Saturday, January 30, 2010
Karachi (Urdu: کراچی, Sindhi: ڪراچي, Karāchi) is followed by Mumbai, Delhi, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Jakarta, Manila, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Istanbul making up the top 10 list. Bangladesh capital Dhaka is at number 12, barely missing a top 10 slot. Of these, Mumbai, Dhaka and Delhi also have the dubious distinction of making Mercer's list of world's dirtiest cities. In another survey, Mercer has ranked Karachi as the fourth cheapest city for expatriates.
The list of the world’s largest cities, by land area, is headed by New York Metro, with a total area of 8,700 square kilometers. Tokyo/Yokohama is in second place with almost 7,000 square kilometers, followed by ten cities from the United States. Mumbai (Bombay), with a population density of almost 30,000 people per square kilometer, is the world’s most crowded city. Kolkata (Calcutta), Karachi and Lagos follow behind.
In 2008, the US based NPR radio did a series on Karachi titled "Karachi: The Urban Frontier". It highlighted the following facts about Karachi:
1. Karachi is built along a natural harbor facing the Arabian Sea, and this central location between the Middle East and India has made Karachi an important trading port for hundreds of years.
2. Karachi encompasses both its old seafront district and a sprawling web of commercial and residential development that covers almost 1,400 square miles. Its contemporary landscape spans skyscrapers, posh golf resorts, congested roadways and sprawling squatter colonies.
3. The Port of Karachi handles 60 percent of Pakistan's cargo, and the Karachi Stock Exchange is one of Asia's most active trading markets (The data for 1999-2009 shows that Karachi share market significantly outperformed Hong Kong, Mumbai and Shanghai markets). The city's main industries include shipping, trade, finance, banking, information technology, manufacturing, real estate, media and education.
4. Like any big city, it has its share of problems. Pollution, crime, corruption and political volatility are just some of the issues confronting the 12 million to 18 million "Karachiites" who call this overcrowded city home. Karachi is 60 times larger than it was when Pakistan was created in 1947. And with the population growing at an annual rate of 6 percent, one of the biggest challenges for city officials is managing the tensions and violence that often flare along ethnic and religious lines.
5. Karachi is growing so fast that estimates of its population range from 12 million to 18 million. The country's financial capital is also a city where about half the population lives in illegal houses.
Here are some figures for Karachi population I received from the editors of citymayors.com:
YEAR Urban Population
Since Karachi population has been growing at about 4-6% a year recently, the 18 million figure for Karachi in 2009 makes sense.
The mayors of the world’s twenty largest cities are each responsible for more people than most national prime ministers. For example, London, ranked 20th in the world, has more residents than nations like Paraguay, Denmark, New Zealand or Ireland, and if Karachi, globally the largest city, was a country it would rank above Greece, Portugal or Hungary. The combined population of the world’s eight megacities - cities with more than 10 million inhabitants - comfortably exceeds that of Germany.
Urbanization is not just a side effect of economic growth; it is an integral part of the process, according to the World Bank. With the robust economic growth averaging 7 percent and availability of millions of new jobs created between 2000 and 2008, there has been increased rural to urban migration in Pakistan to fill the jobs in growing manufacturing and service sectors. The level of urbanization in Pakistan is now the highest in South Asia, and its urban population is likely to equal its rural population by 2030, according to a report titled ‘Life in the City: Pakistan in Focus’, released by the United Nations Population Fund. Pakistan ranks 163 and India at 174 on a list of over 200 countries compiled by Nationmaster. The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan's gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.
A 2008 report by UN Population Fund says the share of the urban population in Pakistan almost doubled from 17.4 percent in 1951 to 32.5 percent in 1998. The estimated data for 2005 shows the level of urbanization as 35 per cent, and CIA Factbook puts it at 36% in 2008. An expected positive consequence of the increasing urbanization of society in Pakistan will be the creation of over 100 million strong middle class by 2030, making Pakistan's grass roots democracy more viable and responsive to the needs of the people. This large urban population will not only create a domestic market for goods and services, but it can create a skilled work force that can be the engine of economic growth and source of innovation.
According to the 1998 census, Sindh is the most urbanized province with 49 percent percent of the population living in urban centers. NWFP is the least urbanized province with only 17 percent of its population living in urban areas.
