Information black hole

By Sanaullah Baloch | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM

MEDIA coverage on Balochistan continues to diminish or is suppressed even as the human rights crisis deepens and violence expands in the province. Nothing of the socio-economic plight of the Baloch is being reported or analysed because Islamabad has successfully turned Balochistan into a black hole where retrieving news or information is concerned. Fewer news stories appear, largely because Islamabad refuses to permit access to seasoned journalists and human rights reporters. Relief workers have been terrified into silence. In recent months reports of the suspension of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and then the wrap-up of its mission in conflict-ridden Balochistan didn`t generate much debate in the media. The ICRC`s departure from the province will adversely effect whatever little if anything at all remains of human rights in the province. Indeed, the abduction of UNHCR`s John Solecki, and later the kidnapping and killing of an ICRC worker Khalil Dale were gruesome acts. These high-profile incidents led to an exodus of the already dwindling number of humanitarian workers. Subsequently, the Solecki incident generated waves of `kill and dump` actions, which resulted in the death of many senior and mid-career Baloch activists. And now there are fears that the ICRC`s wholesale departure from Balochistan will further encourage aggressive action against dissident Baloch activists. The ICRC was perhaps the only international organisation capable of monitoring rights and demanding some serious answers from the Pakistan government regarding the abuse oflocal and international laws concerning the treatment of dissidents. It had turbulent relations with the government. There were tensions on issues such as disappearances, kill and dump incidents, torture and harassment of political activists including journalists. In 2011, the ICRC, whose responsibilities include monitoring violations of international humanitarian law in conflict-hit regions, was disallowed access to prisoners in Balochistan to see if there was implementation of the provisosof Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, covering the treatment of people in conflict zones. The ICRC raised its concerns and made it clear that the government was not allowing it access to scores of prisoners arrested on charges of militancy and terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata and Balochistan. According to the ICRC, its last visit to Balochistan prisons was in July 2008. In a war-like situation, where conflicting parties rarely trust each other, local and international NGOs, especially the reputable and experienced ones, can act as mediators to help alleviate or

The deal must address issues such as the cessation of hostilities. aid organisations and NGOs to visit and directly assist the flood-affected people of the province. corruption and human rights issues such as disappearances. demilitarisation of allegedly state-backed militias. The security forces are the prime beneficiary of the long-standing conflict. Security checkposts in Balochistan`s north. This has helped suppress data and reports about Talibanisation. The Unicef report said that 28pc of five-year-olds were acutely malnourished. Bodies such as the ICRC must be protected and encouraged to work in areas relating to humanitarian needs and given access to detainees and detention centres to monitor the treatment of prisoners. In 2006. displacement. Over 80pc of deaths among those surveyed were those of children under five. But in the last decade hardly any well-known organisation. Since 2001 several journalists have been killed along with allegedly hundreds of motivated political activists seen as `would-be rebels` by the perpetrators.solve problems of a humanitarian nature. with many political observers of the view that this will lead the human rights crises to escalate. the National Disaster Management Authority did not allow international donor agencies. This could be achieved through sincere efforts on the part of the government and by engaging expert mediators and guarantors. killings. the restructuring of an ethnically imbalanced security structure. And any political solution to the conflict would minimise the role of the security forces. the Nawaz Sharif government lacks a courageous and clear policy on Balochistan. and more than 6pc were in a state of `severe acute malnourishment`. presence of drug cartels. doctors and lawyers has aggravated the situation. Quetta. In Balochistan. The situation in Balochistan needs a political. the IDPs. mature and daring solution such as a comprehensive peace agreement with the real stakeholders to gradually end the conflict. the Unicef country chief was harassed because an internal assessment report on the plight of the Baloch internally displaced persons (IDPs) was leaked to the media. Sibi and Bolan districts. the resolution of the issue of `enforced disappearances` involving the clandestine workings of security forces has been demanded for years by human rights groups. south and western regions generate millions of rupees. Hardly anyone is left to fearlessly speak out on the appalling conditions in the region. social activist or journalist has been allowed to visit and freely report on the conflict in the region. In 2010. Naseerabad. Senior and vocal politicians are forced to live in exile. According to the report. during the devastating floods. with their survival dependent on receiving immediate medical attention. mostly women and children were living in makeshift camps without adequate shelter in Jaffarabad. Meanwhile. . The kidnapping of local NGO workers.

