Friday, January 19, 2018

King of the road

China is sinking billions into a modern Silk Route linking east with west. But is it a one-way street?

By PETER FRANKOPANFrom The Weekend Australian MagazineJanuary 20th, 201812 min read

Containers on Yangshan Harbour, East China Sea. Pic: Getty Images/Yifei Wang

If asked to name one of the world’s fastest-growing ports, few people would come up with Khorgos. Set in the heart of Asia, on the border of Kazakhstan and China, Khorgos could not be in a less promising location for a harbour — given it is one of the furthest places on Earth from the sea.

Khorgos is a different kind of port, though, built for a different age. It is “dry”, handling goods shipped not by sea but by land. Work began four years ago to build a hub that switches containers being carried by train from the narrow gauge of Chinese railways to standard gauge, which allows them to be transported across what used to be the Soviet Union to other parts of Asia and deep into Europe.

The first shipment of goods from Yiwu in eastern China reached a freight depot in Barking, East London, early in 2017, having travelled through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before passing through the Channel Tunnel into the UK.

The volume of goods shipped from China is mind-boggling, as are the projected rates of growth of the shipments. In 2012, 2500 containers were sent from China to Europe by train. Some estimates suggest that by 2020 about 7.5 million containers will leave cities such as Yiwu in southeast China — the Christmas gift and decoration capital of the world — bound for living rooms thousands of kilometres away. Finding goods not stamped with the words “Made in China” will become increasingly rare.

Trains at Khorgos, near the Kazakhstan border. Picture: Theodore Kaye/Alamy Stock Photo

Khorgos plays a fundamental role in this new connectivity. Its giant yellow cranes already lift more than 6500 containers a month. In due course they will be able to handle nearly 10 times that number. According to Chinese officials, goods worth $8 billion already pass through Khorgos each year, while an estimated 30,000 traders a day flock to do business in the free-trade zone that straddles the border. Khorgos is a perfect symbol of the dramatic shift of global economic and political power. An oasis rising from the sands, it reprises a historical model of new hubs expanding to service demand and match it with supply. The Silk Roads shaped history. Today, they are rising again.

The past three decades have seen dramatic change across Asia. It is not the birth of a new world, but the revival of connections that ­dominated the past. They were first called the Silk Roads by the German geographer Ferdinand von ­Richthofen (uncle of World War I flying ace the Red Baron) to describe the trading routes that brought goods from Han dynasty China 2000 years ago into other parts of Asia. There was never a single route, or one Silk Road; rather, the term referred to a wide, inclusive and vague region ­linking China’s Pacific coast with the heart of Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf, the Red Sea, and the ­Mediterranean of Europe and North Africa.

New Silk Road: China’s Belt and Road initiative

A vast area is on the move again — but it is not just about the emergence of China. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s had a ­dramatic impact on the fortunes of countries such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which are rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, and in some cases uranium, silver and gold. India has seen rapid change, as have Turkey, South Korea and Southeast Asia. Even the traumas of Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and beyond are part of the wider transformation of the world.

The effect of the wealth that has flowed into Asia is obvious — from the hi-tech airports that serve the capitals to the monuments built over the past 20 years to show off the glories of the leadership. Whole new cities have been built, including Astana in Kazakhstan, risen from the plains of Central Asia and adorned with Norman Foster-­designed buildings and a 100m tower in the shape of a tree in which nestles a golden egg. Visitors are encouraged to place their hand in a mould of that of President Nazarbayev and make a wish.

Then there is Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, a nation low on the index of press freedom and human rights; simply getting into the country can be a challenge. The city boasts several dubious ­distinctions; it features in Guinness World Records as home to the largest number of white-marble-clad buildings in the world, lined with an estimated 4.5 sqm of white marble, as well as the largest indoor Ferris wheel on the planet.

What is striking about the state-of-the-art concert halls, airports, shopping malls and multi-lane highways is their ubiquity. They are symbols of wealth, but also signs of ambition. The Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, the astonishing Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and the English private schools mushrooming across China, the Middle East and southeast and Central Asia speak of a world not so much in transition as on the move.

Nor is the expenditure limited to potentates keen to show off their countries’ prominence, or super-rich oligarchs grown wealthy as a result of the boom of the recent past. In Tehran, for example, there is something of a golden age in architecture, with projects such as the Tabiat Bridge, and design studios such as TDC Office producing apartment blocks for clients wanting to combine contemporary lifestyles with the latest sustainable technologies. When apartments sell for $10 million in the Iranian capital, as they have recently, it is time to recognise that what we think about countries east of Venice might be in need of revision.

Change is never easy. One of the prices to pay for rapid urbanisation and rising levels of industrialisation and output has been pressure on the ­natural environment. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in India, which is now home to 10 of the 20 most polluted cities on Earth, and in China — especially in the north — where recent studies ­suggest the impact of poor air quality reduces life expectancy by as much as five years. Pressure on resources is acute, to the point where cities such as Bangalore, India’s tech hub, teeter on the edge of collapse. The city’s population almost doubled between 2001 and 2016, putting enormous pressure on road infrastructure, energy supply and water. The city survives thanks to tankers bringing in tens of millions of gallons of water every day. “Our groundwater levels are approaching zero,” said PN Ravindra of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board in 2016.

Rapid growth and expansion can create problems that are insurmountable. Being sustainable (and even viable) needs long-term planning, and that is exactly what the Chinese have been doing.

In September 2013, President Xi gave a speech in Astana focused on the Silk Roads that noted not only how important trade had been, but also that the region connecting east and west had been able to coexist, co-operate and flourish despite “differences in race, belief and cultural background”. He announced that the time had come for a “Silk Road economic belt” to be built across the spine of Asia, linking countries, peoples and economies.

Since then, about $1 trillion has been committed to infrastructure projects, ranging from pipelines to highways, deepwater ports and energy plants. Building the new Silk Roads — referred to in China as the Belt and Road initiative — has become Beijing’s signature foreign and economic policy, closely linked to Xi’s vision for China and its future.

Chinese President Xi. Picture: Greg Baker-Pool/Getty Images

At the Belt and Road Forum in May 2017, the president called the regalvanisation of the Silk Roads “the project of the century”. The resources and attention being lavished now and promised in the future through Chinese banks, joint-venture funds and multilateral banks such as the newly created Asian International Investment Bank make it hard to doubt either the scale or ambition of what Beijing is trying to do.

The motivations are not hard to understand. China wants to secure resources for its own long-term future, ranging from food consumption patterns to energy demands likely to treble by 2030. Then there are surpluses in materials (such as steel), but also in expertise in road and high-speed train building, that can be exported to other countries, opening up new markets. Only 3 per cent of households in India have microwaves, for example, and 29 per cent have refrigerators — which makes producers of whitegoods salivate, given the estimated combined population of 1.7 billion people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh alone. And then there is the wider question of how China could or should invest its massive financial reserves in a way that is more rewarding than holding low-yielding US treasury stocks.

