April 29, 2006

CRPF training to curb Naxal Menace

CRPF training woes

New Delhi, April 29: The battle-worthiness of the Central Reserve Police Force for anti-Naxalite operations is in doubt even as the Centre is giving final touches to a major offensive against the rebels.

According to a recent presentation made by the CRPF to Union home ministry officials, only 7 per cent of its personnel — approximately 14,700 — were able to complete a two-month compulsory training this year because of constant deployment.

Even fewer personnel — 12,600 or 6 per cent — were able to take the training last year.

A CRPF official said the two-month training is considered sacrosanct to keep the forces fighting fit, as it not only provides relief from the fatigue that they undergo during deployment but also sharpens their skill in tactical warfare and use of weaponry.

Occupied with deployment duty, only a small fraction of the force is able to train for extreme challenges like fighting Naxalites or militants.

With about 2.10 lakh personnel at its command, the CRPF is the main central paramilitary force dealing with security problems arising out of insurgency.

So heavy has been the deployment of CRPF during the last four to five years that even its director-general’s reserve battalions, which are meant for recreational duty and emergency situations, had to be deployed for counter-insurgency duty.

“When deployed in anti-insurgency operations, CRPF personnel are considered to be on duty seven days a week and 24 hours a day. This drains them. The refresher training course provides them the energy to go back to their highly demanding jobs again,” said the official.

Officials also consider this as a major reason for not achieving enough success in their operations against Naxalites and insurgent groups in Kashmir and the Northeast.

In its presentation, the CRPF asked the Centre to allow it to keep one company in reserve in every battalion so that it could be spared for the two-month training. On a rotational basis, it would take a year and two months to allow all the battalions to undergo the training.

With demands for deployment of more central paramilitary forces coming from Naxalism-affected states, the home ministry has assured to consider this suggestion

BALOCHISTAN : Sardar Attaullah Mengal on Exit Control List

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mengal to file petition against ECL restriction

By Irfan Ali

KARACHI: Sardar Attaullah Mengal, founder of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), has been named on the Exit Control List (ECL) for which he received a letter on Saturday from the Federal Interior Ministry about restrictions on his departure to any country.

“Mr. Mengal has decided to challenge the ban in a court of law on his foreign tour and I will file a petition in the Sindh High Court on Tuesday on his behalf,” lawyer Ghulam Shah told Daily Times.

He said that he would not be able to file the petition on Monday as it is a holiday. The interior ministry had informed Mengal through registered mail that on a letter from an intelligence agency, his name was put on the ECL. Shah, also the secretary general of the Sindh Thinkers Forum, a member of the nationalist parties alliance PONM, said that he has informed PONM member parties, NGOs and the British government of the restrictions on Mengal’s foreign tour.

When asked why he wrote the British government, Shah said Mengal was a British national and possessed a British passport. Mengal was also the chief of PONM, an alliance of Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtoon and Siraiki parties.

PONM parties will also register their protest against the interior ministry’s decision. Shah said that the elderly Attaullah Mengal and his son Akhtar Mengal were being pressured because they were protesting against unjust policies for Balochistan.

The lawyer said that Akhtar Mengal was implicated in cases.

On April 5, the police had cordoned off Akhtar Mengal’s Karachi residence. Mengal’s guards had reportedly beaten personnel of an intelligence agency on April 5. Mengal has claimed that the people who his guards thrashed were following his children who were on their way to school.

He said he thought that they could be kidnappers therefore, he asked his guards to get hold of them. Later on, they disclosed their identity and he handed over them to the police. The federal government has blamed three tribal chiefs of Balochistan, including Mengal, for the backwardness of the province.

Time to Streamline RAW’s Operations

by Ravindra P Singh

INDIA’S external espionage agency the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has many skeletons rattling in its cupboard. The agency is plagued by infighting between its direct recruits and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers on deputation to corner plum postings, particularly in Europe and North America. Some senior officers working at the headquarters in Delhi and posted abroad have been found leaking secret information, thus, undermining the security interest of the country.

Many foreign spying agencies have penetrated the organisation in Delhi, and ferreted information marked “Top Secret”. The government is planning to revamp the agency, and a committee is likely to be set-up soon to draw up a roadmap for future functioning of the agency.The defection last year of its joint secretary, Ravinder Singh to the US had ruffled many feathers in the government. Though he was under surveillance for weeks, the man first fled all the way to Nepal by road and from there flew to an undisclosed destination in the US on an American passport.

Ravinder Singh started off as a short service-commissioned military officer. Because of his “below average” grading, the army earmarked him for discharge. But, in 1978, RAW, notorious for recruiting sub-standard military officers and others to its senior executive cadres on relations and associates net, lapped up this army reject and stationed him in the capital of a Middle East country. Completing that assignment, Ravinder wanted a posting in the US, pleading that it would help him arrange better medical treatment for his young daughter who had been seriously injured in a car accident.

Instead of giving a regular assignment, RAW sent him to Washington for a few months on compassionate grounds. Later, he was posted in Amritsar and had a three-year stint in the capital of a West European country. Thereafter, RAW considered him unsuitable for operational work and used him at administrative and relatively unimportant political analysis desks. Nonetheless, thanks to his excellent PR, he got promotions that he didn’t deserve on merit.

In 2002, Ravinder wangled a liaison mission to Langley, leading a group of junior, non-gazetted officers for some training at the CIA headquarters. On return from this mission, there was a marked change in his lifestyle. He frequently hosted lavish wining and dining parties for colleagues, evincing at the same time undue interest in the working of other sensitive desks and accessing their intelligence outputs. He often obtained intelligence assessments on neighbouring countries in violation of the need-to-know principle and other rules of restrictive security.

Thanks to their lack of professionalism, the RAW top brass, blinded by Ravinder’s charm offensives, overlooked these questionable activities. Alarm bells rang only when, ironically enough, in course of a routine liaison meeting in Delhi, an inadvertent comment by a CIA operative triggered the suspicion that the sleuth might have been working for the Americans. Surveillance yielded information on his shady links and contacts. In particular, Ravinder was also seen relentlessly photocopying classified documents. A special secretary wanted to interrogate the man under the Official Secrets Act, but he was overruled purportedly because the national security adviser had desired only surveillance to continue. On the same ground, the advice of the cabinet secretary to launch departmental proceedings against the officer was ignored. And, as the interminable “surveillance” went on, the suspect and his wife made their escape on or around May 5, last year, leaving the entire stupefied Indian intelligence and security community sucking its thumb!

For three weeks after Ravinder had fled, the RAW top brass didn’t inform the government of his escape. Only on May 24, a cryptic, washy-washy three-line note was sent to the PMO and the cabinet secretariat that concealed more than it informed.

There is no question that someone from within the intelligence security establishment had alerted Ravinder Singh, if not his foreign masters as well and the RAW has done every thing possible to keep the whole matter under wraps.

On April 21, the RAW counter-intelligence unit conducted a surprise general search of all officers returning home in the hope of catching the suspect with classified documents. Significantly, earlier in the day, he asked joint secretary (security) whether there was any objection to his taking his personal files home. The answer was in the negative. During the search, he was found carrying in his car only his personal files and no classified papers. Clearly, someone privy to the decision to conduct the search had tipped him off.

The surveillance on Ravinder Singh, to say the least, was perfunctory to the point of being non-existent. Preparations for the couple’s departure surely involved movements and activities, which either the watchers trailing him had completely missed or had been ignored at higher levels. This raises the question how many other foreign intelligence moles have been operating in RAW, including its counter-intelligence wing.

Considering the gravity of the offence, the Intelligence Bureau, which is the country’s nodal counter-intelligence agency, should have been brought into the picture the moment suspicion against Ravinder Singh had crystallised, and surveillance and related special inquiries should have been handed over to the IB. This was not done because the RAW authorities were chary of allowing an outside agency to know the damage Ravinder Singh has done to national security.

Before the so-called in-house inquiry by RAW made any headway, the government closed the file by dismissing Ravinder Singh from service under the extraordinary provision of Article 311 of the Constitution. Dismissal in this case is an illusory punishment involving only forfeiture of pension, but it has blocked further investigation into his felony and that of his homeland and foreign accomplices. The calculated cover-up bordering on malfeasance could convey a wrong impression that the new government is unable or unwilling to hold the country’s intelligence agencies to account.

In recent years, the RAW had enlarged its foreign liaison network so much that there is hardly any foreign intelligence outfit with which it has not entered into bilateral intelligence sharing arrangements. This has, no doubt, vastly increased the scope for foreign travel by RAW officers and their spouses, but it has inevitably confined the operational initiative of the designated liaison officer at foreign stations to interact with their host-country counterparts only. Meetings between RAW headquarters experts and their opposite numbers in “friendly” services has exposed roughly three-fourths of the middle and senior level R&AW officers to foreign intelligence operatives and their suborning overtures.

Some years back, the CIA had won over a very senior IB officer. That case and the recruitment of Ravinder Singh confirm that US intelligence has been relentlessly exploiting liaison links to penetrate our secret services. Other foreign agencies must not be sitting idle either. The Russian spies are also always on the prowl. Strangely enough, when Ravinder Singh was under the scanner, one special security and one over-smart joint secretary visited CIA headquarters on liaison mission, signalling to the yanks that it was business as usual.

The post-Kargil intelligence reforms under the NDA government focused on a few cosmetic changes. No efforts at streamlining our intelligence agencies will succeed unless the government puts in place a system of accountability and parliamentary oversight. Besides launching an investigation under the Official Secrets Act under the control and supervision of the IB, cutting down liaison relationships to the barest minimum, mid-service vetting of intelligence personnel, and preventing them from leaving their wives and children abroad on completion of foreign assignments are some of the other immediate priorities. INAV

Indian Students Seek Justice in Vain in Armenia

Indian Students Seek Justice in Vain


[April 21, 2006]

I happened upon a huge crowd of Indian students walking up the Baghramyan Street. I thought it was one of their national holidays; they are always accompanied by processions and music. Well, I thought, the procession would be a great part of a new project, Indians in Armenia, that Hetq photographer Onnik Krikorian and I have launched recently.

But as soon as I approached, it became clear that the crowd gathering at the National Assembly building was not celebrating a festival at all; it looked more like a demonstration.

“What's the gathering about?” I asked one of the students, expecting to hear some common Armenian university problem.

His answer was beyond all my expectations. It was something horrible. Later in the several hours that I spent with them at the National Assembly others added their stories to his tale, and gradually the whole picture emerged.

Today (April 20, 2006) at around 13:00 pm, a third year student at the Medical University, 21- year-old Prashant Anchalia fell out of a sixth floor window in Building #7 of the Zeytun Student Dormitory. How and why he fell are not yet clear. The students who rushed to him found him lying on the ground covered with blood, screaming in pain. They called an ambulance and their dean's office.

Dean Anna Sarkisyan arrived fifteen minutes later. Although she is a doctor, she made no attempt to provide emergency aid to the student, and even forbade the other students to touch him or take him to hospital in a taxi, rather than wait for the ambulance, which was slow to arrive. Instead, she ordered them to wait for the police to get there.

The Police arrived and took some witnesses to the Kanaker Police Station for questioning.

The ambulance arrived some 45-50 minutes after the call. According to the students, it was in very poor condition and had no medical equipment, not even an oxygen mask.