the CIC order said. its expenditures. with the consent of the Baloch people. The CIC`s blanket order is bad. Noorani | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM THE Indian government is working on a bill with unanimous support to nullify a ruling by the Central Information Commission (CIC) that political parties fall within the ambit of the Right of Information Act. central or state. Besides. The public has every right to know a political party`s sources of income. control all the vital organs of the state. . • The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. the integration of armed groups into a newly structured indigenous security system and rewriting..national and provincial power-sharing.G.. Activist Anil Bairwal of the Association for Democratic Reform said: `Large tracts of land in prime areas of Delhi have been placed at the disposal of the political parties in question at exceptionally low rates. in reality.` Section 2(h) defines a `public authority` to include NGOs `substantially financed. balochbnp@gmail. which. all agreements concerned with Balochistan`s national wealth and resources. It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not so good for political parties. Income tax exemptions granted to the parties and free air time given by All India Radio and Doordarshan at the time of elections also substantially contribute to indirect financing from the aovernment. huge government accommodations have been placed at the disposal of political parties at hugely cheap rates thereby bestowing financial benefits on them. by funds provided` by the government. the regularity and . directly or indirectly. Something similar to a Marshall plan is needed for the socioeconomic development of the Baloch people as are measures to encourage the flow of humanitarian aid to the region. the discharge of its duty to audit its accounts. the parties had `been substantially financed by the central government and therefore they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act` Political parties `come to wield or directly and indirectly influence exercise of governmental power. 2005.com Twitter: @Senator Baloch Editorial : Parties and the people By A.Thus.

There is at least one country whose constitution recognizes the status of political parties as a vital component of the democratic process. This is where we confront the divide. A political party which refuses to per-form this role debases the political process. popularly known as workers. In a party run democratically the rise of new talent depends on the support it commands from the rank and file. In India the lawevolved in fits and starts. A political party in India is viewed simply as an instrument for the capture and use of state power rather than as a forum which brings together diverse interests and resolves them by evolving a policy framework that. the office-bearers and the executive. Their internal organisation shall conform to democratic principles. on poll alliances and generally on policy formulation. Its role is to articulate the parties` grievances and. for example negotiations with other political parties. But nobody has a right to pry into its internal deliberations on matters essentially political. They may be freely established. Indian law is deficient on the regulation of political parties. Besides this. All this reflects not only a neglect of the law but a profound indifference of the role of political parties in a democracy. unaccountable leadership which awards party tickets to candidates and undermines their independence. publication of audited accounts and public financing of election campaign returns. satisfies all. formulation of strategy to be followed inside and outside parliament. They shall publicly account for the sources and use of their funds and for their assets. in turn. educate the people in the art of democratic governance. In a political party run by the party boss and his aides. including `nomination of candidates for election`. Article 21 of the basic law of the Federal Republic of Germany reads thus: `(1) The parties shall help form the political will of the people. It lacks a parties act which balances accountability with privacy. `(3) Details shall be the subject of federal laws. the rise lies in their bounty. TheFederal Constitutional Court shall rule on the question of unconstitutionality. . to enter politics by participating in the party`s work. Accordingly the law on political parties was enacted to provide for elections to party organs. however imperfectly.fairness of its elections to the top leadership. They enable supporters from various walks of life to make their mark in public life. To be vibrant and alive political parties enlist activists. they perform another role. A democratic constitution cannot be worked by political parties run undemocratically by a powerful. He has to win their favour and emerge as a reduced figure. `(2) Parties which by reason of their aims or the conduct of their adherents seek to impair or do away with the free democratic basic order or threaten the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional.