Finally, the fact that the US is opting out of a global leadership role offers a golden opportunity too good to miss. With Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris climate accords, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and talking of Making America Great Again, China senses its moment has come. “What’s wrong with the world?” ran one video at the Belt and Road Forum in May 2017. “What can we do? China has a solution.” As in Davos earlier in the year, where President Xi spoke about corporate responsibility, climate change and co-operation rather than confrontation, it was hard not to be impressed by his commitment to a future in which “exchange will replace estrangement, mutual learning will replace clashes and coexistence will replace a sense of superiority”.

The message of collaboration, co-operation andwin-win is music to the ears of most — but not all — of China’s neighbours, at least in public. Speaking earlier this year, for example, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan talked of the Belt and Road initiative as having become “a new paradigm of regional and global development, a new scheme for co-operation”. The theme has been taken up by other leaders across the region too, with President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan’s opening talk at a recent conference in Samarkand being on Central Asia’s “Shared past and common future”.

Even the multi-tasking leader of Turkmenistan, which despite vast natural gas reserves has some of the highest levels of unemployment and lowest ­levels of per capita income in the world, is in on the act. President Berdymukhamedov is usually to be found winning horse races, driving rally cars, playing Justin Timberlake records on national TV or pumping iron in a green tracksuit. But he has found time to write a book called Turkmenistan — Heart of the Great Silk Road, which sets out similar themes of how important the Silk Roads were in enabling the building, creation, development and establishment of “friendly relations among peoples”, and how peace and prosperity have gone hand-in-hand in the past and will do so again in the future.

A question mark hangs over the degree to which such happy projections reflect reality — especially in places such as Turkmenistan. Some commentators think there is much wishful thinking, too, behind the Belt and Road initiative and China’s grandiose comments and ambitions.

Harvard political scientist Professor Joseph Nye is one leading voice who has questioned whether the plans are “more public relations smoke than investment fire”. Others have noted the high levels of risk that are inevitably associated with grand infrastructure projects, which can run over time or over budget, or simply turn into white elephants. (Federal Government frontbencher Concetta ­Fierravanti-Wells caused a storm in Australia last week when she accused Beijing of funding useless infrastructure projects in the Pacific.) Because of the scale of what is at stake, investment mistakes are about more than just money, as two cases in Sri Lanka show. Even before the announcement of the plans to reinvigorate the Silk Roads, state-owned banks and businesses were busy investing in projects and assets around the world that had long-term strategic value. A $1.3 billion port was built in Hambantota on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, along with a sparkling new airport named after then-president Mattala Rajapaksa. Both have been spectacular flops, all but unused by the tankers, passenger ships and jets expected in the business plans. That alone caused uproar, but the government defaulting on loans sparked protests — perhaps unsurprisingly, given control of the port has now passed to its Beijing-controlled creditors.

A trader at Yiwu International Trade City, southeast China. Pic: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The fears that the Chinese message of win-win conceals a masterplan that envisages the construction of networks controlled by China is one that resonates in many countries in central, south and southeast Asia. In Kazakhstan, there were street protests in 2016 at government proposals to change land-ownership laws, which were widely interpreted as being a prelude to enabling large-scale Chinese investment in agriculture and loss of livelihood for Kazakh farmers. Concern about ­balancing the appeal of Chinese loans enabling expensive projects to come to fruition led to years of delays in Thailand, where approval for plans to build a high-speed rail faltered over cost, loan terms and arguments over who would actually carry out the works. As The Economist has noted, 86 per cent of projects that are part of the Belt and Road initiative use Chinese contractors.

That is a virtuous circle that, to many eyes, looks like a win-win for Beijing, but not necessarily for others, where Chinese loans enable Chinese businesses to do well and offer prize assets that fall into Chinese hands if the projects underperform.

The asymmetric approach is something Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president, talked about just before the opening of the country’s largest infrastructure project since independence — a $4 billion train line linking Nairobi to Mombasa that will eventually extend right across East Africa. Whether it can pay its way is one thing, but another, Kenyatta admitted, was that while China is keen to get access to African minerals, resources and consumers, things do not work the other way around. For the Belt and Road initiative to work, he said, “just as Africa opens up to China, China must also open up to Africa”.

The imbalance is something that prompted sour comments from EU officials in Brussels last year and a rejection of a proposed Chinese statement to mark the Belt and Road summit in May because it was “not possible to confirm our joint commitment to international trade rules and to a level playing field for all companies”. The US is no more keen on Beijing’s expansive plans — nor on the language emphasising China’s leadership role. “In a globalised world,” said US defence secretary James Mattis in October, “there are many belts and roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’.” Concern resonates in India and Australia, which has so far declined to sign up to the scheme (68 countries, including New Zealand, have done so).

These are still early days in the shift of power from west to east. It is tempting to look at the ­fragilities, rivalries and competition between and within neighbouring states that make future collaboration seem a distant dream. And yet there are good reasons to think that the Chinese version of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe at the end of World War II is already bearing fruit. What happened along the Silk Roads shaped global ­history. What happens in the next few years will shape the future too.

Peter Frankopan is professor of global history at Oxford University. His latest book is The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Bloomsbury).

China’s Silk Road Plan Facing Problems

January 15, 2018

In this Dec. 22, 2017, photo, a Pakistani police officer stands guard at the site of Pakistan China Silk Road in Haripur, Pakistan. From Pakistan to Tanzania to Hungary, projects under Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature "Belt and Road Initiative" are being canceled, renegotiated or delayed. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)


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China's Silk Road Plan Facing Problems


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China’s plan for a modern Silk Road linking Asia and Europe hit a pothole recently in Pakistan.

Pakistan and China have good relations; some Pakistani officials even call China their “Iron Brother.” China has played an even bigger role in the country since U.S. President Donald Trump decided last week to suspend security assistance to Pakistan.

Yet, plans for the countries to build a $14-billion dam on the Indus River were put in doubt, after Pakistan’s water authority announced China wanted to own part of the project.

China has denied making the demand. However, the water authority rejected China’s reported demand as against Pakistani interests, and withdrew Pakistan from the dam project.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a news conference at the end of the Belt and Road Forum at the Yanqi Lake International Conference Center, north of Beijing, May 15, 2017.

Belt and Road Initiative

From Pakistan to Hungary to Tanzania, projects under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” are being canceled, renegotiated or delayed. Host countries have disputed costs and benefits that they would receive.

The “Belt and Road Initiative” is a plan to build projects across 65 countries, from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and Europe. Such projects include oil drilling in Siberia, new ports in Southeast Asia, railways in Eastern Europe and power plants in the Middle East.

In this Dec. 22, 2017, photo, a Pakistani motorcyclist drives on a newly built Pakistan China Silk Road in Haripur, Pakistan.

The United States, Russia and India view the Belt and Road initiative as a way for China to expand its influence.

Many countries have welcomed plans to build infrastructure that would keep their economies growing. Nations such as Japan have given or lent billions of dollars for development through the Asian Development Bank.