On the way to the hospital, Prashant Anchalia died.

The students went to the Medical University and asked to meet with the rector, seeking an explanation for why their friend had been treated so negligently. The response of the newly- appointed rector, Gohar Kialyan, came as a shock. Out of the blue, she referred to Indian girls as prostitutes, and showed the students the middle fingers of both her hands, a gesture whose meaning is well known to even five-year old kids.

Astonished by her behavior, the students decided to seek help in higher places.

Several hundred students marched to the National Assembly, shouting, “Help, President!” and “We Want Justice!” They were immediately surrounded by the police, who forbade the students to move to the Presidential Palace, faces frozen in dumb indifference.

“Man, I was supposed to go get my tooth fixed today,” one of them yawned, as he glanced significantly at the pavement. All the police cared about was not letting the people cross the line between the pavement and the street. I tried to find compassion in anybody's eyes, but in vain.

“What you want exactly? Tell me,” said a policeman, apparently of some high rank, not even bothering to wipe the ironical expression off his face.

“We demand that the rector resign.”


“Let them act like human beings, not like nationalists.”

“If it had been an Armenian lying there, would he have been treated the same way?”

I heard it from all sides. They would ask and answer this question a hundred times within several hours, to the politicians who appeared from time to time, to the journalists, among whom there was no one from the National TV.

“We will stay here until we get the rector's resignation. We will boycott our classes; we will go back to our country. Let her at least be worried about losing the money she makes from 800 Indian students,” the Indian students said.

An elderly passer-by read their posters, which said in Armenian, “We do not need her apology, we need justice!” “Shame on the rector!” “The rector must resign!” Learning the story behind them, she said, “My dears, what you are doing makes no sense. She won't go—don't you know who her husband is?”

A young man shrugged his shoulders and said, “Guys, this kind of thing happens all the time. You're not going to accomplish anything.”

The students formed a group of four representatives and sent them to the National Assembly to meet with the vice-speaker, Tigran Torosyan.

Some time later, the vice-rector of the Medical University, Victor Sahakyan, and the second secretary of the Indian Embassy arrived.

“Let them come to the University and speak there. We don't solve our problems on the street,” he said.

Told that they had already been to the university, where they had been insulted by the rector, Sahakyan explained, “They aren't representing it to you correctly. They did not interpret it the right way.” He was immediately interrupted by the Indians, who wanted to know how else the gesture could be interpreted.

Earlier a policeman had told the students, “Guys, don't worry about it. She's a woman. Maybe she didn't know the meaning of the gesture.”

The Embassy representative, Mr. Bali, advised the students to disperse and let them settle the matter the diplomatic way.

The Embassy told the parents of the dead boy that he had committed suicide, without even waiting for the investigation to be concluded.

The students do not believe it was suicide.

“He was a balanced person. He had many plans for the future. He could not have killed himself,” they said.

The four-person delegation came back from the meeting with Tigran Torosyan and said that Torosyan had asked them for two days to get acquainted with the matter and decide what to do.

After that, Torosyan met with the Indian ambassador, Rina Pandei.

Ara Avetisyan, the deputy minister of Science and Education came to meet the Indian students. In his view, the National Assembly was not the right place for a protest, and oral demands were not the best method. He advised the students to produce their demands in written form. The most ridiculous thing was that no one could tell them who to write to.

And everybody kept saying that the students had to go back to the university to speak to the rector and get her apology if she had done something wrong. Completely ignoring the fact that that was not what the students were after.

Red berets appeared at the building of the Parliament, surrounding the crowd that was already surrounded by the police. As if the Indian students there were dangerous criminals.

A man in civilian clothes standing with the police looked at the crowd with frank surprise and asked, “There are more than a billion of them now, right? What they are fighting for, one more, one less?”

The one cause for optimism in the whole situation was that there were also few compassionate Armenians there – two young girls, two students from YSU who were with the Indians all that time and an old woman who, when she heard story, knelt down to the Indian girls, hugged them, and began to cry.

Some students brought lighted candles with them. During these hours I managed to talk to most of them. The students would come up to me and ask if I was tired, if I needed anything to eat.

“Look at this girl standing with the Chechen separatist,” muttered a young Policeman. The man I was talking to, the “Chechen separatist”, was a Sikh who while living here had to remove his turban and cut his beard (Sikhism does not allow to cut hair and shave off their beard), because the core of Armenian society, the “ rabiz mass” or “real Armenian guys” as they prefer to be called, do not tolerate any other haircut but their own crop, no style of dress but their black trousers and shirts. The Indian students have problems with these Armenian guys all the time.

At around 10 o'clock in the evening the Ambassador, accompanied by Tigran Torosyan, came out of the parliament building and took the students to the Medical University. There, they had a private meeting with Rector Gohar Kialyan. Off course the meeting yielded no results.

“She said she was sorry,” one of the students said. “She said it without any expression, any feeling. Then she suggested we arrange a delegation to meet our dean and talk…”

Friday morning the Indian students went to the First Hospital to pay their respects to their friend. Iranian, Syrian and other foreign students joined them. No Armenians were there.

Hasmik Hovhannisian
Photos by Onnik Krikorian


Ara Manoogian, another blogger blogging from Armenia has written a letter to the President of Armenia. I'm happy that other than Onnik, Hasmik, Armenians like Ara are trying to help us with the our protest for Justice.

From: "Ara Manoogian"
To: "President Robert Kocharian" hasmik@president.am
CC: "Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan" info@armeniaforeignministry.com, "Justice Minister Davit Harutyunyan" justice@justice.am, "National Assembly Speaker Artur Baghdasaryan" speaker@parliament.am, "Defense Minister Serge Sarkisyan" shahsuvaryan@mail.ru, "Anti-Corruption strategy advisor Bagrat Yesayan" adv_yesayan@president.am
Subject: Death at Yerevan State Medical University
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 21:23:52 +0500

Dear President Kocharian,

My name is Ara Manoogian. I am an Armenian-American who has been living the city of Martuni, NKR since 1998.

I am writing you in regards to the recent death of a medical student from India, Prashant Anchalia, as reported in The Statesman newspaper on Arpil 23, 2006 (see: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?clid=10&id=141870&usrsess=1.)

As a member of the Diaspora community who is interested in Armenia’s overall well being, I am bothered by the way our guests from India are being treated by Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU).

If Armenia is a free and fair country as your administration have been claiming it is to the Diaspora, it would be fitting that the justice prevails and those responsible for contributing to the untimely death of Prashant Anchalia are punished according to Armenia laws.

From what I have read, there have been some unfair deals with the Indian student body in regards to this matter by YSMU, which I’m sure you would agree is not acceptable. Such tactics only add insult to injury and make Armenia look to be less democratic than we claim it to be.

I ask on behalf of those concerned, that you intervene and make sure the criminal investigation, which the students were informed of on April 26th by the YSMU administration has been initiated, is conducted without error.

Also it would be advantageous that rector Gohar Khalyan be suspended from her duties until the conclusion of the investigation. This is a normal practice in most democratic countries.

Respectfully yours,

Ara Manoogian

State Medical University, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Hetq Online 2006

The attendance in the meeting turned out to be an approximate of 350 students. The students spoke among themselfs first clarifying all what had been discussed with the rector earlier that day and on April 23rd.The dean arrived later, along with the pro-rector only to blame us of playing with her honestly. She spoke of what she did at that moememt,telling us that she was stunned and could do nothing because the boy's state was already out of reach. All I still want to ask her is why at that moement, didnot even stoop down for a second to check his pulse and ensure us standing around that he was alive.

The Pro-rector tells us that she(the Dean) cannot be removed form the post, when questioned later on , he ask's us, 'Is it turely a case to worry?' Most of the students had lost hope when he mentioned that. The feeling that their plea's were being heard by deaf ears. The pro-rector tells us that the investigation is being taken up by the local Criminal Bureau, and that it would take a month for the results to come out and until then nothing can be done to the dean.

The students, when asked for the rector to come. They first replied by saying that she was in a very important meeting, next the pro-rector telling us that she would be there any moment. It was like they were making excuses for her delay. Finally the pro-rector tells us that the meeting will not take place if the Media person's remain inside. For which the students reply that they want them to be there. What was their fear if nothing was there to hide? The media persons, inculding Onnik were asked to move out.

Few students started to leave. When the delay was made even more the students remaning there lost hope of what was going to happen next. Everyone walked out.

I have been asked by many people to give my personal opinion of this issue at hand, which has been giving me sleepless nights.

And for Susan who has been asking me questions, here you go,

What do you think should happen?

I think, first of all Anchalia’s death reason should be found out. Secondly the dean would have to step down. Thirdly required steps should be taken to ensure things don’t happen again.


Why the dean? Because even though she was there 15 minutes after the incident had happened, and even if what she says that the situation was out of her hand, she did not have the courtesy to even go and check his pulse, if his heart beat was going on, she rather should there and watched.

Were you in the group of students that met with the rector?

I was not amongst the seven students who had been selected that day even when I was supposed to be as my name was put up, but I can sure tell you what happened.

What was that like?

It was, as a friend amongst them told me more peaceful. The Rector apologized for each and every word, but she refused to apologize again in public because it would only defame her name. But unrelated subjects where brought up by her, regarding expulsion of students involved in a fight earlier on, and talks about having a students parliament voting on Monday. She has also said that’s he was confused and has never faced a big crowd in her life and that’s the reason why she raised her middle finger when someone in the crowd did so, (she says she can identify the person).

Do you think the demands of you and your fellow students are justified?

I don’t think so, that just writing a letter of apology to Anchalia’s parents after all that has happened can pacify everything. Things should have been given in written the other day, because words can always been interpreted in millions of ways.

Are there any Indian students who do not agree with the demands that the rest of Indian students are making?

I don’t think so. The demands have been fair. But half of the students have not accepted to apologize back to rector, which I can understand why.

What about the rector’s response (to step down)?

She has been firm, with a big NO.

'Sonia revealed her imperialist mentality' --Sushma Swaraj

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 1535 hours IST
Updated: Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 1553 hours IST

Lucknow, April 29: Accusing Congress president Sonia Gandhi of having an imperialist mentality, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said her party would give a tough fight in the Rae Bareli by-election and might throw up a surprising result.

"By declaring in Rae Bareli that her fight will continue and the caravan continue to move, Gandhi revealed her imperialist mentality," Swaraj, who took on the AICC chief in the Bellary Lok Sabha by-elections in Karnataka in 1999, told reporters here.
Asked why she did not contest against Gandhi from Rae Bareli, the former Union Minister said there was no organisation of the party in Bellary while there are several leaders in the Uttar Pradesh state unit who could give a tough fight to the Congress president.
She denied allegations that BJP nominee for the seat Vinay Katiyar had been made a scapegoat and claimed that he would not only offer a tough fight but the people could be in for a surprising result.

Swaraj said "the people of Rae Bareli had defeated Indira Gandhi and if they come to understand the bogus sacrifice of Sonia Gandhi, they will defeat her also".
She reiterated the BJP's charge that Gandhi violated the law and described the Rae Bareli by-poll as an election against the "fake claim of renunciation and sacrifice" by Gandhi.
The BJP leader alleged that when it appeared the Congress chief would lose her Lok Sabha membership, "she resigned under compulsion".
Swaraj said she would campaign for four days in Rae Bareli and would address eight election meetings there.
She claimed the Bharat Suraksha yatra of BJP president Rajnath Singh and his predecessor L K Advani had been highly successful but evaded a reply when asked about Uma Bharati's protg and Apna Dal candidate for the by-poll Prabha Singh.

