Plan for peaceful Balochistan


Things finally seem to be moving on the right track in Balochistan. While presiding over the Balochistan Apex Committee meeting on Thursday, attended among others by the provincial Governor, Chief Minister, Army Chief, and Commander Southern Command; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was given a briefing by civil and military officials on a security plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its related projects as well as the law and order situation in the province.

He was informed of a ‘remarkable’ decrease in incidents of terrorism and other heinous crimes. A particularly notable aspect of the meeting was Nawaz Sharif’s approval of a “Peaceful Balochistan” scheme for bringing the ‘angry Baloch youth’ back into the national mainstream.

All concerned appear to have come to the realisation that Balochistan’s is a political rather than a security problem and hence requires a political solution. Backed by what the PM described as a “unanimous approach of all stakeholders on national issues” Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik has been in touch for a while with the insurgents to bring them to the negotiating table so that they participate in a peaceful political struggle for Baloch rights within the framework of the federation.

A delegation of prominent leaders from the province recently called on the Khan of Kalat in London to request his return home and a role in the restoration of peace. That he welcomed the delegation is seen as a positive sign. Thanks to the Chief Minister’s efforts, if media reports are to be believed, a big change is under way.

Almost all insurgent groups, with the exception of the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) led by Harbyar Marri, are said to be in talks with the government. Brahamdagh Bugti is also responding positively to the peace overture. Given this background, the recent media stories and photos of insurgents laying down their arms before provincial government leaders can be seen as evidence of success of the rapprochement policy.

This time though the government must ensure that the Baloch people’s lingering sense of deprivation does not erupt into another round of insurgency in a few years down the line. Speaking at the apex committee meeting, the Prime Minister said the people of Balochistan would be main beneficiaries of the CPEC projects and Gwadar Port’s rail and road connection with Central Asian states.

The Baloch people would perhaps feel more reassured if substantial investments are made in general uplift projects like drinking water, schools, roads, and healthcare facilities as well as reservoirs to prevent wastage of water flowing through 80 small rivers in this water-scarce province.

Earlier this year, the federal government announced a Rs 35 billion development project for the improvement of roads and civic amenities in Quetta and construction of dams in other parts of the province. The money is peanuts considering Balochistan’s level of underdevelopment.