Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

Updated 20 September 2014
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Pakistan’s Baluchistan separatists demand Scots-style vote

QUETTA, Pakistan: Baluch separatist leaders on Friday called on Pakistan to follow in Britain’s footsteps by holding a referendum similar to Scotland’s on granting independence to the insurgency-wracked province.
Scots rejected independence in a vote that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact despite a surge in nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign.
Asked whether a similar poll should be held in Baluchistan, Dr. Bashir Azeem, secretary-general of the outlawed Baloch Republican Party, told AFP: “The Baluch have been struggling against the excesses and tyranny of Punjab-dominated establishment of Pakistan for decades.”
Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous and influential province.
“If a fair referendum is conducted after creating an atmosphere for it, providing the opportunity to Baluch population for deciding their future, it is welcomed,” he added.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
But rights groups allege security forces are also responsible for picking up non-militant separatists, including academics and students, torturing them and dumping their bodies on the streets.
The current insurgency gained in intensity after the 2006 killing of 79-year-old Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a revered figure for many rebels.
Azeem’s son Jamil Akbar Bugti said: “I stand for a free and fair referendum in Baluchistan under the United Nations.
“Let Baluch people who are struggling for their independence decide their future whether they want to stay with (the) federation of Pakistan or break away.”
The desperately poor province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence in its northern Pashtun belt, with middle-class Baluch increasingly viewing independence as their only hope for a more liberal and secular state.
Pakistan accuses neighboring India of funding and arming the rebels — a charge analysts believe is true and payback for Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir.


Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

Updated 36 min 46 sec ago
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Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

  • The acting defense secretary cited a 'painful' family situation that would hurt his children
  • Donald Trump said Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON: After months of unexplained delays, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down Tuesday before his formal nomination ever went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal.”
President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, and said that Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.
“It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process,” Shanahan said in a statement. “I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”

The acting defense secretary did not provide specifics about the family situation but media outlets including The Washington Post and USA Today published extensive reports Tuesday about circumstances surrounding his 2011 divorce shortly before Trump tweeted that Shanahan’s nomination would not go forward.
In his statement, Shanahan said he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and he resigned from his previous post as deputy defense secretary. He said he would work on an “appropriate transition” but it wasn’t clear how quickly he will leave the job.
Defense officials said that leaders are trying to decide when Esper would take over the job. Officials were meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss transition plans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations.
In his tweet, Trump simply said that Shanahan had done “a wonderful job” but would step aside to “devote more time to his family.”
And, in noting Esper’s move, Trump added, “I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!“
The post atop the Pentagon has not been filled permanently since Gen. James Mattis retired in January following policy differences with Trump.
Trump announced in May that he would nominate Shanahan but the formal nomination process in the Senate had been inexplicably delayed.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since Jan. 1, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position.
His prospects for confirmation have been spotty due in large part to questions about his lengthy work as former Boeing executive and persistent questions about possible conflicts of interest.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing in connection with accusations he had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors.
In Shanahan’s tenure at the department he’s had to deal with a wide array of international hotspots, ranging from missile launches by North Korea to the sudden shift of military ships and aircraft to the Middle East to deal with potential threats from Iran.
Shanahan, 56, had extensive of experience in the defense industry but little in government. In more than four months as the acting secretary, he focused on implementing the national defense strategy that was developed during Mattis’ tenure and emphasizes a shift from the resources and tactics required to fight small wars against extremist groups to what Shanahan calls “great power” competition with China and Russia.