China, however, remains the largest or only source of money for many projects.​

Many projects cancelled or delayed

In November, Nepal canceled plans for Chinese companies to build a $2.5-billion dam. Officials said building contracts for the Budhi Gandaki Hydro Electric Project violated rules that require offers from numerous bidders.

The European Union is also looking into whether Hungary awarded contracts to Chinese builders for a high-speed railway to Serbia without competing bids.

In Myanmar, plans for a Chinese oil company to build a $3-billion refinery were canceled in November because of financing problems.

In Thailand, work on a $15-billion high-speed railway was delayed in 2016 following complaints that not enough business went to Thai companies.

In Tanzania, the government has reopened negotiations with China and the gulf state of Oman over ownership of a planned $11-billion port in the city of Bagamoyo. Tanzania wants to make sure its people get more than just taxes collected from the port.

Even Pakistan, one of China’s friendliest neighbors, has failed to agree on key projects. Among them are a $10-billion railway in Karachi and a $260-million airport for Gwadar.

A general view of Gwadar port in Gwadar, Pakistan Oct. 4, 2017. The port is at the heart of the $50 billion Chinese investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Limited success

There is no official list of all Belt and Road projects. However, BMI Research has created a list of $1.8 trillion worth infrastructure investments across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Christian Zhang is with BMI Research. He said, “it’s probably too early to say at this point how much of the overall initiative will actually be implemented.”

Kerry Brown is a Chinese politics professor at King’s College London. He said China has faced and may continue to face “a lot of disagreements and misunderstandings.”

Brown added, “It’s hard to think of a big, successful project the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ has led to at the moment.”

Despite the setbacks, Chinese officials say most Belt and Road projects are moving ahead with few problems.

The state-run China Development Bank announced in 2015 it had set aside $890 billion for more than 900 projects across 60 countries in gas, minerals, power, telecommunications, infrastructure and farming. The Export-Import Bank of China said it would support 1,000 projects in 49 countries.

And last November, deputy commerce minister Li Chenggang said that work on pipelines to deliver oil and gas from Russia and Central Asia is making “steadyprogress.”

I'm Ashley Thompson. And I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on an Associated Press report. Ashley Thompson was the editor

A glance at Balochi films production

By: Abdul Wahab Buledi

Filmmaking is a visual medium to show the culture, tradition, life style, and hurdles of a society or in general of a nation. Cinema plays the role of a mirror in a society. It gives social, political and economic awareness. Cinema has always been a source of entertainment. Through films a nation or a state can promote her language, talent of youth and grow economically. But for Baloch film makers it is still a long way. Besides there are various factors such as absence of filmmaking workshops, filmmaking equipment and more importantly a film industry. Yet due to the lack of above mentioned facilities still the Baloch filmmakers are working incessantly to fill the unoccupied gap.

In 1976 first ever Balochi film Hammal o Mahganj was produced by renowned Anwar Iqbal Baloch. It could not get released due to some controversies. There are many industrious filmmakers in the shape of Anwar Ghulam, Fazal Hayat, Rashid Hassan, Saeed Shad, Tariq Murad, Waqar Baluch, Sharif Bewas, Zakir Sheran, Doctor Hanif Shareef and Jaan Albalushi who are the role models for emerging filmmakers.

Doctor Hanif Shareef is a true source of inspiration in the field of filmmaking. He is a versatile filmmaker and has worked on many films. He has given a new look to Balochi films. Baluchistan Hotel and Balach are his most loved and acclaimed movies in the Baloch Community.

Jaan Albalushi is another multi-skilled guy. He is the producer of Zaraab -a newly released Balochi feature film. Jaan has the credit to release the first ever Balochi film in cinema.

 In addition “Jawar” a short film by Ahsan Shah, Karachi based Baloch filmmaker won the first prize in Bahrain International Youth Creativity Award 2016. Another superb movie Lyari- a prison without wall has been filmed by Nazeen Baluch and screened recently in Karachi.

Furthermore there are some mind blowing actors with their indelible acting such as  Sarfaraz Baluch, Hafeez Lal, Ijaz Baloch, Humor Kiya, Munir Atta, Anwar Ghulam, veteran Anwar Saib Khan and the list goes on.

Female actress are also contributing to balochi films. There amenable to work has given a new life to films. Mahleka Baluch is a real example. Her character in a short film Guli by Imran Saqib is speechless. Fatima Baluch is also an unforgettable face in Balochi film. Her Character in Math which was filmed by Anwar Ghulam is noteworthy.

Moreover there are zealous and competent youth who are doing their best in filmmaking like Noor Hussain Kamal, Kamalan Beebagar, Anwar Shah, Zakir Daad, Rehmat Ghulam, Zakir Dad, Shakir Shad, Adeel Wali Raees,  Saddam Zaheer and many more. Institutions like Baloch Club Bahrain are needs of time; no doubt BCB has been supportive to native filmmakers in the premierships of their features since its inception. We should have to promote the culture of filmmaking in Baloch community. Work effectively with collaboration to assist the Balochi language. Make more and more short films in Balochi with English subtitles and submit them to various online international film festivals. Hope in coming years more feature films will be released in cinema.

Writer is a student Chemistry from GC University Lahore

Balochistan health sector-problems and solutions

By: Shabnam Rehmat

As health is very important sector of any state. Health is the great blessing of Allah Almighty. It is the responsibility of government to provide health facilities to its every citizen.

Good health is the priority of public. Unfortunately in Balochistan there are no good health facilities. People of Balochistan are facing numerous problems in terms of health. There is no good mechanism of hospitals, there is lack of modern machinery in hospitals and there are no capable doctors in hospitals. People of Balochistan are facing lots of difficulties specially the poor families for treatment of their patients.

In civil hospitals, there is deficiency of trained doctors and paramedical staff. Lack of praising nursing services, shortage of required drugs on the time and no modern surgical equipment are the main issues. Most of the time doctors are not available at hospitals. The patients in public sector hospitals are not well treated and there are no proper disciplines for cleaning.

Most of the doctors have their own private clinics and laboratories for earning money for business purpose. The poor people can’t afford the charges and fees of private hospitals. Poor people are totally dependent on government hospitals but the deteriorating government hospitals condition can be seen.

Read also: Health Sector In Balochistan- Problems And Solutions

In Balochistan unfortunately, there is only one medical college, Bolan Medical College (BMC) at the capital city Quetta which is not enough to produce trained doctors and nursing services for this huge population of Balochistan.So there must be 3 to 4 medical collages in Balochistan.

The incumbent government must work on health sector in Balochistan and  increase the budget of health sector. The public sector hospitals must be facilitated with all facilities and modern equipment.

The presence of trained and capable doctors in civil hospitals is imperative for better healthcare services. The government of Balochistan should take immediate measures to improve the worst health sector of the province. There must be proper financial management of the available resources & proper monitoring mechanism shall be implemented across the province in order to stop the menace of corruption from the health sector.