Mujahideen Day celebrated in Balochistan

QUETTA, Apr 28 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghans celebrated on Friday the 14th anniversary of Mujahideen Victory Day in Quetta, provincial capital of Balochistan.

A ceremony was arranged in this regard by the Afghan Consulate that was largely attended by Afghan representatives, elders, teachers and students.

Addressing the ceremony Afghan Consular General Ahmad Ali Babak termed the April 28 an important day in Afghanistan history and congratulated Afghans for this.

He said Afghanistan was moving towards peace abandoning war and he urged the refugees to return to their homeland and took part in reconstruction process.

Babak said friendly ties in Afghanistan and Pakistan was useful for people of both the countries and hastened to add: "If one country does not enjoy peace, it may affect the peace of the neighbouring state." Some tribal elders in their speeches flayed April 27 and appreciated April 28.

A tribal elder Haji Akhtar Mohammad Achakzai said April 28 was an important and historical day not only for the Afghans but for the entire world.

On April 28, 1992 (Saur 8, 1371), the mujahideen of Afghanistan captured Kabul defeating the pro-communist president late Dr Najibullah as a result of their 14 years of armed struggle.

However, the success was followed by another bout of bloodshed as various mujahideen factions started fighting among themselves to grab power. The infighting resulted in 35,000 deaths only in the capital Kabul.

Reported by Bashir Ahmad Nadim & translated by Rahman

All rights reserved

ISI Agent in USA : Khalid Azam's comment on Indian Intelligence

Below message received from a FOIL member ( Federation of Inquilabi LEftist , a Anti-West ,Anti-India, commmunist organization based in USA . Unfortunately this ISI agent in USA is a member of FOIL , who's hate for Hinduism and India surpasses Nazis hate for Jews . He has to say that Indian Intelligence is Hindutva sympathizers .READ BELOW


"FYI....See the article below. The author, a former Intelligence Bureau
director, completely [or should we say conveniently] forgets that
Saffron Hindutva poses any threat to the Indian polity. This is particularly
disturbing given that most public figures coming out of Indian
Intelligence organizations (B Raman, former chief of RAW, being another case in
point) are all Hindutva sympathizers. No wonder every untoward incident
is conveniently blamed on LeT, JeH or ISI. Even the Jama Masjid blasts
are said to be done by "rival Muslims" (No question of VHP/Bajrang Dal
being possibly involved are to be raised), much like the 100 Churches
burned down during the Bajrang Dal carnage in 1998 were readily blamed
on the Christian community. Now the Intelligence Bureau folks have
identified a new threat - the Red Star over India -- no wonder the security
situation in India continues to deteriorate.

Letters can be sent to:



Actuaries Submit Terrorism Risk Analysis to President's Working Group

The American Academy of Actuaries,in response to questions posed by the President's Working Group on
Financial Markets, has submitted its Terrorism Risk Insurance Analysis,
which concludes that a national framework for terrorism risk is necessary
if terrorism coverage is to be widely and readily available.

"A large chemical, nuclear, biological or radiological (CNBR) terrorist
attack on New York City could cause insured losses of $778 billion," said
Michael McCarter, chairperson of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Subgroup.
"Without a national framework for managing terrorism risk, insurers would
be exposed to losses far greater than they could sustain -- significantly
damaging their ability to provide the ongoing insurance coverage that is
essential to the stability of the entire economy."

The actuaries were not able to identify any insurance, reinsurance or
capital market solution that could finance such potential insured losses
from a large CNBR event. With their solvency threatened, insurers would be
forced to limit their exposure to losses from a terrorist attack. For
workers' compensation and group life insurance, an insurer could only
reduce its terrorism exposure by limiting the availability of the
underlying coverages.
The Academy's analysis will assist the president's working group as it
prepares a report about the long-term availability and affordability of
terrorism insurance. The report is due to Congress by Sept. 30, 2006.
To view the analysis in its entirety, visit http://www.actuary.org. For
more information or to schedule an interview with Michael McCarter, contact
Andrew Simonelli, media relations manager for the American Academy of
Actuaries, at 202.785.7872.

Pratt & Whitney Awarded First Production Contract for Joint Strike Fighter Engines

EAST HARTFORD, Conn., April 28 -- Pratt &Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE: UTX), has
been awarded the first production contract for F135 engines to power the
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The contract, valued at $23 million, is
for long lead-time hardware for six engines supporting the first five
production F-35 aircraft covering Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). This
contract is the first portion of a full LRIP contract valued at up to $120
million through January 2010.

"The entire F135 team is excited as we officially begin the transition
from a development engine program to a production engine program entering a
new phase in Pratt & Whitney's history," said Bill Gostic, Vice President
of F135 Engine Programs for Pratt & Whitney.
Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine program recently achieved more than 5,000
hours of System Development and Demonstration (SDD) ground testing and is
on schedule to support the first flight of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
(JSF) this fall. The 5,000 SDD hours are in addition to the more than 3,600
hours accumulated during the concept demonstration phase of the F-35
program, reflecting the F135's maturity and reliability.

There are currently nine ground test engines in the F135 SDD program.
The first flight test F135 engine was delivered to Lockheed Martin ahead of
schedule in December 2005. The engine was installed in the first
Conventional Take Off and Landing F-35 aircraft in February.
The technologically advanced F135 is an evolution of the highly
successful F119 engine for the F-22 Raptor. Together the F135 and F119 will
have logged approximately 1 million flight hours before the F-35's
introduction into operational service in 2012. The F135 is the most
powerful fighter engine ever built.

"With all the extensive SDD ground testing, F119 operational experience
and incorporation of new and advanced technologies, Pratt & Whitney expects
the F135 engine will enter service and achieve reliability records at least
10 times better than the legendary F100 engine that powers the F-16
Fighting Falcon and F-15 Eagle today," Gostic said.

The F135 propulsion system team consists of Pratt & Whitney, the prime
contractor with responsibility for the main engine and system integration;
Rolls-Royce of the United Kingdom, providing lift components for the STOVL
F-35B; and Hamilton Sundstrand, provider of the F135's control system,
external accessories and gearbox. More than 40 companies, representing all
eight JSF partner nations, are fully engaged in the F135 program providing
best value manufacturing and technology.

In addition to the F135 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and
the F119 powering the F-22 Raptor, Pratt & Whitney military engine models
include the F117 for the C-17 Globemaster III; F100 for F-15 and F-16
fighters; J52 for the EA-6B Prowler; TF33 powering AWACS, Joint STARS,
B-52, C-141 and KC-135 aircraft; TF30 for the F-111, PT6 for T-6A and UH-1N
aircraft; and JT15 for the T-1A trainer and Pegasus UCAV.
Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and
service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas
turbines. United Technologies Corp. provides high-technology products and
services to the aerospace and building industries.

Defense Policy of Paritrana, New Indian Political Party

Defense Policy

The world is dynamic in existence. Nothing is static, nothing is permanent. One must accept the reality that PEACE IS A PROCESS NOT A STATE. Peace also, like everything else, is dynamic in nature, as even stability is. Prosperity is ultimately derived from stability, which depends heavily on the security environment. This is as true internationally as it is in the domestic sphere. If there is a possibility of loopholes originating in the delicate process of development, there are enough elements that will lead to the collapse of the system.

It is important to realize the utility of different components that is uniquely and efficiently theirs. The military component has value of its own that can not be fully compensated by anything else.

The military component gives an essential security to the country, and the nation's international footing has a lot more value than it has currently. The readiness of defense, at times in terms of offensive capabilities, is the most decisive component of stability. The Defense Forces must cope up with changing technologies and possibilities. A ready and mighty force is the best way to avoid conflict, particularly with those who are not so rational with their motives and means.

The existence and nature of Defense Forces is paradoxical in this sense. If the forces are barely enough to face the threat posed, it will have to be used again and again. If they are really prepared, able and ready to do their job in quick and decisive manner they will need not to be used, that is good for all. Such is human nature! To quote General Sun Tzu “Winning 100 battles out of 100 is not a perfect score, the perfect score is not to fight one”.

Apart from the WMD and NBC capabilities that have put the ceiling on the intensity of conflict of big powers, the dimension of conventional warfare is going to play a much more decisive role in the international arena, both in low and in high intensity conflicts. Since there is little chance of WMDs being actually used in an event of conflict, or the possibility of it, the decisive factor in armed interaction will be conventional forces.

The defense doctrine of India is obsolete and there is little drive in the political leadership to modernize it. In the wake of recent RMA and evolution of Network Centric Warfare, the Indian army requires overhauling but political leadership is apparently willfully ignorant of all this. Of course corruption in the army is also an issue. In the past we as a nation have paid a heavy and terrible price for the neglect of these affairs. Modernization of the army is required not just in terms of new equipments but also in terms of both the force structure and the doctrine.

In the military interactions in the process of war the Air component is becoming more and more decisive in the future battlefields, and we cannot afford to ignore this. India as a military power puts too much stress on Land Forces while ignoring the importance of the Navy and the Air Force. There is a lot to do to integrate the three components to be able to work as one unified system rather than cooperating subsystems, which is essentially the combined arms doctrine.

The air component, which is becoming more and more decisive, is developed right now to act mainly at strategic and operational levels. Integration of the air component at tactical and even procedural levels in Land Forces and developing the air component of the Naval Forces, as well as developing the ability to conduct successful amphibious operations should be a task of utmost priority. Once again it should be remembered that the forces should not be developed when needed because in that case they will always be needed. The forces should be developed even when they are not needed because then, and only then, will they never really be needed.

Further, even the Land Forces are not in good condition. Apart from structural rigidity in changing the composition of Defense Forces there is little drive at any level of administration to restructure the defense forces.

The dominance of Air component has one more sinister implication. The future of conventional warfare is going to be predominantly offensive in nature, and the air component is naturally has that property. Moreover the Land Forces are also only going to be more and more of offensive type in the role they play. The advent of continuously increasing firepower in highly compact and mobile forms, and small and compact rocket assisted delivery systems, are indicators of that trend.

At a more tactical level, the role of SP artillery and particularly of MLRS, in combination with aerial surveillance systems, is going to increase and that also has implications in the same direction.

With reference to India's situation, the light cavalry will be used much more and in more diverse roles than currently. The light cavalry can not only be used to augment heavy cavalry and perform reconnaissance roles, bur also in infantry support. MLRS and the light cavalry are two weapon systems that need to be emphasized.

The navy of India is also very much neglected in terms of defense forces, and considering the width of the Indian coastline, it is essential that we develop this as well. The aerial component of the Navy, which is becoming the ultimate decisive arm of the Naval Forces is very weak and need to be strengthened. India currently does not have capability of any sustained operation in high seas or deep waters other than patrolling the coastline. The Navy must be made stronger both above and below the fleets, and the Navy should be integrated with the Land and Air Forces to develop the ability of long range sustained amphibious operations. In the possibility of armed confrontation the true value of this component is understood only when one does not have it.

