Posts Tagged ‘Balochistan’

Pointless Point Scoring

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The News (Jang Group)According to a bold front page headline of The News ‘Citizens of 20 states seek separation from the US’. Is the great American Super Power on the verge of collapse before our very eyes? Will the UN have to intervene before another civil war? Actually, that’s nt likely.

The story is referring to “several petitions…requesting the Obama administration to peacefully grant the applied states to withdraw from the United States of America in order to create their own governments”. The report admits that “the likelihood of the current administration to even entertain the idea of allowing states to secede is almost non-existent”, but claims that

“What is sobering to realise though is that in less than 48-hours there have been tens of thousands of people who have quickly rallied behind this very grassroots approach to request change, autonomy, and a small measure of freedom.”

A little perspective. These “petitions” are actually created using a web form on the White House website accessible to anyone.

The following petitions have also been created using the online form:

Make Duncan Trussell the Emporer of Planet Earth

Peacefully grant the city of Austin Texas to withdraw from the state of Texas & remain part of the United States

Not Allow the FDA To Regulate Premium Cigars

The last one has over 32,000 signatures suggesting that Americans care much more about cigars than they do separating from the US.

While The News is busy elevating such pointless stories about Americans expressing unhappiness after their elections while in our own country, real stories about citizens being mistreated and turning against their country out of desperation are ignored or excused with silly conspiracy theories. Target killings continue in Balochistan and large parts of Khyber Paktunkhwa have seperated from Pakistan in all but name only.

Stories about unhappy Americans may give us a feeling of relief that we are not the only nation with unhappy citizens, but they will not end enforced disappearances, targeted killings, or the presence of armed groups fighting against their own military for independence. Media should serve a positive role in the country by informing the masses with facts that are relevant to their lives,not pointless point scoring.

Jang Group Attacks Human Rights Watch

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

The News (Jang Group)In Daily Jang and The News, Ahmad Noorani accuses Pakistan Director Human Rights Watch Ali Dayan Hasan of “presenting wrong facts and figures” and presenting a one-sided view of the Balochistan crisis in his testimony at the US Congress earlier this month. Noorani’s article supports a popular narrative – that the American hearing was not a fair and representative discussion of the situation. But is The News being any more fair in its own reporting on Human Rights Watch?

In his spoken testimony at the US Congress, Ali Dayan did allege the military of forced disappearances and target killings. Though PMW has no way to know whether military personnel have or have not been involved in such acts, it is hardly a novel claim. Actually, it is not uncommon to see protests about this very claim.

It should also be noted that the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case about the issue of missing persons possibly detained and abused by security forces also. This does not mean that allegations are true – that is for the court to determine. But it does mean that Ali Dayan’s claim is not unheard of.

Despite Ahmad Noorani’s characterisation, Ali Dayan did not offer a one-sided view or hold security institutions “solely responsible for the whole crisis” as claimed by Ahmad Noorani. In his spoken testimony, Ali Dayan told the hearing that “there are abuses that we have documented by Baloch nationalist militants, particularly against education personnel and against other non-Baloch residents of the province”. He went on to note that “Non-Baloch, particularly Punjabi settlers and Urdu-speaking settlers in Balochistan, are living equally in fear of their lives because of fear of attack from Baloch nationalists”. And it was not just the military and Baloch militants who took criticism from Human Rights Watch. Ali Dayan also pointed out attacks by sectarian militants against Hazara Shia in Balochistan.

In his longer written statement, Ali Dayan goes into more detail about “non-state groups” responsible fore human rights abuses in Balochistan including attacks against “police and security forces and military bases”.

Armed militant groups in Balochistan are responsible for targeted killings and destroying private property. In the past several years, they have increasingly targeted non-Baloch civilians and their businesses, as well as major gas installations and infrastructure. They have also struck police and security forces and military bases throughout the province.

Three distinct non-state groups are responsible for violence against civilians in the province: militant Baloch nationalist groups seeking separation or autonomy for Balochistan that target Punjabis and other minorities; militant Sunni Muslim groups such as the Lashkar-eJhangvi that attack members of the Shia community; and armed Islamist groups that have most recently attacked those who act contrary to their interpretation of Islam.

Militant nationalist groups such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) have claimed responsibility for most killings of non-Baloch civilians, including teachers and other education personnel. They attempt to justify these attacks as a nationalist Baloch response to grievances against the state, and retaliation against abuses that state security forces have committed against Baloch community members.

Amidst the violence, Balochistan’s long-term problems of governance and the stand-off between the Pakistani military and Baloch militants have deepened a general perception in the province of neglect, discrimination, and denial of rights. These are exacerbated by the continuing tribal system and its archaic social structures, the influence of the tribal chief on the justice system and police, and the consequent denial of citizens’ fundamental rights.

The poor and marginalized, particularly women, are adversely affected by traditional forms of dispute resolution and lack of access to other redress mechanisms. They lack assets and opportunities, have no social safety net, and are bound by practices that affect their welfare. There are frequent reports of both state law enforcement agencies and local power-brokers committing abuses against marginalized populations. Labor conditions are abysmal, and there is no single system of justice despite a uniform civil and criminal code. The widespread use of tribal jirgas (councils) and other informal forums of justice increase the difficulty of seeking redress and obtaining justice, devaluing its quality.

