not exploited by a particular group or organisation.

    Q: Scholar Juan Cole wrote that America supports dictators because they feel it enhances their security. What do you think about this logic?

    A: Dictators have always been the guardians of the interests of superpowers. But I think in the modern world a dictator cannot survive only because he is supported by a certain powerful country. Today the people of a particular country decide the fate of a dictator. You saw what happened to Hosni Mubarak?

    Q: Americans say that the Taliban retreat to and regroup in Balochistan from Afghanistan and that its leaders are holed up in Quetta.

    A: Yes, but not in the Baloch areas. The Taliban are sheltered in the Pashtun areas of Balochistan, and all this is being done under the patronage of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Let me say here that if the peace-loving nations of the world do not fully support the Baloch national struggle, the Taliban and terrorism will prevail in the region.

    Q: When did you become active in politics?

    A: In 1988 when I joined the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) while I was a student of Intermediate at Degree College in Turbat. Back then, there were two blocks by the names of Capitalist Block and Communists Block at the international level and this situation influenced the local politics too. Young Baloch politicians of the time were more attracted towards the Communist Block as they spoke of supporting a nation’s right to self-determination. But it didn’t mean the Baloch were Communists. We have always been nationalists first. What mattered for us was our right to independence as a people.

    Q: Was there a particular event or person that motivated or inspired you to become politically active?

    A: Slavery. The society. The suffering of the Baloch. Besides, as a young man I would listen to elders sharing with each other bitter memories of [former President and Military Chief of Pakistan] General Ayub’s military operation in Balochistan. My people have a strong memory. They never forget what you do to them, good or bad.

    Q: Please tell us about your parents and what kind of influence they had on you, if any?

    A: My parents taught me to become a Baloch, which among other things means to never surrender before the tyrant no matter how unsuitable the circumstances are for you. They made me learn that you are never poor if you have dignity and the motherland together.

    Q: In your recent interview with Naimat Haider you said you would prefer using a book over a gun to achieve your ideals. In closing, why don’t you share a couple of book titles with us?

    A: ‘Glimpses of World History’ by Jawaharlal Nehru and ‘Kurd Gal Namak’ by Akhund Salih Muhammad.


    • Bin Laden supporters in Quetta

      AFP: Hundreds join first Pakistan rally to honour bin Laden

      (AFP) – 4 hours ago

      QUETTA, Pakistan — Hundreds took to the streets of Pakistan's city of Quetta on Monday to pay homage to Osama bin Laden, chanting death to America and setting fire to a US flag, witnesses and organisers said.

      Angry participants belonging to a religious party in Quetta, the capital of southwestern province Baluchistan, were led by federal lawmaker Maulawi Asmatullah. They also torched a US flag before dispersing peacefully.

      It was the first rally in Pakistan after the United States announced that bin Laden had been killed in an overnight commando mission in Pakistan.

      Organisers said between 1,000 and 1,200 people attended the rally, but witnesses put the figure closer to 800.

      "Bin Laden was the hero of the Muslim world and after his martyrdom he has won the title of great mujahed (Muslim fighter)," Asmatullah said.

      "His martyrdom will not end the movement. It will continue and thousands more bin Ladens will be born," he said.

      The marchers also chanted slogans in favour of the Taliban and its supreme leader Mullah Omar who have been fighting across the border in Afghanistan since US-led troops invaded after the militia refused to give up bin Laden.

      "Today's operation shows the US has no respect for international borders and they can violate international laws any time," he added.

      Baluchistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan is wracked by an insurgency waged by ethnic Baluch tribes seeking greater autonomy from the government and a greater share of profits from the region's wealth of oil and gas resources.

      The region has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants.
      • Photo: Supporters of hardline pro-Taliban party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazaryati (JUI-N) shout anti-US slogans in Quetta:
      Attached Files


      • SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's Time To Declare Pakistan A Terrorist State
        Salman Rushdie, The Daily Beast | May 2, 2011, 6:06 PM | 87 | comment 1
        SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's Time To Declare Pakistan A Terrorist State
        Are we really supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know Osama bin Laden was living there for five years? Salman Rushdie on why it’s time to declare the country a terrorist state.

        Osama bin Laden died on Walpurgisnacht, the night of black sabbaths and bonfires. Not an inappropriate night for the Chief Witch to fall off his broomstick and perish in a fierce firefight.