With Pakistan already the most urbanized country in South Asia, Karachi's population has been growing at a rate of over 4 percent a year for decades, according to the editors at Citymayors.com. Karachi now accounts for about 12 percent of the nation's population, and Mustafa Kamal as its mayor is accountable to a larger population than the presidents or prime ministers of many nations of the world. As the nation continues to experience increasing rural-to-urban migration, the jobs of the big city mayors in Pakistan, particularly Karachi and Lahore, are becoming significantly more important and challenging than generally recognized. How these mayors deal with these challenges will largely determine the fate of the nation, in terms of education, health care, housing, transportation, industrial and service sectors' growth, job growth and overall economic activities, as well as the future of democracy.
When visitors see a squatter city in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh, they observe overwhelming desperation: rickety shelters, little kids working or begging, absence of sanitation, filthy water and air. However, there are many benefits of rural to urban migration for migrants' lives, including reduction in abject poverty, empowerment of women, increased access to healthcare and education and other services. Historically, cities have been driving forces in economic and social development. As centers of industry and commerce, cities have long been centers of wealth and power. They also account for a disproportionate share of national income. The World Bank estimates that in the developing world, as much as 80 percent of future economic growth will occur in towns and cities. Nor are the benefits of urbanization solely economic. Urbanization is associated with higher incomes, improved health, higher literacy, and improved quality of life. Other benefits of urban life are less tangible but no less real: access to information, diversity, creativity, and innovation.
In a recent interview published by Wired Magazine, Stewart Brand, "the pioneering environmentalist, technology thinker", and founder of the Whole Earth Catalog focused on the positive aspects of urban slums. Brand also made a counterintuitive case that the booming slums and squatter cities around the major urban centers in the developing world are net positives for poor people and the environment. Brand's arguments make a lot of sense, as long as there are representative city governments responsive to the growing needs of the new and old city residents.
Riaz Haq - http://www.riazhaq.com
Thursday, January 28, 2010
"I've determined to allow her to testify if she wishes," the judge said.
The judge also said prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, during cross-examination, will be able to use statements she allegedly made to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents while recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Berman determined the statements were given voluntarily and knowingly by Siddiqui despite her being "clearly uncomfortable and in some distress." She was under the watch of the FBI at the time and in restraints at a hospital in Afghanistan.
Aafia Siddiqui, 37, is accused of grabbing a U.S. warrant officer's rifle while she was detained for questioning in July 2008 in Afghanistan's Ghazni province and firing at FBI agents and military personnel as she was wrestled to the ground.
None of them were injured, but Siddiqui, who the U.S. government has accused of links with al Qaeda, was shot. She is charged with attempted murder, assault and other crimes and faces life in prison if convicted.
Siddiqui, who may testify on Thursday against the advice of her attorneys, hardly fits the image of a gun-slinging militant.
A tiny, frail-looking woman, she was trained in neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University.
The case raises questions that may never be aired in court and may never be answered. Was Siddiqui held in a U.S. secret prison as her supporters claim? Where are her two youngest children? Does she have ties to al Qaeda?
"We believe that this woman was kidnapped with her children in March of 2003 and that she has been held in custody by either Pakistani authorities or Americans in any of their dark side areas," one of Siddiqui's original lawyers, Elizabeth Fink, said in 2008.
The trial, which began last week at Manhattan federal court, is centered on the shooting itself and evidence about the time leading up to it is inadmissible.
"Since I'll never get a chance to speak, if you were in a secret prison ... where children were tortured," Siddiqui yelled out on the opening day of trial before being led from the courtroom. "I was never planning to bomb" New York.
AL QAEDA OPERATIVE?
Siddiqui and her three children disappeared in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in 2003, where she was living at the time, her family and Pakistani human rights groups say.
They believe she was held at Bagram, the main U.S. base in neighboring Afghanistan, and that she was raped and tortured, although they do not say what evidence they have for that.
They say Siddiqui reappeared in July 2008 when she was arrested along with her eldest son, who is now a teenager, near an Afghan police facility in Ghazni.
That son is now living with Siddiqui's sister in Pakistan. The whereabouts of her two youngest children are unknown.
The U.S. government has painted a different picture.
In 2004, Siddiqui was described by the FBI as an "al Qaeda operative and facilitator who posed a clear and present danger to America." But the charges against Siddiqui do not mention the group.
Witnesses said at the time of her arrest in 2008 Siddiqui was carrying containers of unidentified chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.
"It's not going to get addressed -- at this trial," said Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network who has attended the trial with Siddiqui's brother, Muhammad Siddiqui.
"The case is attempted murder in this room, that's all the (lawyers) are able to address."
Last July, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ruled Siddiqui was fit to stand trial, saying she "understands the nature of the charges and can assist counsel with her defense," but her mental state has repeatedly become an issue.