Shabnam Rehmat is a student of Balochistan English Coaching Center, Khuzdar

FC arrests eight terrorists in Balochistan

RAWALPINDI: Security forces apprehended eight terrorists and seized weapons from their possession in different areas of Balochistan, Inter Services Public Relations said Thursday.

According to ISPR, the military’s media wing, FC Balochistan conducted Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) in Gulistan, Pishin, Kanack, Dera Bugti, Uch, Sambaza Dera Murad Jamali and Sibbi and arrested eight terrorists including an illegal Afghan national.

The FC personnel recovered weapons and ammunition including IEDs, rockets, fuses, grenades, mortars and explosives from their possession.

CPEC Cultural Caravan to boost tourism: Ghafoor


Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Abdul Ghafoor on Thursday said that Pakistan and China artists joint Cultural Caravan will boost cultural tourism on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route.
Highlighting importance of the caravan in exploring cultural diversity of the two friendly countries, he said that the game-changer CPEC would not only unleash economic, cultural tourism dividends, but also help discover and foster cultural heritage, ancient Silk Route had been preserving for centuries.
He said programmes like CPEC Cultural Caravan should be held more frequently as art has no religion or language and it has the power to bring people from diverse backgrounds together. He said that cultural tourism allows travelers to be immersed in local rituals and routines, taking away not only pretty photos but also shared memories of unique experiences. “For destinations, it encourages local communities to embrace their culture and boosts economic growth.
Developing culturally geared tourism programs encourages destinations to celebrate and promote what distinguishes their communities and in doing so, provides the opportunity for authentic cultural exchange between locals and visitors,” he said. Managing Director PTDC said that there is a general perception that cultural tourism is ’good’ tourism that attracts high spending visitors and does little damage to the environment or local culture while contributing a great deal to the economy and support of culture.—APP

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pakistan's ISI paid crores to terrorist Mullah Omar to kidnap Kulbhushan Jadhav from Iran: Baloch activist

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: Jan 19, 2018, 07:54 AM IST

A Baloch activist, Mama Qadeer, has claimed that Kulbhushan Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran by terrorist Mullah Omar Baloch Irani at the behest of ISI.

New Delhi: In a shocking revelation, which further exposes Pakistan's blatant lie and malicious propaganda, it has now emerged that Kulbhushan Jadhav – the Indian national languishing in its jail on alleged spying charges – was kidnapped from Chabahar in Iran by mercenaries at the behest of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The shocking revelation has been made by a Baloch activist Mama Qadeer.

Speaking to a TV channel, Qadeer had claimed that Jadhav was abducted by terrorist Mullah Omar Baloch Irani, who is known to work for Pakistan's notorious spy agency ISI.

Omar was reportedly paid crores of rupees to kidnap Jadhav from Iran's port city Chabahar, he claimed.

"Kulbhushan Jadhav was kidnapped from Chabahar in Iran by Mullah Omar Baloch Irani. Our coordinators were there. ISI paid Mullah Omar crores of rupees to kidnap Jadhav," Qadeer said. 

Qadeer Baloch, who is the vice-president of an organisation called 'Voice for Missing Balochs', got this information from one of his activists, who also claimed to have witnessed Jadhav's kidnapping. 

Irani, who is infamous in Balochistan as an ISI agent, has been blamed for kidnapping several Baloch activists fighting the Pakistani rule over the sprawling province. 

Giving further details about the Indian national's kidnapping, Qadeer Baloch said Jadhav`s hands were tied, he was blindfolded and pushed into a double-door car. 

From Chabahar, Jadhav was taken to Mashkel, a town on the Iran-Balochistan border, he revealed.

From there, he was brought to the Balochistan capital Quetta and subsequently to Islamabad. 

"We knew that Kulbhushan Jadhav was a businessman in Iran... The ISI declared that they caught Jadhav in Balochistan. In fact, Jadhav didn`t even come to Balochistan," Qadeer said. 

This is contrary to Pakistan's repeated claims that Jadhav was apprehended by its security forces from restive Balochistan province on March 3 last year after he reportedly entered from Iran – a charge rejected by India.

India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy. It claims that he was in possession of an Indian passport that identified him as Hussein Mubarak Patel.

A Pakistani military court had awarded death sentence to Jadhav on espionage charges. The sentencing had evoked a sharp reaction from the Narendra Modi government, which approached the ICJ seeking its intervention in the matter.

A10-member bench of the ICJ on May 18, 2017, restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till adjudication of the case.

In December 2017, Pakistan allowed Jadhav’s mother and wife to meet him in Islamabad. 

The meeting took place at Pakistan's Foreign Ministry office. The 40-minute meeting of Jadhav with his family triggered a fresh spat between the two countries over the alleged mistreatment of former's wife and mother.

Speaking in Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had accused Pakistan of using the meeting of Jadhav with his family as a ‘propaganda tool.’

“Emotional moment between a mother and her son, and a wife and her husband after a period of 22 months, was misused by Pakistan as an instrument to further its propaganda,” Swaraj had said

Mama Qadir in Delhi: First Civic engagement in India

ISI uses Prof Zafar Arif’s wife, daughter to claim he died of natural cause

 mustikhan  Uncategorized January 18, 2018 7 Minutes

Writing for the good of all

Hope you enjoyed reading the story. Kindly help Mustikhan’s Musings uphold the truth, censored by the Pakistani media, by our generous givings.


Pakistan’s infamous Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency that lied to the world that they had no clue about the presence of Osama bin Laden, while sheltering him near their country’s West Point in Abbottabad, are now using his wife and daughter to say a prominent Karachi scholar and MQM-London leader died of natural causes.

“My father, Dr. Zafar-Arif, died on Sunday the 14th of January of what all evidence points to as being a heart attack,” Shehrazade-Zafar Arif, daughter of Professor  Hassan Zafar Arif said in a post on the Facebook that was widely covered by the Pakistan media, who most play second fiddle to the country’s omnipotent army generals. The murdered professor was an alumnus of the University of Reading and Harvard University.

Professor Zafar Arif, a lifelong champion for the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan, had joined the most popular Mohajir organization after the Deep State launched a brutal crackdown on Mohajirs in Karachi, once again, after Altaf Husain blamed Pakistan army for all the woes of the ill-designed country about 17 months back. A day after he went missing, his bludgeoned body was found in the backseat of his Mitsubishi lancer.

Immediately after his death, the ISI allegedly used his widow Ghazala Arif to make a call to London to cuss the exiled leader of millions of Indian Muslims called Mohajirs who migrated to urban areas of Sindh after the British designed partition holocaust. She blamed him for causing the death of her husband at the hands of the Pakistan agencies.

Though the mother attacked the MQM-London chief, Sheherazade Zafar-Arif,  without naming it, accused the MQM-London party of posting, “photo-shopped images of his body (and heavily edited videos – yes, videos can be edited, technology is amazing) on social media.”

