Saturday, February 18, 2012

ISLAMABAD LEARNS NO LESSON FROM 1971 : What next in Pakistan? Pashtun Genocide?

The leadership of Pakistan seems to have lost their sense of correct direction; that is why they are still running on the wrong track. As such, the tragic events of their massacre of innocent people, men, women and children of what is now Bangladesh, was just loss of another ‘wicket’for the them. Another loss of wicket is not far off, unless their ‘batsmen’ gird up their loins.

Now, the young rising politician, a former legend of Pakistan cricket, Imran Khan, has appeared on the shatterred political scenerio of Pakistan, to bodly expose the wrong way the present leadership of Pakistan has been playing their ‘game’. In a recent interview with a British magazine, Imran Khan couldn’t control his emotion when he spoke about the ‘genocide’ committed in 1971 on the Bengalis of former East Pakistan and what is now being repeated on the “Pashtuns” of the North-Western territories of Pakistan, particularly, in Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan. Even the Pashtuns who live in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, are not spared. Often they are “picked up and thrown into jail”, because they are Pashtuns. “This is a sad legacy”, Imran said.

1971 ‘genocide’ being repeated on Pashtuns
Recalling the “genocide” committed by the Pakistan government and the army in March, 1971 on the innocent Bengalis in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, Imran Khan said that if “the offenders of 1971 had been punished, then the Pashtuns would not be harassed in Pakistan today”, adding, that “the present scenerio in Pakistan would have been different.”

According to media reports, about 30 to 35 million Pashtuns, living in Pakistan and Afghanistan, “are the direct victims” of the ‘war on terror’, let loose by former US President George Bush, taking Pakistan as its “key ally” in his war against the Talibans. But instead of gaining any tangible results out of the decade-long anti-Taliban fight, both America and its ‘key ally’ are now enjoying the ‘boomerang fire’ from the battlefiled. Now it has been realised that the Pashtuns are determined to oust the US forces from Afghanistan and to put an end to Pakistan anti-Taliban policy being implemented under the diktat of its “friends, not masters.”

‘Memogate’ and shape of things
So Pakistan is now passing through a threatening situation in the North-West Pakistan territories, particularly in Waziristan and Pashtun-inhabited areas adjacent to Afghan border. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘border restrictions’ for the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the possibility of secession from Pakistan the Pashtun-dominated areas adjacent to Afghan border. What shape of things is in the offing, only time will show.

 However, to worsen the already shaky situation for the government, headed by Asif Ali Zardari, comes the report of an internal crisis for the government centering the so-called ‘Memogate’ which had alleged that Zardari had sent an unsigned note to the US Administration to save his government from the Army ‘plot’ to take over the government through a coup. But Zardari has denied the allegation. And to add fuel to fire, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has now brought charges of contempt of court against Prime Minister Gilani for not implementing court orders, since December, 2009, of reopening of cases of alleged money-laundering against Zardari.

The ruling party PPP, leadership, headed by Gilani, had tried to escape the court orders on the plea that Zardari, being the Head of the State, is “immune” from any such prosecution. However, ‘Gilani had been asked by the High Court to appear before it on 19 January which he did and got a new date some time in February for hearing of his application. Although much depends on the court verdict about the future of Gilani government, the Parliament has come forward with a majority vote of confidence in Gilani’s government. But this is one side of the coin. The other side is also not so bright.

Pakistan’s nuclear power threatened
In fact, Pakistan has become a target of its powerful first Asian nuclear neighbour, India, and an ‘undeclared’ nuclear power Israel, dominating the Mid-East region. They must be playing their ‘game’ from behind the scene to cripple the only Muslim nuclear country in the world. In such a situation, instead of guarding itself against the coming ‘tsunami’ to blow them out, the Pakistan leadership is busy in digging their own graves.

Now the Pakistan leadership is busy in safe-guarding their seat of power, playing the rediculous role of a ‘golf boy’, serving their master players in the political field.

And to achieve their mission, President Zardari is said to be daily sacrificing a ‘black goat’ as ‘sadkah’ to save himself from an ‘evil eye’! Pakistan is now directly in the grab of the US-led Western powers and their two close allies—-India and Israel—-who are keen to get control over Pakistan’s nuclear plants on the plea of security in the region. It became more obvious when a high US official, like the Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mullen, had expressed in April last year his concern over the safety of the Pakistan nuclear plants, when he said that “Pakistan may implode with nuclear weapons in near future and may also use them.” But what had prompted Admiral Mullen to make such a fantastic forecast has never been explained. However, within a week or so of his ‘forecast’, the Admiral came down to ‘assure’ all with ‘full confidence’ that he was “glad to learn that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were safe.” What a relief! (But it was not clear, nor he disclosed as to ‘safe’ in whose hand’s?) However, it would serve as ‘big kudos’ for Zardari and Gilani government. Let us hope for the best for the region.

