Two years after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the Balochistan rights package, the Baloch people continue to dismiss it and term it a “joke”. The government must first work on building trust and the fundamental rights of the people in the province for the package to work.
The view came across in several speeches at a seminar held to review the impact of the package. Politicians and civil society members spoke in unison while criticizing the package for failing to change status quo in a province where the security establishment continues to call the shots.
The Balochistan rights package provided increased quota for the Baloch youth in the armed forces and other federal government organisations; an increased share in NFC awards and development schemes; additional royalties to locals on natural resources in provinces and the release of detained political workers.
The seminar was organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Action Aid as part of their campaign to raise awareness among the public about the status of the package’s implementation.
Balochistan PML-N lawmaker and former Governor Abdul Qadir Baloch said the roots of Baloch nationalism lie in the 1947 partition. He underscored that the imposition of the state’s authority over the Khan of Kalat sowed the seeds of discontent among the Baloch.
Senator Dr Abdul Malik Baloch said the “Baloch are worried about their identity and not [just] economic packages”.
He added that the state should reread history before imposing its will on Balochistan, stating that it was never meant to be a part of British India.
Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University said that economic packages do not make sense in the absence of political rights.
He argued that no amount of stimulus packages will make a difference if issues of provincial autonomy, control over resources and administrative freedoms are not sorted out.
Addressing the primary cause of Balochi dissatisfaction and frustration towards the government, PPP provincial leader and Senator Taj Haider said, “There are always problems in relationships, except those based on love and trust.”
He posited that the only option for the ruling government is to opt for reconciliation instead of confronting the disgruntled people of Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2011.