In the US, just a day after the killing of Professor Zafar Arif, leaders of the MQM-London launched the Free Karachi Campaign in Washington DC by placing adverts on the yellow cabs and an SUV. The number of cabs carrying the adverts is expected to rise to hundreds by this weekend. These cabs took part in the Martin Luther King Day celebrations in Washington DC.

Altaf Husain fled Karachi in 1992 to avoid a certain death at the hands of the ISI and during a speech in India had called the partition of India in 1947 as the worst blunder in human history. The Deep State got furious with the MQM-London chief after he cussed the army generals during a telephonic speech from London.

MQM-London offices in Karachi were raided and its scores of its activists disappeared, as the army and intelligence worked to split the main voice for the Mohajirs into two more factions, both led by former mayors of Karachi, Kamal Mustafa and Farooq Sattar. However, independent sources overwhelming majority of the Mohajirs remain committed to the London-based Altaf Husain, whom they call “Pir Sahib” (Saint),Quaid-i-Tehrik (Leader of the Movement) for freedom and justice for Mohajirs, who played a key role in the creation of Pakistan.

At a protest meeting in Karachi organized by the civil society organizations, barely 300 people showed up as if the party is over. However, Altaf Husain has instructed the MQM-London activists to underground and lay low until he gives a call.

“When elections are held in May, MQM-London will again sweep the elections, as Altaf Husain ules ofver the hearts of Mohajirs. There is no way any rival factions can challenge his popular standing,” sa social and political activist, who attended the protest meeting against the killing of Professor Zafar Arif, said on condition of anonymity.

The MQM-London says 20,000 Mohajirs have been killed by Pakistan army since an operation was laucnhed against them in 1992. The MQM activists have been privately urging India to come to their help, even though urban guerrillas of the organization are capable of taking on the army in Karachi. “Under international law, Indian tanks can roll into Karachi under the Liaquat-Nehru pact,” says Dr Nazir Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress.

Some months ago, Altaf Husain was seen standing in front of a Pakistan map in London with exiled Baloch tribal leader the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud and his best friend Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who firm believer that balkanizing Pakistan is in the best interest of the US and the free world.

Likewise one of the main militant leaders on the ground, Balochistan Liberation Front chief Dr Allah Nazar expressed solidarity with MQM-London and through a tweet condemned the killing of Professor Zafar Arif. “The Army is wiping out the cream of the people considered adversaries of the Pakistani state. Not even sparing those who played a pivotal role in its creation and contributed to sustain it,” Dr Nazar said in a tweet some where from the rugged mountains of France-sized Balochistan.

Thousands of Baloch say they are willing to fully embrace the Mohajirs once they throw the gauntlet at the Pakistan army, world’s largest Muslim army with nearly 620,000 soldiers. The MQM-London apparently now believes the time has come for Mohajirs freedom as the Free Karachi Campaign in Washington DC shows.

Professor Zafar Arif has left behind quite a few politicians to mourn his death. Among them are Berne-based Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, president of the United Kashmir People’s National party, who strongly condemned the brutal killing. Another of his students is Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, who is president of the National Party and also Pakistan’s port and shipping minister, who has mysteriously kept mum.

Here is the full text of Shehrazade Zafar-Arif that e posted on the social media:
I don’t normally like to publicize my personal life on social media but unfortunately what should’ve been a private tragedy has become a public spectacle and for this reason I feel that certain things need to be publicized in order for the world to know the truth.

My father, Dr. Zafar-Arif, died on Sunday the 14th of January of what all evidence points to as being a heart attack. The media is portraying his death as a brutal murder and some are, disgracefully, putting up photo-shopped images of his body (and heavily edited videos – yes, videos can be edited, technology is amazing) on social media with claims that he was tortured. I don’t think I need to point out how disrespectful this is towards his memory and his family, not to mention dishonest and unethical. Certain people are trying to exploit his death for their own political agenda, while others are, out of a sense of love and admiration for him, trying to seek justice for what they believe to be a crime.

I never thought I would have to speak in such detail about my own father’s death, but the circumstances have left me no choice. We his family examined his body thoroughly as soon as we were brought on the scene, and we have been shown pictures of his body taken by the police immediately once they discovered it. There is not a single mark on him, and no indication whatsoever that he was tortured or that his death was unnatural. The few spots of blood under his nose are not suspicious – I’ve been told that after death the body does not clot blood properly and so nosebleeds are common. The circumstances under which he was found are not as dramatic or suspicious as the media wishes you to believe – he was missing for one night, his car was found in an area he was known to frequent, and his mobile phones were likely stolen through the rolled down windows of the car by members of the general public who were on the scene when the police arrived. The post-mortem report is not yet out, we are waiting on it, and until then, we have no real reason to believe it was anything but a heart attack.

I hope those who read this understand that I of all people would be the last to cover up the truth about my father’s death. I only want the public to know the facts rather than believing lies, propaganda and exaggeration. Unless the post-mortem report says otherwise, we must believe, based on all the evidence and my own account as a first-hand witness, that it was a natural death.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the disrespectful manner in which his body was treated. It was taken to JPMC where it was left outside in an open ambulance for reporters to take pictures and make videos of, which they then went on to post on social media. Shame on the JPMC staff and police for not putting a stop to this, and shame above all on the media for their lack of respect and common human decency and empathy. They also did not hesitate to photograph and film his family when we arrived on the scene, and at the graveyard when we buried him.

Please feel free to share this and I urge those who cared about him to exercise common sense and rationality over the next coming days, and not to jump to conclusions until the evidence calls for it. I also urge you all to stop sharing fabricated or inaccurate reports, to stop posting images of my father’s body and to take down those that have already been posted – and, though it should go without saying, to not send these to his family or harass us any further in this difficult time. I am grateful to those who are sharing and posting commemorative accounts of his life and work with dignity and respect.

My father was not a victim, and I do not want him to be remembered as such. I will not allow his legacy to be based on lies. He belonged not only to me, but also to the people of Pakistan, whom he fought so hard for throughout his life.

EDIT OF HER FACEBOOK BY SHEHERZADE ZAFAR-ARIF: In light of some of the comments I’ve been getting on this post, two more things: firstly, the reason my father was in the backseat of his car may well have been because he had a tendency to stop during long drives to rest in the backseat, or because he was experiencing some discomfort or tiredness. His heart medicine was found next to him. This is our best guess unless proven otherwise, but only God can know for sure.

Secondly, neither my family nor I have been ‘pressured’ to make any kind of statement. Anyone who knows how hard I’ve fought for my father in the past would know that I would never succumb to such pressure and that I would fight for justice at whatever cost. In any case, it’s naive to think (and gives me far more importance than I’m due) that anyone who wished to cover up his death would believe that one woman’s statement could stop people from believing what they want to believe

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tales from the dungeon: Dr Yousuf Murad Baloch

Tales from the dungeon: Dr Yousuf Murad Baloch (Part I)

January 18, 2018 1:34 am · 0 comments

Yousuf Murad Baloch

This is first part of Balochistan Time’s Tales from the dungeon series in which former victims of enforced disappearances tell their ordeal. Dr Yousuf Murad Baloch was among the first victims. He was taken away from Karachi in March 2005 along with other members of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO). He now lives in Germany.

