Amid widespread apprehensions and limited chances of participation by disgruntled Baloch leaders, the prime minister has constituted a 13-member committee to contact the country’s political leadership for convening an All Parties’ Conference (APC) to discuss the Balochistan situation.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced to summon the APC in the wake of an exclusive debate on Balochistan by a US Congressional committee, and yet another blowout of violence in the troubled province.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister House on Tuesday, the committee would comprise Leader of the House in the Senate Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Kashmir Affairs Minister Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Textile Industry Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, Science and Technology Minister Changez Jamali, Communication Minister Dr Arbab Alamgir, State for Industries Minister Ayatullah Durrani, Senators Mian Raza Rabbani, Jahangir Badar, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Muhammad Gondal and Samsum Ali Bokhari.
The committee has been tasked with contacting the political leadership of the country, including those who have no representation in Parliament, and to finalise a mutually-convenient date for the conference.
When contacted, the leader of the house in the Senate told The Express Tribune: “The committee will meet first and, following its terms of reference, it will contact the political leadership… I cannot say much about the schedule at this point of time.”
However, scores of disgruntled Baloch leaders have reportedly expressed no-confidence over the current government’s handling of the issue and are most likely to skip the event altogether.
On Monday, Islamabad lodged a formal protest with the US over the resolution introduced by the chairperson of a sub-committee of the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee in favour of the “right to self-determination for the Baloch people.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) took strong exception to this move and submitted a resolution in the Senate condemning the “increasing interference of the US in Pakistan’s internal affairs.”
Moved by Senator Ishaq Dar, the resolution has been endorsed by fellow party member and Senator Raja Zafaralul Haq and JI’s Senator Prof Khursheed Ahmed.
“Consistent direct violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, drone attacks and violation of our air space are virtual acts of war,” the resolution said.
It further said: “The introduction of a bill in the Congress by three Congressmen seeking alleged right to self-determination for Balochistan is the latest act of aggression.
The timing of this irresponsible and outrageous move is also significant as it coincides with the Pak-Afghan-Iran Summit to seek regional solution to the Afghan imbroglio and withdrawal of foreign troops from the area.
“The people of Pakistan regard all these as acts of illegal interventions in our affairs and demand that the government of Pakistan forcefully condemn these unfriendly acts and review and restructure its relationships with the US in order to protect its independence, sovereignty and vital national interests”, it added.
The resolution demanded the Senate to push the government into taking immediate steps, including convening an APC and engagement with all stake-holders in Balochistan to seek a resolution through dialogue and mutual accommodation.
The National Assembly has already condemned the US interference during its last session by unanimously passing a resolution against a hearing conducted by a US Congressional panel.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.