Kasi’s funeral: mourners come in their thousands: DATELINE QUETTA

By Siddiq Baluch


MIR Aimal Kasi, belonging to a Pakhtoon tribe of Kasi of Quetta, was executed on the Nov 14, 2002, in the state of Virginia, USA, for the alleged murder of two CIA agents and for causing injuries to others on Jan 25, 1993. His funeral at Quetta the other day was attended by thousands of people who were chanting anti-American slogans.

It is reckoned as perhaps the biggest non-political gathering in the history of Balochistan. One estimate puts the tally at over 30,000 people who attended his funeral.

As the story goes, Kasi is said to have returned, at the end of January 1993, to Pakistan after these murders, and stayed in Quetta for almost 10 days. He kept on visiting his family members and friends and showed no signs of having committed any grave crime in the USA. He behaved as if he was on holidays.

Suddenly he disappeared on Feb 6, without informing his family. About this time news broke out on international media that he was responsible for the murders of two CIA agents outside the Agency’s headquarters at Langley.

Kasi went to the US in 1991 to settle down there and do some business. He had taken along substantial money — Rs5 million — for business. This money he got out of his shares of property after the death in 1989 of his father Abdullah Jan Kasi. He stayed with a Kashmiri friend in Washington, DC, and invested some of his money in a courier service business there.

Since his return to Pakistan in 1993, Kasi had been on the run for the next four-and-a-half years, staying mostly in tribal areas of the NWFP or in Afghanistan.

Initially, he stayed with the Masud tribe in the NWFP and, subsequently, for two years with the Wazir tribe before being arrested. During this time the American and Pakistan officials were trying their utmost to locate Kasi but could not lay their hands on him till early 1997 when he was traced in Afghanistan, with his two Waziri hosts.

Kasi had gone to Kandahar and Kabul to meet Mulla Omar and Osama bin Laden. He met Mulla Omar in Kandahar and reportedly offered his services to him for the cause of Islam. Mulla Omar issued him an Afghan passport. Kasi had reportedly wanted to go some Central Asian countries with the expressed approval of Mulla Omar to serve the cause of Islam.

At this stage the CIA traced Kasi and his hosts who were pressured through some tribal elders at the highest level to hand him over. According to sources, the officials of Pakistan and the US remained on Kasi’s track for almost two months before his arrest. This was also reported in the Newsweek in June 1997.

As they did not want to arrest Kasi in the tribal area, they lured him, with the help of his hosts, to go to D. G. Khan on the pretext that he should enter into a business deal of arms there. Some other sources mention that Kasi kept his departure from the tribal area to D. G. Khan secret but his host were alert and followed him in a pick-up to D. G. Khan, from Afghanistan and Wana in South Waziristan.

The question now arises as to why the hosts betrayed him after providing him shelter for almost two years. The tribal elders were pressured greatly by the government either to hand over Kasi or face a punitive action. Initially, they showed reluctance because Kasi had the support of Mulla Omar, and the Wazir tribe did not want any row with the Taliban government over the matter.

Since Kasi’s presence had been detected by the intelligence authorities, the only option with the Wazir tribe was to hand him over. In the meantime, the US authorities had substantially increased the amount of money offered for Kasi’s arrest — the original amount being two million dollars.

According to informed sources, the US agents, with a senior Pakistan functionary, visited the NWFP early May 1997 and met some influential Wazir tribesmen. It was decided at the meeting that Kasi would be handed to the government outside the tribal area, preferably in D. G. Khan. The fear of punitive action, coupled with the temptation of huge money, worked with the tribal people. The Wazir elders got an assurance that neither the Masud tribe nor the Wazir tribe would be punished for harbouring Kasi for over four years. After getting these assurances and a promise of money, a plan was hatched by the hosts to hand over Kasi in D. G. Khan.