 If you are an educated Baloch and you do not plan to appear in the competitive exams, or you have failed to mould your voice into a specific obedient tone always beginning your sentences with “sir”, or you do not believe in the divinity of the Pakistan army, then you are most likely to end up in a secret services-operated torture cell. Also, if in any way, you happened to have read the wrong books, you can be taken to a tour to dungeons for re-education.

The pain you are inflicted upon in these torture cells is of another level. Torture is an institutionalized science in Pakistan and your torturers follow a certain protocol to inflict maximum pain, break down your spirit and influence your thinking to fit into the official narrative.

Before I start telling my ordeal in military-operated dungeons, let me explain why I happened to be present at the place which the security forces raided and took us away.

I was the elected Press Secretary of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO), responsible for the group’s press releases, press articles and publications. I directly reported to the Chairman of the organization.

The BSO, as the name suggests, is a leftist nationalist student organization in Balochistan. The literature its members are encouraged to read mostly preach anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and independence struggles. Although the BSO perceives Pakistan as a model of Islamofascism, it has to walk a thin line when it comes to dealing with the sensitive subject of religion.

In 2005, we anticipated that the ongoing negotiations between Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and the Pakistan government were going to fail and that the army would eventually attack the outspoken leader of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP).

There was always a sense of readiness and preparation among the BSO leadership for mass protests in case any move was made by the army. We were preparing to mobilise the non-tribal Baloch people to stand for their rights.

In the governance system of Pakistan and the colonial mind-set, any and all voices for rights or justice are considered as a cover for insurrectionists.

The BSO was not only challenging the lies of the state narrative but also educating the masses to dismantle the dehumanizing collaboration of tribal sardars and the state forces in Balochistan.

It was the first time after a long interval of relative calm in Balochistan that the state narrative was being questioned, and the legitimacy, authority and supremacy of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and the regular army was being publically challenged in Balochistan.

It was during such a press conference in Quetta that the police made a move to arrest Dr Imdad Baloch, the then Chairman of the BSO. We had to smuggle him out of Quetta to Karachi.

On March 17, 2005, the army tried to knock out Nawab Akbar Bugti in an aerial assault on his house in Dera Bugti, killing more than 70 people. We saw this as the beginning of military operations in Balochistan.

I contacted Dr Imdad and went to Karachi to discuss the BSO’s protest campaign against the looming threat of violence against Baloch civilians. With some twist of fate I, Dr Imdad, Dr Naseem, Ali Nawaz, Akhter Nadeem, Gulam Rasool and Dr Allah Nizar — all of them either current or former BSO leaders — ended up being crammed into an apartment in Karachi owned by a relative of Dr Naseem.

On the night of March 24, I cooked biryani, not knowing this might be our last biryani for a long time. After dinner I remember trying to start a discussion with Dr Allah Nizar about the recent stock market crash as I believed it was the result of investor fear from the foreseen military operations in Balochistan. He took some time out from reading a magazine to explain that the crash was more about investor greed rather than Balochistan and how politicians used stock market crashes to rob the small investors of their money.

Being on a full stomach from the oil-rich biryani coupled with tiredness, I dozed off rather quickly.

I felt heavy boots on my neck. Both my hands were forcefully pulled behind, twisted and tied, and my eyes blindfolded with a piece of cloth, all in no time, even before I could wake up properly.

I used to be a heavy sleeper but that changed after this incidence.

By the time I woke up, I had already received plenty of kicks and punches on every part of my body. “Do you have a gun on you,” asked one of my captors. “No,” I replied faintly. He shouted something to his colleagues from whom one joined him to drag me down the stairs.

The speed of the operation augmented by the terrible fear seizing me had rendered me paralyzed. I could not apprehend the noises and screams around me nor could I understand the betrayal of my body.

It was on the stairs when my bare feet-falls felt the paan juice someone had spitted on the stairway. By now I had gained my senses. I felt my heart sinking in my stomach. That dull ache in my belly persisted for days.

The person handling me checked my side pockets and took everything away. I had a mini phone book, my identification card and some money on me. I could see his disappointment when he berated me for not carrying more money. I was not certain but this behaviour confirmed my immediate presumption that our captors were from the notoriously corrupt Karachi police.

From our study circles and stories told by my grandfather I had some knowledge of enforced disappearances of Baloch activists in the 1970s. At one moment, I thought of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the dreaded premier intelligence agency of Pakistan, but I conveniently dismissed the thought, as the fear of the ISI was too great. But you can’t choose your tormentors. Not in Pakistan.

As we were dragged out of the Block H of the Nouman Avenue Apartments, the characteristic knocking noise of the pickup diesel engines could now be heard among the human noises. I was blindfolded but I could hear others being dragged along, beaten and abused all the way. One of the captors guided me to a seat in the back of a pick-up truck where I felt that someone else was sitting beforehand. When my body touched his I felt that his hands were also tied on the back. I had an instinctive sense that he was one of my friends. I did not have the strength to ask him who he was nor did I think it necessary. I also realised that my head was in a sack which had strings loosely tied to my neck.

Approximately 20 minutes in our detour to the unknown, the vehicle stopped for a short interval. I heard the opening of gates as if we were passing through a military check post. Within another minute or two, the vehicles came to a complete halt. One of the captors took hold of my hand and walked me through what I judged a gate. Then he guided me through what seemed to be four downward stairs and then through some corridors. We were in some kind of a basement.

I was made to sit on the ground. After a few minutes which I believe was when they had brought all the others, a person with an authoritative voice asked us our names. About five minutes later another person asked our names again.

Two guards grabbed me by my both arms and guided me through a corridor. I heard the opening of a lock and a metal door. My hands were still tied with a cloth on the back. They pushed me into the cell and locked it on my back. I heard one of them yelling at me to sit down.

After sitting for some time I assumed that no one was attending me. Having lost the strength to sit any longer I slowly laid myself on the ground, which had a stinky and moist smell. There was an odour of urine in the air as though we were near some toilet. I lied down motionless for hours on the stinky floor. At some point I stealthily rubbed my face against the ground to loosen the blindfolds. The cloth slipped a little and I could see that the colour of the bag on my head was black.

It is difficult to accurately judge time in a dungeon. I heard a very distant and feeble call for prayer, certainly coming from a nearby mosque. Although not being an adherent Muslim I recognized the morning azaan (prayer call) as it is different from other azaans.

I was awake but thoughts were not in my control, in an inexplicable state. A feeling of defeat and cynicism ran through my head like a dream.

I remembered my grandmother. I was twelve years old when she died from malaria. She passed away at the Panjgur Civil Hospital awaiting treatment. I was young but I knew that the lack of doctors was the reason for her loss. It was the trauma of her helpless demise that had convinced me to become a doctor. And look, I thought, how I got myself into this messInstead of attending my medical classes I am here, tied and blindfolded.