In short, the recent developments in technology, be it electronics or material science, telecommunication or robotics, have changed the nature of warfare and made it more offensive, long ranged and quick. So defensive infrastructure has lost much of its value and defense capability can only be developed much in terms of offensive power. This is our Doctrinal principal for defense policy.

Why is Steve Farmer obsessed with the court hearings ?

Why is Steve Farmer obsessed with the court hearings? Why doesn't IER
get a legally competent person? He has no more competence pass opinion on
court proceedings than he does on India.

What is in it for him? who is paying for all this?

The whole thing smacks of self-justification. Are IER members abandoning
him? Is he the only one posting anything on it-- and only on the California
From: Steve Farmer
Date: Fri Apr 28, 2006 1:43 pm
Subject: Hearing Transcript (HAF Lies Worse Than We Thought!)

Dear List,

Early this evening in California we received, direct from the Court
Reporter, the Official Transcript of the ruling given at the April 21
hearing that denied a Preliminary Injunction to the Hindu American
Foundation (HAF) in the California textbook case.

Denial of the Preliminary Injunction means that the California Board of
Education and Department of Education can proceed with the textbook
adoption process, even on the off-chance that the case actually goes to

The transcript shows that the Preliminary Injunction was denied by
Judge Patrick Marlette specifically on the grounds, as I've previously
reported (and HAF has denied), that HAF failed to demonstrate in the
hearing the "likelihood that they would succeed on the merits [of the
case], particularly on the issue of the content [of the textbooks]."

Below I've provided all substantial parts of the text along with a
commentary. Here is a link where you can download both this commentary
and the original transcript:

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT :Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization by Dr.N S Rajaram


Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization: History, science and politics by N.S. Rajaram

The discovery of the Sarasvati River, lauded in the Vedas as the greatest river, and the decipherment of the 5000-year old Indus script are the two most important breakthroughs in Indian history to have taken place in recent decades. The story of Sarasvati’s rediscovery in our time is also the story of the rediscovery of Vedic India. Here is a book on these epoch making developments by one who has been at the center of these developments.

The book shows unequivocally— Harappan civilization was Vedic. Harappan archaeology represents the material remains of the culture and civilization described in the Vedic literature, and flourished in the same geographic regions.

In the present book, N.S. Rajaram, a scientist as well as historian, marshals evidence from a wide range of sources, from archaeology and astronomy to the newly deciphered Indus seals, to shed light on the origins and the achievements of probably the most important civilization in world history. He goes beyond current theories and highlights important facts about natural history and population genetics that point to climate changes in Southeast Asia and the coastal regions rather than invasions from Central Asia or Eurasia as holding the keys to understanding the origins of the Vedic civilization.

In the process he settles important questions like the “Aryan invasion” and the “Harappan horse” by exposing the political currents and the personalities that gave rise to the brand of history imposed on the children of India by colonial authorities and their present day followers. To place it in the historical context, the book includes a summary of the current state of these politically motivated moves, including the recent controversy over textbooks used in California schools.


Foreword by David Frawley
Preface: Science in the service of history

1. Introduction: Science and belief
2. Vedic Sarasvati: River lost and found
3. Cobwebs of colonialism: The Aryan problem
4. History and politics: Subversion of scholarship
5. Vedic people: Image of the ocean
6. The language puzzle: India and Europe
7. Vedic Age: On the banks of the Sarasvati
8. Birth of writing: Harappan language and script
9. Beyond the invasion: Looking south and east

Epilogue: ‘History is always written wrong’

Supplement I: The current state of Aryan theories
Supplement II: Science in Ancient India
Supplement III: Date of the Mahabharata War


About the author
Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematician, linguist and historian who after a twenty-year career as an academic and industrial researcher in the United States turned his attention to history, in which he has several notable achievements. He collaborated with the renowned Vedic scholar Dr. Natwar Jha on the decipherment of the 5000 year old Indus script leading to their epoch making work The Deciphered Indus Script. In May 1999, Rajaram deciphered the newly discovered sample of what has been called the “world’s oldest writing,” showing it to be related to the Rigveda. Most recently, by a detailed study of human population genetics, he has shown that the people of India are not recent immigrants but have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. He sees history as an extension of natural history rather than as a field for political and social theories.

Publisher: Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi; Availability: June 2006

April 27, 2006

U.S., Pakistan Launch Strategic Dialogue on Economics, Security


Discussions also to include education, science, technology, State's Burns says

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Pakistan and the United States have a “unique relationship” based on common security interests, according to U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, and through the newly launched U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, the two countries seek to broaden that relationship through increased commercial, educational and technological exchanges.

“There’s no country in the world more important to the United States in prosecuting and winning the global war on terror than Pakistan,” Burns told reporters during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Riaz Khan in Washington April 27.

He said, “[O]ur common struggle for peace, for stability and for security and against terrorism is what has been at the core of our relationship.” But he added, “[T]hat also has allowed us to think more broadly about the relationship, about the need for economic development in Waziristan, in Baluchistan, in parts of Pakistan that have seen so much instability. And the United States would like to find a way to help the government of Pakistan to bring some economic relief to that part of the country.”

He said the United States has proposed creating reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs) in Pakistan and Afghanistan that would provide work opportunities to populations in economically depressed areas.

Burns said the United States is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, and hopes to increase bilateral trade and investment ties in response to Pakistan’s economic reforms. He said the United States would move ahead with a proposed sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, although Foreign Minister Khan said his government had reduced the size of its order due to economic constraints following the devastating October 2005 earthquake.

Burns and Khan met for two days of discussions April 26 and 27 to lay the groundwork for the strategic dialogue. Other officials will follow up in the coming months with separate dialogues focused specifically on economics, education, trade and investment and science and technology.

Burns said he and the foreign minister also discussed regional issues including the U.S. desire to see Pakistan help curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions; developments in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; and progress on the Pakistan-India Composite Dialogue, the name for the talks between the two nations designed to settle their differences.

He said the United States is encouraged with progress in the composite dialogue and hopes to see India and Pakistan reach a mutually acceptable settlement on the issue of Kashmir.

“As we have an increasingly strong partnership with Pakistan, and we have a very important partnership with India, it makes sense that the United States would be interested in seeing some of the remaining problems left over from another period in history, to see those problems resolved,” he said.

For additional information on U.S. policy in the region, see South and Central Asia.

Karzai must not allow Pak diktate his choice of friends

Date : 2006-04-28
Karzai must not allow Pak diktate his choice of friends
By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

It is understandable why Hamid Karzai has to do a tight rope walking on Indian soil and underplay his apparent disgust with Pakistan’s reluctance to catch the remnants of the Taliban sheltered by the Pakistani tribesmen near the Afghan borders. Any reproach of Pakistan by him while on a visit to India would provide an instant propaganda boon to Islamabad which has been regularly spreading the canard that Kabul’s charges against Pakistan are instigated by India. Nonetheless, at least in the interest of his own country, the Afghan president need not be ambiguous in speaking out his mind on certain matters, regardless of the fact whether he is in his country or in a foreign land.

One such matter is the question of allowing transit of Afghan-bound Indian goods across the Pak territory. While in Delhi, Karzai hoped that a day would arrive soon when Pakistan would allow transit of Indian goods to Afghanistan and beyond. In the same breath, he linked his optimistic prediction to India agreeing to allow free transit of Pakistani goods bound for destinations in East Asia.

This is rather strange, to say the least. As far as one knows Pakistan has not shown any interest in sending its goods through the Indian land route to East Asia, though Pakistan does seem to want unfettered access for its ‘goods’ to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh—in the shape of more arms and other material for the terrorists trained by its ISI. Besides, Pakistan already has a direct road link with China, which has been used in the past, among other things, for secretly transporting nuclear equipment from China and missile components from North Korea. Even if it is assumed that there has been a Pakistani demand for permission to export its ‘goods’ to East Asia through India it is not clear if such an arrangement will suit Pakistan or will be a better option.

Assuming that a Pakistani container is being sent to Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam through the land route it can be said with some certainty that the time it will require for transit from its origin in Pakistan to its destination may not be less than a direct shipment to ports in either country. Apart from the slow pace with which goods move across the Indian roads with all the checks at the point of entering different states, not to speak of many natural hazards like floods and storms, and foreseen human ‘hurdles’ including hold ups, goods moving across two or three countries will take a long time to complete their journey after getting through the two or three custom barriers.

India is among the largest aid donors of Afghanistan and is heavily engaged in rebuilding a new Afghanistan. This has generated a lot of goodwill for India that Pakistan obviously resents. Some of the Indian efforts are hampered by the cost and time taken for moving goods, particularly machinery and heavy goods, from the sea route to Iran and then by land route into Afghanistan. Should the US decide to go to war against Iran, the Iran supply route will get blocked making Afghanistan completely dependent on Pakistan for its export-import trade more since the land route via central Asia is not much developed.

It does look therefore Karzai is dodging the question of pressing Pakistan for allowing passage to Afghan-bound Indian goods. Both suspicion and jealousy prevented many previous Pakistani governments, as also the present one headed by its military chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf, from agreeing to any arrangement that facilitates access of Indian goods into Afghanistan. Pakistan has in the recent denied transit facilities even for humanitarian consignments from India.

Being landlocked, Afghanistan certainly has a strong case for being granted land transit facilities through Pakistan. But Karzai regime has shown reluctance to press President Musharraf too much, fearing that it may lead to Pakistan further opening up the terrorist taps on Afghanistan and thus dash whatever little hope that Kabul may have of getting Islamabad’s ‘cooperation’ in rounding up of the former Taliban elements living East of the Durand Line.

India can understand the reasons why Karzai does not want to annoy the mercurial General too much. Even the General’s strongest patrons in Washington have to suffer his tantrums such as the one he is throwing currently at being denied a nuclear ‘package’. But what does not become clear to many in India is why Karzai should gratuitously advocate something on behalf of Pakistan. It cannot be called a fine balancing act because no matter what he says or does in India or about India, Pakistan is bound to remain sullen as there is little possibility of it regaining its ‘strategic depth’ that came its way when Taliban controlled Afghanistan. That Pakistan has become a dirty word for many Afghans adds to the discomfort of the Islamabad rulers who have been hoping to keep post-Taliban Afghanistan under its thumb.

It is not known whether these and other related issues figured in the Karzai - Manmohan Singh, talks, but it is natural for India to expect Karzai to effectively and publicly rebut the Pakistani canard that Indian diplomatic missions in his country are being used to fuel trouble in Pakistani canard that Indian diplomatic missions in his country are being used to fuel trouble in Baluchistan and North Waziristan. The Pakistani ploy looks kike a crude attempt to hide the patently anti-Indian activities directed from its own diplomatic missions in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Pakistanis have raised a hue and cry about the presence of Indian security guards sent to Afghanistan for the safety of Indian workers engaged in the country’s gigantic reconstruction task. Islamabad had tried, without much success, to seek Washington’s ‘intervention’ in putting a stop to even the opening of Indian missions beyond Kabul. Pakistan has no right or role in deciding where the Indian missions should be opened and what India should do to protect its nationals. More so since Kabul has no objections to Indian missions operating from one or more centres in Afghanistan or the presence of Indian security for the latter’s personnel. In the kind of situation that prevails in Afghanistan, India has every right to take measures for the security and safety of its workers. Kabul must transmit this message to Islamabad strongly.