They received a powerful riposte from Joseph Chamberlain who referred to them as: `those who distrust the people and do not share Burke`s faith in their sound political instinct -those who reject the principle. What is the role of a political party in a democracy and what is the scope and ambit of the people`s right to know about its workings? These questions must be answered bearing in mind the rival claims of autonomous workings of political parties and politicians` accountability. that the best security for good government is not to be found in excathedra legislation by the upper classes for the lower. Both the activists and the political parties have refused to look beyond the legal aspects and reflect on the fundamental questions which touch the very foundations of the polity.Over a century ago. expectations were raised that some important policy statement would be forthcoming and not a day too late since the country is facing what can only be described as an existential threat. [TOP] No more room for own goals By Abbas Nasir | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM THE Pakistan football team may have lost to the Afghanistan national squad earlier this week in Kabul but none of the three goals conceded was an own goal. Legislation for the democratic working of political parties is necessary. Public debate on this matter has been marred by extremist positions on both sides. when his `address to the nation` was announced. That task was left to the players in other fields at home led by the country`s (fairly) heavily mandated prime minister who. These principles are relevant still. on assuming office a little over two months ago. but in consultingthose chiefly concerned and giving shape to their aspirations whenever they are not manifestly unfair to others`. but far more necessary is a democratic culture of popular participation in political parties. • The writer is an author and a lawyer. my immediate reaction was expressed thus in a Tweet: He spoke. The mention of poorly edited isn`t to lay the blame for the content on a poor PTV employee. promised he would address the nation only when he had something to say. spoke and spoke but said nothing. Obviously. Without it there will be all harness and no horse. Having listened with rapt attention to Nawaz Sharif`s poorly edited televised speech. which should be at the bottom of all liberalism. It is . some British politicians were alarmed at the rise of a `mass party`one in which the activists acquire a voice.

and there isn`t a better way to describe it. Journalists briefed immediately after the meeting reported that it was agreed that talks will be held only with the militants who lay down their weapons. The Taliban reaction was quite clear. On reflection. Hours later the information minister said the prime minister`s talks offer had not been made conditional to the laying down of weapons by the terrorists. So. his confusion. He didn`t say why it took him nearly eight hours to correct it. The institution which has paid the heaviest price for the own goal of ambivalence is the military. wouldn`t it have been better had all government statements on the issue followed. Otherwise The story was force reported as will such by the be electronic used. The prime minister mentioned the relentless murder and mayhem being visited onthe country by religious zealots as terrorIsm and also stressed the need to stem the tide. and will not. Terminology may not be significant when we lesser mortals use it. speaking on behalf of the committee chairman. The same isn`t true of leaders. rather than preceded. The minister lambasted the media for carrying an incorrect story. Of course it wasn`t the NLE`s (non-linear editor as they`re called in TV) fault that the speech was bereft of content. They`ll seize on any sign that various elements of the country`s ruling elite have differing opinions on how to deal with them and make capital out of it. There were hints in the prime minister`s speech which spoke volumes for. The interior minister has already announced that the counterterrorism policy is well under way and should be unveiled by the end of the month. theprime minister. This is in no way to suggest that the information minister.merely to point out the reason for the various jumps and bumps you may have witnessed over the course of the prime minister`s otherwise prolonged. gave a green signal to the Taliban (they need none) to continue with theirattacks butonlyto stress that dilly-dallying has not. That this carrot and stick wasn`t part of a clearly thought through security policy became apparent a few days on when the Defence Committee of the Cabinet met. polished performance. Within hours of the last meeting of the DCC (it has now been reconstituted and rechristened as the National Security Committee) they claimed responsibility for bombing a military convoy in Karachi and the very next morning a paramilitary convoy in Peshawar. work. But then in a reconciliatory tone he called terrorists responsible for mass murder in the country `extremists`. Time and again the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have demonstrated that their actions may make them no better than cavemen but their fighting machine and its propaganda arm are sophisticated and quick on the ball. it? This is being said in all earnestness and not as any leg-pulling. this initial reaction was a bit harsh.He offered talks to these extremists and said force will be used against those with whom talks fail. media. . one must add.

