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DAWN - Editorial; April 2, 2003

April 02, 2003

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Massacre in Kashmor

PEOPLE in the sleepy town of Kashmor in Sindh are in a state of deep shock following Monday’s attack on the town by a group of heavily armed tribesmen. At least 14 people were killed in the attack and 18 injured. Eyewitnesses say that the marauders were Bugti tribesmen in search of elders of the rival Mazari tribe, against whom the Bugtis have been engaged in a prolonged and bloody tribal feud. When they were unable to find the men, the tribesmen went on the rampage in the town centre in true Wild West style, shooting at anyone who came their way. After the shooting spree, the tribesmen took eight people hostage and disappeared in the direction of Balochistan. Kashmor sits at the confluence of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab and is often the scene of inter-provincial crime.

The recent attack on Kashmor was another gory example of the tribal war between the Bugtis and the Mazaris which has been raging for over a decade. Some months earlier, there were a number of pitched battles fought between the two tribes in which the heavily outgunned Mazaris had faced assaults from the Bugtis armed with kalashnikovs and rocket launchers. During the previous round of clashes, the pipeline carrying gas from the Sui fields was badly damaged on more than one occasion, cutting off supplies to the north for several days. The Sui fields are located in Bugti territory and have been subjected to a number of attacks over the years. The attacks usually coincide with demands by the tribesmen for increased royalties from the gas companies operating in the area and for more jobs and better facilities for the locals. While the Bugtis claim that they are demanding a fair share in the earnings from natural resources found in their area, gas company officials regard such actions as sheer blackmail.

The Bugtis have been involved in a number of tribal wars over the years, most of which, directly or indirectly, revolved round the question of royalties. Even the current stand-off against the Mazaris was initially triggered after the Mazaris received royalties for the construction of a road in their area. This enraged the Bugtis who demanded their share, provoking a war that continues to this day. In the early nineties, the Bugtis had a major showdown with the Kalpar sub-section of the tribe. So fierce was the fighting that the Kalpars had to flee Balochistan and take shelter in Multan. The Bugtis have become increasingly emboldened because the authorities have been reluctant to confront them. This may explain why the group of heavily armed tribesmen could come from Balochistan to Kashmor without being checked by the security personnel guarding the numerous checkposts along the way.

It is time that action is taken against those who commit crimes of the kind witnessed in Kashmor, regardless of their tribal affiliations or political clout. The authorities must firmly deal with those who have carved out a state within a state in their tribal fiefdom. Turmoil in this strategically important area was recently cited as one reason why the Indians are reluctant to support the construction of a vital pipeline through Pakistan meant to bring gas to it from Iran. The government must take a firm stand against lawlessness in the area if it wants to prevent further damage to the country’s vital interests and to stem the tide of violence that continues to claim countless lives.

CPLC chief’s exit

THE news that Mr Jameel Yusuf has been removed as chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, Karachi, is as surprising as it is painful. Such are the provincial administration’s strange ways of doing things that a citizen who was doing useful work in a particularly sensitive area of public life was made to go unceremoniously at the unearthly hour of 11 pm. As the progenitor of the idea of a police-citizens committee to ensure cooperation between the two in combating crime and as one who has rendered dedicated services over the years as CPLC chief, Mr Yusuf is widely admired and respected. During the last 14 years, he had made a remarkable success of police-citizen cooperation — an idea which had many sceptics. In some fields like combating kidnappings for ransom and car thefts the CPLC succeeded spectacularly. To the CPLC also went the credit for initiating many useful moves like the computerization of criminal records and motor vehicles and the aliens’ registration. That is the reason why the Asian Development Bank made the establishment of CPLCs in other parts of Pakistan one of the conditions of its $350 million ‘Access to Justice’ loan.

Created during the governorship of Mr Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, the CPLC has enjoyed the blessings of all successive Sindh governments since its inception in 1989. While accepting that 13 years was perhaps too long a period for one individual to be at its helm, one would have still expected the people to have been taken into confidence about the intended change and for the governor to have made the exit more graceful by generously acknowledging his services.

Now that Mr Yusuf is gone, one hopes the CPLC will continue to be staffed by people of integrity and dedication and by those without strong political affiliations. This way alone can the CPLC continue to do its duties and serve all Karachiites irrespective of political, ethnic and religious considerations. The CPLC is a statutory body, created by an ordinance. However, its charter has not been notified by the home department yet. The notification of the charter is long overdue. One hopes the governor, who has moved rather arbitrarily in this matter, will see to it that the CPLC’s charter is notified and the body enabled to continue with its work without administrative interference. This would turn it into an institution not unduly dependent on the government for doing its assigned tasks to the satisfaction of the distraught citizens of this troubled metropolis.

Controlling overfishing

THE sorry consequences of unregulated and indiscriminate fishing along Pakistan’s coast are gradually coming to the fore, as outlined in a study on the country’s coastal economy. The livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people is at stake because of a significant depletion of fish stocks, thanks to overfishing and the use of fine nets which picks up even small fry. For quite some time now, small-scale fishermen, represented by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), have been calling on the provincial and federal governments to formulate a policy so that overfishing can be stopped. The PFF blames the introduction of mechanized deep-sea fishing trawlers in Pakistan’s coastal waters, with their use of fine nets for the decline in the fish stocks. Those who own and operate these deep-sea trawlers deny these allegations, saying that a “mafia of sea lords with influence reaching the corridors of power” is behind the problem of overfishing.

These allegations and counter-allegations aside, it is plain that unless the government comes out with a clear policy on this matter, the problem will only worsen. At stake are large earnings from exports of seafood and the livelihood of many. The government must ensure that certain types of prohibited nets are not used by anyone and fishing operations conform to prescribed rules and regulations more strictly than at present.