Finally, the violence has denuded the already thinly spread provision of public safety. Organized police services cover only a fraction of the province’s territory (about 4 percent of the land area), while the rest is covered by tribal recruits forming levies.

Unfortunately, readers would not know the facts about Ali Dayan’s testimony because Ahmad Noorani failed to report them in his piece. Ahmad Noorani claims in his article that Ali Dayan presented ‘wrong facts and figures’, but he addresses no facts or figures in his piece. He did, however, give significant space in his article for political statements against the government by Senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, which has nothing to do with the subject of the article.

Instead of reporting what Ali Dayan actually said, Noorani implied that Ali Dayan blamed the military for all abuses and then reported his phone numbers including his international cell number which serves no legitimate journalistic purpose and only invites abuse and harassment.

Neither is this the first time that Ahmad Noorani and The News have attacked Human Rights Watch. Last month during the ‘memogate’ hearings, The News published multiple hit pieces targeting Human Rights Watch, even accusing HRW of being ‘a foreign organisation working in Pakistan under the cover of human rights’.

Human Rights Watch is an internationally respected NGO, not a political activist group. And Ali Dayan Hasan is a respected human rights advocate, not a Baloch militant. The responsibility of professional news journalists and media groups is to report facts, not hit pieces.

Don’t Mention Balochistan

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

We have written before about cases of media silence and self-censorship, and two recent pieces again raised this question in our minds, so we present it to you today for your consideration. Recent media hot topics include Raymond Davis, ZAB reference, and HEC. But the media has also been strangely silent on other issues. One of these issues is the state of human rights in Balochistan.

And editorial in The Baloch Hal, the first online Baloch newspaper, presents an excellent case for the possibility that national media is ignoring serious human rights violations in Balochistan.

Balochistan militantsThe Pakistan media has adopted double standards while covering Balochistan. This attitude has not only left the people’s problems under-reported but it has also incensed the foreign journalists and investors who wanted to learn more about the ground situation in Balochistan.

One such article that highlighted the blackout of more important issues in the Pakistani media appeared in the US journal Foreign Policy on March 31st in which the author Ahmed Rafay Alam pointed out that the death of at least 43 miners in the outskirts of Quetta was not covered by the Pakistani media. Instead, the national media was engaged in covering relatively unimportant issues only to keep the whole country ignorant about the explosive situation in the country.

The author of the Foreign Policy article wrote: “The role of the media in bringing this incident  [of miners’ death in Quetta]to public attention also deserves a look.  The near-total media blackout of this most recent incident has less to do with censorship of any form than with viewing dynamics.  Milk, soaps and mobile phones (rather than coal) are sold in Pakistani cities, and urbanites don’t care what going on in the districts. The media contents itself to whip up public emotion over issues related to “national honor” as in the cases of Raymond Davis and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, ignoring serious but less sexy issues like mine safety. Yet working conditions in Baluchistan are unlikely to improve without the media reporting on them.”

This argument was further expressed by Pakistan representative Human Rights Watch Ali Dayan Hasan in an interview with Raza Rumi for The News on Sunday.

TNS: Is there sufficient international and domestic focus on human rights situation in Balochistan?

Aftermath of attack by militants in BalochistanADH: Unfortunately there is not. The Pakistani media does not report on the brutal realities of Balochistan in any meaningful manner. Despite the fact that the province is of great strategic interest to the world, its people suffer from persistent, systemic and widespread human rights abuse both by state authorities and at the hands of non-state actors. It is time Pakistanis and the world paid attention.

Media watchers and all Pakistanis should ask if media is performing its proper role to society by focusing incessantly on allegations of ‘Sindh Card’ and conspiracy theories while the citizens are abused by militants and suffering real problems.

Shaheen Sehbai's Fools Gold

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Shaheen Sehbai's Fools GoldShaheen Sehbai appears to be challenging for ‘Best Drama Screenplay’ with his column for The News, “$260 billion gold mines going for a song, behind closed doors“. Sehabi’s front page article is filled with back-stabbing, conspiracies, and corporate intrigue. Unfortunately, it is lacking in any real investigative reporting.

From the beginning, Shaheen Sehbai takes such a sensational tone that he threatens to discredit any legitimate argument about oversight of discussions on the mine. For example, he writes:

Before these highly enticing visits of the mining tycoons to clinch the deals, which followed intense behind-the-scene negotiations and bargaining through middle men, some highly bizarre developments have been taking place, leaving experts and the rest of the mining world stunned, amazed and confused.

These companies want that the mining licences should be issued by Pakistan immediately after their exploration licences expire soon. But there are legal hitches and pressure is now being put through the backdoor to get the target.

In recent years, so many games have been played to keep Pakistan’s share in the enormous treasure to a bare minimum, thanks to some greedy politicians and bureaucrats who sold their country’s natural wealth.