        One of the most common status updates on Facebook after the news broke was “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead,” and that spirit of Munchkin celebration was apparent in the faces of the crowds chanting “U-S-A!” last night outside the White House and at ground zero and elsewhere.

        Almost a decade after the horror of 9/11, the long manhunt had found its quarry, and Americans will be feeling less helpless this morning, and pleased at the message that his death sends: “Attack us and we will hunt you down, and you will not escape.”

        Many of us didn’t believe in the image of bin Laden as a wandering Old Man of the Mountains, living on plants and insects in an inhospitable cave somewhere on the porous Pakistan-Afghan border. An extremely big man, 6-foot 4-inches tall in a country where the average male height is around 5-foot 8, wandering around unnoticed for ten years while half the satellites above the earth were looking for him? It didn’t make sense. Bin Laden was born filthy rich and died in a rich man’s house, which he had painstakingly built to the highest specifications. The U.S. administration confesses it was “shocked” by the elaborate nature of the compound.

        We had heard—I certainly had, from more than one Pakistani journalist—that Mullah Omar was (is) being protected in a safe house run by the powerful and feared Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) somewhere in the vicinity of the city of Quetta in Baluchistan, and it seemed likely that bin Laden, too, would acquire a home of his own.

        In the aftermath of the raid on Abbottabad, all the big questions need to be answered by Pakistan. The old flim-flam (“Who, us? We knew nothing!”) just isn’t going to wash, must not be allowed to wash by countries such as the United States that have persisted in treating Pakistan as an ally even though they have long known about the Pakistani double game—its support, for example, for the Haqqani network that has killed hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan.

        This time the facts speak too loudly to be hushed up. Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was found living at the end of a dirt road 800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, in a military cantonment where soldiers are on every street corner, just about 80 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. This extremely large house had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. And in spite of this we are supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know he was there, and that the Pakistani intelligence, and/or military, and/or civilian authorities did nothing to facilitate his presence in Abbottabad, while he ran al Qaeda, with couriers coming and going, for five years?

        Pakistan’s neighbor India, badly wounded by the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks on Mumbai, is already demanding answers. As far as the anti-Indian jihadist groups are concerned—Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad—Pakistan’s support for such groups, its willingness to provide them with safe havens, its encouragement of such groups as a means of waging a proxy war in Kashmir and, of course, in Mumbai—is established beyond all argument. In recent years these groups have been reaching out to the so-called Pakistani Taliban to form new networks of violence, and it is worth noting that the first threats of retaliation for bin Laden’s death have been made by the Pakistani Taliban, not by any al Qaeda spokesman.

        India, as always Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession, is the reason for the double game. Pakistan is alarmed by the rising Indian influence in Afghanistan, and fears that an Afghanistan cleansed of the Taliban would be an Indian client state, thus sandwiching Pakistan between two hostile countries. The paranoia of Pakistan about India’s supposed dark machinations should never be underestimated.

        For a long time now America has been tolerating the Pakistani double game in the knowledge that it needs Pakistani support in its Afghan enterprise, and in the hope that Pakistan’s leaders will understand that they are miscalculating badly, that the jihadists want their jobs. Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, is a far greater prize than poor Afghanistan, and the generals and spymasters who are playing al Qaeda’s game today may, if the worst were to happen, become the extremists’ victims tomorrow.

        There is not very much evidence that the Pakistani power elite is likely to come to its senses any time soon. Osama bin Laden’s compound provides further proof of Pakistan’s dangerous folly.

        As the world braces for the terrorists’ response to the death of their leader, it should also demand that Pakistan give satisfactory answers to the very tough questions it must now be asked. If it does not provide those answers, perhaps the time has come to declare it a terrorist state and expel it from the comity of nations.

        Salman Rushdie is the author of eleven novels—Grimus, Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and, recently, the Booker of all Bookers), Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, and Luka and the Fire of Life—and one collection of short stories, East, West. He has also published three works of nonfiction—The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, and Step Across This Line—and co-edited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a former president of American PEN.

        This post originally appeared at The Daily Beast.

        Read more: Salman Rushdie: Pakistan
        To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


        • On edge much in Quetta?

          Pakistan probe into killings of five unarmed foreigners
          By Orla Guerin
          BBC News, Islamabad

          An inquiry has been ordered in Pakistan into the killings of five foreigners - including three women - by security forces outside Quetta on Tuesday.

