Baloch grievances

Since the inception of Pakistan, the federation has never respected the rights of the Baloch people and led them to a level of extreme frustration after which they felt compelled to take up arms. Despite the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package announced by the incumbent government, the Baloch are unhappy. The said package was rejected ab initio across the board by the Baloch, be it the militant nationalists, the moderates, or the public. The reason was simple: no government has ever been able to exercise its writ over the province and the military establishment calls the shots.

President Zardari said the government will “initiate dialogue with exiled Baloch leaders after removing their distrust of the government”. With all due respect Mr President, removing that distrust may not be possible without initiating a dialogue with the dissidents. The president should initiate a dialogue right away with the exiled leadership and the Baloch nationalists in the country if he actually wants to redress Baloch grievances. This should be done so as to explore if the president and the Baloch are on the same wavelength vis-à-vis the ‘rights’ of Balochistan. If the president thinks that by giving a few jobs and some development funds to the province he would solve the crisis brewing in Balochistan, he should think again.

Now that the Supreme Court has refused to touch the issue of the intelligence agencies’ role in the phenomenon of the ‘disappeared’ or missing persons, the ball is in the government’s court. There are also other problems like that of the exploitation of the province’s natural resources without adequate recompense. Gas is the classic example, but more recent cases are the gold and copper projects in Saindak and Reko Diq. Signs of ‘settler colonialism’ in Gwadar have also ruffled the feathers of the Baloch.

All this leads one to wonder whether the government can actually deliver on its promises or will the establishment be allowed as usual to do as it pleases. The military’s presence and operations is the greatest obstacle for the government’s well-intentioned policy for Balochistan. The government must put its foot down now or else the federation can face grave consequences in future.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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