Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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Sincerity vs. scepticism

By Qurat ul ain Siddiqui

(The views expressed by the author are his own)

The federal government is working on a package – the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan – meant to alleviate the suffering of the much-neglected Balochistan province. But it remains unclear what measures will have to be implemented to bring all the important stakeholders on the same page. While packages, mostly in the form of financial grants, have been offered to the province in the past, they were met with sharp criticism and suspicion on part of the region’s nationalist leadership.

This time, however, the government seems to be making a visible effort to bring the provincial leadership on board and has assured it will address all ‘constitutional, administrative and economic’ aspects of the province’s problems. And while Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Senator Raza Rabbani, head of the parliamentary committee on Balochistan, have made sincere-sounding statements, backchannel discussions are toeing a different line.

The prime minister’s meeting with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PMLN) chief Nawaz Sharif on November 12 in Islamabad turned out to be a game-changer. ‘Initially, no Baloch leaders were consulted on this package. It was strictly an in-house Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) package, and even the federal government’s coalition partners did not know about it for a long time,’ explains Ahsan Iqbal, PMLN’s Information Secretary.

He adds that it was Sharif who contacted Akhtar Mengal, the province’s former chief minister and president of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Hasil Bizenjo, senior vice-president of the National Party, and other Baloch leaders, who had no inkling of what the package was going to be about. ‘It was originally drafted to be a typically economic package, like a grant, as has been done in the past,’ says Iqbal. Now, with the involvement of Baloch representatives, the package is aiming to be more holistic and comprehensive.

In this regard, Senator Rabbani says the government is in constant consultations with the province’s elected representatives and that the package will soon be introduced to parliament. ‘The package will address the various facets of the problem in Balochistan,’ he says, without elaborating on the details of specific issues and the intended course of action.

Still, there are many who remain sceptical about the government’s intentions. ‘We have no faith in the government’s sincerity. To believe that the government means what it says, we need to see the job getting done,’ says Abdur Rauf Mengal, a former MNA from the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNPM). ‘We believe in dialogue, but we cannot believe in the monologue that we have experienced on the part of the establishment in Islamabad,’ he adds.

Balochistan’s Finance Minister Mir Asim Kurd says that Baloch representatives have offered feedback on the package, but will not know if their input will be taken into consideration until the package is discussed in the parliament. ‘The problems in Balochistan are quite clear and we know we want economic parity and a comprehensive solution to the political problems inside the province,’ says Kurd. ‘But we also know that we do not want charity, nor a grant, and we will not compromise on our stance regarding the NFC Award either.’

Senator Rehana Yahya Baloch of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PMLQ) also highlights the fact that the government has not involved all stakeholders in discussions about this package. ‘Instead of consulting Baloch nationalists inside the province and the Baloch youth who have gone to the mountains, the government seems to be interested in talking to the old guard in London,’ she complains.

As an example, Ms. Baloch points out that Senator Bizenjo, who has been quite candid in presenting the case for Balochistan, was absent from the Prime Minister’s November 16 meeting in Islamabad with Baloch representatives.

Many Baloch representatives point out that dialogue is essential for the success of this package because Balochistan’s problems have become too complicated to be appeased by occasional financial packages.

‘Our problems include the military operation, which is ongoing regardless of the government’s denial; then there are the countless missing persons; massive displacement due to the military operation; and fake cases against and the extrajudicial killings of Baloch nationalist leaders,’ says former MNA Mengal, who resigned from the National Assembly to protest the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Acknowledging that the province’s issues are multifaceted, the government has described the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package as an attempt to deliver confidence building measures (CBMs). Indeed, the broad acceptance of this package by Baloch representatives could help reduce the trust deficit between the provincial and federal governments. A situation that has festered for decades cannot be solved with one package. But if the government is open to feedback and delivers this time, there is a chance for a new beginning.

The writer can be contacted at quratulain.siddiqui@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Sorce : http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/04-sincerity-vs-scepticism-qs-03

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