          Initially, the authorities claimed the dead, who were said to be Chechens, were al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombers.

          However, it has since emerged that they were unarmed, and that one of the women was pregnant.

          Human rights workers say security forces in Pakistan are rarely held to account for unlawful killings.

          Hail of bullets

          The killings - at a checkpost on the outskirts of Quetta - were caught on camera.

          Two wounded women are visible, lying on the ground. They hold hands, perhaps trying to comfort each other.

          One woman raises her arm - in what looks like a gesture of surrender, or plea for help.

          But the response from the security forces was a hail of bullets. There were no survivors.

          Initially the authorities claimed the women and their companions were suicide bombers, ready to carry out an attack.

          The official line has changed several times since then.

          The local police chief now says the five were killed when their own hand-grenades exploded.

          But bomb disposal experts say there were no grenades, or suicide vests found with the bodies.

          And an autopsy has revealed that one of the dead women - who was shot at least 12 times - was heavily pregnant.

          The inquiry into the incident is to come to a conclusion within 10 days.


          • Very sad. It'll be interesting to learn what these folks intentions in Quetta were.

            They were a long way from home in a most unusual place.
            "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
            "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs


            • The Taliban After Bin Laden

              The plan is to undo the Americans’ recent gains with the fiercest spring offensive ever—and that seems to be just fine with Pakistan’s ISI.

              Even before Osama bin Laden’s death, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir was working like a man possessed. For weeks the Afghan Taliban’s military chief, a former Guantánamo inmate, had raced from meeting to meeting in and around his base of operations, the Pakistani city of Quetta. His aim was nothing less than to field the guerrillas’ entire fighting strength at once in a massive spring offensive code-named Operation Badar, in the hope of reversing U.S. forces’ recent battlefield successes in Afghanistan. “He is determined to activate every single Taliban for the first time in 10 years,” a senior Taliban intelligence officer tells NEWSWEEK. “He’s making it clear that no one will be allowed to sit around in Pakistan. Everyone has to get involved or they’re out.”

              But the effort to revive the Taliban’s fighting spirit has become more urgent than ever. In the wake of the Americans’ late-night commando assault on the Qaeda leader’s hideout, veteran insurgents seem stunned and despondent—and uncharacteristically worried. “His death is one of the saddest events in my life,” says Zabihullah, a senior Taliban adviser. “It conveys a message to all Taliban leaders that no one is safe.” Although Al Qaeda may no longer be a major source of funds, supplies, tactical advice, and manpower, the death of the world’s most-wanted terrorist has dealt the insurgents a severe psychological blow. “It doesn’t have much overall impact on Taliban militancy,” says a Taliban logistics officer, “but it does put a cloud of uncertainty over most Taliban leaders’ heads.”

              The threat looms especially large for Zakir. After all, on the Americans’ list of high-value targets, he presumably ranks second only to Mullah Mohammed Omar—the organization’s founder and spiritual leader—as the Taliban’s supreme military commander and head of its ruling council, the Quetta Shura. But no one thinks Zakir will run for cover. He’s famous among the Taliban for his almost foolhardy courage, and he seems painfully aware that this could be a make-or-break year in the Taliban’s long battle to reclaim its former supremacy in Afghanistan.

              He and his men are operating with impunity in the high-desert landscape of southwestern Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and its hardscrabble capital city, Quetta. The Pakistani military has declared the province off-limits to U.S. Predator strikes, and the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) seems to be giving the Taliban a free hand. “They are coming and going in groups without end,” says a senior Quetta politician, an ethnic Pashtun (like the overwhelming majority of the Taliban). “Whatever the Taliban is doing is supervised and monitored by the [Pakistani] intelligence agencies.” Old hands among the insurgents say it reminds them of 1980s Peshawar, where anti-Soviet mujahedin operated openly with the ISI’s blessing and backing.

              Zakir is taking full advantage of his freedom. A tall, dark 38-year-old with intense black eyes and an air of authority, he crisscrosses the province nonstop, usually astride his Honda 125 motorcycle, trailed by a half dozen or so aides on their own motorcycles. Taliban sources close to him say he’s been holding eight to 10 meetings a day, from early morning until late at night, not only in Quetta’s teeming, impoverished ethnic-Pashtun neighborhoods, but also in small towns and villages all along the bumpy roads to the Afghan border. Sometimes he shows up unannounced, wearing a large black turban, long-tailed tunic, and baggy pants, with a scarf over his nose and mouth against the ubiquitous dust.