The US and Pakistan officials kept their words and did not arrest the two Wazir hosts who had been staying in the same hotel room at D. G. Khan at the time of the arrest of Kasi, nor was anybody later questioned by the authorities for harbouring him.

The fact that the hosts of Kasi had betrayed him has been verified from the Masud and Wazir tribesmen of the area, who suddenly found a change in the fortune of these people and the additional security that they arranged for themselves for the next many years after arrest of Kasi. They kept on threatening some people of the area, particularly the Masudis, who thought that the Waziris had betrayed the Pakhtoon-wali code.

For the next few months, while Kasi was in custody in the US, the people who had let him down kept writing letters to him regularly trying to change his view. They wanted to shift the blame on the Masud tribesmen. They also sent threatening letters to some very close relatives and friends of Kasi. At times, they would become apologetic in their letters and suggest that whatever had happened was the will of God, and that a thing done could not be undone.

Another fact which could not be ignored is that so far these hosts of Kasi have not returned his personal possessions which included his double-door pick-up and automatic weapons and the cash he had invested in the petrol pump business at Wana, Waziristan. Before Kasi’s arrest these people were in regular contact with his family but have not contacted any of his relatives/ friends after he was arrested. Perhaps a visit to his people or the tribal belt of the NWFP will reveal a lot more.

The Masud tribesmen with whom Kasi had lived for the first two years, after the 1993 incident, can provide a greater insight into the episode. One important incident that took place after Kasi’s death was the murder in a mysterious way of a Waziri elder with whom Kasi had lived in the years preceding his arrest.

In the meanwhile, a disinformation campaign is continuing, accusing senior Balochistan bureaucrats and members of the Kasi family of the betrayal. But the facts are to the contrary. Allegations made by a US prosecutor against the family during the trial was part of the cover-up campaign, unimpeachable sources confirmed. It was a cover-up by the interested people to guard the real story. But Kasi had told the details to his family members who visited him in prison over a period of time before his execution.

In hot water again: KARACHI FILE

By A. B. S. Jafri


ONCE again Karachi may be heading into a cyclone of violence if steps are not taken instantly to arrest this ominous drift. Do not forget that trouble over the so-called ‘no-go’ areas has a hideous history. It begins with the disgraceful era over which the longest ruling dictator presided with his hypocritical toothy smile. Later, the dictator’s pupil, solemnly committed to carry on his mentor’s mission, took over and settled down to torment.

The events of the last three days or four have all but opened the wounds of the ‘Operation clean-up’ launched by the then COAS General Asif Nawaz. The then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, pretended to be unaware of this outrage. Nawaz Sharif has the same defence of ignorance about Kargil.

When asked about that operation, the General shrugged off the episode saying if there are ‘two PMLs’, no harm creating two MQMs. He had all but confessed that he meant to tear the MQM apart because he did not see much difference between Karachi and the MQM.

Once again we seem to be headed for something like an ‘Operation clean-up’ in reverse. This may be a case of poetic justice. But this poem would be elegiac, anticipating a tragedy. The people of Karachi have plenty of reasons to hold rulers of Islamabad responsible for the root-causes of its trauma in perpetuity. Remember the Field Marshal instituted the tradition of Karachi-baiting. It is by neglect, when not by design.

An average citizen of this metropolis is essentially peace- loving. All but a few of them are workaday people. They need peace and tranquillity. But the irony is that most of the time they are seeking and not finding it. Instead, they find conflict and violence thrust upon them. The present trouble is of a nature that would forbid for apportioning blame or guilt. Pontificating would only add fuel to the smouldering heap. The past would be best forgotten.

How do we bring peace back? It is for the elders sitting in Islamabad to rush to Karachi and commence a sincere and affectionate process of open-hearted conciliation. Both sides have much to regret. Only nit-wits would waste time in looking back on a clouded past. The two sides in contention were once one. Their misunderstandings were manoeuvred by abuse of state power.

