September 24, 2007

Instability raises questions on Pakistan's future

Monday, 24 September , 2007, 22:42

A steady collapse of governance across Pakistan and the resultant loss of state control over large swathes of its territory have heightened insecurity in the country, triggering ominous portents for the future.

Recent events have clearly but starkly revealed that Islamabad has virtually no control over most of the seven largely lawless and semi-autonomous federally administered tribal territories (FATAs) strung along the Afghan border.

Taliban fighters regroup in the FATA belt, particularly in the wild Waziristan area, before crossing the Durand Line, the unformulated demarcation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, to attack the US Army and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in a bid to regain control of the war-torn and benighted country.

According to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), Pakistan has experienced over three decades of corruption, drugs, military rule, rising Islamist extremism and a general decline in education and health standards.

"Religious extremists play an increasingly important role in providing education and other services to the poor, resulting in the radicalisation of areas of the country," the ICG states. The forthcoming general election, it adds, would be crucial in deciding whether Pakistan continues on this path or whether moderate forces assert themselves.

Considering Islamabad's steadily decreasing decline of state authority, security experts and analysts do not entirely rule out the possibility of Pakistan's geographical boundaries being redrawn at some point in the not too distant future.

Other security experts said Balochistan province remained one such vulnerable area, where the native Balochis are fast becoming a minority as a result of the continuing influx of Pashtun refugees from war-torn Afghanistan.

Alongside, resentment among locals was also fuelled by the Pakistan government's deliberate policy of settling outsiders from the dominant Punjabi community in the sparsely populated but vast and resource-rich desert province in order to "dilute" Balochi numbers.

Currently aligned with Pakistan's ruling party, the urbanised MQM has no strong religious ideology but is committed to gaining additional power for Sindh's mohajirs or migrants at any cost. For nearly a decade in the 1990s MQM cadres had turned the port city of Karachi into a war zone in pursuit of its agenda to impose its omnipotence.

Triggering a potential Baloch separatist movement could be the long-running Pakhtunistan movement for a Pathan-dominated region straddling the NWFP and southern Afghanistan that seems to be gaining credence in view of the hateful US presence in the region.

The widely disregarded Durand Line, drawn arbitrarily in 1893 and casually agreed to by Afghanistan's then ruler Amir Abdur Rehman, has over the years kept alive the Pakhtunistan issue.

This "line in the sand" satisfied the colonial craving to define the boundaries of the British Empire, making the tribal areas the buffer between the settled British territories (NWFP and Punjab) and Afghanistan, should the Russians move on Kabul, a stratagem Rudyard Kipling termed the Great Game.

However, the tenuous border failed to divide the Pathans or stifle their desire for independence, which, despite frequent intra-tribal feuds, has survived to the present. Belonging to over 80 tribes, the Pathans are a semi-nomadic people with over 15 million living in Pakistan, including the tribal areas, and around 11 million in Afghanistan.

Though Pathan tribes and sub-clans are forever in conflict, they invariably unite when faced with a larger threat, like that posed presently by Pakistani and US and Western forces raising the 21st century bogey of the New Great Game.

The resolution of India's dispute over Kashmir and its borders with China also retain the possibility of territorial changes, despite New Delhi vehemently opposing any such prospect. The issue, however, is further complicated by Pakistan having transferred a large portion of the disputed Kashmir principality to China in 1963.

Its settlement, for now, defies resolution as the territory is strategically crucial to Beijing, which is highly unlikely to hand it back to India, leading eventually to a re-drawing of maps.

Female suicide bombers to attack Pakistan: Interior Ministry sources
From our ANI Correspondent(

Lahore, Sep 24: Women suicide bombers could carry out attacks across Pakistan, an Interior Ministry source has revealed.

"There are chances that former male and female students of the Jamia Hafsa, the Jamia Fareedia and the Lal Masjid who managed to escape 'Operation Silence' could carry out suicide attacks across the country," the source said.

As per an intelligence report, the involvement of these students cannot be ruled out.

The police has been asked to keep close watch on burqa-clad women, youngsters roaming near important installations, especially foreign ones, as well as important personalities, law enforcement personnel and important public and business places.

'The ministry had also circulated special letters in this regard to senior security and administrative officials across the country. Provincial police officers (PPOs) of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, NWFP, and the Islamabad police Inspector General (IG) have been especially directed to take precautionary measures on an emergency basis,' the Daily Times reported.

Intelligence agency reports also suggest that in Peshawar, the Kernal Sher Khan Shaheed Stadium on Khyber Road could be a likely target of such an attack.

After receiving the directives, over 2,500 Special Branch personnel of the Punjab Police have been deployed on streets along with other law enforcement officers, sources said.

Tribal area admission plan mired in red tape
Web posted at: 9/24/2007 1:47:4
Source ::: Internews
PESHAWAR • Lengthy procedures are hampering the admission process under the Pakistan president's programme for talented students of tribal areas, it is learnt.

Under the programme, successful students are entitled to receive free education up to secondary level in various cadet colleges and other institutions of the country. The most affected were the students seeking admission to class VIII.

The Civil Secretariat, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), conducted tests under the supervision of the Educational Testing and Evaluation Authority on July 10 for the programme.

Officials said that a total of 4,135 students hailing from all seven agencies of Fata and six Frontier Regions had appeared in the test conducted in Peshawar. Only 28 students qualified for the interview.

An official admitted that there were complications in the admission process.

He said that despite President Pervez Musharraf's announcement, some institutions had refused to accommodate the students.

Another major hurdle was the fee of various educational institutions that was much higher than the amount set aside under the programme, the official said.

The official said that if the government did not intervene immediately to expedite the admission process, many deserving students might lose the opportunity.

The federal government's scholarship programme for talented graduate students of Fata and Balochistan also faces an uncertain future as the authorities concerned are yet to give a practical shape to the scheme.

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