Afghanistan Theater

Young music stars defy mullahs in Pakistan's Tribal Areas

The BBC reported a glimmer of hope Jan. 27 from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, where Taliban-inspired movements have won local political control over the semi-autonomous Tribal Areas. Two local kids, Tariq Hussain Bacha and Zeeshan Khan (respectively 12 and 11), have formed a musical duo and are defying the ruling mullahs' ban by performing in public. They initially played secret gigs in back rooms, but since their album Joora Guloona ("two flowers" in the Pashtun language) has become a success they have become bolder. Stocked at first by a few shops in Peshawar's famous Choor Bazar (Thieves Bazaar), copies started flying off the shelves and soon there were orders from the US, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.

Baluchi rebels threaten Pakistan oilfields

Guerillas of the Baluchistan Liberation Army threatened to blow up Pakistan's most important oil and gas facility at Dhodak, in the central province of Punjab. The statement, phoned into several newspapers Feb. 6 by a spokesman called Azad Baluch (an apparent nom de guerre meaning Free Baluchistan), was the first threat by the rebels to strike outside Baluchistan province. The previous day, rebels reportedly struck a gas pipeline at Mangrotha in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 90 kilometers west of the central Punjab city of Multan. Bombings of rail lines and other government targets are now taking place nearly every day in Baluchistan, the largest and poorest of Pakistan's four provinces. (AFP, Feb. 7)

Afghan refugees: still in plight

The largely invisible suffering of Afghanistan's internal refugees made a rare appearance in the US media Feb. 4 with a NY Times story and front-page (below-the-fold) photo. The article noted that eighteen people have died in the refugee camps outside Kabul since severe cold descended on the country two weeks ago. The most recent death was that of a new-brn boy at the Chaman-e-Babrak tent camp. Temperatures fall as low as 5 degrees F. at night. There are some 4,000 living in the two main camps outside Kabul, described by the Times as "homeless rural people who cannot be relocated to the countryside" and "landless poor from rural areas who have no homes to go back to." The Times did not emphasize that most of these rural areas continue to be controlled by local warlords who persecute and even force out their perceived ethnic enemies.

Afghan Jews: down to one

Ishaq Levin, one of the last two Jews in Kabul (and presumably in all of Afghanistan), was buried at Jerusalem's honored Mount of Olives Feb. 2. When Taliban rule ended three years ago, Levin and Zebulon Simentov were found living at opposite ends of Kabul's synagogue, divided by a bitter feud and refusing to talk to each other. Levin's relatives in Israel learned of his death through relatives of Simentov, and made arrangements with the Red Cross to have his remains flown out. Two weeks later, the body was delivered to the Israeli embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and flown to Israel for burial. Levin was believed to have been around 80, and hadn't seen his family since a brief trip to Israel 26 years ago. Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi Shlomo Amar led prayers at the funeral.

Gas operations at root of Baluch insurgency

The separatist insurgency that has been shaking Paksitan's Baluchistan province--strategically bordering Afghanistan--since the beginning of the year seemed to have come out of nowhere. Finally, a Jan. 29 account in the BBC sheds some light. It seems the natural gas field at Sui lies at the heart of the unrest. Typically, it is a source of much of Pakistan's national wealth, yet little of it returns to the local peoples.

Pakistan: unstable, nuclear

More violence in Pakistan's semi-autonomous Northwest Tribal Areas. This time rival clans in a land dispute in Miranshah, North Waziristan, decided to settle scores with live fire in the middle of a crowded market, leaving seven dead. (Bahrain's Gulf Daily News, Jan. 27)

Pakistan guerillas hit pipeline

Baluchi guerillas shut down Pakistan's top gas field with rocket attacks on the pipeline. Why is nobody paying attention?

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Supplies from Pakistan's main gas field have been fully restored, officials said on Saturday 11 days after a bloody attack by militant tribesmen seeking greater autonomy forced the field to be shut down.

Next: Free Baluchistan?

If it hits the fan in Pakistan, Bush's victory in neighboring Afghanistan could be a Pyrric one... From AP:

QUETTA, Pakistan - Three rockets fired by unidentified assailants
landed in a residential area of this deeply conservative southwestern
Pakistani city, but no one was injured, police said Saturday.

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