Siddiqui has interrupted witness testimony repeatedly and has been removed from the courtroom.
During jury selection, she yelled out that Zionists should be kept off the panel.
On another day -- this time out of earshot of jurors -- she demanded a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, insisting she could broker peace between the United States and the Taliban.
On Tuesday, she waved dramatically to the court, including the jury, and said, "I'm going to boycott from now on. I'm not coming here again. Bye everyone."
This week, her defense lawyers appealed to Berman to block Siddiqui from testifying, saying she suffers from "severe mental illness," may be suicidal and will likely fill her testimony with "irrational and delusional outbursts."
Reporting by Edith Honan
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Australia's Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), a joint venture between Canada's Barrick Gold and Chile's Antofagasta Plc, had an exploration license for the copper mine at Reko Diq, which has an estimated four billion tonnes of low-grade copper and gold, in the district of Chagai.
Last month, when the Balochistan government passed a motion to terminate the contract with TCC, it called the move a step towards getting control over provincial resources in accordance with the wishes of the people. Critics said the local government's action was politically motivated to appease Baloch nationalists in the desperately poor and insurgency-hit province, who have been demanding the cancelation of the agreement.
The deal was signed under the government of former president Pervez Musharraf. The present central coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party is trying to end the insurgency and recently presented a "Balochistan Package", which recommends a series of constitutional reforms, economic measures and administrative steps to assuage the feelings of the Baloch people.
Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani said TCC had violated its contract, which had been signed only for exploring for minerals, according to the Dawn newspaper. The federal government had not yet sought any explanation from the Balochistan government over the cancellation of deal, the report cited Raisani as saying. The provincial cabinet decision relates to the termination of the exploration contract after it expired, while the fate of the company's proposal for a mining agreement is yet to be decided, according to the chief minister.
Tethyan, which had a 75% interest in the project, allegedly introduced unnecessary delays and exceeded the limits of the contract, which was awarded only for drilling purposes. The provincial government, which has decided not to lease out the land to TCC for further work, is believed to be looking for other investors and technical expertise to manage the project indigenously.
TCC sees the contract cancelation as a violation of internationally accepted exploration rules, under which the exploration company gets the first rights to mining in the project area, as no mining firm can invest billions of dollars only in exploration.
The United States has urged the central and provincial governments to stand behind their agreements with international companies, as the cancelation of the Reko Diq copper contract, involving two major international mining firms threatens to cost the country a loss of US$3.5 billion in investment for one of its least developed regions.
"Multinational corporations will not invest in a country where deals are canceled," a Business Recorder report last Thursday quoted the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, as saying.
Some analysts believe the Reko Diq mine may now be developed with the help of China, which is engaged in extracting copper from the Saindak mine in the same district. They also warn that the government should learn from its experience at Saindak. Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC), which acquired Saindak on a 10-year lease in September 2002, is overmining in the area at the cost of the mine's estimated life of 19 years, say local experts. They also point out that copper extraction creates various toxic wastes, but there is still no reliable data available on the production and environmental impact at Saindak.
Reko Diq, with an estimated life span of more than 50 years, is four times larger in copper ore tonnage than Saindak.
The provincial government has handed over affairs of the Reko Diq project to the provincial department of mines and mineral development, which has acquired the services of Samar Mubarakmand, an eminent Pakistani nuclear scientist.
TCC has been criticized for selling its interests to Antofagasta and Barrick without the permission of the Balochistan government, which holds the remaining 25% interest. Barrick's share price in New York has declined from a one-year high of just below $48 on December 1 to $41.43 last week, after recovering from about $38 on December 17. Antofagasta is trading at 1,024 pence in London, close to its one-year high and more than double its price of a year ago.
Analysts also question why, if the provincial government had some grievance against TCC's operations, it did not react earlier when the company declared in July that it would invest $3 billion in the project in the current fiscal year, which ends in June.
The cancelation is "a non-routine solution", said Sardar Shaukat Popalzai, president of the Balochistan Economic Forum, according to The Nation daily newspaper. The relevant departments and political leadership should not take unwarranted decisions after projects are considered and then initiated after all clearances are granted on their merits, he said. Popalzai has reportedly suggested that a provincial assembly committee, along with a sub-committee consisting of local stakeholders, including the investors, should be formed to remove all irritants.
TCC itself has "not yet received any cancelation notice for the Reko Diq project from the government", Samia Ali Shah, the company's public relations manager, told Asia Times Online. "We will decide our strategy as soon as we receive notification from the Balochistan government."
