Balochistan Chief Minister, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, has once again categorically denied the presence of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda leader Aymen al Zawahiri in Balochistan.
He expressed these views during the meeting with US Ambassador Cameron Munter at Chief Minister Secretariat, here on Thursday. The US ambassador was on a two-day visit to Quetta during which he held meetings with journalists and local editors as well as people from civil society.
“Neither Taliban leader Mullah Omar nor al Qaeda chief Aymen al-Zawahiri is present in Balochistan. The Quetta Shura does not exist here and the situation is under the control of the provincial government,” he told the American envoy.
Raisani as well as other high officials have been claiming that there are no Taliban militants or extremist groups operating within any part of Balochistan.
The chief minister informed his American guests that there is no dispute on linguistic and ethnic basis as the two major ethnic groups of the province, Baloch as well as Pakhtuns, lived in complete harmony with each other.
“Although some incidents of terrorism are taking place in Balochistan, the overall situation is under control and law enforcement agencies are making their efforts to thwart such incidents,” he added.
Munter expressed his concerns over human rights abuses in the province and emphasised that these need to be curbed. He was referring to the issue of Baloch missing persons.
With regard to missing persons, a cell has been institutionalised in the Home Department which is gathering basic details and data about missing people, Raisani said. He deplored that the response to the cell has been lukewarm and only 50 cases have been referred to the special cell. He said his government wanted to resolve this humanitarian issue on a priority basis.
The US ambassador has shown keen interest in development of Balochistan asserting that US would provide technical expertise as well as financial help in sectors identified by the provincial government.
The US Ambassador and his team expressed their condolences over the death of Mir Akmal Raisani, nephew of chief minister, who was assassinated in a grenade attack after a football match in Mastung the other day. The Provincial Chief Secretary, Mir Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri, was also present on the occasion.
Balochistan’s significance for US
In another brief meeting with Balochistan Assembly Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, Munter described Balochistan as ‘vitally’ important for America, adding that solving all problems of the province was a top concern of the American government.
The ambassador assured the speaker of United States’ resolve to provide unflinching support to strengthen democracy in the country.
He assured that the US government will continue to provide financial assistance to complete projects in Balochistan as well as help build new dams in the province.
Aslam Bhootani, talking to reporters later on, said that problems faced by the province in the education sector, water issues as well as Gwadar’s poor road network were discussed with the American envoy.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.