There is every reason for India to suspect a Pakistani hand behind some of the attacks on Indian workers in Afghanistan. These attacks have ostensibly been carried out by the Taliban—sent from across the border. Karzai may have to be more subtle in talking about it but he has to convey to his ‘brothers’ in Islamabad that the days when they could interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan are gone and in no way can Islamabad dictate Kabul’s choice of friends.

- Syndicate Features -

Interview with Baltistan activist

ZNet(Red Alert) is carrying an interview of M Hasnain - an activist from Baltistan on the Pakistani side of the LOC in Kashmir. Hasnain doesn't have nice things to say about how his ethnic group on the Pakistani side of the border are being treated. He does say things are nicer for his people on the Indian side.

A careful analysis will show that Baltis in Kargil have far more cultural, religious and political freedom compared to Baltis in Pakistani control. ... Indian Balti Muslims I have talked to express pride in being Indian, which reflects on how they are treated there. Further, they have economic autonomy through a local autonomous development council. Their language and script is promoted by Indian government, something that the people of Baltistan can only dream of.- ZMag

From the article at Zmag:

M. Hasnain is a leading activist and ideologue from Baltistan, in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. He is deeply involved in Baltistan's movement for self-determination. In this interview he talks about the situation in his homeland and prospects for peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Q: Could you tell us something about yourself, your background, your work and your involvement in the Baltistan issue?

My name is M. Hasnain. I was born and raised in Baltistan. I did a degree in engineering from Pakistan and then left for England to get a masters degree in Development Studies. I got involved with promoting Balti culture human rights advocacy work in the late 1990s. I have helped promote an indigenous script (called Yige, which is similar to the Ladakhi script) in Baltistan. With the help of the Tibet Society, Australia, and the Tibet Foundation London, I initiated cultural enhancement programmes in the region and received tremendous support from the local people, including from those associated with religious groups. In collaboration with the Baltistan Cultural Foundation, I helped produce the first primary book in Balti, the local Ladakhi sub-dialect, the lingua franca of Baltistan. I have also been involved in research on Balti history, culture and politics as well as human rights violations in Baltistan and other related issues. I have served as a member of the guidance council for Baltistan Students Federation.

Q: Could you tell us something about the geographical location and ethnic and sectarian composition of Baltistan? What cultural ties does it share with Ladakh?

Baltistan is one of the six regions of undivided Jammu and Kashmir. It is bordered by Gilgit in the west, Ladakh in the east, the Kashmir Valley in the south and Tibet in the north. A majority of the people of Baltistan (around 93%) have Ladakhi / Tibetan ancestry. About 65% of the total population is Shia, 30% is Sufi Nurbakshi (a Sufi order found only in Ladakh and Baltistan) and the rest 5% are Sunnis and followers of the Ahl-i-Hadith. People of Baltistan and Ladakh speak a similar language, follow similar customs and traditions and look similar in appearance as both communities are a mixture of Tibetan and Indian races like Mons and Dards.

Ladakh and Baltistan remained under the Central Tibetan dynasty for a long time. After the 11th Century CE, local dynasties like the Rmakpons and Namgyals emerged and ruled Ladakh and Baltistan, extending their sway from Chitral in the west to Purang in the east. The ethnic and cultural bonding between Baltistan and Ladakh deepened during the Dogra period (1842-1948), as the Dogras consolidated both regions into one province called the Ladakh Wazarat. Under the administrative umbrella of the State of Jammu of Kashmir, Baltistan constituted the western part of the Wazarat, and remained so for 106 years. The union of Ladakh and Baltistan within one administrative setup was based on the fact that both regions have a similar culture.

Within the unified Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh Wazarat was the largest province, exceeding the total area of Kashmir province by six times. The province was divided into Leh, Kargil and Skardo districts. Skardo, the capital of Baltistan, was the winter capital of the province while Leh, the capital of central Ladakh, was the summer capital. The people of the province had political representation in the Council of Maharaja. Among the four members nominated from Ladakh Wazarat by Maharaja Hari Singh, two were Buddhists from Leh district, while Gyalpo Fateh Ali Khan of Skardo and Kacho Ahmed Ali Khan from Kargil district were Muslim representatives. The Dogra Regime, though composed of mainly Hindu Rajputs, introduced state subject rule to protect the socio-political and economic interests of the native Muslim and Buddhist populations by allowing only local ownership of land. The provincial set-up further enabled strengthening trade and socio-economic links along with cultural development. Roads and bridges were constructed and a postal system was set up, thereby accelerating communication between the various valleys of the province and bringing people even closer.

The tragic partition of Ladakh Wazarat in 1948 led to separation of Ladakh and Baltistan. Baltistan was later annexed by Pakistan and incorporated into the Northern Areas (NAs) of J&K under Pakistani occupation. So we can safely say that from 5th Century CE onwards, regions of Ladakh and Baltistan have remained as part of same administrative unit up until 1948, when J&K was partitioned between India and Pakistan.

Q: How do the Baltistanis look at the current political conflict in Kashmir?

People of Baltistan are denied the right to represent the region in an official capacity whenever conferences are convened to discuss J&K issue. Technically, people of Baltistan are not considered as citizens of Pakistan. Being State Subjects of J&K, they demand that they should receive a status equal to other State Subjects, like those living in Muzaffarabad or Srinagar and Kargil. They would like to contribute to end the 60 year-old dispute between the two nuclear powers of South Asia. They believe that the J&K conflict has divided Baltis and Ladakhis on both sides of the LOC, the Berlin Wall of South Asia. We desire to give our input that will help unification of Baltistan with Indian Ladakh. Our culture, economy and political development suffers as the J&K imbroglio prolongs. The people of Baltistan desire this conflict to end so that unification of Ladakh and Baltistan could be materialized and political autonomy could be granted to local people.

Q: How does the average Baltistani look at Pakistan and India and envisage the future political status of Baltistan?

Most Baltis desires a peaceful relationship developing between India and Pakistan. They desire that borders should be open and trade should restart between Ladakh and Baltistan. Our four traditional trade routes that lead towards Ladakh are currently closed. Currently, we are dependent on a single road that leads to Pakistan. When this vital link to rest of Pakistan closes due to avalanches or rains, Baltistan remains cut off from rest of the world and the local economy suffers. People of Baltistan request the leadership of Pakistan to accept the proposals sent by Indian government to open the Kargil-Skardo road and allow Baltis on both sides of LOC to be united.

If peace prevails, it will bring prosperity to Baltistan. We desire to see both countries becoming friends and solving all disputes peacefully. There is a growing support among Baltis to enhance relations with Ladakh. Based on similar culture and language and geographical proximity, we desire to be unified with Ladakh. We desire a set up where both Ladakh and Baltistan have socio-economic autonomy and the right to make their own decisions in the best interest of the region. We desire to be part of a nation which is peace loving, prosperous and a strong democracy that will help promote a pluralistic society and harmony among different communities of the region.

Q: How, in your view, has Pakistan treated Baltistan? How would you compare this with how the Baltis and Buddhists in Ladakh/Kargil have been treated by the Indian state?

I have heard that people in Leh and Kargil, both Buddhists and Muslims, have religious and economic freedom. A careful analysis will show that Baltis in Kargil have far more cultural, religious and political freedom compared to Baltis in Pakistani control. They receive government support to promote their cultural identity which is very inspiring. Indian Balti Muslims I have talked to express pride in being Indian, which reflects on how they are treated there. Further, they have economic autonomy through a local autonomous development council. Their language and script is promoted by Indian government, something that the people of Baltistan can only dream of.

Although Pakistan considers Baltistan as part of the disputed State of J&K, the region is denied similar political, judicial and administrative rights granted to other parts of the State like Azad Kashmir. The forceful separation of the Ladakh Wazarat has directly impacted on Baltistan, since Baltis and Ladakhis are now deprived of an administrative province controlled locally. Provincial status granted before 1947 by the Hindu Rulers of J&K has been denied for the last fifty-eight years to Baltistan. Pakistan has damaged our indigenous socio-political institutions which evolved over thousands of years, and this has left a political vacuum and weakened the community. Administrators in key offices of the police, civil service and judiciary are imported from Pakistan. Similarly, the judiciary in the Northern Areas lacks autonomy. Access to the Provincial High Courts, appellant courts or the Federal Supreme Court of Pakistan is denied to the locals. The judicial system in the Northern Areas is not linked to the Federal Supreme Court, which means that Baltis are only subject to the military tribunals.

The regional council (NALC) lacks the authority to legislate. The Chief Executive of the Northern Areas, a non-local federal figure, finalizes decisions on all political legislation. Part of disputed J&K, Baltistan is denied the right to vote in national elections. While citizens of Pakistan experience elections, Baltis are mere spectators in the entire electoral process. To this date, the locals remain without representation in the national or provincial assemblies. Today, residents of Ladakh and Indian J&K enjoy far better political and socio-economic benefits compared to Baltis. Pakistan's Foreign Office refuses to grant basic political rights to the people of Baltistan, considering this to be a weakening of Pakistan's claim to Kashmir in international forums. Lack of political resources and repressive control by the central government is a deterrent to the growth of a mass political movement potent enough to pursue self-rule.

Along with denial of socio-political rights to Baltis, the Pakistani government also terminated State Subject Rule (SSR). The SSR, which was designed and enforced by the Dogra Regime to protect the socio-economic rights of the citizens of J&K, was abolished in the 1960s in Baltistan. The termination of the rule, still enforced in other parts of J&K, helped the Pakistani establishment to try to permanently change the regional demography and settle non-Baltis into the region. With the passage of time, well-off settlers have increased their political influence in the region. This shift hurts the region as the unskilled and illiterate masses of Baltistan once again experience virtual slavery. The resulting preferential hiring of non-locals for jobs further threatens the local economy. The move will affect the historical balance of ethnic and religious groups co-existing peacefully in the region. The true color of local culture and religious characteristics of the region will fade away with the passage of time, causing an identity crisis among the locals and tearing the social fabric of Baltistan.

Among other uncertainties, the construction of the Skardo-Katsura Dam is a significant cause of anxiety for Baltis. Pakistan intends to build the dam for agricultural and electricity generation purposes, primarily benefiting Punjab province. The environmental and cultural impact of this project are immense. The project will fulfill the government's designs to change the regional demography, as Baltistan's politico-commercial centre, Skardo, and Shigar, the grain basket of Baltistan, will be submerged completely. The project will submerge more than two-thirds of the habitable parts of Baltistan. The dam will submerge famous Buddhist and Bon archeological sites, historical sites, large tracts of cultivated land and the much of the communications infrastructure.

The federal and Sindh governments also intend to liquefy glaciers in the Baltistan and Gilgit regions, as water capacity in existing dams has decreased and Pakistani farmers face water shortages. Implementation of this idea will cause an ecological genocide and is a tactic to depopulate both regions. Local people believe that the government of Pakistan has no right to construct dams in Baltistan and Gilgit as these regions are not part of Pakistan.

Q: What about economic conditions in Baltistan?