I was with these incoherent thoughts that I suddenly heard the door of my cell open once again. It broke the sequence of thoughts which in fact were not in any sequence. One of the guards came in. My blindfolds were removed, hands untied from the back and were instead handcuffed on the front with a Made-in-USA-inscribed handcuff. This was the first time I was seeing the faces of my captors. The feet were chained with locally-made fetters and a large Chinese lock above my ankles. The weight of the lock caused me constant pain in the ankle.

I was asked if I wanted to drink tea and bread. I declined. I had forgotten what hunger was. They hooded my face with the black cloth bag and left, locking the cell behind.

After what it felt like hours, I heard the opening of the door once again. Two people grabbed me by my hands and guided me to another room through what I believe was a corridor. Just before entering the room they told me that I had stairs ahead to climb. My fourth step fell on flat ground and I felt being inside a room. Here they removed the black bag from my head, unlocked the handcuffs and made me sit on a seat.

In front of me was a table and on the other side of the table sat four people in civilian clothes. A guard stood behind me. Our mobile phones, books, magazines, telephone diaries, ID cards etc were scattered on the table. I was asked to identify my things. I did identify my ID card and the Nokia mobile phone.

I was pleasantly surprised that my telephone directory was not there. I supposed it had been kept along with the money by the soldier who searched my pockets at the time of my apprehension, and like the money he had not handed it over to his seniors. I was in a way relieved that the poor army soldier had taken my phone book as the “spoils of war”, for I did not have to answer questions about my contacts. In another stroke of luck, someone had stepped on my mobile phone and broke it at the time of our arrest. They tried to switch it on in front of me thinking I might have broken it myself. In any case, the damaged mobile phone spared me extra questions.

One of them had thick eyebrows and an elongated nose dropping to cover the middle of his thick moustache. He was tall with a stretched-down face and seemed to be in his mid-fifties. Even in his silence he appeared to be overshadowing others.

The one who was half bald and slightly fat introduced himself as Jameel and that he was a Pashtun from Quetta and had come especially for us. He had a fairer skin than the other three and asked me for tea and biscuit which I declined.

Noticing my dry mouth, he said, “You are thirsty. Drink this glass of water.” I realized he was right. The kicks and punches had left me dehydrated. I took a few sips from the glass on the table.

The other three kept silence and let Jameel do the interrogation. While the thick moustached man observed me, the other two wrote something on the notebooks they were carrying.

“Do you know where you are?” Jameel asked.

“In Karachi police custody, sir,” I replied as naively as I could.

Giving me a mocking look, he said, “Don’t fool yourself. Your asshole would be filled with petrol by now if we were the police.”

I could not say a word.

He continued. “Look, boy. We are the ISI. That is the difference between the police and the ISI. They fill your asshole with spices because they do not know anything about you and we stuff your shithole because we know everything about you.”

Then, suddenly changing to a more stern tone, he asked why I had lied to them the other day when they asked me about my name.

I had not given them any pseudonym. Believing they had gotten it wrong, I told them my name again.

“And what is your father’s name?”

“Murad.” I replied.

He shouted at me to stand up. As soon as I stood up, I received a forceful beating at my buttocks. The guard standing behind had used his studded wide leather belt which they call Chetter in Urdu. The pain was excruciating. It was far superior than the beatstick of our schoolteachers.

“I am telling the truth, sir,” I cried out like an obedient student being punished for no reason.

He asked me my father’s name again. I was completely clueless. That was the name by which everybody knew my father.

Before I could answer, Mr Jameel said, “Your father’s name is Mohammed Murad.”

I remembered he was correct. It was me who had forgotten that my father’s official name is Mohammed Murad. But what difference did it make if you do not add Mohammed. For Jameel it made a difference and he explained why.

“Look, boy. You know what your problem is? You people take Islamic names and then feel embarrassed to use them. Do you consider yourself a Muslim when you do not know your father’s Islamic name but remember his un-Islamic name?

He waited for my reply.

“Yes, sir. I am a Muslim,” that was all I could say.

As if he had anticipated my answer, he asked promptly, “If you are a Muslim recite dua e qonoot.”

I could only recall a word or two of dua e qonoot as I had never memorized it.

I was hit again with the Chetter on my upper back and bums. I wished I had memorized dua e qonoot.

“What is your position in the BSO?” He continued his interrogation.

“I am just a member,” I lied unwittingly, hoping that I would escape some torture and questions by presenting myself as an ordinary member of the BSO.

Jameel ordered me back to my cell. In the cell, I was provided with a diaphanous white shirt and a similar pyjama. The shirt had a yellow luminous X stitched on the back. The pyjama hanged by a thin rubber band on my waist. My Made-in-USA handcuffs were replaced with Pakistani handcuffs and the hands were tied on the front. The black hood on my head was also taken away. The fetters remained with a constant heaviness on my legs.

The cell was around four feet wide and six feet long. The door was of black metal with bar openings about approximately at a height from which anyone standing outside the cell could easily look into. The light from a bulb hanging from the ceiling of the corridor illuminated my cell round the clock. Just inches above the foot of the door there was an additional horizontal opening, approximately four inches in width and one foot long. An oscillating fan with its ever humming noise was mounted on the wall just opposite the door opening.

There was no way one could tell what time it was. When they slipped flat bread and some daal in a plate from the lower hole of the door that I could tell its purpose and also the time. I still could not convince myself to eat. I knew by now that there were other prisoners in the nearby cells but I could not hear any of my friends’ voice.

When the guards had apparently left the corridor and I heard some prisoners speaking among themselves I gathered some strength and yelled out in Balochi to check if any of my friends were there. Akhter and Ghulam Rasool replied back confirming that they were in the nearby cells. Before we could initiate a conversation, a guard gave me a hard truncheon blow on the face through the upper bar opening of the door. Either the guards walked with great caution or they wore shoes which muffled sound. Either way it was difficult to know beforehand that they were coming until they tapped on the metal door with their truncheon.

The other prisoners were hardened al Qaeda members. Due to their devotion to Islam they enjoyed respect in the eyes of the guards and apparently had the privilege to exchange a few words among themselves during the day. I felt all prisoners should be treated equal; discrimination hurts, even if you are already in a cruel place like a dungeon.

The sudden realization that I had not urinated since I had been held gave rise to an urgent urge to urinate. When I timidly asked the guard, he pointed to an empty two-litre Pepsi bottle at the corner of the cell and said, “Urinate there”.

The beatings from the guards did not look so frequent, just occasional slaps on the neck, or a sporadic pulling of hair, a light kick on the legs, or, on some occasions, a twisting of ear. The guards did those things to me more out of a habit than necessity. It was their way, as I believed, to relieve themselves of their daily pressure.

Somehow, in an unexplainable way, the victim acquires these habits from their tormentors. I know this because, after being released, I used to have this urge of occasional abusive outbursts, pulling someone’s hair, or slapping them. Such is the complexity of the relation between the tormentor and the tormented.