What needs to be noted and emphasized is that the element they share equally is the wrong done to them by a third party with awfully wrong motives. One should expect that the President and the new Prime Minister know all there is to know in this case, and also that they together have a profoundly delicate situation on their hands. This is a trouble that is for Islamabad to quell. Nothing at a level lower is likely to be of any avail.

At this moment the item No. 1 on the agenda of Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Jamali is rescuing Karachi from its present agony and apply balm on wounds that are deep and aching. It is more like the Gladiators of ancient Rome, put against one another for the amusement of the Caesar and his court. First two segments were engineered by the rulers of the time and then they antagonists so created were told to box on. What we have on our hands today is the return match that sponsored bout.

The people of Karachi are convinced that it is now for Prime Minister Jamali to proceed to Karachi from wherever he should be at the moment and become personally involved in whatever is needed to restore peace that remains intact and is set to endure.

Let the Prime Minister see in the heartaches of Karachi his major problem and also his first test. There still may be elements within the officialdom who see in Karachi’s trouble a sort of vested interest.

There should be no doubt in any mind that if Karachi is not at peace with itself, there will be no real peace for this country. Karachi is where the story really begins. Trouble in Karachi will instantly put the Stock Exchange in tizzy. If that happens, good-bye to all dreams of economy turning round. Domestic investment will be scared off. In that kind of climate, forget all about foreign investment, and remittances from Pakistanis abroad. All the good work that President Musharraf claims to have accomplished will go up in the smoke of conflict in Karachi.

The most reliable measure of Pakistan’s political health is the tidings from the Karachi Stock Exchange. If the message from this nerve centre of the country’s economy is glum, there is something for Islamabad to worry about. From the ‘no-go’ areas the news is far from comforting. That place is not yet exactly in flames but the situation is simply inflammable like a dry hay-rick. One more spark and God forbid!

If Lahore is the heart of Pakistan, Karachi is its lungs. Karachi generates the oxygen without which the stoutest of hearts will give way. There is no exaggeration in this perception of Karachi’s pivotal place in the scheme of things of this entire country. Karachi is where Pakistan meets the world and the world touches Pakistan. If Karachi is trouble, it is hard to see what else in Pakistan is not. In short, Mr Prime Minister Jamali you have your first assignment cut out for you. You have been warned!

The mystery of the dead fish

The mysterious death of thousands of fish in the sea off Karachi last week has generated quite a bit of interest and concern. They washed up on Seaview beach and were apparently taken away by local people who perhaps thought that it would be a good idea to sell dead fish to local seafood places. Worse still, they could land up on our dinner plates because poultry farms use fish in their chicken feed.

After the tragedy, Sindh chief secretary K B Rind issued a statement that the rather ineffectual and toothless Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) had been directed to carry out an inquiry. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn’t want to feel left behind either and it too issued a statement vowing to take legal action against whoever or whatever was behind the death of the poor fish. However, one other theory is that the dead fish were the unwanted part of a fishing trawler’s catch and hence were thrown back into the sea.

Whatever the actual cause, the pronouncements of the EPA are, to the say least, laughable because the first thing that immediately struck one’s mind is ‘legal action’ against whom and how. Assuming that the fish were killed by contamination or oil from a passing ship or tanker (or even from a passing aeroplane, as one report in this newspaper suggested) how does the EPA plan on catching the vessel and take legal action against its owners?

Samples of the fish have been sent for examination to local laboratories though representatives of some of the more reputed ones said they had not been sent anything for testing. When the results do come in, they will probably tell us only the nature of the contamination. How the SEPA or anyone else will determine the source of this contamination is another story.