              His drive, charisma, and raw nerve have made him a very dangerous man. The son of a poor farmer in Helmand province, he joined the Taliban soon after the group was formed in 1994, and by 2001 he had risen to become one of Mullah Omar’s top military commanders, heading an elite mobile reserve force that was on call to fight anywhere in the country. He was in the north that October, battling the Northern Alliance, when the U.S. bombing began. The airstrikes soon forced him to surrender, and although he convinced his captors that he was no more than a senior officer’s bodyguard, he was sent to the U.S. lockup at Bagram Air Base, and from there to Guantánamo in early 2006.

              Nevertheless, he continued to insist that he was just a nobody who wanted to go back to his farm, and he was finally returned to Afghan custody. Upon his eventual release in May 2008, he headed straight for Quetta to rejoin the Taliban. Since then he has won respect and loyalty in the Taliban’s ranks. “He has had more direct dealings with commanders and fighters in the field than any other senior leader,” says a Taliban subcommander in Helmand. “Unlike some other senior commanders he pays attention and listens to the concerns of ordinary fighters and villagers.” But Zakir still hasn’t forgotten his years in U.S. detention. “I have a strong feeling of revenge in my heart,” the Helmand subcommander quotes him as saying in one meeting. “Until this fire of revenge is quenched, the jihad will continue.”

              He became Mullah Omar’s second in command just over a year ago, after Pakistani security forces jailed the previous No. 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Taliban sources say Zakir is a tougher leader than his predecessor—more aggressive, more demanding, and hotter-tempered. Baradar may have had better credentials as Mullah Omar’s brother-in-law and longtime confidant, but he was a consensus seeker, in the mold of a traditional tribal chieftain. Zakir is a warrior above all, seemingly unconcerned about keeping his fellow commanders happy, according to Taliban sources who know him. He tells his fighters they have one task: to wage jihad until death.

              He may be responsible for more allied deaths than any other Taliban leader. More than 40 percent of the roughly 2,500 U.S. and NATO combat deaths since 2001 have occurred in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, most of them in the three years he’s commanded the region. Zakir’s roadside-bomb teams have caused more than half of NATO’s total of more than 160 deaths this year. Still, his attacks have killed and maimed many more civilians. U.N. statistics say 2,777 died last year, nearly 75 percent at Taliban hands. And the Taliban’s own losses under Zakir have been drastic. By the U.S. military’s count, nearly 4,000 of his men have been killed or captured this year alone.

              Zakir paid one of his surprise visits recently at a dirt-floored house in the crowded Quetta suburb of Pashtunabad. The senior intelligence officer was meeting with a dozen other commanders and intelligence agents when a pack of motorcycles roared up and Zakir walked in and quickly got down to business, asking what they needed to make their forces more lethal. More money for weapons, ammunition, and roadside bombs, they told him—and more suicide bombers. A major ambush, the kind that involves IEDs, RPGs, automatic weapons, and suicide bombers, costs some 200,000 Pakistani rupees, they said: the equivalent of $2,300. Zakir’s secretary took notes, wielding a big, ledgerlike agenda.

              The military chief was ready for the group’s requests, promising to send cash, explosives experts, and suicide bombers. “We have plenty of melons [Taliban slang for IEDs] and fedayeen [suicide bombers] for this summer and fall,” he said, according to a young Taliban intelligence agent who was also present. “This will be the year of bombs and fedayeen.” In return for that help, Zakir tells his listeners, he expects total commitment from everyone. “His policy is that 100 percent of his mujahedin should be busy inside Afghanistan immediately,” the Helmand subcommander says. “In the past, maybe 80 percent of the commanders were sitting and resting in Pakistan.” The senior intelligence officer says Zakir makes clear that he expects his men to head for Afghanistan immediately, and not to come back until the fighting season is over. Before rushing off to the next meeting, he tells them: “We may see you again in Quetta this winter—but not before.”

