China-Pakistan Cooperation discussed in the US Congress

cid_6d6a006a8f944045bd70813e0b15ec84carolUS Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) sponsored an event on the ‘China-Pakistan Economic and Defence Cooperation, Global and Regional Impact’, in the US Congress (Room 121, Cannon House Office Building) on July 7, 2016.

In his remarks, Mr. Ryszard Czarnecki, spoke about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project comprising a network of railways, roads and pipelines that would connect Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar in the province of Balochistan, with the Chinese city of Kashgar in landlocked XUAR. He highlighted the manner in which this project was being constructed against the will of the local population in Balochistan, leading to the heavy presence of Pakistani military and police apparatus in the area. While this security deployment was apparently for the safety of Chinese personnel and infrastructure, it had resulting in a situation where the human rights of the local population were being frequently violated. The grievances of the local Baloch community were being completely ignored, and anything interpreted as dissent, was being violently crushed. Moreover, the Pakistani Army was engaged in forceful evacuation of people from their traditional homesteads and farmlands in several areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan, so as to make land available for the CPEC. He highlighted that the failure of the international community to intervene and check atrocities by the Pakistan army in the areas proposed for the CPEC, would result in the escalation of human rights violations of innocent civilians in Pakistan.

Mr. Paulo Casaca mentioned that while the CPEC was a good initiative, it was going through disputed territory, was being fully managed and controlled by the Pakistani army, and no local governance or participation was being allowed. Areas in Gilgit Baltistan and Baluchistan through which it was traversing were being forcefully cleared of their local inhabitants, rendering these people homeless and depriving them of their sources of livelihood. He also referred to the aggressive Chinese actions in the South China Sea, and lamented that while the US, along with its allies, was trying to maintain freedom of navigation in the area, Pakistan, the foremost beneficiary of US largesse over the years, was now supporting the Chinese regime.

In his remarks, Dr. Walid Phares highlighted that Jihadis were incubated, indoctrinated, trained and exported from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and cautioned that these terrorists and their offshoots had declared 2016 as the year they would be focusing increasingly on Western democracies.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, was also a featured participant in the Conference.

Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) said that he was proud to sponsor this important briefing on Capitol Hill.

Media Contact: Ms. Laura Berlingozzi

Will CPEC help the Baloch prosper?

cid_dbe7f5e84fa44590859ab98c9c23c2d2carolNo doubt, CPEC worth multi-billion dollars will increase trade, economy, and prosperity, in both countries. This “one belt, one road”, covering a 2,700 kilometer long route, is a huge project, which will link Gawader (Pakistan) to Kashgar (China), and China to Iran, Afghanistan, India, and beyond. This corridor will spread trade through mega projects, like highways, motorways, energy projects, railways, seaport, and oil and gas pipelines.

Besides benefits, challenges are also a part of this project. Balochistan, where this project will start, is itself a hindrance to both countries. Being richest in natural resources, this fragile region is underdeveloped, lacks basic facilities, and faces deteriorating human rights conditions, the worst security situation, and geopolitical conflict.

Socio-political stability plays a vital role in raising the economy of the country, but the socio-political instability in the largest and least populated province, due to domestic and international factors, has brought the living standards to a nadir, through deteriorating human rights and economic conditions.

Balochistan, being a tribal area, is facing injustice, isolation, and ignorance, since the birth of Pakistan. Deprivation from basic rights created nationalist insurgents from within the tribes, who demand a separate nation and want their full authority over their natural resources. But the Pakistan State is not ready to give it up, and as a result the Baloch Sardars and Nawabs are against the State’s policies.

All those wanting their own nation are not insurgents and nor do all Baloch only belong to the Sardars and Nawabs tribe. There are common Baloch too, who are living a miserable life in deteriorating situations amidst the crossfire of insurgents, militants, and the Pakistan Military in the region.

Balochistan is economically poor and isolated.

Before the discovery of the Sui Gas Field in Balochistan, the Baloch were ignored by the State. And, after the discovery of Gas, a large share of Gas began being provided to other parts of the country. The commercial and industrial business began to run on this Gas and a very small portion of Balochistan began to be provided gas, with major portions deprived. This unjust supply of Gas has created disturbance between the State and citizens. Mistrust is increasing against the State. Nationalist militants, in reaction, blew up Gas pipelines that supply Gas to other provinces and their industrial and commercial areas.

This mega project that is CPEC has brought hopes for Balochistan, but there are fears too, such as: CPEC will open doors of economic growth, but what it will bring for the common Baloch? What type of job opportunities will he get, given the literacy rate is very low and rising at a snail’s pace (not only in Baluchistan but throughout the country)?

In early 2016, state minister for education, Balighur Rehman, revealed that the literacy rate in Balochistan is 51%, which is low compared to other provinces. In this scenario, will this project be a good opportunity for Baloch residents? Gawadar Port is the trade gate and its residents are fishermen. What prosperity will CPEC bring for them? Will they be blessed with opportunities or will they be kicked out because of illiteracy and security threats?

Infrastructure plays a positive role in development, but is this infrastructure bringing enough prosperity for the common Baloch? How will this play out for the population across thirty-two districts of Balochistan?

CPEC will attract many investors from different regions to invest in the country and it will be a positive change. Will these investors invest in Balochistan? Has any special economic trade zone been made by the provisional government to invest therein?

If terrorism in the region increases, it will further leave the common Baloch in isolation and it cause deleterious effects on their mentality. A common Baloch is already facing human rights abuses in the form of terrorism, sectarian violence, kidnapping, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killings and other atrocities.