She said, "Tethyan is currently undertaking a feasibility study, which is in its final stages, for development of the Reko Diq mine."
Feasibility studies include engineering analysis and studies of infrastructure alternatives involving the likes of rail, road, power, port and water supplies and overall technical and economical viability. "The environmental and social impact assessment [ESIA] of the project is also expected to finish at the end of the first quarter of this calendar year."
The Balochistan government first signed a contract for the Reko Diq exploration area with BHP Minerals in July 1993 and established a joint venture with BHP Billiton in June 2000, with the government keeping a 25% interest against BHP's 75%. TCC, which holds an alliance with BHP Billiton, raised funds for the project by floating its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange and planned to start the project in 2003 with an investment of $130 million.
Samia said her company was responsible for progress made since 2006, when Antofagasta and Barrick Gold took complete control of TCC, which is now a joint-venture company.
She said, "We have so far made significant progress. We had only 50 people as employees of the project in 2006 when Barrick Gold and Antofagasta took over the project. The number of our permanent employees presently exceeds 200.
"We spent $100 million, including expenditures on the feasibility study in 2008. An additional 146,000 meters were drilled last year and showed significantly large resource estimates at Reko Diq. The infrastructure developed at the exploration and feasibility stage of the project includes an airstrip and high-standard camp site facilities."
Samia said a large part of the promised investment of $3 billion would start coming as soon as the project entered the construction phase, after completion of the feasibility report and signing of agreements with the government.
Balochistan, the country's least-developed province but a prospective metaphorical and literal gold mine for companies eyeing its untapped mineral reserves and hydrocarbon resources, direly needs foreign investment to create jobs, develop communities and boost revenues.
The district of Chagai is one of the most backward and least-developed areas in Balochistan. It lacks healthcare facilities and has a poor educational infrastructure. The human development indicators in the district are among the most challenging in the country. With no infrastructure, no proper road network and no industry, the people of the Chagai desert lack almost any employment opportunities.
TCC has spent $1.5 million to date on initiatives such as training local people, local procurement, a school house, a health clinic, teacher training, and humanitarian aid for natural disasters like floods and earthquakes in Balochistan. The company also provides training to the local women in tailoring skills to establish local businesses to supply TCC uniforms.
Samia said, "We plan extensive training and capacity building programs to prepare local people for work within the Reko Diq project. We see our role as a catalyst for economic and social development of the communities we operate in."
The first batch of TCC employees, 80% from the province and about 76% of them from Chagai, has already been sent to the Descon Institute in Lahore for training.
Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan
If that's true then its welcomed! its a good decision since the copper and gold estimated there is about 65$ billion of worth almost twice the total debt on pakistan and was given to Austrailian & Chilean companies almost free.
Australian economy will be sitting duck without Chinese investments every one knows that. I Think Pakistan and China should start world's biggest Mining company & i can clearly say that all resources in Pakistan and middle east could go in favor of ours.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s trial will begin on Tuesday, January 19th 2010 at 9:00am.
New Yorkers will gather in front of Federal Court at 500 Pearl St in lower Manhattan from 8 to 9 am at Federal Court Building in solidarity with Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
In Pakistan Dr Aafia Siddiqui is considered to be a ‘Daughter of the nation”. The Pakistani Parliament passed an overwhelming resolution in support of her and has forced the government to pay for her legal defense in U.S. courts.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s torture and secret detention by U.S. forces in Afghanistan aroused enormous anger and indignation. Her continued imprisonment in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and the continuing brutal strip searches that she is subjected are internationally condemned.
Dr. Aafia is a 36-year-old Pakistani woman who is a U.S. educated neuroscientist. She was illegally kidnapped with her three young children in Karachi, Pakistan in 2003 and taken to U.S. custody in Afghanistan, where she was held in secret detention and tortured for 5 years. She was shot and severely wounded during an interrogation by FBI agents in July 2008. She is charged with attempted murder of FBI agent(s) in Afghanistan. According to the prosecutors and all U.S. officials, she has no links to any ‘terrorist organizations’. Forensic evidence supports Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s innocence. Dr. Aafia’s fingerprints were NOT on any gun, nor her DNA nor any residue nor any bullets.
The only fact that all witnesses agree on is that Dr. Aafia herself was shot by U.S. personnel then taken from Ghazni to Bagram and finally flown to New York to be charged. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui at every court appearance continues to refuse her lawyers, to declare to the court that she has been tortured and to decry the pain of strip searches.