BY :  A M M Shahabuddin. 

Indian bid to use Bangladesh as corridor is illegal

Curving out an access through the sovereign turf of another country without any ‘codified’ legal instrument is prohibited by customary international law. As a legal tangle is set to turn much of what is being done with respect to Indian connectivity through Bangladesh worthless and illegal, the two governments should focus into fashioning the requisite bilateral deals to avoid being hounded and implicated in the future. 
The decision following the February 12-13 meeting in Dhaka of the officials from the two countries to set up a joint committee to look into the possibility of transhipment of Indian goods at ‘any point’ in Bangladesh offered a new window of opportunity to give a second thought to this complicated matter.
Lack of legality
First, as it is, there is no existential legal instrument to cover the allowing of Indian vessels in ‘any port’ of Bangladesh unless a new agreement/protocol is signed and ratified by concerned authorities.
Second, many other de facto mandates, accorded to India, to turn Bangladesh into an Indian corridor do not have legal basis either, and stems largely from a combination of verbal directives, declaration made in the joint communiqué, or, from Memorandum of Understanding (MoU); all of which are in collision with the 1972 and 1980 bilateral agreements, which are the core instruments of customary international law governing such thorny bilateral matters. 
Customary international laws are drawn from the pool of consistent conduct of nations acting in the belief that the laws require them to act that way. Actions of states not in conformity with such principles are often deemed as arbitrary and illegal and may be susceptible to non-compliance by one or both the signatories. The Statute of the International Court of Justice acknowledges the existence of customary international law in Article 38(1)(b), and, its tenets are incorporated into Article 92 of the UN Charter. 
Misuse of power
Yet, there is evidence that some high officials and advisers in Bangladesh are acting in extreme secrecy to allow India many opportunities not backed by the required legal instruments. A recent declaration by Tripura’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Manik Dey, added to such concerns further and proved how authoritative power is being misused in Bangladesh. 
Dey told reporters on February 11 that, “After getting the green signal from Dhaka, FCI (Food Corporation of India) has initiated the process to transport food grains and essentials for the (Indian) north eastern states using Bangladeshi port Ashuganj and roadways connected to the NE.” 
Who in Bangladesh gave such a green signal is unknown, but these are disturbing signs with far-reaching implications for Bangladesh’s sovereignty and national security. 
No legal basis
The legal basis of trade connectivity between the two countries ought to be governed by the Bilateral Trade Agreements of March 1972 and October 1980, which has been abandoned. The water transit protocol, signed in November 1972, is embodied in Article V111 of the 1972 agreement, and allows flying, docking and movement of some Indian vessels across the Bangladesh water at specific ‘ports of call.’ 
The protocol is operable subject to renewal in every two years. As the current duration of it ends on March 31, 2012, the Indian delegation is desperate to have five-year duration for the protocol.
This too is illegal. The demand to extend the protocol for five years cannot be fulfilled due to the protocol itself being an integral part of the 1972 and 1980 trade agreements and renewable in every two year period. 
To change the protocol’s duration, the agreement(s) must be amended first. The 1972 agreement - and by implications the 1980 agreement too – having the status of a treaty, it will involve an act of the parliament to bring about the required amendments. 
Wrong advice
Also evident is the fact that the government is ill advised. Dr. Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to the Prime Minister on international affairs, told the Hindu newspaper of India on September 6, 2011 that the land connectivity – and the transit – stems from the 1974 Indira-Mujib agreement. A focused review of the 1974 agreement, however, reveals that, none of the five articles of the agreement is remotely related to the transit issue. 
Solely related to resolving the boundary dispute, the status of the 1974 agreement was filliped into a treaty in Bangladesh due to Dhaka’s expeditious ratification of it, and, the amendment brought to the Constitution in order to offer to India the Berubari enclave so that the Tin Bihga corridor could be regained by Bangladesh to ameliorate the sufferings of the stranded Chhit Mahal inhabitants. India never ratified the treaty. 
That notwithstanding, in all probability, Dr. Rizvi must have referred to the Bilateral Trade Agreement of 1972.
  Signed on March 28, 1972, the comprehensive Trade Agreement had one year of initial duration, with a commitment for periodical renewal. Article V of the Agreement states: “The two governments agree to make mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of waterways, railways and roadways for the two countries and for passage of goods between two places in one country through the territory of the other.”
That may sound like agreeing to allow corridor to India, but the 1972 agreement has subsequently been supplanted by a new Trade Agreement signed on October 4, 1980, which must have bypassed the adviser’s attention. 
Although the new agreement replaced with Article VIII the exact language used in Article V of the 1972 agreement, yet, in order to insure legal correctness, a new Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade was signed on November 8, 1983. 
That precedent being so handy, why then the Bangladesh government is cruising ahead with a multi-modal connectivity scheme without signing any new protocol? The only basis seems to be the commitment made by the Prime Minister during her visit to India in 2010. In specificity, paragraph 22 of the joint communiqué promised to add Ashuganj-Silghat (India) as new ports of call. 
From a legal standpoint, the PM’s commitment cannot be sustained and fulfilled unless a new protocol is signed, for, the parent protocol does not have those two destinations as ports of call.
These legal prerequisites aside, a high-powered committee formed by the Bangladesh government to examine in details the transit-related issues reported on December 2, 2010, that, ‘Bangladesh currently lacked the infrastructure for transit with India, Nepal and Bhutan and would need at least three years to have an adequate infrastructure in place.’ 
Political stunt
The formation of the committee, as is evident now, was a political stunt for public consumption. Disregarding its recommendations, the government had already allowed India the first regular transit transport to pass on October 18, 2011 from Akhaura to Agartala. Routine movement of Indian goods on the same route continued ever since. 
For instance, during the first week of what the Bangladesh government touted as the ‘trial run’ for Indian transiting, the Indian Ship  ‘Homibaba’ carried 305 tons of steel from Kolkata Port to Ashuganj, from where they were ferried by road to Agartala. Another ship carried 621 tons of iron sheets three days later. 
Between October 12-15, 2011 alone, 9 oversized trucks, each loaded with 17 and half tons of iron sheets, ferried to and from Ashuganj and Agartala and mauled the feeble infrastructure in their path. The anger in the disaffected community is too conspicuous to bypass attention.
These actions not only constitute an infringement of customary international laws, they are perilously detrimental to Bangladesh’s national security and sovereign integrity.
BY :  M. Shahidul Islam.

