Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday appointed Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) chief Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti as his Special Assistant (SAPM), a move seen as laying the groundwork for initiating a dialogue with the ‘angry’ Baloch elements.
Bugti, a member of the National Assembly from NA-259, Dera Bugti-cum-Kohlu-cum-Barkhan-cum-Sibbi-cum-Lehri, had been appointed as the SAPM on Reconciliation and Harmony in Balochistan, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division.
The appointment of Bugti, a grandson of former Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, is part of major changes in the province announced on Wednesday, which included the replacement of Governor Amanullah Yasinzai with Zahoor Agha.
The move also comes after back-to-back initiatives at the highest level to try to bring the disgruntled Baloch elements into the mainstream and restore the law and order in the province. On Monday, the prime minister himself indicated that he was considering holding talks with the “angry Baloch”.
And on Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Balochistan was in sharp focus of the national leadership and that the army was fully engaged in enabling the national and provincial response in synergy with other institutions of the state.
Though nothing had been stated officially, but it is widely expected the Bugti would spearhead the government’s outreach to the disgruntled segments of Balochistan’s society, as the government intends to initiates dialogue in the province with those, who had no links with India.
At a news conference after the weekly federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that the talks would be held with those “angry Baloch”, who were not directly linked to India, while criteria for those linked to New Delhi or involved in terrorism would be different.
“We are moving from busting Indian network to the government’s plan to initiate negotiations with aggrieved people and nationalists in Balochistan,” the information minister had said. “Peace in Balochistan is important to the government because Balochistan is central to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
Balochistan National Party (BNP) General Secretary and former senator Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini termed Bugti’s appointment a good move, saying that it will help bring the angry Baloch back into the national mainstream. However, he cautioned, “If we see the past experience about talk with Baloch which gave zero result. We are hopeful but let’s see how the government will move further.”
National Party (NP) General Secretary Jan Mohammad Buledi termed Bugti’s appointment “a protocol without power”. “It will not benefit Balochistan. He will not have the power to do something because in the past such moves produced no result.”
His views were replicated by Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, who said that dialogue was the only way to resolve the issues in Balochistan but the new appointment would not bring any drastic changes.
“Bugti is a coalition partner of the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf]-led government. The induction of Bugti as a special assistant to the prime minister seems to be an attempt to appease him by allotting the special assistant’s portfolio with the status of a cabinet minister,” he said.
“For the reconciliation process in the province, the federal government must take all stakeholders in Balochistan into confidence,” the Sindh minister said, adding that the issue of Balochistan was sensitive and must be resolved amicably.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM HAFEEZ TUNIO IN KARACHI AND MOHAMMAD ZAFAR IN QUETTA)
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