              Thousands of Taliban slogans cover the walls in and around the dusty frontier town of Kuchlak, some 14 kilometers northwest of Quetta. “The Only Solution Is Jihad Against the Invaders,” says one. “Mullah Omar Is a Dagger Raised to Strike Each Occupier,” says another. A local government councilor says the area’s mosques and madrassas are packed with insurgents in need of temporary lodging as they head back to Afghanistan. Way stations have been set up all over the region in rented houses, he says, and swarms of Taliban pass through town on motorbikes every day. Most carry Pakistani national identity cards. “They’re enjoying the hospitality of the ‘black legs’ [derogatory slang for the ISI],” he says. He worries that the local culture is being Talibanized. At least 20 local madrassa students have disappeared, most likely to join the fight in Afghanistan, he says, and Taliban backers are even trying to stop the traditional music and dancing at weddings. “ ‘How can you sing and dance when we’re dying?’ they tell us.”

              Across the border in Afghanistan, the spring offensive has begun. Hundreds of Taliban have staged mass assaults in Nuristan province, and at least seven suicide bombers and dozens of gunmen launched a major attack in downtown Kandahar city on May 7, targeting as many as eight government compounds, including the governor’s house and office. The assault lasted more than 24 hours, and although it failed to capture any of its targets, it proved that Kandahar remains as insecure as ever despite the heavy presence of U.S. and Afghan forces. In April alone, more than 50 NATO troops were killed—more than in any other April since the war began.

              And worse may be yet to come. For most returning Taliban, the first order of business will be the monthlong annual opium harvest (a major source of funding for the insurgents), which is just now beginning in the south. After the crop is in, the guerrillas will retrieve their hidden weapons and head for the battlefield. The senior intelligence officer says he’s heard that Mullah Omar considers this year an important test for Zakir. “Our emir is giving Zakir a chance to prove himself,” he says. “If he does well, he stays; if not, there are others who can take over.” Of course, no one has seen Omar since he fled into the mountains on the back of Baradar’s motorcycle nearly 10 years ago. And Zakir might do well to remember what happened to Osama bin Laden.

              The Taliban's Plan for an Epic Afghan Surge - Newsweek


              • 4th principle of war:to gain surprise and prevent it happening to one's own forces.
                We have a frantic activity by this firebreather.It's not that I don't like the enemy doing a mistake and I won't stop them,but why on heck would any sane man actually send his men(notice that they say ALL taliban,hence some were kept in reserve) against a NATO at its height in terms of combat power.At the same time we have a US/NATO at its lowest, politically speaking.A Tet style offensive may have sense if they intend to break the political will of a US administration ,but that's already done.At the same time,US or no US ,the ex-NA will still need to be beaten the old fashion way and for that they need to preserve their best men.
                Thus I smell BS.The entire thing,IMV,is a dog&pony show to gain them a better position at the deal sought by Obama,Karzai and their scum brethren.
                Those who know don't speak
                He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36


                • Forced out of town by ethnic violence

                  KARACHI, 27 May 2011 (IRIN) - Aly Khan fled Quetta city, provincial capital of the southwestern province of Balochistan, after several of his family members were attacked in inter-ethnic violence perpetrated by extremist groups, and moved to Islamabad to start a new life.

                  "It was a decision between choosing our lives or our homeland," he said. "Balochistan is our home, but we have been forced to leave the place where our elders have lived because of our sects. The Shia-Sunni conflict was exploited by Gen Zia ul Haq and later by the Taliban. The Wahabi elements have created so much terror. To save our lives, we left our home town.”

                  Khan's relatives included a cousin who was a senior pathologist and was killed in 2009, and a professor who was attacked twice in 2005 and 2010. “Check the backgrounds of the victims and you will see that they were peace-loving citizens who were contributing to the society," he told IRIN. "They were doctors and professors, not warmongers.”

                  Balochistan has been caught up in a nationalist insurgency for decades, with militant Baloch nationalist groups seeking autonomy for the region, and in the process targeting minority groups they believe do not support their thinking. Clashes have also occurred between militant Sunni Muslim groups and Shia Muslims over the interpretation of Islam.

                  On 6 May, six members of the Hazara Shia minority community were gunned down in an incident that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), an extremist sectarian Wahabi organization, later claimed responsibility for. On 18 May, another seven were gunned down, and once again the LJ claimed responsibility.

                  Last year, 65 Shias were killed in Quetta when a procession became the target of a bomb blast on 3 September. Two days earlier, a blast in Lahore killed 35 others. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s report entitled State of Human Rights in 2010, 418 people were killed in various attacks on Muslim sects, including 211 in suicide bombings last year.