An ancient thriving civilization; Baltistan is now one of the most poverty stricken areas of Pakistan. Alarmingly low literacy, absence of industries and paved roads, lack of energy sources and job opportunities have forced thousands to leave the region in the quest for livelihood. Dependency on the government of Pakistan is deeper than ever, and the once hardworking and skillful Baltis are reduced to beggars and dependent on federal rationing. The per capita income is less than one-third of the national standard. On an average, each person in Baltistan earns 42 American cents per day and the majority of earnings come from temporary or seasonal work. Income earned during the summers is used to secure provision of fuel to face the winter cold (thirty percent of the average income of a person is spent on purchase of wood and kerosene oil), leaving little disposable income. In order to sustain the ever-shrinking household economy, parents are compelled to send their children to graze cattle and collect wood rather than to school, thus depriving children the right to education. In the last 58 years, no technical, scientific or medical institutions have been built in Baltistan. Government school buildings and health centres are non-existent in several valleys. In many villages, students sit outdoors for classes during the harsh winter months. Government health centres fare no better than the educational institutions. In many villages, peons and sweepers of health centers perform the duties of doctors and pharmacists in the absence of skilled professionals. The majority of dispensaries and hospitals lack adequate medical supplies and surgical equipment. Patients are forced to travel hundreds of miles to Gilgit and Islamabad to get treatment for common ailments.

Baltistan's economy has been unstable since the 1948 border closing with Ladakh. During the months when border skirmishes between India and Pakistan escalate, economic activities grind to a halt. Further, the restriction on tourism in the border valleys, where more than half of the population of Baltistan lives, has drastically impacted on the local economy. Until the closure of the Indo-Pak border, trade was a vital form of livelihood and second only to farming. Historical trade routes, used by Baltis for several thousand years, open only towards India. Closure of these trade routes has restricted the free movement of Baltis and devastated the local economy. On the other hand, there is only one road that links Baltistan with Pakistan through Gilgit. The road was built in the 1980s and until then, the only form of transportation to Pakistan was by air. Whenever seasonal avalanches and landslides obstruct this vital road, goods and supplies from Pakistan are prevented from arriving in Baltistan for many weeks. During road blockages, commodities become so expensive that government starts rationing and many often go hungry. Further, the road is not passable during Shia-Wahhabi skirmishes. Extremist Wahhabis, who target Shias, block traffic and slaughter Baltis traveling to Pakistan.

Gultari and Shingo-Shigar valleys of Baltistan have been worst hit by the border closure between Ladakh and Baltistan. Before partition of Ladakh Wazarat, these valleys were part of the Kargil district. Geographical confines limit the access of 11,000 residents of these valleys to Skardo or Gilgit during seven months of winter. A road leading to Kargil town is the only year-around access to markets, health and education facilities as well as job opportunities for the people of Gultari and Shingo-Shigar. Fifty-eight years have passed and they are still waiting for Pakistan to allow them free travel across the border. During the summer season, when mountain passes open, it takes 13 hours to reach Skardo and 17 hours to Gilgit. This is the coldest habitable region of Baltistan where life is at its worst in the winters. During winters, as snow restricts movement, ailing patients are left in the hand of God to die. In a nut shell, the residents are left with only two options: to either abandon their homeland and become refugees in Skardo town, or be allowed to join Kargil district on the other side of the Line of Control (LOC), thereby accessing year-round social and economic benefits.

The border closure has also separated thousands of families of Ladakh and Baltistan and Pakistan continues to deny the right to the family members to travel across the border. Thousands of divided families await reunion by the opening of the Skardo-Kargil and Nubra-Chorbat roads. Sixty thousand people from the border valleys face displacement and forced re-location and are currently living under inhospitable conditions. Although the Indian government has put forth a proposal to open the Kargil-Skardo route, Pakistan refuses to comply. On the other hand, Kashmiris are now allowed to cross into Pakistan from other parts of the State.

Q: Being cut off from the rest of Ladakh and being under Pakistani rule for more than half a century, how has Baltistani culture been transformed?

Along with economic deprivation, socio-cultural insecurities and identity theft also pose a great threat to the survival of the people of Baltistan. People of Baltistan and Ladakh, who share so much in terms of ethnicity and culture, are separated, which is an anathema for this peace-loving nation. Te lack of interaction with their ethnic brethren across the border has obstructed the development of Balti cultural identity and language. The Baltis believe that local language and culture is being suppressed by the Pakistani government to weaken the ties of Baltistan and Ladakh. Pakistan suppresses the development of the indigenous script, 'Yigay'. To date, the Balti language (a sister dialect of Ladakhi) is not taught in the local schools, even at the primary level. Similarly, handloom specialists, traditional capmakers, shoemakers and woodcraft specialists are abandoning their profession as the indigenous cottage industry fails to receive government patronage. Dancers, singers, and musicians also await a similar destiny while struggling to find alternative sources of income. Balti traditional sports like archery and polo have lost patronage in many valleys. The majority of the Baltis believe that only unification with Ladakh can restore the cultural patronage and development of their local language. They also desire to preserve their ancient culture and language which is essential to promote local identity.

Q: How significant are the cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties between Ladakhis and Baltistanis today, more than half a century after Partition?

Centuries old Tibetan, Islamic and Indian influences have shaped the Balti culture into its modern form, which is also shared by many people of Ladakh. Popular Balti religion is a blend of Tibetan, Sufi, Indian and Shaman rituals, which is unique in a conservative Islamic environment like that of Pakistan. The people of Ladakh and Baltistan share a common language, religion and customs. Baltis are proud of their ancient past and of possessing a script of their own, which is similar to Ladakhi script. Five decades have passed since 1947 and the Baltis, including two generations born after the partition of Baltistan and Ladakh, still identify strongly with the people of Ladakh.

The rich folklore and literary heritage of the Baltis; their poetry, proverbs, myths, epics, sagas, folk dances, wedding rituals, songs, festivals like Losar and Mephang, sports like polo and daphang (archery), architecture and cottage industry are evidence of a shared Ladakhi identity and heritage. The age-old traditions of Buddhist and animistic origin are discernible in the local culture. Many elements of the ancient supernatural belief systems, especially many traditions connected with agricultural practices, are still followed with subdued reverence.

Q: How has the massive presence of Pakistani troops in Baltistan impacted on the way in which Baltist feel about Pakistan?

The permanent presence of Pakistani army, intelligence agency personnel and paramilitary in Baltistan increases social instability and anxiety for locals. The soldiers' immunity from criminal prosecution is a cause of fear for locals who do not feel safe within their own homeland. The lack of freedom to lead private lives has forced many families to leave the region, causing a brain drain, demographic change and replacing locals with non-locals in the workforce.

Locals feel like living in a jail. Job profiles and personal portfolios are collected for all governmental and non-governmental workers by the secret service agencies. Locals live in fear as the inquisitive eyes of the secret service spy on them. The ISI regularly intercepts postal and electronic mail. Phone lines are tapped. Secret services pressurise local media to induct their agents as journalists. These so-called 'reporters' hide the extra-judicial activities of the ISI, Pakistani army and police. Intelligence agents disguised as barbers, cobblers, sweepers and shopkeepers spy on local residents. The secret service interrogates natives who associate with foreigners and tourists and videotape such encounters. Agents intrude upon political and religious gatherings and tape conversations. Religious sermons of Shia and Sufi-Nurbakhshi Imams are taped and reported to ISI headquarters on a regular basis.

Secret service agents employed in offices instigate ethnic and religious conflicts between Shinas, Baltis, Shias, Sunnis and Nurbakhshis. The Pakistani army uses Shia-Wahhabi riots as an excuse to transfer key posts in the departments of health, education and infrastructure development to army brigadiers, further expanding military authority. Army officers influence the induction, transfer and termination process of government employees, thereby bringing the entire workforce under complete military extortion. Armed forces and secret service agencies control the land, natural resources and means of livelihood of Baltistan. They occupy government buildings constructed for civil use. In many cases, militant Jehadis use the houses to run their operations.

The ISI stations hundreds of Wahhabi-militants in Baltistan and Gilgit. They intimidate local people whom they deem subversive and look for confrontations. They act like conquerors going about cleansing this 'part of Pakistan' of 'Shia infidels.' In August 1999, Wahhabi-militants attacked an old widow in Skardo and shot her in the leg. The incident led to the imposition of curfew in Skardo for three days following clashes between local youth and militants.

The armed forces harass locals and roam at large under the protection of the Pakistani civil authority and police. On August 8, 2003, four secret service agents tortured a taxi driver from Skardo who refused to give them a ride. The driver was detained in a local jail without charge and later released at the protest of town residents. The police refused to register the crimes and protected the interests of ISI agents.The police and ISI personnel treat locals like slaves and expect them to tolerate brutality as their destiny. It is a common routine for authorities to detain people without charge until substantial protest is registered. Locals, including women, children and the elderly, are assaulted in open view of other villagers to induce fear and shame. Those without any social or political influence remain behind bars for indefinite periods of time. The authorities collect bribes on a regular basis from villagers. Villagers bring fuel-wood, yak butter, dried fruits, and meat to the police, who act as divine authority in this remote valley. Those who fail to pay are subject to insult, assault and detention.

Q: What about religious freedom in Baltistan, given that most Baltis are Shias living in a Sunni-majority state?

Parallel to cultural oppression, the Pakistani regime does not allow the Baltis to practice their faith without interference, develop faith-based educational courses for local institutions or develop connections with people of the same faith and practices across the LOC. There appears to be a clear intention on part of the Pakistani establishment to attack Shia Islamic beliefs and practices through the school curriculum. Contrary to Shia traditions, Islamic topics based on extremist Wahhabi beliefs are taught in schools. Parents complain that teachers instruct Shia students to perform prayers replicating the Wahhabi manner. Such forced indoctrination of children at a young age discourages enlightened and modern strains of Islam and encourages religious extremism.

Communities in Baltistan sleep uneasy knowing that Pakistani secret service agencies are intent on converting religious minorities like the Nurbakhshis to the Wahhabi militant faith. Wahhabi religious organizations supported by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI, the notorious Pakistani secret service agency) persuade poor parents to send their male children to Talibanized schools and Jehadi centers. In 2002, two Nurbakhshi boys fled Afghan Jehadi camps and came back to Baltistan. These boys, along with several others, were first taken to a Wahhabi school in Punjab, where they were converted and received military training. While in Afghanistan, the Taliban caught the boys performing Nurbakhshi religious rituals in secret and labeled them Shias. The militants locked up the boys, determined to shoot them. During the night, they fled and spent weeks lost in the Hindukush Mountains before arriving in Baltistan, where they exhibited the mental and physical torture inflicted on them.

Pakistan's armed forces and Jehadi militants are insensitive to the culture of Baltistan. Their disregard for Shia religious customs threatens peaceful survival of locals. In 1998, when Shias and Sufis were mourning the massacre of the family of Prophet Muhammad during the annual Muharram ritual, Pakistan army officers mocked the procession and started playing cricket in the vicinity. The refusal by the officers to stop the game led to clash with locals, injuring many and damaging the Pakistani army garrison. In Gamba Skardo, the army forcefully obstructed a religious procession. The situation led to mass agitation when women mourners threw stones at the army and forced them to withdraw.

Under these circumstances, the Baltis believe that religious persecution and systemic erosion of religious freedom under Pakistani occupation is parallel to Chinese persecution of Tibetans. Those who are aware of the socio-economic and political conditions in Tibet must realize that human rights violations in Baltistan are alarmingly severe. Before Baltistan becomes like Tibet, international community must pressure Pakistani armed and civilian forces to withdraw, while returning local administration to the Baltis and granting self rule.