Her sister Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, and family, her friends and her lawyers believe her continuing statements that she was tortured in Afghanistan and the children were terrorized in US custody. The family and friends have fought for support from the Pakistani government and international human rights organizations.
Stand for humane treatment and stand against injustice! Standing for Dr. Aafia brings light to all missing persons, victims of extraordinary rendition and people held in secret prisons. It sends the message that all human beings, especially – our sisters – Muslim women have rights!I can never forget the way you have treated me -- but I will forgive."
Dr. Aafia to Judge Berman
Dr. Afia Siddiqui - Prisoner 650
Release Dr. Afia Siddiqui! (Urgent Appeal)
Please sign The Petition
Spread the word by email & SMS to all your contacts so as to create more pressure.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.
Figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities show that a total of 701 people, including 14 al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed since January 2006 in 60 American predator attacks targeting the tribal areas of Pakistan. Two strikes carried out in 2006 had killed 98 civilians while three attacks conducted in 2007 had slain 66 Pakistanis, yet none of the wanted al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders could be hit by the Americans right on target.
However, of the 50 drone attacks carried out between January 29, 2008 and April 8, 2009, 10 hit their targets and killed 14 wanted al-Qaeda operatives. Most of these attacks were carried out on the basis of intelligence believed to have been provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen who had been spying for the US-led allied forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The remaining 50 drone attacks went wrong due to faulty intelligence information, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children. The number of the Pakistani civilians killed in those 50 attacks stood at 537, in which 385 people lost their lives in 2008 and 152 people were slain in the first 99 days of 2009 (between January 1 and April 8).
Of the 50 drone attacks, targeting the Pakistani tribal areas since January 2008, 36 were carried out in 2008 and 14 were conducted in the first 99 days of 2009. Of the 14 attacks targeting Pakistan in 2009, three were carried out in January, killing 30 people, two in February killing 55 people, five in March killing 36 people and four were conducted in the first nine days of April, killing 31 people.
Of the 14 strikes carried out in the first 99 days of April 2009, only one proved successful, killing two most wanted senior al-Qaeda leaders - Osama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. Both had lost their lives in a New Year’s Day drone strike carried out in the South Waziristan region on January 1, 2009.
Kini was believed to be the chief operational commander of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and had replaced Abu Faraj Al Libi after his arrest from Bannu in 2004. Both men were behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dares Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.
There were 36 recorded cross-border US predator strikes inside Pakistan during 2008, of which 29 took place after August 31, 2008, killing 385 people. However, only nine of the 36 strikes hit their actual targets, killing 12 wanted al-Qaeda leaders. The first successful predator strike had killed Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander of al-Qaeda who was targeted in North Waziristan on January 29, 2008. The second successful attack in Bajaur had killed Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al-Qaeda’s external operations chief, on March 14, 2008. The third attack in South Waziristan on July 28, 2008, had killed Abu Khabab al Masri, al-Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction chief. The fourth successful attack in South Waziristan on August 13, 2008, had killed al-Qaeda leader Abdur Rehman.
The fifth predator strike carried out in North Waziristan near Miranshah on Sept 8, 2008 had killed three al-Qaeda leaders, Abu Haris, Abu Hamza, and Zain Ul Abu Qasim. The sixth successful predator hit in the South Waziristan region on October 2008 had killed Khalid Habib, a key leader of al-Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army.
The seventh such attack conducted in North Waziristan on October 31, 2008 had killed Abu Jihad al Masri, a top leader of the Egyptian Islamic group. The eighth successful predator strike had killed al-Qaeda leader Abdullah Azzam al Saudi in east of North Waziristan on November 19, 2008.
The ninth and the last successful drone attack of 2008, carried out in the Ali Khel region just outside Miramshah in North Waziristan on November 22, 2008, had killed al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubair al Masri and his Pakistani fugitive accomplice Rashid Rauf.
According to the figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities, a total of 537 people have been killed in 50 incidents of cross-border US predator strikes since January 1, 2008 to April 8, 2009, averaging 34 killings per month and 11 killings per attack. The average per month killings in predator strikes during 12 months of 2008 stood at 32 while the average per attack killings in the 36 drone strikes for the same year stood at 11.