In any case, it’s absurd to expect an agency to catch those who cause pollution in the sea when it can’t even catch polluters in its own backyard. For example, everyone — well, anyone who has eyes, ears and some powers of reasoning and understanding — knows that dozens of factories, tanneries and what not in Korangi release their effluent right into the sea or into streams which then drain into the sea. And anyone who has been on Mai Kolachi of late could not have missed the complete devastation being caused by an army of bulldozers on the KPT land side or by the daily burning of heaps of garbage along either side of the road. Proof of the pollution caused by the factories and tanneries in Korangi can be found by driving along the Nehr-i-Khayyam (a misnomer if ever there was one). This body of ‘water’ (if it can be called that) goes past Mideast Hospital, past one side of Karachi Grammar School, and empties thousands of tons of human and industrial waste and thousands of plastic bags right into Boating Basin in full view of the authorities.

In fact, in the past its water has even been deep pink because of effluent containing highly toxic cadmium released by tanneries in Korangi. Other than that, raw sewage from homes in Defence Housing Authority and the Clifton Cantonment Board goes right into the sea — especially on the stretch of the shore near Funland — and no one from the Sindh government or the SEPA has ever done anything about it.

So, in that context, it does seem a bit hypocritical, even comical, that the appearance of dead fish on the city’s beach has finally goaded the environmental protection agencies into at least loudly proclaiming their resolve to take legal action and to conduct a “thorough inquiry” into the matter.

Caring for the mentally ill

A member of the board of directors of Karwan-e-Hayat, a non-profit organization caring for mentally ill patients since l983, wrote in recently. M. Aslam Khan said that the centre ran an outpatient facility in Al Noor Arcade on Khayaban-i-Jami in Clifton where consultation and medicines are provided free to poor mentally ill patients. Around 600 such patients are treated every month, he wrote. And now Karwan-i-Hayat had decided to build an inpatient purpose-built facility, also on a non-profit basis.

He also sent in details relating to the proposed psychiatric care centre. For starters, according to the World Health Organization, roughly 10 per cent of the world’s population suffers from mental illness or disorder. Going by that international guideline, Karachi should have well over a million people suffering such complications and in need of medical treatment or counselling. The city, according to the correspondent, has around 60 psychiatrists and 350 beds, of which 100 are in government hospitals.

The project involves the acquisition of a one acre plot for the premises on which will be built a 50-bed facility, half for men, half for women. The charity estimates that the total cost, including that of acquiring the land, will be slightly over Rs 33 million.

To cover expenses for this psychiatric care centre, Karwan-i-Hayat needs help from people. It has said that donations to it are exempt from income tax under a government order.

Those who would like to donate can contact the charity at 5863060 or send an email at nafmak@khi.compol.com.

Harassment

Harassment of girls at public places and at the workplace indicates an incorrigible flaw in the mentality of some men towards women. Here’s what happened at the University of Karachi recently, according to a student.

“A female student of a university was heading towards the bus stop one fine morning clad in crisp starched clothes when she was subjected to harassment of the most ugly kind. A man in his forties passed by her on a bike and blurted out some nasty words. In fact, this man went so far to even spit at her and some of the spittle fell on her clothes. She felt quite disgusted and had no choice but to wipe the spit off her clothes with a tissue, using some water she was carrying a bottle.

“She wanted to say all kinds of unspeakable things to that man but she could not, because in a matter of seconds the man had disappeared.

“Readers will surely sympathize with the girl. Can any one suggest a workable solution to this problem?”

Bad teachers

The Diary has received numerous complaints from students studying in some of the city’s best colleges. They have complained that many of their teachers basically blackmail them into joining tuition or so-called coaching centres, under an implied threat that this is what it would take for them (the students) to get high marks come exam time.

A student from the PECHS College for Women sent an email saying that she and her friends had been asked by one of their science teachers in their first year of intermediate to join his tuition centre in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. She lived in the Cantonment area and could not go all the way to Gulshan. So, when it came to exam time — a physics practical in this case — those who had studied at the ‘coaching’ centre did extremely well while she got only 15 out of 25 despite the fact that she had always done well academically. “I want to be a doctor but I lost 10 marks due to this na-insafi. I wish someone would help us.”