Indian BSF cocktail party on Pilkhana Massacre Day!

On February 25-26, when Bangladesh will mourn the third anniversary of the tragic Pilkhana Massacre, which took place during February 25-26 in 2009, weeks after Bangladesh Awami League formed government, India's Border Security Forces [BSF] has organized a cocktail party following by cultural performance. Family members of those Indian BSF members, who were killed at Padua during exchange of fire with members of Bangladesh Riffles [now Bangladesh Border Guard], are also expected to attend this "celebration" by BSF officers and jawans. According to information, more than twelve hundred people will attend this night-long cocktail party, which starts at 12 midnight on Friday [February 24]. Though reason behind holding of this cocktail party is still unclear, several sources indicate that the Indian BSF officers and soldiers will be holding this cocktail party in celebration of a "proper revenge" to Padua incident, where a few of BSF members were killed.

February 25 is just a week ahead! On this day in 2009, just a month after Bangladesh Awami League formed government, anti-army revolt broke out inside the Head Quarters of Bangladesh Riffles [now Bangladesh Border Guards]. At least 73 army officers were brutally murdered during this mutiny, while a large number of family members of the army officers were humiliated, assaulted and violated by the renegades. Right after the incident, a number of officers expressed their anger in presence of the Prime Minister at the Sena Kunja meeting. They demanded neutral and prompt investigation as well punishment of the culprits.

Government did not allow the members of armed forces and other law enforcing agencies to storm into the Bangladesh Riffles headquarters to rescue the army officers and their family members who were made hostage inside the headquarters of the border security guard by the 'renegade' troops. Instead of allowing army crackdown, the government opted for 'political settlement' of the situation and sent two of the junior leaders of the ruling party to negotiate with the mutineers. In the name of political negotiation, these junior leaders and later many other figures in the government spent almost 32 hours, thus giving opportunity to the mutineers in killing almost all the army officers who were held hostage inside the headquarters of the border security force and violated large number of female members of their families who were also held inside the BDR headquarters.

Many believe that the Pilkhana Massacre was pre set by anti-Bangladesh elements with a blue print of destabilizing Bangladesh's border security forces as well as decade-old glory of Bangladesh Riffles, with the aim of turning Bangladesh ultimately into a sub-servient like some small nations in the region. It is also apprehended that, anti-Bangladesh elements had hands behind the Pilkhana Massacre.

Commenting on the news of BSF's cocktail party on the Pilkhana Massacre Day, a retired senior officer of Bangladesh Army expressed annoyance at such "audacity" of the Indian border guards. He said, "such celebration categorically expose the nasty faces of the conspirators behind the murders of our army officers and humiliation of their family members at Pilkhana in 2009."