I was in complete solitude; always in a dream like state. Facts, time and dates were all blurry with a distorted mood of helplessness and compliance. Most of the day passed in a trance like state, daydreaming.

I had learnt that to visit the toilet more frequently one should start praying. This allowed five or four visits to the toilet every day. You might get a glimpse of one of your friends peeping from the bar openings while walking through the corridor, though you are not allowed to turn and look.

By now I had confirmed that Akhter Nadeem, Ghulam Rasool and Naseem were in the same dungeon. I had not seen Imdad, Allah Nizar and Ali Nawaz Gohar. The cells were painted grey black. There were every type of graffiti on the walls. Previous victims had also carved out their names on the walls. After every three meals and the isha prayers I would carve a vertical line on the wall to keep track of the days.

At nights a guard would come once or twice and tapped the door with his truncheon. He was accompanied by an officer. We were obliged to wake up from the sleep, stand up facing the wall and raise our hands. If you took time to execute this task, the guards would open the door and start hitting you with the truncheon. I learnt this the hard way when one night I had thoughtlessly decided not to heed and kept sleeping.

It was also required that I do not look back and see the accompanying officer. The guards would always warn that a glimpse of the officer would block all our chances of getting out of there alive. I believe the job of the officer was to ensure no prisoner died of torture. He would occasionally ask questions about my health. There was complete silence otherwise.

For days I would not be spoken to. At times, despite the fear of torture, I longed to be interrogated. I longed to be spoken to by the guards despite knowing that the Punjabi language could not be spoken without verbal slurs. And these slurs were coarser in the dungeon.

Holding ones urge to defecate until the guards had the courtesy to take you to the toilet was gruelling. Going to the toilet was similarly punishing too. It was a squat toilet. The door was only two feet high so that the guards could pull the chain when required; one end of the chain was locked into the handcuffs and the other was in the guard’s hands. The guards would count to forty five and pull the chain.

One had to defecate and wash himself while the guard was looking, all in 45 counts. Most of the guards were cooperative though. They would count slowly if there was no officer around. But, again, an occasional pull before washing was always expected. In normal life this would be maddening, but in a torture cell one is even robbed of his anger. One would look with pleading eyes to the guard to count a bit slower.

One day, probably the evening of the fifth day of my detention, two guards entered my cell. They ordered me to stand and face the wall. My hands were handcuffed on the back and the black cloth bag was put on my head. The bag alone would freeze my entrails.

After being blindfolded, I was walked to the interrogation room, staggering all the while. Inside the interrogation room, a new voice sarcastically welcomed me. I could also hear Jameel say, “Sir, this guest is from my province. I hope you entertain him well”.

In a coercing tone, the interrogator started his pre-torture lecture. There was always a lecture at the beginning and one at the end of the interrogation.

“Look boy,” said he, “it has been days that you are rotting here. It does not bother us at all if you linger here for another few years. It all depends on you. If you cooperate and tell us the truth, you might suffer less and might not rot here.”

Then he read out a list of things that I had done in the last previous years, mostly about BSO lectures, seminars and protests, including the one in which I had worn a black armband. These details were enough to convince me that they had been watching me and they knew details of my political activities.

He continued his condemning lecture. “Since you have already diminished your chances by lying to us about your role in the BSO, you are a good candidate to be eliminated. You should know we know everything. You know how we eliminated Hameed Baloch*? He was hanged and he became a hero but that was a mistake. Things have changed now. We will not hang you. We will let you rot here.”

The talks were meant to inflict maximum degradation and submission before being flooded with questions ranging from politics to prostitution. I was made to step on a stool and stand on it. Being blindfolded, it was difficult to maintain my balance. There was a time frame to answer each question. The answers were always required to be instantaneous. If the interrogator felt that you are taking too much time or you are thinking, you would be either pricked with a needle on any part of your body or hit with a single blow of chetter or a slap on the face. You could never guess what sort of hitting you will get on the next question. If you fell from the stool you would be laid on the floor, feet raised, and beaten until your feet tore with pain. After being hit ruthlessly at the soles, it wold be more difficult to keep the balance on the stool with swollen feet.

The interrogation went on for hours, sometimes repeating the exact questions numerous times. Every time a question was repeated my previous answer would be presented to me in a twisted form to prove me a liar. If I tried to argue that I had not said such a thing I would be beaten with the chetter, or the truncheon until I accepted I had indeed said that.

This combined procedure of twisting my answers and torture rendered me so confused and terrified that at the end I did not know what I had actually said. At some point into the interrogation I felt that it did not matter what I said; I would always be proven, with reason, to have lied and then beaten. My calves felt like bursting out with blood after being swollen due to the hours-long stand.

At times I was told that my friends had already confessed to several acts of crime and they had also testified against me. Then they would ask me to speak about my friends’ crimes. I could have reasoned why I was being asked to testify about their crimes if they had already confessed, but I knew better than this. I had learnt that reasoning would lead to further beatings. The best bet was to avoid reasoning and give them an impression that you were in complete compliance and submission. Submission and compliance gratified their latent “army superiority complex”.

At the end of the day’s interrogation, my handcuffed hands were tied to the fetters of my feet at the back and I was laid face down so that my shoulders and knees both were raised. Two people took turns to hit my feet soles with a stick, and my knees, legs and arms with the chetter until I lost consciousness.

During the interrogation sessions, the most frequent questions were:

From where does the BSO get its money?

What plans do you have for protests against the Pakistan military?

Why are you against the military?

What is the relation between the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) BLA and the BSO?

What is the relation between the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the BLA?

Have you ever met Nawab Akbar Bugti or Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri?

How are the BSO members trained?

Do you extort money from businessmen, or others? Why do people donate to you?

Who are leading the BLA and the BLF?

Have you ever visited any foreign country?

Do you know anyone who has carried out bomb blasts or is a guerrilla?

What does the BSO want and how are you going to get it?

Who are the BSO leaders in Karachi? They also asked about certain BSO members from Karachi.

Why does the BLF use Balochistan in its name and not Baloch like the BLA? To this, I obviously did not have any answer.

I had regained consciousness by the time I was brought back to my cell. Every part of my body was in writhing pain. I had bruises all over my body and I had started passing blood-red urine. The bottle filled with this urine was a reminder of the torture. Whenever I tried to stand a searing pain ran from the soles to the backbone. Time and dates were once again blurred as I had stopped praying and eating. I was drained, exhausted and in a vague state of mind until I fell asleep.

They had arrested some new Islamic militants and Akhter Nadeem was shifted to my cell because of shortage of space. I had not known Akhter Nadeem well before being arrested. I only knew that he was a former BSO member and a contractor in Gwadar. Yet, it was delightful to talk to someone after such a long period of complete silence and solitude.

My bruises were getting better.

(To be continued.)

*Hameed Baloch was a member of the BSO who was sentenced to death by a military court. He was executed in 1981