Then a couple of other students mailed in saying that some teachers even tell their students to choose in advance the question they would like to answer during the practical. Obviously, only those who enroll in the ‘coaching’ centres are accorded this privelege. According to them this is quite common (not among all teachers of course) in the Government College for Men, Nazimabad (whose teachers allegedly have a coaching centre in Buffer Zone); Government Delhi College (teachers allegedly run three tuition centres near Nagan Chowrangi, Federal B Area and Blessing Square) and Government College, Gulshan-i-Iqbal. They alleged that teachers at even places like D J College, Adamjee Science College and St. Joseph’s College make their students join tuition centres in exchange for higher grades.

A sensible suggestion is that students from one college should be made to take their praticals in other colleges. This would help minimize the influence of some of the science teachers allegedly involved in such unfair practices.— By Karachian

E-mail: karachi_notebook@hotmail.com

Musharraf’s sand castle: VIEW FROM MARGALLA

THE attention of the nation is now fixed on the provincial assemblies, the upcoming governments in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta and the Senate elections. Every one knows who is going to make the governments in the Punjab and NWFP. But the situation in Sindh and Balochistan is still fluid. That is why, perhaps, the President has decided to keep the floor crossing law in abeyance until the Senate elections on December 25. Now Changa Manga and Swat could be replayed and suitcases exchanged or even ministerial slots traded for obtaining votes for bringing into being the desired provincial governments and the desired persons in the Senate. Friday night in Islamabad was the night of Tariq Aziz. He had camped in one of the rooms in Balochistan House where Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was also staying before he shifted to the PM house on Saturday. Those who saw Mr Aziz in action on that Friday night in Balochistan House liken the scene to the one in Marlon Brando’s classical movie Godfather when as the guests invited to his daughter’s wedding are enjoying the feast in a noisy show of bonhomie, Mr Brando away from the celebrations grants interviews in his semi darkened room to frightened and nervous looking people offering him share from their booty and in return asking for favours. Even Faisal Saleh Hayat, whose group holds the jugular of Jamali government in its hand, appeared for a short interview at the appointed place and time. So did many of his other colleagues and ministerial aspirants from King’s alliance.

But then let me make it very clear, every one of the elected representative in the National Assembly, no matter to which party he/she belonged or how he/she got elected, has behaved most responsibly against the heaviest of odds put in the member’s way by the military regime of President General Pervez Musharraf which continues to insist on holding on to power no matter through what underhand method. All those who voted for the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Prime Minister and those who opposed them inside the House are all honourable people. Compared to President Musharraf even Faisal Saleh Hayat seems to have behaved highly responsibly and honourably because had it not been for him and his bloc, Musharraf’s castle of sand would have simply collapsed within no time sending this nation on another journey into the unknown. Faisal has put at stake everything in which he had believed in all these years and everything for which he had stood for along with the PPP leadership since he was elected to the parliament in 1977 on a PPP ticket. Of course, in return he and his friends were rewarded with some high profile ministries. But by doing what he did, he seems to have forfeited his future in electoral politics. However, with his sacrifice he seems to have saved the country from further chaos which President Musharraf had already promised that he would cause when on August 24 he had warned while talking to media personalities what he would do if the future parliament did not accept him with his uniform. Even those like the Chaudhry brothers and their PML-Q cabal, Farooq Leghari and his NA clan, and the MQM cult in the final analysis seem to have behaved much more responsibly and honourably than the President because unlike Musharraf who refuses to see what he is doing to the country by holding the nation hostage to his own whims these politicians seem to have preferred to make costly political adjustments in order to retrieve the country from the depths that the Army leadership is trying to push it into.