Similarly, 152 people have been killed in 14 incidents of cross-border predator attacks in the tribal areas in the first 99 days of 2009, averaging 38 killings per month and 11 killings per attack.
and Pakistan says:
"The senior Pakistani official bridled at the suggestion that Pakistan has been reluctant to target militants in Quetta, saying U.S. assertions about the city’s role as a sanctuary have been exaggerated. “We keep hearing that there is a shadow government in Quetta, but we have never been given actionable intelligence,” the Pakistani official was quoted as saying. Pakistan is prepared to pursue Taliban leaders, including Omar, even when the intelligence is imprecise, the official said. “Even if a compound 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer is identified, we will go find him.” But, he added, “for the past two years we haven’t heard anything more.”
"Pakistani officials, according to a report, have warned that the fallout would be severe.
“We are not a banana republic,” a senior Pakistani official involved in discussions of security issues with the Obama administration, was quoted as saying. “If the United States follows through, the official said, “this might be the end of the road.” "
Now Imagine, just 14 AQ leaders killed and how much would have joined them after they lost their families?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
ISPR Documentary has won the first prize in the International Film Festival "Eserciti-e-popoli" (armies and people) held at Bracciano, Rome (Italy). Armed Forces Representatives from 20 countries participated in the contest where 150 documentaries were screened in different categories. Maintaining the tradition, Pakistan Army’s documentary "Life of a Siachin Soldier" has won the first prize in the category of training and was awarded Chief of Army Staff trophy. Brigadier Syed Azmat Ali was the project Director of this Documentary and Col Syed Mujtaba Tirmizi, executive Director and Producer. Besides Dr Hassan as Producer and Captain Sadia Saleem as Assistant Director. It may be pertinent to mention here that ISPR is winning positions in the Festival since 1994. Last Year ISPR won two awards in this competition.
Documentary is about life at Siachin Glacier, also known as the third Pole, Siachin is one of the most beautiful, enigmatic and spell bounding place on earth. This frozen stagnant Landscape lies in the midst of the greatest mountains of the world and this area and these mountains can easily be considered as Art. "Art created by God himself".
The peace and serenity of this place was disturbed in 1984 due to Indian incursion, thus this place became the highest battle field on earth. It is unlike any other war, here the soldiers besides fighting the enemy also have to fight the rigours of weather and nature. This documentary is a befitting tribute to our heroes of Siachin.
A Documentary "Life of a Siachen Soldier" produced by ISPR, won an International Film Festival Award at Bracciano, Rome (Italy).
Monday, January 11, 2010
Fourteen years of conflict over control of the remote Siachen Glacier region has taught India and Pakistan much about the unique requirements of high-altitude warfare. However, the harsh environment still accounts for more casualties than does combat.
This long-standing dispute set in the Karakoram mountains was among six topics raised during bilateral talks held last month in New Delhi, the first such formal discussion of the issue since 1992. India came to the meeting with a proposed ceasefire arrangement, a gambit that would have reinforced its territorial gains. Pakistan rejected the initiative unless it was linked to a troop redeployment that would largely affect Indian forces. The standoff, which was predicted by analysts, remains unresolved. No progress was achieved beyond a broad commitment to further pursue the Siachen issue "at a later date".
The Siachen Glacier region is an uninhabited wedge of mountains and ice situated at the point where India, Pakistan and China collide. It covers a territory of about 3,000km2 that proved too hostile for early survey teams.
Border demarcation has been equally contentious in adjacent areas. Jammu and Kashmir remain divided and disputed, with Siachen representing a separate although broadly related problem. Pakistan's border with China was formally delineated only in 1963 while India still claims the Aksai Chin plateau to the northeast, which is
occupied by China. The Siachen conflict's origin is rooted in its remoteness. This saw the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan - originally set in 1949, adjusted in 1972, and still the Line of Control (LoC) in disputed Jammu and Kashmir - end some 80km short of Chinese territory at the map reference point NJ9842. The line's extension to cover the glacier and its approaches, couched in vague language, was left for later discussion.
Islamabad has since held that the demarcation line should continue northeast from this point to the Karakoram Pass, maintaining the angle set by the LoC. New Delhi's view is that it should veer north along the watershed line of the Saltoro Range to Indira Col, an interpretation based on terrain features. This discrepancy defines the disputed territory. Neither side ever maintained a permanent presence in the region, and Siachen was untouched by the wars of 1965 and 1971. India's interest began to grow in the late 1970s. An initial series of military mountaineering expeditions led to summer camps being set up in 1983.