This sounds like the plot of some film, not a piece of serious investigative journalism. Why not simply provide the evidence without all the spices also?

Actually, this may be the problem – all spices and no meats. Sehbai claims to have conducted a “deep study” of documents and interviews to back his claim, but he can name none of these documents.

Reading the piles of documents, statements, interviews and legal papers available with The News, the picture that emerges is one of a grand deception, loot and plunder that never happened before on such a scale and the facts, untruths, half-truths, attempts to sabotage, frauds and backdoor bribes, are all documented.

Considering Shaheen Sehbai’s own record of “untruths, half-truths, attempts to sabotage and frauds”, perhaps he will not be so offended if readers would like a little bit more explanation of these documents. In fact, if he is correct and he has evidence of “a grand deception”, why not publish this evidence like the New York Times published The Pentagon Papers? Or, if Mr Sehbai is concerned about his confidentiality, he could send them to the Wikileaks website.

Instead, he chooses to shroud his claims in a mystery. Only he can see the evidence, and we are expected to trust him.

But there is other evidence that counters Sehbai’s claims. Only last week, APP reported that the PM was holding public talks with a delegation from Chile – public and open talks – during which time he stated that Pakistan is conducting talks to ensure the best deal is reached for the Pakistanti people.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan really wants foreign investment and intends to encourage the best firms and companies which can give the best results. It is with the same intention that the government has prepared investor friendly policies and opened up various sectors for the interested investors, he added.

The Prime Minister said that it was an encouraging sign that the foreign companies wanted to avail the investment opportunities in the mineral sector in Pakistan for their mutual advantage.

Pakistan has a vibrant private sector best suited for public-private partnership for the good of the people of both countries, he added.

The Prime Minister assured full support and fair deal in handling the Reko-Diq project and would provide all possible cooperation for early launching of this mega project.

Shaheen Sehbai also tries to claim that there is some trick being played by the mining company named ‘Tethyan’.

An Australian mineral exploration firm originally started the exploration and invested some $30 million but in 2006 sold the company to a Canadian and Chilean joint venture for $230 million. The old company was an Australian public company Tethyan Copper Prosperity Limited and the new company was named Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) of Pakistan. A trick game is being played in these cosmetic changes. The Canadians and Chileans, according to publicly declared information to their shareholders and regulators, took 37.5 per cent share each, while Pakistan only had the remaining 25 per cent.

But this is no trick. Actually, it is public knowledge that has been reported in the press.

Tethyan Copper – jointly owned by Canada’s Barrick and Chile’s Antofagasta – holds 75% of the project and the Balochistan provincial government owns the remaining 25%.

Sehabi next tries another sleight of hand trick by quoting stories about an Afghani mining corruption which has nothing to do with the Reko Diq mine.

According to a Washington Post report on Nov 18, 2009: “The Afghan minister of mines accepted a roughly $30 million bribe to award the country’s largest development project to a Chinese mining firm.”

Quoting a US official, the Washington Post said: “The alleged payment to Mohammad Ibrahim Adel was made in Dubai within a month of December 2007, when a big Chinese metallurgical group received the contract for a $2.9 billion project to extract copper from the Aynak deposit in Logar province. Aynak is considered one of the largest unexploited copper deposits in the world.”

What does this have to do with the story of Reko Diq? Nothing. Sehbai seems only concerned with making readers angry about mining and corruption so that they will assume that any Reko Diq agreement is also tainted with corruption, even if there is no evidence of such.

Sehbai pulls another sleight of hand later by saying that a company that owns some shares of Tethyan is “being accused on the web of some strange activities”.

The Canadian company, Barrick Gold, with 29 mines all over the world, is already being accused on the web of some strange activities. These include spills of cyanide, mercury and other heavy metals, police and legalistic repression of critics, threats to water resources on four continents and even food poisoning, as well as rape.

And this should tell the reader everything he needs to know about Shaheen Sehbai’s journalistic ethics. How can someone who claims to be a professional journalist write such slander? Surely Sehbai is aware that any living person can write anything on the web with no oversight and virtually no consequences. That he would include such as his evidence shows that he is willing to stoop to any lows to write a sensational tabloid article, not serious investigative news.

Sehbai even says that CM Balochistan was asked if he is being pressurized by Zardari, only to have the CM reply that the answer is no! Why does Sehbai report the CM’s reply “as an after thought”? Is it because he is trying to influence readers not to believe the CM’s own word?

Shaheen Sehbai may not believe the word of the CM Balochistan, but he is certainly willing to believe the word of his fellow “reporter” of The News, Ahmad Noorani even though this very site has proven before that Mr Noorani includes incorrect statements in his articles.

The Reko Diq mine is a project worth billions in investment for Pakistan. Certainly such an important venture must be taken with public discussion and transparent process so that we can be sure that Pakistan gets the best possible result and the most benefit for the people of this country. But public discussion and transparent process does not include sensationalism and fictions. The people deserve the facts, not Shaheen Sehbai’s drama screenplays.