And, of course, hats off to the MMA, the PPP and the PML-N. Despite collectively possessing a mandate far more weighty than Musharraf’s own, these parties have made it very clear through their actions since the NA came into being that they would not do anything on their own to destabilize the elected government whose majority is completely dependent on the opposition. The PPP after the PML-N has lost the most in the drama that Musharraf staged on October 10 and then on November 19 and 21. But despite having emerged as the second largest party and despite having polled more votes than the PML-Q, the PPP’s leadership did not bargain for any relief for Zardari or Benazir Bhutto. In fact it has preferred to allow the King’s alliance to form the government rather than enter into politically costly deals in return for an illusionary power with the Army constantly breathing down its neck.

However, if you think you can escape a charge just because you committed an illegality at a time when the relevant law was suspended, you are sadly mistaken. Any Bachaa Saqqa can perform this sleight of hand. But he can hardly escape the long arm of law by conjuring up ‘artificialities’ like forward blocs and rewarding almost every one of the bloc with a ministerial slot. Attempts at passing off all these ‘artificialities’ as new realities can hardly wash. The tell-tale evidence of the unconstitutionality is all there for every one to see. How can you look up at the President and not see his uniform? How can you look at the parliament and not see its impotence vis-a-vis a serving COAS who refuses to allow the elected representatives of the 140 million people the power to go through the constitutional amendments made by one single individual who gets his salary from the taxpayers’ contribution. And how can you look at Faisal Saleh Hayat and not be reminded of horse trading? These are just three questions which would take you back again and again into the dark alleys of LFO.

On Saturday the President advised the new parliament to forget about how it came into being and how sovereign it is and instead get on with what he called ‘nation building’ work. Good advice. But why can’t he himself take this advice for the sake of Pakistan and if he actually believes in his own slogan of ‘Pakistan First’. What, however, he wants to achieve through this loaded advice is this: Now that I have obtained for myself the label of democracy, I would like the world to play the ostrich on issues like my uniform, my extra-constitutional powers and my complicity in the on-going horse trading. His predecessors too had followed the same story line but failed miserably before long to escape the long arm of law. Well, Musharraf has travelled thus far ‘successfully’ with the help of a pliable judiciary and by framing self-serving laws. But, now that an elected parliament is in place, it is to be seen how long can he keep himself above the law of the land. —Onlooker

Corruption rampant in Mines Dept: DATELINE SARGODHA

By Sajjad Abbas Niazi


SARGODHA has a long range of hills which had not only been serving as a natural defence line against the foreign invaders but is now also meeting the demand of crushed stones across the country. It is said to be one of the biggest stone crushing industries in Asia.

Over 10,000 families are associated with this industry and earning their livelihood besides generating handsome revenue for the government.

Some 300 stone crushing units are operating in various villages, including Chaks 107, 110, 113, 116, 119, 123, 126 and 128. These villages are located in suburban areas of the city.

Despite large scale malpractices, corruption and undue favouritism, the government is earning over Rs40 million to Rs50 million annually through the auction of 40 to 50 blocks of hills. Various government departments — Highways, Mines, District Council, Excise, Income Tax and Wapda — are getting millions of rupees as tax from this industry.

The government has taken a serious notice of frequent blasting of hills for stone excavation, which according to official sources, was posing danger to defence installations besides polluting the atmosphere. The defence equipment are installed on Kirana Hills while PAF installations and runway are situated near the hills where the excavation and stone crushing are going on at commercial scale.

To excavate excessive quantity of stones from the hills, the lease-holders of mines use extra material for blasts which jolts the surrounding areas as the sound waves travel underground for long distances.

The dust of the crushed and excavated stones pollute the air and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has suggested various measures but none of them are adopted. The lease-holders violate the rules with impunity and save their money by greasing the palms of Mines and EPD officials. The lease-holders have established their monopoly and are causing a loss of at least Rs20 million annually to the government after conniving with the officials of Mines and Mineral Development.

A block of hills is usually auctioned publicly, but some hills are spared for favourites. Officials of the Mines Department also get their share from the auction as they show the price 10 times less than the actual amount. In this way the successful bidders continue their lease for more than five year as they move the court on the basis of previous subsidized price.

