The urgency of the situation has, it seems, finally dawned in Islamabad.
The government has decided to convene an All Parties Conference (APC) – this time to discuss the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan.
The decision by the prime minister follows the exclusive debate on Balochistan by a US Congressional committee, and another blowout in violence in the troubled province in the last few days. Interestingly, the last APC was also spurred by allegations leveled by US officials against Pakistan’s armed forces and its premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“We are calling an APC on the Balochistan issue,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told a select group of journalists here on Wednesday.
The prime minister said he met army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha to discuss issues of national security, including the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan.
He maintained that he would consult the political leadership to discuss the idea of holding the APC.
“I want the APC to take place as soon as possible,” was his response when asked when the political gathering would take place.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal problem and we must discourage any move to externalise this issue, he added, referring to last week’s proceedings by a US Congressional panel, in which some participants called for an independent Balochistan.
Premier Gilani further said that the worsening law and order situation and incidents of missing persons had overshadowed what he called the “good work done by his government” to pacify the growing sense of deprivation in Balochistan.
“One cannot rule out the involvement of foreign hands behind the Balochistan problem, which is why I have decided to convene the APC to discuss all aspects of the problem,” he maintained.
The decision to convene the APC is the latest step by the government to address the Balochistan problem. The idea was originally floated by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif last year.
Letter to Swiss authorities
The prime minister reiterated his position on the issue of money laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
“The president is part of Parliament … he enjoys immunity, so writing a letter to the Swiss court will be contempt of Parliament,” he said.
“The 18th Amendment was passed after the NRO verdict. Why was the issue not raised by the opposition parties then … they could have suggested an amendment to withdraw immunity for the president,” he said.
Asked about his expectations from the Supreme Court in the contempt case, the prime minister simply replied: “I will get justice”.
Meanwhile, the premier also said that banned organisations should not be encouraged to regroup under the banner of the ‘Difa-e-Pakistan Council.’
He said that the federal cabinet had decided to take up the matter with the provincial government. “The interior ministry has already written letters to the provinces on the issue,” he added.
(Read: Balochistan and freedom)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2012.