Q: How do you see inter-sectarian relations in Baltistan today? How have they changed in recent decades? What have been the factors for this change?

What forces of resistance have come up to face this challenge?

Like any part of Pakistan, sectarianism has hit Baltistan and damaged the peaceful social atmosphere. Recently, Shias and Wahhabis clashed in Gilgit and Baltistan and much damage was done to local economy and society due to the communal polarization. However, the local leadership has done well to settle the conflicts and normalcy is coming back to Baltistan. Few years ago, intermarriages among Shia and Sunni communities were common. Today, it is hardly practiced. Sunnis have radicalized too. Participation of Sunnis during Muharram processions is almost obsolete now. Further, arrival of both financial support and religious ideologies from Iran and Saudi Arabia has further segregated the communities. Talibanization of Pakistani society is worsening the situation. Joblessness and enforced illiteracy leads to easy victimization of the society.

Religious strife does not allow Baltis to promote a unified cause for self rule and government agencies know and use this well. The nationalist movement in Baltistan tries to bring together all Baltis on the basis of ethnicity, common language and culture. However, religious skirmishes damage such efforts.

Q: How do you see the role of the agencies of the Pakistani establishment in attacks on Shias in Baltistan in recent years?

Massacres of Shias and Sufis is today a major threat to Baltistan's identity, security and economy. Top Shia religious leaders, lawyers, technocrats and government officials are under constant threat from religious extremist groups like Sipaha-i Sahaba, Lashkar-i Jhanghvi and Jaish-i Muhammad. It is in this general atmosphere that the 1988 massacre of Shias occurred. It is widely believed that militant groups received the endorsement of the Pakistani Army under the command of General Ziaul Haque, the Martial Law Administrator and President of Pakistan (Ziaul Haque is often called 'Butcher of Gilgit-Baltistan'). In May of 1988, militants attacked Gilgit and killed thousands of people. Seven villages were burned to the ground, women raped and children slaughtered in the three-week episode. The incident continued without interference under the eye of the Pakistani army and police. Shouting notorious Wahhabi religious slogans such as 'Ek Shia Maaro, Jannat Mein Ghar Banao ('Kill a Shia and Secure a Quick Ticket to Paradise)', tribal militants from NWFP attacked heavily-populated Shia villages and slaughtered everything they found alive including livestock. The militants were well informed about the location of and access routes to Shia villages. The genocide was committed through sophisticated bureaucratic organization and involved military and technological planning to exterminate people in the largest Shia region under Pakistani occupation.

In Gilgit, schools and medical centres were burned and shops were looted. Fruit trees, timber forests and wheat and maize crops were set on fire. Militants destroyed 25 Shia mosques and Imambargahs and burned copies of the Quran and other religious books. After burning down Gilgit, militants moved trucks, jeeps and heavy weapons towards Baltistan. However, Balti armed fighters burned down the bridge connecting Baltistan with Pakistan to protect the region. The bravery of the Baltis forced the militants to retreat, leaving thousands of bodies behind. The organized manner of the genocide suggests that assailants had well-established communication links with Wahhabi groups of Gilgit and the ISI.

The genocide against a religious minority was an attempt by authorities to change the regional demography and reduce the Shia population while promoting the settlement of Wahhabis from Punjab and NWFP. The UNO Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as, 'acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.' This definition clearly applies to the atrocities committed against the people of Baltistan and Gilgit.

Government officials and army deny involvement in this incident. It is hard to believe that twelve thousand tribal militants traveled approximately four hundred miles past several military checkpoints on Karakoram Highway (KKH) for several days without notice. The militants brought hundreds of trucks full of heavy machinery with them. They were equipped with sophisticated navigational system. They used loudspeakers to invite others to join the so-called 'Jehad' against infidel Shias. On the way, hundreds of Wahhabis from Mansehra, Kohistan, Swat, Besham and Chilas districts joined them. When the militia arrived in Gilgit, eyewitnesses report the militants exceeded twenty thousand in number. The genocide continued for three weeks while government officials watched. Survivors accuse the government of failing to punish a single assailant. No cases were registered against the tribal militants who devastated the region. For several months, affected families resided in temporary tents without proper health and sanitation facilities. Even though the government witnessed the massacres, it was slow to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath. Victims who complained and staged demonstrations were harassed and jailed. After all that, the way Pakistani regime justifies its innocence is shocking for the people of Baltistan and Gilgit.

The genocide of the Shias took another twist recently when the top Shia leader of Gilgit region, Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, was murdered on January 7, 2005 by Pakistani Wahhabi militants. Rizvi was a proponent of self-rule for Baltistan and Gilgit. The assassination triggered a wave of violence and curfew was imposed in both Gilgit and Baltistan. Since then communal riots have taken at least 100 lives, and hundreds wounded. The incident is reminiscent of the riots of 1993, when twenty local Shias were slaughtered. The curfew lasted for more than six months.

Following the massacre, two thousand women blocked highway to protest the continuous Shia slaughter in Pakistan. More than 50,000 protestors took to the streets in Gilgit and Baltistan. The incident gave the current regime an excuse to beef up security and bring thousands of men of the Frontier Constabulary, Khyber Rifles and Chitral Scouts to the area. The soldiers have built permanent hideouts in the streets. Security forces have erected barricades and barbed wires at all exit and entry points within the town limits of Skardo and Gilgit.

The local media complains that Wahhabi religious leaders threaten journalists to discourage reporting of killings of Shias. Since the people of Baltistan and Gilgit have no representation in the Parliament or the Senate of Pakistan, a parliamentarian from Punjab, Khwaja Saad Rafik, forwarded a motion in the National Assembly of Pakistan on the request of leaders of Gilgit and condemned the massacre of Shias in Pakistan. In the last two decades, thousands of Shia lawyers, doctors, engineers, religious leaders, politicians and businessmen have been victim of target-killing is horrifying.

Police and armed forces tortured and detained local Shia youth who took part in spontaneous demonstrations after the death of Agha Zia. In total, 280 protesting Shia activists were arrested in Baltistan and Gilgit while more than one thousand Shias were arrested in Pakistan. Fifteen protestors were transferred to DHQ hospital in Skardo after receiving serious injuries by physical torture by police and secret services. The detainees reported that at night, when room temperature dropped below 14 degrees Celsius, police officers filled detention cells with cold water. With fans turned on at full speed, prisoners were made to stand naked for the whole night. They were kept handcuffed and beaten by sticks and leather straps. All these torture tactics continued for several days. The torture led to kidney failures for some of the detainees. Insults about the Shia religion were shouted by the interrogators to humiliate the detainees. Given that Baltis have lost their culture, political rights and identity in Pakistan, the massacre of Shias is another attempt to erase local identity.

For the peace-loving locals, even showing hatred towards one's neighbor is considered disrespect to local traditions. But the introduction of so-called jehadi culture by ISI-sponsored terrorist groups has caused radicalization of tolerant and peaceful Sufi-Shias of Baltistan, leading to a social disorder. An influx of Pathan settlers led to the introduction of drugs and weapons. Today, thousands of native residents are addicted to hashish and heroine. Weapons and drug smugglers have become millionaires overnight.

The late Kalon Mehdi of Khibchung Skardo, who has the honor of being the only Balti Law graduate from Aligarh University, India, once said, "Unification with Ladakh and Kashmir brought culture and civilization to Baltistan. Nowadays, we receive drugs, Kalashnikov and Wahhabism as a gift for opting for Pakistan." The monthly Herald reported in April 2005 that after the Shia-Wahhabi riots, "Sell your Cow and Buy a Kalashnikov" became the slogan of young Wahhabi groups of Gilgit, who ask for donations to buy weapons to exterminate Shias. The local administration completely ignores these incidents. The only beneficiaries are the Wahhabi weapon smugglers. Despite having hundreds of police and army checkpoints along Karakoram Highway, these weapon smugglers manage to have free access to the region, which is a mystery for the locals.

In addition to weapons and drugs smuggling, nowadays the Karakoram Highway is also used for murdering Shias of Baltistan and Gilgit. The militants attack and murder Shias of Baltistan and Gilgit, who travel by road to Pakistan. Passengers boarding public transportation with identity cards issued from Baltistan are especially targeted. On July 3, 2004, Wahhabi militants attacked the bus and murdered three Shias while critically injuring seven others. In February 2005, extremist Wahhabis shot at a bus traveling from Islamabad to Baltistan and injured three Shia passengers. On April 23, 2005, terrorists intercepted another public bus carrying passengers from Skardo to Islamabad. They made the passengers show identity cards, then separated two Shia Baltis and killed them. The incident led to more than ten thousand mourners defying the curfew and demonstrating on the roads of Skardo. In a similar incident on July 18, 2005, five passengers were shot dead and fifteen injured near Chilas as militants opened gunfire on a bus traveling from Gilgit to Islamabad. The local transportation network has halted as dozens of public vehicles have been attacked. The Northern Areas administration sacked 72 bus drivers of Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) on February 9, 2005, for refusing to drive public buses through Wahhabi-majority areas. The drivers, most of whom are Shias, feared attacks on vehicles by Wahhabis.

Attacks on public transport on the highway have created hardships for students, patients and people traveling to find employment, as weather-dependent and air travel is very expensive. Locals accuse Pathan immigrants of harboring militants and orchestrating attacks on Shias. Locals believe that the Wahhabi settlers work as informants of ISI and collaborate with extremist elements in NWFP to carry out attacks. They establish communication networks with assailants who are then informed about bus departure schedules and the number of Shia passengers onboard. As long as Baltistan remains under the occupation of Pakistan, this sort of social degradation will continue and local values of peace, tolerance and unity among different communities will be compromised.

Another form of human rights violations, committed by the police, ISI and the army against the people of Baltistan [and other parts of POK], is sexual assault on women. Unfortunately, majority of the physical molestation cases remain hidden due to intimidation of victims and their relatives by law enforcement agencies. The police refuse to register the few cases reported by relatives and villagers. This hides evidence and protects the culprits who are rarely prosecuted or punished.

Most army garrisons in Baltistan are situated amidst local residential areas and villages, allowing foreign elements to interfere with local life. Soldiers disrespect local socio-cultural and religious customs. They intrude into residential quarters where women observe 'Hijab'. In 2001, the Frontier Constabulary (FC) intruded upon a residential area in Skardo. Residents asked the FC to leave the area to show respect to women in Hijab. FC refused and a clash ensued leading to six sustained injuries. In February 2005, FC stationed in Thsongdus entered a refugee camp and molested women. As the public gathered in protest, FC fired shots into the air and retreated. Public demonstrations led by religious leaders finally persuaded officials to remove FC camps from the area. However, the police refused to register a case against the FC for attacking and molesting refugees of the Kargil war. In Tarkati, villagers killed three Punjabi soldiers who raped a local woman. In another incident, Amin, a resident of Kharmang killed an army officer who raped his daughter. Police refused to register or investigate the rape case and instead jailed Amin on charges of murder. Amin was tortured to death in jail. Today, police officers responsible for Amin's death roam free along with those who raped his daughter. Similarly, a widow of a Kargil war martyr was sexually assaulted and physically tortured by a secret service agent. Villagers caught the assailant red-handed; however, police pressured the villagers to not press charges against the culprit. In another incident, two soldiers stabbed a local girl from Gangche district in an attempt to rape her as she grazed cattle. The soldiers, using a dagger to cut her clothes and slashed open her abdomen. In another account, a resident of Skardo killed an army officer when the officer intruded into his house to rape his daughter.

