In the last couple of days, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has made a series of startling revelations about Balochistan, claiming that separatist Brahamdagh Bugti was running a training camp for between four and five thousand people and that this had been shut down by Afghan President Hamid Karzai after Pakistan provided his government with information on it. Malik also said that amnesty would be given to more Baloch separatists and that there were only a handful of ‘missing’ people in Balochistan. So far, these statements haven’t been backed with any substantiation. Even if they are true, however, that doesn’t mean that the Baloch problem is any closer to being solved. That Brahamdagh Bugti may have been training his men in Afghanistan and that the camp has now been shut down will not in itself end the insurgency he is leading. Bugti will simply transfer his camps to another area and will not give up the fight. More importantly, such measures do little to address the root of the problem, which is the sense of alienation and frustration that most Baloch feel towards the centre and its policies on their province. Amnesty, too, is not a solution as that also does nothing to assuage the Baloch separatists that their demands are being heard.
A good start would be to consider the recommendations made by two committees that, quite ironically, were drawn up during the time of the previous government, when General Pervez Musharraf was in power. One dealt with constitutional matters, while the other looked at tangible issues related to socio-economic development that could be introduced in the province. While the current government has introduced the Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan package, other than the media hype that initially accompanied it, not much else was achieved. The federal government and the establishment both need to be on board with whatever needs to be done, especially the latter, since much of the Balochistan policy is formulated and implemented with its input and thinking. Clearly, this thinking needs to overhaul itself because whatever has been tried till now has not worked. The province is drifting away from the federation, it would seem to some, and the matter has even been raised by a member of parliament of a foreign nation. What else do we need in order to open our eyes on this matter?
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.