tortured. This criticism is valid. as the TTP is bound to retaliate against the military`s soft underbelly. Yes. this problem won`t be wished away. But a fear-strapped PML-N still appears uneasy about marching in step. When this theory was discussed one evening over drinks. No matter what the government desires. there isn`t even a hint of a fallout from the disappearance of hundreds. let alone lead. there was much speculation over who was instrumental for our salvation. hopefully. • The writer is a former editor of Dawn. Almost all dumped bodiescarry identification. So.perhaps even thousands. Any use of force will potentially shatter peace in the Punjab heartland. tagged. Neither does procrastination promise deliverance. This then is the backdrop against which to see the military`s demand for a consensus before any action against TTP sanctuaries. One contender was the PPP. There is no ambiguity about the victim and none about who has meted out this `justice` to him. assess all repercussions and decide on his chosen course. abbas. The Taliban are different.com Dude. This retaliation can be vicious and bloody and last several months. the military`s ambiguity may soon be a thing of the past. mutilated bodies are later found dumped.After the army chief publicly identified the internal threat from the zealots as his biggest challenge. Then stick with it. The army has been criticised for acting brutally in Balochistan unilaterally without seeking a national `consensus` for action there but calling for it where use of force against the TTP is concerned. the prime minister needs to focus.nasir@hotmail. as its fairly clear now how wellentrenched and resourceful the Punjabi Taliban are. But it is equally true that in the largest and most influential province of Punjab. which has more or less remained immune from terrorism that has gripped the rest of the country. of Baloch youth whose `tagged`. where`s my party? By Irfan Husain | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM WHEN either a plot or providence removed Gen Zia from our midst 25 years ago. continuing the cycle. There is no room for own goals. my old friend Anis Hyder Shah sneered: `The PPP? You must be mad! That lot is incapable of chewing paan and crossing the . If such own goals lead to an own goal by the separatists who kill innocent workers from southern Punjab. so be it.

the PPP managed to win 6. Pakistan needs a party of the left. I obviously couldn`t support any of the Islamic parties. largely due to an absence of choices. However. And its Benazir Income Support Programme did improve the lives of many. at least. the PPP represented a party of tired old men (and a few women). it did manage to push through some significant pro-women legislation. and in Sindh. and its pathetic track record condemned it to a well-deserved defeat. The leadership lacked ideas as well as ideals. the party`s performance hasn`t improved since then. a party that supposedly stood for socialist ideals. despite everything. But if the PPPhopes to assert a national presence again as opposed to being a rural Sindh-based party it will need to do some serious thinking and some hard grind. the PPP is the only major national party that speaks for women. Unlike so many others. thus consigning themselves to irrelevance. despite its secular credentials. The old guard still retains a sense of entitlement. But as Zardari`s term as president draws to a close. As Anjum Altaf wrote in these pages a few weeks ago. has a dark side that is deeply offputting. and the MQM. As a diehard pipliya. The present leadership is clearly incapable of either. They have been unable to overcome their infighting and their ideological squabbles. Also. Despite the drubbing it received in the recent general elections. since the 1970s. Nawaz Sharif has always struck me as a closet fundo. I have supported it often reluctantly. Appointing Qaim Ali Shah as chief minister yet again shows how loyalty trumps competence in the leadership`s eyes. I found myself unable to switch sides. Introspection is not in the party`s DNA. many leftist parties have eithercrashed and burned. the portents for the party`s continued survival are not good. the PPP`s appeal for the younger generation has declined over the years. Despite its abysmal performance in its recent stint in power. it would be far better to somehow rescue the PPP from the band of old fossils who have captured it. or remained tonga parties with a handful of members.5 million votes in the May elections. The fact that Rehman Malik led the party`s election campaign pretty much says it all. While Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif were both able to attract millions of young people to their respective banners. Unfortunately. and against my better judgment through thick and thin. the army was out of the question. and with his departure from Pakistan a . But for how much longer? If they continue to misgovern Sindh in the next five years. For most of those who voted for the first time in the May 2013 elections. they were starved of oxygen by the presence of the PPP. they feel their feudal background will continue to win them parliamentary seats. So rather than setting up yet another left party.road at the same time. the minorities and the poor. Above all. Sadly. While this represents a huge setback. I doubt very much if there has been any soulsearching about the causes of its defeat. it`s still a significant number of core supporters that can be built upon.

