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Islamabad's Balochistan policy


The president dramatically has softened his approach towards the leaders of the two mainstream parties due to the increased internal and foreign pressures. But regime policy towards moderate and autonomy seeking Baloch nationalists seems unchanged. After using full force and persecution now Islamabad is determined to politically marginalise the natives of strategically significant and resource rich province of Balochistan .

Balochistan is among the unfortunate region, suffering since the take over of military rule in 1999. Top policy makers in Islamabad believe on indiscriminate repression of the Baloch people, those demanding politico-economic autonomy. Legitimate nationalist parties have been bared to freely express their views and their representatives have been harshly targeted for not supporting military's unpopular war in Balochistan. Credible and popular Baloch leadership is marked as enemy number one by the security agencies. Contrary to the constitutional safeguards high level of intimidation and harassment campaign was launched by the government against political representatives and innocent citizens of province. 

Mr Akhter Mengal, the former chief minister of Balochistan and head of Balochistan National Party is detained since November 2006. Balach Marri, a young Baloch politician and son of prominent Baloch leader was recently killed. Each day police and paramilitary troops continue to detain innocent citizens without lawful procedure.
Although the government has always been tried to discredit the Baloch leadership, labeling them anti-development, corrupt, anti-social and even anti-state elements, it's evident that nationalist leadership in Balochistan has never been involved in any mega corruption and loan embezzlement like other pro-establishment and politicians of dominated province.

In November, 1999, NAB published a list of more than 320 names of Pakistan's top loan defaulters, but none of Baloch nationalist, politician or business man was among the nonpayer of $4 billion loan embezzlement. Eighty percent of these debtors were from Punjab province and majority of them were close allies of the president, holding important political offices during 2002 to 2007.

Islamabad's unpleasant policies are resulting in to deep alienation of Baloch masses from the center. There is total ignorance and lack of understanding in the establishment about Balochistan and their demands. Majority believes that recognition of the Baloch demands will encourage other regions to raise their voice for autonomy. But this presumed argument is totally baseless. Because rest of the regions and national groups are well represented in top policy making and implementation institutions and they have been dealt fairly and friendly by the civil-military bureaucracy in last six decades. But Balochistan has gone through repeated military operations and deprived of its fair political and economic share in the federation. 

The current frustration in the province has manifested after a pause of three decades, where the establishment fails to address the province problems according to the wish and will of the people. Continued political and economic marginalisation has compelled them to raise their concerns on mega projects, as they perceive that these developments will not result in greater economic opportunities.

Islamabad is capable to win the military battles in Balochistan but its hard to conquer the hearts and minds of Baloch people. Population in Balochistan is not power crazy and neither have they demanded any top political slots in the country, but they are passionate to see that their society is equally empowered. Islamabad's slow motion response to the burning issues of Balochistan is unwise. Central government's continued leniency towards corrupt and unpopular groups in Balochistan is disastrous.

It's hard to understand that why security agencies are annoyed with credible Baloch leaders and feel comfortable with corrupt and ill-mannered self-created leaders. 
Islamabad must rethink its strategy towards Balochistan and allow all moderate leaders and parties to fairly take part in the political system. All detained Baloch leaders and workers must be released. There should be free, fair judicial and legal remedy available for the every citizen in province. Government authorities must stop the practice of collective punishment and should focus on their job without ethnic and regional prejudice. 

No doubt, that there is no pressure on the regime to reverse its policies towards Balochistan, but as a citizen of country Baloch people also deserve equal treatment and right to live in peace.

The writer is member Senate of Pakistan
E-mail: balochbnp@gmail.com