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جمعرات، 18 اگست، 2011

Balochistan woes

By creating a climate of fear, intimidation and terror, the military is not doing the federation of Pakistan any favour. The Baloch cannot be cowed down by oppression. The sooner the military understands this the better. The federal government keeps whitewashing the situation by talking about a dialogue but negotiations with the Baloch are a non-starter under the prevailing circumstances. The Baloch are asking for the right of self-determination and there are some big powers in the world who would not oppose this. If the government and the military establishment want to save Pakistan, they need to wake up and smell the coffee instead of massacring the Baloch.

President Asif Ali Zardari has directed the government of Balochistan and the PPP provincial chapter that they should reach all political groups negotiating with them how insurgency in this vastest federating unit of the country can be brought to an end. Simultaneously, the president, at a meeting at the Presidency on Tuesday, sought to expedite development projects to bring the province at par with other developed regions of Pakistan. The importance of the meeatng may be ascertained by the presence of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and directors-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau. A news report says that the President noted with serious concern the killings and arson attacks in the province and called on the administration and security forces to make parallel efforts to mitigate circumstances leading to the situation. The president directed the provincial government and the party to hold talks with all political parties and other stakeholder to improve the situation. One aspect of the redressal plan is the strengthening of Frontier Corps and the Levies to maintain law and order. Paramilitary forces are projected to be equipped with more weapons and vehicles across the troubled province where insurgency has menacingly grown owing to a host of factors particularly neglecting the people of Balochistan, occasional military operations, strengthening army’s foothold with the construction of more and more cantonments across the province. Four representations, one each by deputy chairperson Planning Commission of Pakistan, Chief Secretary Balochistan, chairpersons of National Highways Authority and Water and Power Development Authority, were given highlighting progress in water and power, communications and highways and other infrastructural sectors in addition to projects taken in hand under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan, a package the PPP-led government announced on Nov 24, 2009 to remove political and socio-economic grievances of the people of the province. The meeting was informed that 133 projects under the Balochistan package were in progress with a total financial outlay of Rs305 billion. Another 1,085 projects were being executed under the Public Sector Development Plan. This data may sound appealing giving a feeling that Balochistan is on way to progress and development. But all such statistics in the past have proved a dupe and what ultimately came out was that bureaucracy has always misled and befooled the people and democratic governments in particular. If such representations by top bureaucrats are to be believed, all regions of Pakistan would have stood shoulder to shoulder with the most advanced countries of the world. Thus it would be wise for the government not to depend on the discredited figures of officialdom and get the veracity of the development projects verified by the people of the area.Poor handling of Balochistan issue in the past has led to alienation of the Baloch youth in particular. Nationalist leaders insist they are not opposed to development but are against the exploitation of natural resources that do not benefit local communities. They also insist that the province, not tribal chiefs (Sardars) or the centre, should benefit from Balochistan’s resources. The PPP government’s initiative of ‘Aghaz-i-Huqooq-Balochistan was introduced on Nov 24, 2009 at a joint session of parliament with the objective of giving Balochistan provincial autonomy besides initiating judicial inquiry into the killings of Nawab Akbar Bugti and other Baloch leaders, establishing no more cantonments, replacement of army with the Frontier Corps, tracing missing persons, payment of Rs120 billion in gas royalty to the province and an end to all operations except anti-terror actions. Most of the package promises have been met and some are in the process of being met. But the ugly head of insurgency was again raised and this means that Baloch nationalists are not satisfied. Foreign elements behind the insurgency cannot be ruled out because when work on Gwadar Port was expedited with the assistance of China in 2002, it worried Washington, Delhi and Baloch Sardars alike. Seeking China’s assistance would mean Chinese entry in Indian Ocean as a competitor to challenge the commercial and military monopoly of other powers of the region and this is unacceptable to all the vested interests. The way the government is handling the situation is welcome because there is no alternative to political measures mitigating problems.

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