The CPEC is a game changer and will favor Baluchistan if everything goes smooth without hindrance caused by militants or nationalist insurgents. Such disturbance can harm the morale of other Balochs whose rights can be further violated, whose chances of employment can fall further and whose mobility can be limited to more restricted areas.

It is time for the Baloch nationalists and the higher authorities of Pakistan to bring peace to the region so that all citizens can take advantage. The Pakistani State should ensure tribal leaders that there will be equal distribution of resources, and follow through.

Proper policies should be made and special benefits should be offered to Balochistan residents. It will help them to come out of the isolation box. Everything must be clear in the documents. The missing Balochs should be brought to court and those who are innocent should be released from captivity of military.

CPEC being paved with the blood of Baloch lawyers

August 8, 2016, will forever remain etched on the collective memory of the nation for years to come. The planned suicide attack on the lawyers, the crème de la crème of our society, shows the vindictive designs of the establishment. The State has aided and abetted non-State actors to silence the voices of dissent against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. This attack was publicized as the single worst attack on the legal community.

Although the Taliban were quick to accept responsibility for the attack, the Balochistan Chief Minister pointed fingers at RAW (the Indian intelligence agency). They blamed RAW for the attack even before the dust from the debris had settled. Repeated State rhetoric of a blame game has been reiterated ad nauseam.

Why does the State law enforcement spring into action after the damage is done? Why aren’t any pre-emptive measures taken to ensure the safety and security of the common people? The fact that these lawyers were specifically targeted to silence the voices of families of those disappeared, extrajudicially killed, and tortured cannot be overlooked.

Is it mere coincidence that most of the targeted attacks this year have been against lawyers in Quetta?This blood bath in the Province has been allowed to continue. The attack followed the assassination of the President of the Bar Association of Balochistan, Mr. Bilal Anwar Kansi, who called for a boycott of the Balochistan courts, in solidarity with another lawyer who was assassinated two days earlier. The massacre took place when a large crowd, including many lawyers, had gathered to pay respect to the assassinated President of the Bar Association.

This time the lawyers bore the brunt of the dismal state of a failure in law and order. On 8th June 2016, the Principal of the Law College, Quetta Barrister Amanullah Achakzai was shot dead. On 2nd August, unknown assailants shot dead Jahanzeb Alvi, a lawyer on Barohi Road in Quetta.

According to India, all of the attacks appear to be planned measures to silence the voices of dissent and pave the way for the ambitious CPEC, as it appears from the statements of the Military Spokesperson and also from the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif.

The systematic killing of lawyers is testament to the fact that the State, in connivance with those with real power, has decided to muzzle the voices of families of missing persons, and the families of those extrajudicially killed in routine or as a result of the massive military operations in Balochistan, once and for all. This attack was a planned move. It was meant to strike fear in the hearts and minds of people who dared to speak out against the injustice meted out to the people of Balochistan.

In 2012, the Balochistan Bar Association (BBA) brought a case before Pakistan’s Supreme Court to protest the government’s enforced disappearances of Baloch campaigners. The Court ordered the security forces to end this policy and to produce the missing persons. In 2015, the Supreme Court again demanded that a joint effort be made to trace the missing persons and to identify the scores of dead bodies being recovered in Balochistan. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, the then eccentric Chief Justice of Pakistan explained: “We are creating difficulties for ourselves by not addressing such an important issue ; the federal government should take the lead in the missing persons ‘case’”.

A conspiracy was devised by the State in which the wires of CCTV cameras were severed two days before the incident. There are four entrance gates to the Civil Hospital, where the assassinations took place, and the suicide attackers knew exactly which gate to use. Here the apathy of the State is fully manifest.

It belies common senset hat in a barricaded and cordoned off City the premeditated murder of so many lawyers could be planned and executed with such ease. This took place right under the noses of the law enforcement agencies, yet no one has been apprehended. How is it, that in the presence of check posts and barracks every 1 kilometre, the terrorists manage to get away scot free? Doesn’t the inaction of the State amount to silent assent to continue barbarity of such grotesque proportions?

An entire generation of our best lawyers lost their lives on that eventful day. Local Bars are deserted and court rooms once bustling with lawyers are now empty. Several cases lie pending because the lawyers appearing for the case is either dead or injured. The judges weep when they find that the lawyers supposed to appear for the cases are no longer present in this world.
The mighty CPEC corridor has been painted with the blood of those who stood up for their fellowmen.

The CPEC has drawn the attention of the whole world to the Balochistan Province. It is suffering from prejudice and bias at the hands of the civil authorities as well as the Military. Issues of missing persons and extrajudicial killings have come out as skeletons tumble from the closet. For failing to protect its citizens, the government has been increasingly criticized by the international community. Enforced disappearances lie at the core of the trouble brewing in Balochistan where thousands of people have reportedly been picked up by the authorities. Every day, several corpses are found dumped in deserted locations across Baluchistan.

According to the media, the Military has a greater stake in the project. Out of a total budget of 46 million dollars, only 6 million will be invested in Baluchistan while the rest will be invested in Punjab and Islamabad.

State policy makers must now take cognizance of the fact that suppression of dissenting voices will not serve any good for the Province or the country. Use of force is only fuelling the conflict when the solution clearly lies in the political sphere. The establishment must engage with all stakeholders in the Province to resolve the matter amicably. Citizens going on a killing spree of their own will not help. Balochistan people should be given their fair share of the benefits of the CPEC and this should not come at the cost of their own lives. Baloch ethnic cleansing must be stopped immediately.