The PPP needs to reinvent itself as a modern. all have flocked to the party when itstood a chance of winning. The younger Bhuttos have shown little stomach for the hurly-burly of Pakistani politics. kapra aur makan is a nonstarter. and hoping for a PPP revival is a victory of hope over experience. I know the task ahead is difficult. welcoming people with any or no ideological leanings. but I want my party back. Both the PML-N and the PTI could. the old mantra of roti. Sadly. From the Baloch parliamentarian who defended the alleged murder of several women by burying them alive. the PPP could come up with no convincing reason why people should vote for it. Theharderquesdonishow to make inroads in Punjab. achieved a stunning breakthrough. and who can blame them? So perhaps we can move beyond dynastic politics and get some fresh faces to move up the ranks. too. these assets got the party into government in 2008. Even after her death. it has been the Bhutto name and charisma that have been the party`s major attraction.strong possibility. Any effort by Zardari to run the party from Dubai after his departure must be resisted. In the recent elections. there is an opportunity for a change of guard. A handful of people have shown great integrity: the names of Raza Rabbani. Until Benazir Bhutto`s assassination in 2007.com NA and local languages | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM .husain@gmail. KP and Balochistan. m irfan. Unfortunately. and were rewarded. is the slogan of nationalisation. rebuilding and re-branding the party will be an uphill task. The latter. and with answers to our pressing problems. So. Sherry Rehman and Qamar Zaman Kaira spring to mind. to the guy who said on TV that it was the PPP`s turn to make money. Clearly. I don`t see any senior members who could shake the PPP up. few young politicians have joined the party unless they have inherited constituencies from their fathers. But without any member of the family around. and how to attract younger members. in particular. progressive party with a message for the poor. The party has always been a broad church. Perhaps they and some others will be able to depose the shop-worn leadership that has broughtthe partytoitsknees.

. Tough decisions Steel Mills` future | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM PAKISTAN Steel Mills is close to being shut down unless the government injects a huge equity to keep it afloat. Of themSindhi has got its due rights.BALOCHISTAN National Party MNA Esa Noori was disallowed from speaking in Balochi during the National Assembly`s current session. What is required is to employ translators. The happening was new for the NationalAssembly. Pashto too is following suit to some extent whereas Punjabi and Balochi are suffering the most. The recent incident in the National Assembly made one believe .. Speakers Hanif Ramey and Pervaiz Elahi nevertheless lifted the ban. The options are few and the costs formidable for all stakeholders the government.. The Assembly is an institution of the people. Pashto and Balochi are its original languages.. He wondered whereelse he could freely talk in his mother tongue if not in parliament. it was aPunjab forum. Actually. is being marginalised much more than in the past.. . Mr Noori . There is hardly any civilised country in the world where people are disallowed to speak in their local languages as had been witnessed in the Punjab Assembly. the economy and the employees. The complexities involved forced the Economic Coordination Committee to defer the decision on its future on Thursday. which is the language of 66pc of Pakistanis. Punjabi..Itgave three days to the finance ministry.. All should be allowed to speak in their mother tongues. This is probably the only action the government can take to save the country`s largest industrial complex from death. We Punjabis are facing such things for long... Its mandate is to protect their rights. Language is [one of the] main components of their rights. industries and production . whether it plans to sell or revive it.. . Everyone knows thatPakistan is a multilingual country. all attempts are being made to eliminate the original languages of the land. (Aug 21) = Selected and translated by Intikhab Hanif. said Balochi is his mother tongue and he cannot properly express himself in Urdu or English.. .. . And Punjabi. Disallowing local languages in the Assembly is regrettable. He was asked to speak only in English or Urdu. The late Fazal Rahi spoke in Punjabi in the Punjab Assembly for the first time after independence but was stopped by [then] speaker Manzoor Wattoo. . Sindhi..

