Balochistan needs less violence and more practical politics
CHIEF Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, has once again trumped Islamabad when it comes to politics and symbolism. In a high profile visit to Quetta, Mr Sharif struck the right notes of reconciliation and rapprochement in Balochistan, a province with festering issues that the government at the centre has done little to address. No doubt that the serious crises of militancy, politics and the economy that the federal government is faced with would tax even the most efficient of administrations, but that is no excuse for putting the Balochistan issue on the backburner. On Sunday, a meeting of Balochistan’s provincial legislators decided to approach the federal government to resolve the issue of provincial autonomy, implement Balochistan’s constitutional quota in federal services and autonomous corporations, and recruit local youths in provincial forces. The demands are a testament to the centre’s current lack of interest in Balochistan. The release of Sardar Akhtar Mengal, president of his faction of the Balochistan National Party, and Shahzain Bugti, grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, were positive steps, but clearly more needs to be done.
Speaking to provincial legislators and bureaucrats in Quetta, Mr Sharif spoke of the key issue roiling the province: “Baloch are patriots as much as the people of other provinces in the country. We feel shame over the excesses which had been done with the Baloch in the past.” The fact is that many Baloch leaders do not accept that a long running military operation in the province is at an end. Brahamdagh Bugti, the fugitive guerrilla commander, speaking to the media from his hideout at the end of May, asked: “Why does the government talk of reconciliation when it is still engaged in a full-fledged operation against the Baloch people?” For its part the government insists that no operation has been conducted by troops in Balochistan since the start of this year and that any incidents involving the armed forces have been in self-defence. Perhaps most pertinent for reconciliation is the fact that the people of Balochistan have not been lost for good, as admitted by Brahamdagh Bugti: “Many Baloch are not part of the struggle but they don’t oppose us.” Peace will only be achieved if both sides act more decisively. But first a conducive atmosphere for talks must be created. Soon after assuming office, the PPP constituted a reconciliation committee and pledged to arrange an all parties conference on Balochistan ‘within 10 days’, but nothing of note has emerged as yet. Such foot-dragging is hardly conducive to building confidence amongst the Baloch people. On the Baloch side, the spate of targeted killings in recent months of law enforcement and government officials and settlers from Punjab must end. At least everyone can agree that Balochistan needs less violence and more practical politics.
Source: The Dawn, Karachi