Sep 07, 2010

Balochistan: Homes sacrificed as Floodwater was diverted to save Air Base

Pakistani authorities and landowners have been accused of having diverted floodwater to spare their property and save a controversial air base in Balochistan. As a result half a million Baloch have been displaced and their homes lost.


Below is an article published by the Daily Telegraph:


A former Pakistani prime minister and a British peer have called for an inquiry into allegations that hundreds of thousands of homes were sacrificed beneath floodwaters in order to save an air force base.

There are also dozens of other cases in which rich Pakistan landowners are accused of breeching dykes and flood defences in order to spare their own property as torrential rains swept down the Indus River.

Local politicians believe that flood waters were diverted into a vast area of the south-western province of Balochistan – displacing half a million people – to save the Shahbaz air base, home to some of the country's most modern fighter aircraft. Opposition groups allege that the base is used by the US to launch strikes against militants.

The alleged saving of the air base is hugely controversial in a country gripped by anti-American sentiment. Conspiracy theorists have blamed Washington for ordering the base to be saved, despite repeated denials by American officials. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the former prime minister, said he had asked the country's chief justice for an inquiry.

"Whoever is responsible should be brought to justice for inundating parts of Balochistan just to save the Shahbaz airbase being used by American forces," he said.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, who addressed journalists in Balochistan at the weekend, said he would raise the issue in the House of Lords if the Pakistan government ignored calls for a judicial inquiry.

Politicians in Balochistan have also accused the government of flooding their land as part of a campaign to sideline the region and save their own political heartland in neighbouring Sindh.

Talat Masood, a retired Army general, said the air base was too important to risk losing.

"There had been so much investment that it seems certain that even if there was a slight risk then the authorities would have tried to protect it," he said.