the uberconservative belt of KP was yet again barring women from voting. Many say the government and the Steel Mills would have been better off had the Supreme Court not revoked its sale in 2006. The large number of by-elections did though underline some severe provincial differences. However. the PPP and ANP scoring victories in Punjab and KP respectively that have pulled them back from political oblivion Thursday`s by-elections produced the expected grab bag of results. it is operating at 11pc of its capacity this despite the Rs50bn pumped in to keep it alive over the last 12 years.3bn while its liabilities soared to Rs98. The three solutions involve different sizes of equity injections. Consider how while rural Sindh was electing a woman to a National Assembly seat. The company`s liquidation will cost a whopping Rs40bn. PTI underlining its status as a credible political force. it can`t simply be left at beefing up security outside women`s polling stations. With the by-elections coming so soon after the general election. Maybe. byelections are notoriously difficult to interpret. even if it is not liked by the opposition or the employees or someone in the government. they can hardly be interpreted as the electorate`s view on the performance of the national and provincial governments.5bn into it immediately. even if held well into an assembly`s term: negative voter opinion on a government`s performance is usually countered by the fact that byelections are held on a political government`s watch. While undoubtedly a localised affair in which all political parties and the local administration play their part. it is sheer waste of time to cry over milk that was spilled seven years ago. It`s time to take a decision. What`s needed is a proactive approach that works with local community leaders and politicians to educate them on women`s rights and make them aware of sanctions that may be imposed if there is a repeat at the next election. meaning the state apparatus is often tilted in the government`s favour. Currently. and then stick to it. the company had run up total losses of Rs86. If it has to be saved. Flaws in the system By-election results | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM SOME wins. it will prove to be a better option than the solutions considered so far. the ECC must also look into the merits and demerits of a Russian offer of financial and technical assistance of $1bn to rehabilitate and upgrade the Steel Mills. Its privatisation in the present circum-stances is hardly an option unless the government wants to give up the `national asset`. In any case. turn it around or sell it. But before deciding. the PML-N on top. But the matter is not one . the finance ministry will be required to pump Rs28. some losses. In matters of conservativeculture. By the end of the last fiscal.6bn.ministry and the Steel Mills management to agree on one of the three solutions liquidate the company. the time has come to take forceful punitive measures and also work out a preventive scheme for future elections. resulting in negative equity.

What began as a struggle for democratic rights has channelled into hideous zones. Hosni Mubarak is now out of prison. halt brutal crackdowns and announce an election date. why do the political parties themselves tolerate such practices? The obvious explanation is that in a highly competitive political environment. What greater irony could there be in the generals` two hare-brained decisions? One takes a former dictator out of prison. who-lost` frenzy was another important point: why do election laws permit candidates to contest more than one seat in a general election. But surely what may be difficult to achieve in isolation for the various parties. forcing so many costly and timewasting by-polls? Given that most party heads have at some stage contested multiple seats. Spring to chilly winter Mubarak out of prison | 8/24/2013 12:00:00 AM FROM an air force pilot to a royal 30-year furlough in the presidential palace to an accused in a cage. Mr Mubarak at least had the benefit of an open trial. while in Egypt the army is slaughtering citizens demanding a return to the Arab Spring`s moral fibre. and the way things are going it is difficult to see how Egypt can return to democracy. using his emergency powers. while the whereabouts of Mohamed Morsi. the parties would prefer to remain quiet on this matter. Mr Mubarak still has to face one charge the killing of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters. He could have been a free man but for the Egyptian prime minister. for whom millions of Egyptians voted.for the state alone to enforce compliance with. The generals have messed up. on the other hand. with democracy trying to find a warm place for itself. Syria has become a sectarian battleground. the other sends a democratically elected president to jail? No one ever voted for Mr Mubarak as president during his three-decade stay in Kasr Gomhouria where he lived in royal splendour. The Arab Spring has now become a chilly winter. it is possible to do from a joint platform. The saner way out for the generals is to seek a negotiated settlement with all political parties. Lost in the `who-won. who. they have usurped power. Mr Morsi doesn`thave even that. remain known only to his captors. no party wants to alienate its local support base by sanctioning or suspending party members and candidates who try and keep women out of the voting process. ordered that the former dictator be kept under house arrest. Mr Morsi. Assemblies that have a significant number of female legislators can surely lead from the front on a cross-party basis. . Using Mr Morsi`s mistakes as a pretext. The change in Mr Mubarak`s fortunes is as much amazing as it is ironic. handled the demonstrators with considerably less force. time and resources. But it is a waste of money.

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