Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No AQ or Taliban in Balochistan?

From this article:

The Balochistan Home Minister Muhammad Shoaib Nowsherwani has denied the allegations that any Al-Qaeda or Taliban network exist in the province.

Talking to media persons here Tuesday, Provincial Interior Minister while commenting on the allegation of a neighboring country that Quetta is a stronghold of Taliban termed it baseless.

He said that if someone has any solid prove in this context then they should provide to Pakistan and assured that on the basis of these proofs strict action would be taken. Provincial Minister on the occasion asked not to accuse Pakistan without any proof.

The Home Minister's comments are certainly false. I can't point you to definite Al Qaeda activity in Balochistan, but the Taliban are present there.

Someone described the Home Minister to me this way:

The Balochistan Home Minister, Muhammad Shoaib Nowsherwani is a Baloch
and a loyalist, but certainly not a nationalist. He serves his masters, the Pakistani government, and not his people, the Baloch nation.

The "neighboring country" that he is referring to is definitely Afghanistan. This Nowsherwani fella is following in the footsteps of his masters by making false statements that there are no Al Qaeda and Taleban in Balochistan.

Quetta, the provincial capital, is up towards the region of the province where the Pushtuns are more populous, and the Taliban find some support there.

You may recall this item from a recent Briefing:

Unidentified gunmen today shot dead a former Taliban leader in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, relatives of the deceased said.

Mulla Samad Barakzai, former head of Taliban's department for promotion of virtue and prevention of vice in the southern Helmand province, was gunned down in Pushtoon Abad area of Quetta, the provincial capital, they said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the murder.

Barakzai had been living in Balochistan since the fall of Taliban.

The Daily Times had this article last week:

A top British Army officer accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to use its territory as a headquarters for attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan, reported the UK newspaper The Guardian on Friday.

Colonel Chris Vernon, chief of staff for southern Afghanistan, said Taliban leaders were coordinating their campaign from Quetta. “The thinking piece of the Taliban is out of Quetta in Pakistan. It’s the major headquarters,” he told the Guardian. “They use it to run a series of networks in Afghanistan.”

For additional reading, see here and here.

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you know that the fighting is heating up again in Afghanistan. In particular, the fighting has been heavy lately in the Afghani provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand.

The provinces of Helmand and Kandahar share a border with Balochistan, and Kandahar is the closest Afghani province to Quetta. (See this map.) Helmand borders on the Chagai district in Balochistan, which is thinly populated. (Pakistan did nuclear testing in the Chagai district.)

Taliban fighters would find it convenient to slip across the border and find haven in Balochistan. As the summer wears on, don't be surprised if you hear more about cross-border activity.


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