Pakistani protests were ignored, and Indian forces advanced unexpectedly in April 1984 to gain control of the glacier and its approach routes. The conflict was joined when Pakistan responded militarily. The Indian strike brought advantages and disadvantages that are still evident. The former include control of much of the disputed terrain together with most of its high points, which provide a strategic edge. The latter largely centre on the substantially greater costs associated with supporting these isolated positions. The conflict initially saw both sides undertake limited offensive operations, mainly geared to seizing high points or improving defensive positions. Such attacks proved costly and only partially successful, and, by the early 1990s, the protagonists had largely settled into an attrition-oriented strategy marked by steady exchanges of artillery and small-arms fire. Illustrating this point, Pakistan says the Indian Army is expending 30,000-40,000 artillery rounds annually in Siachen. One can assume its own rate of fire is comparable.
The Siachen conflict is better known for its harsh conditions than its strategic significance. Temperatures in the area range between -20øC and -60øC, chilled by 80 km/h-plus winds. There are blizzards producing an average 10m of snowfall annually, avalanches, steep
gradients and deep crevasses that comb the glacial ice. These difficulties are severely compounded by altitude.
Indian positions are generally situated at heights of 3,700-5,300m, the latter elevation representing the post at Indira Col. Pakistani posts are normally lower and better sheltered, varying from 2,800m at Dansum to 5,300m at Conway Saddle. Oxygen deprivation, seldom a
concern on other battlefields, poses a serious hazard.
"The soldier first has to fight nature to survive, and then fight the enemy," Brig Sallah-ud-din told Jane's Defence Weekly at Dansum, where his 323 Siachen Brigade is headquartered. The frontline force along an 82km line of contact, 323 Brigade is a formation under the Forces Command Northern Areas, a division-size element of the Pakistan Army based at Gilgit.
The Indian Army's lead formation is 102 Infantry Brigade, headquartered at Partapur. However, other units of unknown strength supplement both brigades - Pakistani troops generally serving here for a one-year period, Indians on a six-month rotation. Indian sources recently told The Hindu newspaper that the Siachen dispute has so far cost New Delhi nearly 2,000 killed and 10,000 injured. Separately, a paper published by the US-based Cooperative
Monitoring Centre states that hostile fire historically accounts for just 3% of Indian casualties.
Without citing figures, Islamabad says its casualties are sharply down in recent years for reasons equally applicable to the Indian side: the 1992 shift to attrition-oriented warfare, andhard-gained experience of the environment. Pakistan claims the ratio of battle-related casualties to other losses is 1:2 now, down from a "much higher level" of earlier years. Support of its operations in the region cost New Delhi Rs50 million ($1.17 million) daily, The Hindu newspaper contends, largely because of the complexities of logistic support that include a heavy dependence on helicopter transport. Pakistan says its costs are about $32,000 daily, the substantially lower figure reflecting a decade of road-building completed about four years ago. Brig Sallah-ud-din cites several military adjustments unique to the Siachen region. These range from training to the deployment of troops and weapons, from specialised rations to medical support. Few of the troops serving in Siachen are fully qualified mountaineers but all must have at least basic climbing and survival skills. Proficient mountaineers, mainly assigned to serve as instructors, are trained on three- to four-month courses near Astor in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Other personnel undertake a four-week course at Dansum, which combines basic skills with physical
conditioning, acclimatisation to high altitude and weapons training. Forces deployed at forward posts are normally of section strength, and seldom number more than a platoon. The unique terrain means the conventional concept of these small units providing mutual defensive
support is impossible to implement, and each must be able to survive independently for extended periods. Operational requirements also dictate adjustments to weaponry that
go beyond efforts to lighten their weight. Each battalion has three or four times the normal number of mortars, and each regiment more than double the usual allocation of artillery pieces. Weapons such as .50-calibre, 14.5mm, 37mm and 57mm anti-aircraft guns are here
brought to bear on ground targets. The thin air at high altitude drastically affects accuracy of fire, and experience has helped both sides adjust their targeting tables accordingly. However, conditions can change daily and over-shooting is common. The difficulties of resupply, meanwhile, result in ammunition stocks being maintained at high levels. Rations are supplemented to take into account higher caloric requirements, especially in winter. This largely involves high-sugar foods like dried fruit, glucose and honey. Some fresh foods are provided to forward posts in summer but most of the rations are tinned to allow stocking a full year's supply.
