With no progress despite heightened urgency, the government seems to have taken some desperate steps to break a crippling impasse on Balochistan – political, monetary and security-related.
“All cases will be withdrawn against Baloch leaders if they return back to their homeland,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Thursday.
The offer has been made to Baloch leaders in exile such as Brahamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyiar Marri, and comes at a time when the government’s effort to convene all political forces on the matter is floundering.
Thursday’s offer came right after some hectic behind the scenes meetings.
The interior minister first met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to discuss the issue of Balochistan before chairing a meeting on the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan.
Both, Malik and Gilani, principally decided to invite Baloch leaders in order to initiate fresh talks with disgruntled Baloch leaders.
Furthermore, they discussed that, if the offer is accepted, the leadership of the Balochistan Jamhoori Watan Party will nominate their representatives for initiating talks with the government.
“We want a political solution of the Balochistan issue,” said Malik, adding that serious steps needed to be taken to save the country. “Both Brahamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyiar Marri should take part in the political and development process and I would personally receive them,” he added.
Expressing deep concern over the non-cooperative attitude of some political parties, Malik asked: “Where do we go? We are criticised whether we call an All Parties Conference or if we don’t”.
Officials of the interior ministery also told The Express Tribune that Pakistan has sought the help of Swiss authorities to convince Brahamdagh Bugti to return to Pakistan.
Brahamdagh went underground when his grandfather Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in an operation conducted by the Pakistan military during the regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in 2006.
Several dissidents from Balochistan, namely Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood, Hyrbyiar Marri, a son of veteran nationalist leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, and former leader of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly Kachkol Ali Baloch have all succeeded in getting political asylum overseas.
Senior leader of the Mengal family Sardar Akhtar Mengal, who was imprisoned for more than a year during the Musharraf regime, and former senator Sanaullah Baloch are also settled abroad.
Development in Balochistan
The amnesty was supplemented by approval of other outstanding concessions.
On Thursday, the government also announced that around 15,000 young graduates/post-graduates from Balochistan will be provided paid internships as school teachers in Balochistan under the new Prime Minister’s Internship for Balochistan programme.
Furthermore, the government will release Rs4 billion to Wapda on account of its share of subsidy for farmers in Balochistan. As many as 2,400 new posts, in all government categories and departments that fall under the centre, will be given to Balochistan residents on merit with the assistance of MNAs and senators from Balochistan.
To encourage the representation of Balochistan at the federal level, any officer coming to Islamabad will be awarded a higher post.
Also, during the meeting on the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, it was decided to increase the number of Benazir Income Support Programme beneficiaries, from 375,000 to 750,000.
It was also decided that free education provided to 150 brilliant students from Balochistan will be increased to 500 students in the next academic year and an endowment fund of Rs5 billion would be created for its sustainability.
Aside from the sweet monetary package, there were security concessions made, too.
It was also decided that the Frontier Constabulary Balochistan will not move in any district without permission of the Deputy Commissioner, and that no check post should be established by the FC without permission from the Balochistan chief minister.
Furthermore, FC and coastal guard should exercise powers under Customs Act and strictly in accordance with the law and keep their deployment restricted to 10 kilometres of the International Border.
And then there was also, propaganda.
It was also decided that the Pakistan Television should air documentaries and programmes on the implementation of the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan regularly for general awareness and information.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.