                  Over 200 Shia have been killed in Balochistan in the last three years, the report said "The Lashkar has given us the deadline to leave the province by 2012 and have warned of further attacks," said Awab.* “Even the police are helpless in this regard as they too have been under attack by these rogue elements.”

                  Awab, an ethnic Hazara, is in the process of moving his family to Karachi. Seven members of his family, including a brother, an uncle and a cousin, were killed in last year's bombings.

                  Ethnic attacks on police

                  Contacted by IRIN, a senior official of the Balochistan police, who requested anonymity, said security had been tightened around Immambarhs (Shia mosques) and Shia graveyards for Friday prayers.

                  “We have been under attack not only by the separatists but also by the militant outfits," he said, adding that his colleague Deputy Inspector-General Wazir Khan Nasir had been targeted in April. “Though Khan luckily survived, we lost a constable.

                  “A number of our low-ranking policemen have also been targets as they belong to the Punjab Province, which the Balochs consider an enemy. How do I protect the Hazara Shia from Balochs and the Taliban, when my men can be hit and killed due to their ethnicity and no one will shed a tear because they are `Punjabis'?" he added.

                  A spokesperson for the Hazara Democratic Party, who preferred anonymity, said the increasing violence against members of his community was in part due to its relative wealth, but he noted that Balochistan had been experiencing conflict between the state and Baloch separatists for some time. "We paid the price when we lost our leader, Hussain Ali Yousafi, who was killed in 2008."

                  Balochistan has historically had a tense relationship with Pakistan's government, in large part due to issues of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploration, and a consequent sense of deprivation, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

                  Education hit

                  The violence has also affected education, according to HRW. In 2010 many teachers sought transfers, out of fear for their lives, further burdening what was already the worst educational system in Pakistan. At least 200 teachers and professors had already transferred from their schools to the relatively more secure provincial capital of Quetta or moved out of the province entirely since 2008.

                  The rights watchdog attributed the upsurge in violence to the 2006 assassination of the prominent Baloch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and 35 of his close followers, and the murders of three prominent Baloch politicians in April 2009 by assailants believed to be linked to the Pakistan military.

                  The matter, according to Aly Khan, has been fuelled by religious differences. “Balochistan Province has Balochs and Pathans in the majority when it comes to ethnicity [while] Hazara are a minority," he said. "Then come the religious minorities. The Balochs and Pathans follow the Sunni sect, while most Hazara are Shias and most of these are residing Quetta.

                  "The Hazara and the Shias are a peaceful community and generally well settled," he added. "While earlier they were victims of kidnappings and robberies, now religious extremists threaten them.”

                  *Not his real name

                  IRIN Asia | PAKISTAN: Forced out of town by ethnic violence | Pakistan | Children | Education | Governance | Migration | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security | Urban Risk


                  Looks like the Taliban and allied groups are trying to repeat in Quetta what they did in Afghanistan to the Hazara's during the late 90s. There is alot of bad-blood between the Hazaras and Pashtuns generally, but the Taliban in particular.


                  • Pakistan: Abuses in mineral-rich Balochistan province

                    The deaths of at least 1,000 people since March 2008 in the ongoing nationalist insurgency in the volatile Pakistani province of Balochistan have often been overshadowed by the country's other troubles. Yet as the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan discovered, the suffering there is every bit as acute.

                    Getting to the vast Baloch tribal settlement of New Kahan is not easy. It is tightly guarded by a ring of checkpoints.

                    We slip quietly past through a gravel path with help from a local guide.

                    New Kahan is home to thousands of tribal Baloch people. The Baloch rebel anthem plays as children gather for assembly.

                    Desperate poverty

                    Habibullah, an 11-year-old recites passionate and tragic lyrics: "We are the sons of the Baloch... we are the sons of lions... we are the protectors of the orphans and the destitute… our blood is our nation's salvation."

                    The children are eager to learn but provisions here are poor.

                    Habibullah and his friends take their classes sitting on the floor. Most of the parents are labourers and the school building is a two-room structure of baked clay.

                    There is desperate poverty here. Locals blame the government for the lack of facilities.

                    It is a situation reflected across Balochistan.

                    Nationalists say that despite the province's vast mineral wealth, it remains the most under-developed area of the country.

                    The government has responded to the insurgency by suppressing all dissent - and locking up any young men suspected of harbouring nationalist sentiments.

                    They have become part of the missing - people who have been arrested without charge by the state.