Pakistan Army Maj Muhomad Satti Akmal is the officer responsible for logistics. "We plan for the complete year, including sufficient reserve supplies," he said. "There is extensive forward dumping, and the system has got to be really fine-tuned as everything must be transported [and stored] during the three or four months after the weather clears sometime in May." Most supplies on the Pakistani side are transported by vehicle over rough roads kept open year-round. Locally-bred ponies or mules cover the distance from road-heads to forward posts, each carrying loads of 80-100kg. Civilian porters, each carrying about 20kg, serve a few high posts. Movement in the forward areas is conducted at night or during low visibility to avoid attracting enemy fire. The Pakistan Army has similarly adjusted its medical organisation,
with a nursing non-commissioned officer assigned to each post and a doctor to each company. Such a concentration is unfeasible elsewhere in the country. The posts have extensive medical supplies, including oxygen cylinders, and feed patients to a fully equipped hospital situated in the forward area and staffed with a range of specialists. Consultations can be held by radio, with each field doctor overseeing 20-30 paramedics. Although evacuations normally take up to three hours, the procedure can be carried out in 30 minutes if required, with helicopter transport available to accommodate severe cases. Like the road network, the army's medical staff and
facilities also benefit the local civilian population. Three severe environmental factors govern conditions at Siachen: weather, terrain and altitude. Each can have a significant impact on
combat operations. Low temperature and blizzards are the main weather-related hazards.
The former can produce hypothermia, frostbite and chilblains - each potentially debilitating and sometimes lethal. Blizzards can cause death or injury because of disorientation. Temporary snow-blindness is also evident. Casualties resulting from weather have been substantially reduced since the conflict's early years - mainly because of improved clothing and equipment, and improved procedures gained through costly experience. Pakistan receives its cold-weather gear from the UK, and India from Switzerland or Austria. Problems related to terrain include avalanches, treacherous crevasses and ravines, and climbing accidents related to the steep
gradients. Training and experience have, once again, provided some solution. For instance, better preventative measures have been introduced as areas prone to avalanche were identified together with the conditions under which they normally occur. The oxygen deprivation that can occur at extreme altitude causes changes in body chemistry that are still not fully understood.
Neither is it clear why some people are affected and others not, and the question of which individual will suffer problems is notpredictable.
The main illnesses commonly evident in the region are acute mountain sickness (AMS), cerebral oedema and pulmonary oedema. Hypertension and cardiac problems are also seen, along with such maladies as chronic weight loss and psychological disorders. These can be fatal if left untreated, and descent to lower altitude can commonly relieve all such illnesses. Symptoms of AMS include headache, giddiness, palpitations, muscular weakness, fatigue, appetite loss, sleeplessness, irritability, nausea and vomiting. The disorder appears at altitudes above 2,500m
and usually disappears within four to seven days. Chronic AMS is a variation that can take up to six months to clear. Its indicators include memory loss, difficulties with decision-making and attitude, nightmares and hallucinations. Oedemas involve the swelling of tissue because of excess fluids, and they can be induced if AMS is left untreated or if individuals climb above 4,500m. Symptoms of the pulmonary version include cough, chest discomfort, lethargy, palpitations and frothy or bloody sputum. Symptoms of the cerebral version include severe headache,
difficulties with balance, visual and hearing loss, confusion, speech defects and emotional problems. Professional mountaineers are equally susceptible to these illnesses. However, mountaineers climbing for sport limit their
ascents to the summer season while the soldiers serve in Siachen year-round. Also, the mountaineers normally spend eight or 10 days at high altitude while these troops can be deployed at observation posts for two to three months. Finally, of course, the soldiers are
subject to hostile fire."Most of the people serving here, 80-90% of them, are from the
lowlands. They are not physically made for this area," said the 322 Siachen Brigade's medical officer, Maj Hassan Iqbal. Proper acclimatisation is essential, he added, although some personnel may have altitude ceilings beyond which they cannot safely venture. "We keep a person at 10,000-11,000ft for about one week, then he goes to 13,000-14,000ft for a week or 10 days. A thorough medical check-up follows," said Maj Hassan, describing the procedure. "From
that point, one night of rest is required for each 1,000ft climbed in a day. Normally, the move from base camp to a post takes two to three weeks." Those who succumb to mild AMS descend to the base altitude and try the process a second time, while anyone suffering from an oedema or similarly serious problem is quickly re-assigned elsewhere. Support personnel found to have altitude ceilings are retained but combat soldiers must be fully capable of ascending to
extreme altitudes. Perhaps more than civilians, soldiers are often psychologically geared to dismiss the relatively mild discomfort of a headache or a cough. However, together with similar irritants, these may here indicate serious problems that require concerted education and a
broader awareness. "Troops are encouraged, irrespective of rank, to keep an eye on how
others are behaving. That person may not realise the symptoms of illness, may not understand why he is depressed or irritated," said Brig Sallah-ud-din.
"We place great stress on comradeship."