Showing posts from February, 2010

Sikhs caught in Pak’s wild west

The beheading of Jaspal Singh by militants has shocked most Pakistanis. He was kidnapped by unidentified militants from the Chora Tanga area of Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency about two weeks ago along with two others, Surjeet Singh and Gurvinder Singh.

The militants had demanded a ransom of Rs 30 million to be paid by February 20. This is reportedly the first time a Sikh has been killed by militants.

Another Sikh, Mahal Singh, has allegedly been killed in the Orkazai Agency by the militants. Officials have not confirmed the report.

Rahimullah Yusufzai, a veteran journalist based in Peshawar, said that it has been reported that the relatives of the kidnapped Sikhs went to meet Mangal Bagh, a militant leader, asking him to mediate with whoever was responsible for the kidnappings.

“Militants kidnap for ransom often and justify this in the name of jihad. Many people are kidnapped daily from Peshawar, Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore by the militants for extortion money,” said Yusufzai.

About 90 pe…

Oh my sweet Valentine

“Oh my sweet valentine, I guess I knew you well,
Left my old better half to be all by myself.
Oh my sweet serenade, I guess we tore it up,
Night-time sang our song until we gave it up.

Though I don’t have long I know, I’ll just let my lovin’ show,
Cause there ain’t nothin’ like a petal in a rainstorm.
No there ain’t nothin’ like a petal in a rainstorm.”

These are the lyrics of a song, ‘Oh my sweet Valentine’, by Ryan Adams. It seems as if these lyrics were written keeping in view this year’s Valentine’s Day in Pakistan. Imagine President Asif Ali Zardari singing this song for Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and you will get my drift. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, President Zardari sent a ‘romantic’ gift to his beloved chief justice in the form of a notification that elevated Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Sharif to the Supreme Court and appointed Justice Saqib Nisar as acting Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. Unfortunately, the chief adjudicator was not impressed with…

Karachi in mourning

After the two blasts on Friday in Karachi, a three-day mourning period is being observed in the mega city. Markets and schools remained closed on Saturday while public transport was off the roads amid citywide strikes. It was a relief to see that the situation remained relatively peaceful and people showed restraint despite the fact that emotions were running high. The death toll has risen considerably since the day of the blasts and relatives of the victims mourn the loss of precious lives along with the whole Pakistani nation. Security is on high alert following the blasts.

The MQM has demanded an operation against militants hiding in different areas of Karachi. Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Dr Farooq Sattar reiterated MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s warning of a Swat-like situation in Karachi. The authorities have been dismissive of these warnings so far. Rivalry between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns is a bitter reality but to perceive the MQM’s demands as servings its own in…

Land allotments to military

During his visit to Bahawalpur, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif expressed grave concern over the large chunk of land occupied by the military in Cholistan. Mr Sharif said that only the people of Cholistan have the right to have that land and there should be no occupation by outsiders (read the army). He also criticised the occupation of lands by influential people without any allotment.

Allotment of land to the high-ups in the military is not a new phenomenon. Under various schemes from the 1960s onwards, many senior and junior army officers were allotted agricultural lands in Sindh, Cholistan and some other districts of Punjab. Former President General Pervez Musharraf allotted a large chunk of land to himself and other Generals in Cholistan. Since the area is known for its brackish water, there was a plan to build two canals from the proposed Kalabagh Dam to irrigate Cholistan’s dry lands. But when Musharraf tried to build a consensus on the building of the Kalabagh Dam, he did not succeed…

Violence revisited

As Karachi buried its dead, it was a grim reminder of the recent sectarian terror wave that has enveloped the largest city of Pakistan. The blast on the day of Ashura, in which at least 43 people were killed and dozens more wounded in Karachi, was still fresh in memory when another blast rocked a bus going to the Chehlum procession, killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores of others on Friday. Women and children were also among the dead and injured. The procession marks the end of the 40-day mourning period commemorating the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain in Karbala. The injured were taken to the Jinnah Hospital where less than two hours later there was another blast in its parking lot near the emergency ward, killing 13 more and injuring dozens others. The death toll has risen to 31 overnight. These ruthless terrorist acts cannot be condemned enough. It is with heavy heart that we heave a sigh of relief at another bomb being discovered in the hospital premises before it…

Time to move forward

India formally asked Pakistan on Thursday to revive foreign secretary-level Indo-Pak talks. Pakistan’s foreign office has sought a clarification as to the agenda of the meeting and has shown a desire for the resumption of the composite dialogue, suspended following the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. The 26/11 terror attacks cannot be condemned enough. They turned out to be a diplomatic disaster for the subcontinent. The composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, which had been initiated after decades of tensions between the neighbouring nuclear armed states, was stalled post-26/11. Since then Pakistan has been asking for a resumption of the dialogue but India wanted guarantees that the Mumbai attackers would be brought to justice and non-state actors would not be allowed to operate from Pakistani soil. This led to an increase in tensions and an ensuing war of words. With the passage of time, voices within India and at the international level opined that this was a self…

Open and brutal war

In a bomb attack on a military convoy in Lower Dir, three American soldiers and four female students lost their lives. Around 100 people were injured, a large majority of them being female students of a local school. The US soldiers were travelling with a military convoy comprising local troops, journalists and officials to attend the opening ceremony of a girls’ school that was renovated with American aid and humanitarian assistance. The Taliban had previously blown up the school. This was the first fatal Taliban ambush on American soldiers in Pakistan in nearly three years. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility and said, “The Americans killed were members of the Blackwater group. We know they are responsible for bomb blasts in Peshawar and other Pakistani cities.” Some people have been arrested and investigations are underway.

It seems as if the TTP tried to kill two birds with one stone: killing American soldiers who were training Pakistani forces to fight the T…

'Strategic death'?

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in a rare press briefing, said, “We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it.” These words underlie the fact that the Pakistan Army has still not given up on the idea of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan – a policy that has proved to be disastrous for Pakistan in the past few decades. If one reads between the lines, General Kayani’s statement is also indicative that though Pakistan may not want to control Afghanistan, it wants a government of its own choice in place to control the war-torn country. While General Kayani boasted that the successful military operations in the tribal areas have led to a substantial decline in cross-border attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan, militants in Peshawar blew up a tanker carrying fuel for the Nato forces on Monday. This is not to say that the general was wrong in his assumptions; of course there have been fewer incidents of this sort in the recent past as the mil…