                    Gul Baloch is an angry young woman who has experienced the consequences of this policy and her tone is edged with bitterness.

                    Her brother Iqbal, along with his friends, was taken away by security forces two years ago.

                    The friends were released after a year - Gul says they were tortured during this time.

                    Ms Baloch says she knows that even if her brother comes back, he will never be the same again.

                    When her friends were taken away, they were blindfolded. When they came back, they could not stand sunlight for two to four months.

                    "There are marks on their bodies," Ms Baloch says.

                    "If one of them sits down and tries to get back up, it's difficult and very painful.

                    "That's how it is with them…. and when they are asleep, they wake up in panic, as they feel the torture is happening again - sometimes they even start screaming. "

                    'All our enemies'

                    Such treatment has left Balochistan's young men with few choices. Maqbool is one of them - a fiery young Baloch nationalist.

                    He spoke to me in New Kahan about how they view the Pakistani state, and especially its dominant Punjab province.

                    "The Baloch youth... know quite well that, for the last 63 years, the Pakistani state has been deceiving and inciting them using various methods," he said.

                    "But now the Baloch youth have become enlightened.

                    "They know this very well - that the Punjabi army, the Punjabi judiciary, the Punjabi parliament as well as the Punjabi media - they are all our enemies."

                    People here are frustrated that Balochistan is so poor, even though it has vast reserves of oil, gas and gold which remain largely untapped.

                    But the province is also this crisis-ridden nation's biggest human rights disaster.

                    The anthem reverberating around New Kahan evokes the strong sense of injustice felt here.

                    'Baseless and unfounded'

                    But Akram Hussain Durrani - Balochistan's home secretary and top civilian security official - denies allegations that the security forces have been involved in extra-judicial killings.

                    "This type of allegation... is baseless and unfounded," he said.

                    "Most of these people are killed in their own tribal feuds and their families later put the blame on the federal government."

                    As far as eyewitness accounts of security forces being involved in kidnappings are concerned, he says there is a set procedure under the criminal code to register such cases.

                    "But the families don't co-operate in the collection of evidence and therefore we can't get to the bottom of the killings."

                    The protestations of the provincial government do not cut much ice among the Baloch, however.

                    Maqbool says the resistance is no longer about a few unruly tribes and not confined to just one place.

                    "If today someone is killed in one region of Balochistan, you can see political protests across [the rest of] Balochistan… you see the response of the resistance everywhere," he says.

                    The Baloch say they are being treated like slaves, rather than citizens. Many feel it is time to break away and win outright independence.

                    Meanwhile, Gul is still waiting for her brother to return.

                    But there will be no homecoming for the hundreds who are found in shallow graves across Balochistan every week.

                    Their mounting numbers have swelled support for the insurgents and prompted the judiciary to order an investigation into abuses committed during the country's longest-running insurgency.

                    Increasingly there is only one demand on Baloch lips - freedom or death.

                    BBC News - Pakistan: Abuses in mineral-rich Balochistan province


                    • Unfortunately, this is an issue in Pakistan ranging far beyond simply Balochistan. The act of disappearing is too commonplace to suggest anything other than a thorough circumvention of the judicial process. Let's not forget that Syed Saleem Shahzad was, himself, a disappeared before his murder. So also many others.

                      I welcome the HRW report along with its focus. I only wish them to extend the effort further.
                      "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
                      "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs


                      • Originally posted by S2 View Post
                        Unfortunately, this is an issue in Pakistan ranging far beyond simply Balochistan. The act of disappearing is too commonplace to suggest anything other than a thorough circumvention of the judicial process. Let's not forget that Syed Saleem Shahzad was, himself, a disappeared before his murder. So also many others.

                        I welcome the HRW report along with its focus. I only wish them to extend the effort further.
                        Indeed, it is not limited to Baluchistan but that is the region which likely experiences the most frequent cases of abductions and extra-judicial executions by the Pakistani security forces. I believe that Swat underwent a similar, perhaps even more swfit, episode as the one being faced by Baluchistan over the past few years. Perhaps the Swat disappearances still continue. First it was the Taliban, then the Pakistani army doing the executing.