The villagers of Gupis valley of Gilgit demonstrated against secret agents for the kidnapping of a local girl. Three villagers were shot dead by the FC during the demonstration. Police took no action against the FC for the murders. On a different occasion, secret agents kidnapped two girls from Gulmati village of Gilgit. Villagers demonstrated and filed cases against the culprits. However, the local court released the kidnappers and declared them innocent. Another case was filed in Gilgit police station when agency personnel abducted and molested two orphaned sisters of a local Shia soldier in January 1999. Government law enforcement agencies sided with the culprits and denied justice to the victims. In another incident, sixteen-year-old Muhammad Amin was arrested from Gilgit for suspicions of theft and drug trafficking. Police officials sodomized the boy for several weeks. The suspect was later found innocent. This incident shows that while the real drug dealers - Pathan and Punjabi settlers - roam free as State guests, innocent people like Muhammad Amin are victimized by State-sponsored sex predators.

The Kargil War was another crime committed by Pakistan against the people of Baltistan and Gilgit. In May 1999, Pakistan waged a war on India and used Baltistan as the launching pad. Baltis consider the war as an attempted genocide against an ethnic minority. Pakistani government pushed thousands of people into a senseless war and used three thousand NLI soldiers (Northern Light Infantry, predominantly composed of Shia soldiers) as cannon fodder. Ex-PM, Nawaz Sharif, who called the Kargil war a disaster bigger than the wars of 1948, 1965 or 1971, admitted that 3,000 NLI soldiers perished in the Kargil war. The war primarily impacted Baltis and Ladakhis on both sides of the border. The war damaged the local economy and caused forced displacement to thousands of people. Although Pakistan claims that local militants (Mujahideen) infiltrated into Indian territory, in reality the infiltrators were regular NLI soldiers. In order to perpetuate the myth, Pakistani officials refused to accept the dead bodies of NLI soldiers from India. Several hundred martyrs killed on Pakistani soil were left in the battlefield to decay and vultures as officials refused to recognize them as Pakistani soldiers. Officials returned the corpses of NLI martyrs in tracksuits and civilian clothes to make them appear as Mujahideen. They deprived martyrs of an honorable State funeral to hide facts.

The case of the NLI soldiers illustrates the story of Baltis who were denied human rights in their lifetime and then denied the rights of the dead to a proper burial. Relatives and villagers assumed the responsibility to bury the corpses which were delivered at midnight to hide them from the media. No government official, either civil or military, attended these funerals. The Pakistani authorities intimidated the family members of the martyrs to avoid media reporters. As Pakistan refused to accept NLI soldiers' corpses from India, the people of Ladakh and the Indian authorities assumed the responsibility to bury them. Mothers and widows sobbed when they learned that Pakistan refused to accept the bodies of their sons and husbands from India. The father of Shaheed Mohammad Hussain of Baltistan states, "My son lost his life for this country. I am still waiting for his dead body. I request that the army officials accept the body of my son from India and declare him an NLI soldier rather than a Mujahideen. He should be buried with military honor. It is an outrage for me and the martyr that army officials are praising Mujahideen while my son and thousands like him of the NLI gave their lives for Pakistan."

The permanent presence of armed forces in Baltistan destroys local environmental traditions which became further exacerbated during the Kargil war. The military build-up leads to intensive exploitation of vegetation and wildlife. Careless disposal of military toxins and used weapons impacts on the environment. The Byarsa (Deosai) region is one of the most sensitive ecological areas in the world, where the Pakistani armed forces and heavy machinery greatly threaten the fragile environment. Endangered wild animals like ibex, markhor, Himalayan bears, snow leopard and marmots are hunted indiscriminately by the armed forces. This rapid depletion creates a resource vacuum for locals that will be felt for many years to come. Without fear of punishment, army helicopters and vehicles transport trophy heads of endangered animals to the drawing rooms of officers. Trade in snow leopard skins and musk occurs without obstruction. Such type of destruction will only stop after a prompt withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the soil of Baltistan.

Another form of human rights violation is lack of freedom of expression. Despite the fact that human rights violations and acts of crime continuously happen against the people of Baltistan, the national and international media is denied access to such reports. The censorship of the local print media restricts Baltis, as well as the entire population of Pakistan, from knowing the political and ethno-cultural persecution in this remote region. Radio Skardo is under strict supervision of military censors and exclusively voices government propaganda. Under these circumstances, national media outlets like State radio and television lack the will to report on the plight of the Baltis. The President of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Arif Nizami, admitted that government directed the media to censor reports on Balochistan, Baltistan and Gilgit. He reacted by stating, "...Professionalism and constitutional rights call for reporting facts as they are. Reporting on Sui and Northern Areas can not be stopped." Similarly, representatives of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists state, "Pakistani press is under strict censorship and during military operation in the Northern Areas, reporters were barred from releasing news [regarding Shia massacres]."

Journalists face brutal repression from government agencies when they promote professional reporting. The daily Dawn reported eleven attacks on media persons between January and April 2005. Abduction and physical assault of journalists and political activists is common. On November 21, 2001, a militant attacked and injured a journalist in Gilgit. The militants also attacked the house of the president of the Gilgit Press Club for reporting on the Shia massacres. On March 3, 2005, a hand grenade was hurled at the house of Khurshid Ahmed, the correspondent of daily Khabrain in Gilgit. Ahmed was targeted for condemning terrorism sponsored by the ISI and criticizing secret service agencies for harboring Islamist militants. On July 24, 2005, Ahmed's house was once again damaged by three homemade bombs. The Senior Vice-President of the Skardo Press Club and correspondent for daily Jang and Geo TV was physically assaulted and tortured by an army major in Skardo on March 20, 2005. He was covering an indoor event of a non-profit organization. In May 2005, a journalist from Skardo contributing articles on human rights violations in Baltistan for a leading Pakistani newsmagazine was abducted, blindfolded, and taken to an ISI cell in Islamabad. The assailants seized his credit cards, automobile and money. They physically tortured him and threatened to hurt his family if he continued writing about the Shia massacres in Baltistan and Gilgit. The incident compelled him to quit his job. On October 17, 2000, the Deputy Commissioner of District Skardo banned the weekly K-2, one of four major newspapers covering Baltistan, for 'promoting anti-Pakistani feelings'. On November 2, 2000, Gilgit police arrested 24 journalists who were protesting the proscription of the weekly "K-2". On November 4, 2004, the publisher of Kargil Magazine was arrested and charged for supporting the autonomy of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and demanding inclusion of Shia beliefs in the school curricula. Police tortured him along with other journalists and political activists. Sources believe that magazine was banned for publishing an article called "The Independent State of Baltistan and Gilgit on the World Map" and disclosing information on extra judicial killings by police. Unless censorship is removed from media reporting and Pakistani forces withdraw from Baltistan, locals will continue to undergo similar torture and humiliation.

Q: Which groups have taken up the cause of self-rule for Baltistan? What is the sort of support that they enjoy?

There are several small groups active for the freedom of Baltistan and Gilgit. Some of these groups are Gilgit Baltistan United Movement (GBUM), Baltistan National Movement (BNM), Baltistan Students Federation (BSF), Ladakh Baltistan People's Party, Karakoram National Movement (KNM), Balawaristan National Front (BNF) etc. Each party has its influence in the region (Baltistan or Gilgit) where it originated. Parties like GBUM, BNF claim support in both regions. All these parties are evolving slowly, as a mass movement for liberation of Baltistan and Gilgit started only during the era of General Ziaul Haque, in the 1980s. Some of these parties have support of elected members of the Northern Areas Legislative Council. However, these parties have very limited freedom to propagate their message and promote their cause. A constant fear of arrests and torture by police and ISI personnel limits their activities.

Tahir Hussain, member of Baltistan Students Federation (BSF), and four other leaders were arrested by the ISI from BSF office in Skardo. They were taken to the police station and kept in a special ISI cell. They were beaten and tortured. They were subjected to electric shocks. Tahir's back was cut by knives and chemicals were applied to the cuts which caused him infection. After two weeks, he was released on bail. In 1987, Tahir sought asylum in Canada after receiving death threats from ISI. Other activists detained by Pakistani administration narrate similar stories of torture and humiliation. On August 14, 1997, twenty political activists of KNM and BNF were arrested in Gilgit for commemorating Pakistan Independence Day as the 'Day of Occupation'. They were tortured by police and several detainees report fractures and permanent hearing loss. In 1999, thirty political activists of BNF from Gilgit region were arrested for observing Pakistan Independence Day as 'Black Day'. In another incident, police tortured to death a political activist of the Ghizer Students Organization. To date, more than a hundred political activists are detained and tortured on treason charges.

Q: Do you see any perceptible difference between the older and younger generation of Baltistanis in their attitude vis-a-vis Pakistan and India?

Absolutely. The younger generation tend to weigh different options when thinking in terms of J&K dispute. They analyze the pros and cons when thinking about the future of Baltistan. They talk in terms of economic benefits, social development, cultural promotion and religious freedom and security. They seek to interact with Baltis and Ladakhis on the other side of border through letters, emails and phone calls and this helps them understand the bigger picture. The older generation, especially those who experienced partition of India and heard of Dogra brutality from their forefathers have different opinion vis-a-vis Baltistan's political future. Most old folks have outdated perceptions about India. However, the Shia massacres of 1988 and Kargil War have also compelled them to think practically.

Q: How has the ongoing struggle in Indian-administered Kashmir impacted on Baltistanis' attitudes towards India?

People of Baltistan condemn brutal actions of armed forces against the civilians of J&K. However, they are equally skeptical about the growing Wahhabi movement in Indian J&K and see the need to counter such movements. People of Baltistan desire an end to militancy and normalcy in the J&K. They desire that Sufi culture of Kashmir should be preserved and for that militancy and dominance of the society by Wahhabi culture should come to an end. Pakistani media promotes India as an occupying force in J&K and 25 years of propaganda has affected minds of largely illiterate and simple Baltis. However, enhanced interaction with Baltis and Ladakhis on the Indian side is changing the perception now, especially among the youth.

Q: What is the level of support that Pakistani jihadist organisations enjoy among the Baltistanis?

Very few Baltis support Jehadi movement and the organizations. Most of the supporters among the Baltis are Sunnis / Ahl-i Hadith, who are around 5% of the total population of Baltistan. People of Baltistan desire for normalcy to prevail and an end to conflicts.

Q: What do you see as a realistic solution to the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir.

A solution that will allow the divided ethnic groups to rejoin and reunify within one administrative set up. A solution that will end religious extremism in J&K and help promote pluralistic ideas. A complete end to militancy and human rights abuses on both sides of the border. A solution that will promote secular values and equal rights for all ethnic groups. A win-win solution for all. A solution that does not envisage destruction and permanent division of ethnic minorities of J&K for the sake of the people of Kashmir Valley. A solution which will help give economic, religious, cultural and political autonomy to all ethnic groups. An absolute autonomy which is inevitable for the development of a viable society.


M. Hasnain can be contacted on mhst@hotmail.com

Some of his articles on Baltistan can be accessed on www.ladakhtimes.com