The prime minister is on a two-day visit to Quetta. This is good news. Perhaps Mr Gilani should be considering spending a greater proportion of his time in the province. It certainly requires attention from the highest level if its rather chaotic state of affairs are to improve. Discussions during the meetings with top leaders in the province revolved essentially around the government’s much touted Aghaz-e-Haqooq reform package for Balochistan, announced amidst much fanfare in November 2009. Almost two years on, only tiny proportions of it are in place. The jobs in government services offered to young people from Balochistan have barely been created, with only 351 recruitments taking place so far against the thousands envisaged under the package. Much the same situation appears to exist as far as scholarships for students go, and the Baloch leaders who met the prime minister were apparently not shy about expressing their displeasure over the existing state of affairs. Mr Gilani reiterated once again the offer of 5,000 posts for Baloch recruits in the Pakistan Army — but one can only wonder how popular this offer can be in a province where the military is — to put it mildly — not exactly the best liked of institutions.
Most disturbing of all is the violence seeping deeper and deeper into Balochistan’s soil. Six dead bodies have been found over the last two days; two of them, discovered in Khuzdar, including that of a young Baloch Nationalist Movement leader and his friend, who had been taken away from Karachi. The Baloch it seems, are simply not safe anywhere. Over 200 bodies have been discovered dotted across the province over the last 14 months.
We need to ask questions. Why has so little been done to solve the turmoil in Balochistan? Ignoring the problem, of course, only makes it worse. The 2009 package included many proposals that should by now have been implemented. Key among these was opening up dialogue with all players in Balochistan. This should begin as quickly as possible. A further wastage of time leads to the risk that the problems of Balochistan will reach a point where they cannot be managed at all. This is a frightening notion.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.
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