                        There is little doubt now anyway that Baluchistan is a war-zone. A search on google news for incidents over the past week alone reveals numerous cases of bomb-attacks, shoot-outs, kidnapping etc. Over 20 Shi'a civilians from the Hazara ethnic minority have been shot-dead in two major massacres within the past week. A nephew of the Baluchistan Chief Minister was killed in a bomb-attack on a stadium, a train was derailed by an explosion on a railway track, a gas-pipeline was blown-up... This all took place just last week, and i havent even checked for news over the weekend.

                        The situation i believe is far, far more serious than we know.


                        • A Leader of the Baluch in Pakistan - The New York Times

                          Pakistan and neighboring Iran were hostile to the Baluch, and the only place to go was Afghanistan, though it was consumed by the war with the Taliban. It took 19 days, on foot, to trek from a mountain base near Sibi to the Afghan border. But he had an armed tribal force and scouts with him and made the escape without incident, crossing into Afghanistan along a mountain trail, he said.

                          Although he had few contacts there, tribal links and traditions of hospitality assured him a welcome. He sent for his wife, his two children — a third was born in Afghanistan — and his mother, and after an elaborate dance to confuse government watchers, they crossed the border to join him days later.

                          Yet Afghanistan was not a safe haven. The family moved about 18 times over the next 18 months, and despite never going outside, he said, they became the target of repeated suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban and Qaeda militants, who they believe were sent by the Pakistani military. At least one bomb attack, in the upscale residential Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, was specifically aimed at Mr. Bugti, a Western diplomat and an Afghan intelligence official said.
                          Very interesting, but not surprising at all. Had such an assassination attempt been successful i wonder how that would have impacted events in Baluchistan between the Baluch rebels and the Taliban. It goes back to the initial speculation of this topic. And even though Bugti escaped such attempts one still has to wonder whether Bugti tribesmen or Baluch rebels and nationalists in general have ever contemplated retaliation against the Taliban in Quetta or have even carried out some form of action already. In anycase, i believe that Baluch rebels could play a vital role in anti-Taliban action in Quetta and elsewhere in Baluchistan, assuming they are not already co-operating at some level with the Afghans and/or NATO and the US to this end.

                          Full report: A Leader of the Baluch in Pakistan -


                          • Interesting report:

                            Nationalists “Concerned” to See LeT, JeM Leaders in Baloch Districts | The Baloch Hal
                            The Baloch Hal News

                            KARACHI/DALBANDIN: A central spokesman of the Baloch National Front (BNF) has expressed serious concern over the frequency of what it called visits by Punjabi Islamic extremist leaders and activists affiliated to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad in Baloch districts.

                            A official statement issued by BNF said Punjabi religious fanatics belonging to banned groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Muhammad were regularly visiting from Lahore and Karachi to the Baloch districts of Chagai and Dalbandin.

                            “These Islamic extremists are linked with Pakistani spy agencies who come to collect funds and recruit fighters from Baloch districts in order to counter the Baloch nationalist movement,” said a BNF spokesman. He said for the past seven days, the number of such visitors had dramatically increased which cast doubts in the minds of the Baloch nationalists about their actual motivations.

                            “We urge all the Baloch religious leaders not to welcome these Jihadi elements in Baloch districts.” the spokesman warned, “they should distance themselves from these hardliners who come from Karachi and Lahore.”


                            • BBC News - Rare Taliban praise for Pakistan's Maulana Abdul Ghani

                              The Taliban in Afghanistan have issued an unprecedented condolence statement on the death of a top right-wing Pakistani politician.

                              Maulana Abdul Ghani died in a car crash on 26 October in the southern Pakistani province of Balochistan.

                              It is the first time that the Taliban have publicly admitted receiving help from members of Pakistan's ruling establishment.

                              Maulana Ghani's JUI-F political party has close links to Pakistan's military.

                              It was part of the governing coalition until earlier this year.

                              Pakistan's leadership has always denied any links to the Taliban.

                              But a Taliban spokesman told the BBC in a statement that Maulana Ghani - a deputy leader of the JUI-F - was a "martyr for the cause of jihad" - and it would be difficult to replace him.

                              The former parliamentarian was laid to rest on Wednesday in his native town of Chaman in Balochistan.

                              Eyewitnesses told the BBC the Taliban's top leadership was in attendance - along with hundreds of local citizens and Taliban foot soldiers.

                              Later - without giving details - a Taliban spokesman said that Maulana Ghani had shown what he called great courage in supporting the movement after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

                              He added that the maulana's services and commitment for the cause of jihad would never be forgotten.