Tackling Balochistan’s Problems
It is heartwarming that the Prime Minister is trying to heal the wounds of the largest province by coming up with megaprojects and development plans. What is more positive is the possibility of talks with the Baloch insurgents.
It was not the first insurrection that struck the province; the largest unifying entity has also revolted against the power of the center in the past. Much of this was caused by the reckless policies of leaders of all shades who resorted to mass tactics to sort out a political problem that could have been resolved through dialogue. The 1950s saw the resentment of Baloch politicians against the center. Such resentment could have been resolved by proposing a formula guaranteeing provincial rights, but the Baloch’s sense of deprivation was ignored in the 1960s, and the province experienced one of the longest tensions with Islamabad in the days of ZA Bhutto. The Baloch leaders were imprisoned and all those who spoke out against the fascist tactics of the Bhutto regime had to face the anger of the populist leader who could not get rid of his feudal attitude despite his high claims to serve the oppressed. .
Unfortunately, it is a dictator who not only announced a kind of amnesty for the Baloch leaders but also for all those who suffered during the time of Bhutto. But General Zia’s regime did not address the issue of Balochistan either. He opened the war front in Afghanistan, creating a myriad of problems for Pakistan. The exodus of Afghan refugees and the introduction of the Kalashnikov culture severely damaged the social fabric of Pakistani society in addition to negatively affecting Balochistan. The general put aside the true Baloch rulers, pampering the tribal lords who were not appreciated by the people. Over time, these tribal lords grew so strong that today no government can function without them.
The recent insurgency, the longest in Balochistan’s history, was sparked by the arrogance of another dictator. General Musharraf’s provocative actions infuriated a leader who had always sided with the federation. The dictator decided to resort to the coercive apparatus of the state, triggering the recent unrest.
Given this history, the offer of talks should be welcome. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech highlighting the plight of the Baloch people deserves to be appreciated. He mentioned a number of development projects which he said will alleviate the suffering of the people, provide them with jobs and improve their standard of living. The Prime Minister also addressed the issue of deep sea fishing. There is a lot of resentment among locals about the trawlers from Sindh and foreign countries fishing in the waters of the region, depriving local fishermen of their catch. A desalination plant is also essential. Gwadar and other parts of the province have faced water scarcity for years. A few desalination plants could help solve Gwader’s water scarcity problem, but for other parts of the province, the government needs to develop a sustainable plan. Groundwater is rapidly being depleted and this problem needs to be addressed urgently.
The largest province also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. One of the contributing factors is the lack of medical facilities. The announcement of a hospital created a wave of excitement among residents of Gwadar. The first major hospital and university was established by the elected government of the NAP in the 1970s. The province has not seen much socio-economic development in recent decades. It is encouraging that the current government is trying to implement development programs, some of which were initiated by the PML-N government. It doesn’t matter that people know who came up with the idea for various diets. Just announcing projects is not going to impress people; the prime minister must ensure their timely completion and a fair share of jobs for residents.
Many critics believe that socio-economic development can only be successful if the province gets a respite from the low-level insurgency that has plagued parts of the unifying unity. It is encouraging that the government is considering talks with the Baloch insurgents. But before such talks are initiated, many believe the government should take confidence-building measures. Some Baloch leaders believe that ensuring the safe recovery of missing persons, establishing a truth and reconciliation commission and announcing a fair share of the revenue from the province’s mineral wealth could be some of those steps.
Dr Abdul Malik’s government had also launched a process of dialogue – going as far as London and organizing meetings with Baloch nationalists. Chaudhary Shujaat and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed were also part of a committee in the past that tried to reconcile the issues between the center and Balochistan. The reports of these committees should be evaluated and the assistance of those who can facilitate the talks should also be sought.
The Home Secretary recently revealed that some hostile agencies are trying to orchestrate destabilization plans. Afghanistan is also sending dangerous signals. The United States does not seem satisfied with Islamabad either. Given all of this, it is possible that these hostile elements are using disgruntled young people to accomplish their plans. Therefore, it is important to engage the Baloch insurgents in talks, respond to the grievances of the Baloch people and find a solution that could help us restore peace in a region considered to be the gateway to Asia. central. However, such questions could be resolved by parliament and a parliamentary system.
The problems of the federating entities were caused by a centrist approach. After all, it is the democratic government of Dr Abdul Malik that has increased health and education budgets in recent years. So instead of lambasting those who believe in parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister must ensure that the people of Balochistan can elect their true representatives. It is widely believed that the National Party and the National Party of Balochistan enjoy mass support in the Baloch belt. What the PTI government must guarantee is a level playing field for these parties. This could be the first step towards solving the province’s problems.
If the government is truly interested in seeking reconciliation, it should trust the national political leaders, calling a meeting of all parties to deliberate on the matter.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
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