An insider told Dawn that a block of hills is usually auctioned for five years and besides other conditions the lease-holder is bound to excavate a limited quantity of stones in a day in stipulated hours. But the lessee after making the payment of the first instalment stopped further payment.

In connivance with the highups of the Mines Department, he then files a civil suit and on the basis of the first instalment he continues excavating stones several times more than the given quantity in the contract for three to four years. Thereafter, he leaves the leased hills in the papers but continues the block in the name of some of his relative or employee.

If the Mines Department checks undue favour to lessees and other malpractices, the government could earn more than Rs100 million revenue per year besides minimizing the danger to the sensitive installation and air pollution.

Talking to Dawn, Stone Traders Association (STA) president Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf and secretary-general Najam Warraich alleged the Punjab Mines and Mineral Department secretary were causing huge losses to the government.

They alleged the secretary was enjoying full ministerial powers because he was a close friend of the Punjab governor.

STA leaders said that Sillanwali Tehsil Nazim Rana Munawar illegally presided over the auction proceedings of various blocks of hills on July 8 last and favoured the monopolists. They alleged that Block No 3/120, already on lease with Rana Munawar, was not offered for open auction. Later, it was allotted to Rana Azhar Abbas, the brother of Rana Munawar, in a fictitious bid of Rs1.2 million although another contractor was willing to offer a bid of Rs7 million.

Contractor Maj Sibtain Shah (retired) alleged that local officials were causing huge losses to the government exchequer by giving undue favour to monopolists besides misappropriating huge amounts.

He claimed that he could prove the charges against these officials who along with their highups were earning more than Rs20 million per year. He further alleged that these officials had made urban and rural properties and shared this business with other monopolists.

Mr Sibtain alleged that despite the cancellation of the auction of Block No 3/120, Azhar Abbas was still excavating stones from this block with the support of Mines officials.

The department had cancelled his both leases because he projected its corruption and the malpractices of the tehsil Nazim though he paid the required instalments and obtained a stay order from the high court, he said.

Mr Sibtain told Dawn that a special Anti-Corruption judge had ordered a judicial inquiry into the malpractices of Mines Department officials and some monopolists. He said Civil Judge Sheikh Ejaz had conducted a probe and found the officials and contractors guilty of charges.

He also demanded suspension of all officials of the Mines Department, including the secretary, who extended undue favour to corrupt elements.

When asked, the STA office bearers admitted that workers did not use ropes and wear helmets while climbing on hills for conducting blasts and it was all going on due to the negligence of the Mines Department.

This correspondent found no first aid boxes, helmets or ropes on various spots as pointed out by them. Workers were also found busy even after 4.00 pm though it was not allowed under the rules. The blasting material was being used in excess quantity as lease-holders wanted to excavate more stones within the shortest period.

This correspondent visited various sites of hills in Shaheenabad and found that the nearby population was not safe. Residents alleged that several people were injured when stones fell on their homes after heavy blasting operation. Houses and even articles within the rooms were found covered with dust and some pieces of stones were also seen in the streets of Chak 107-SB.

This industry is contributing to the Social Security Department, but neither any medical treatment nor facility of the first aid was available in the centre set up by the Social Security Department.

Ehsan Syed, spokesman of the NGO (Environmental Protection Association), suggested to ensure treatment plants for curtailing environment pollution during the crushing of stones. He also suggested to fix the excavation time and observe strictly the security measures. He also urged the government to include some representatives of any NGO with the EPD to check corruption in the department.

Social sectors have also demanded judicial enquiry into the affairs of the Mines Department during the last 10 years. The corrupt and monopolists should be taken to task and the properties made through malpractices should be forfeited.

When contacted, officials of the Mines Department refused to provide any information about their working and even avoided to tell the annual income from the auction. Refusing to comment on allegations, they said they did not want to give any clarification in this regard.

Updated Nov 25, 2002 12:00am

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