It would have been hard for the government to miss the fact that the situation in Balochistan has reached dangerous levels. This issue has been in the news throughout the world and has also been taken up by the US House of Representatives, as well as courts at home. In the face of growing pressure and after a series of top-level meetings, the government has moved into what would appear to be a critical phase, with Interior Minister Rehman Malik making an offer of amnesty to Baloch leaders including several living overseas. The most prominent among them include Hyrbyair Marri and Brahmdagh Bugti.
Following a meeting on the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package, tabled many months ago, the government quite clearly feels it is running out of options. Given the claims that it had made over and over again, of standing up for Baloch rights, some reforms by now had become imperative. The prime minister, interior minister and others involved in the high-level talks seem to hope the voluntary return of key Baloch leaders can allow for new talks and a fresh start to be made in the attempt to stem the rot in Balochistan. But things may not be as simple as they seem. There has been no demonstration of reassurance from Baloch leaders sitting in exile in Dubai, Switzerland, London or elsewhere. Former Balochistan chief minister Akhtar Mengal has declared that the government is “non-serious” while others talk of a “trust deficit”, especially where Rehman Malik is concerned.
Given the institution which actually shapes the Centre’s policy for Balochistan, perhaps, the Baloch leaders are waiting to see if this announcement has the blessings of the military establishment. It would be excellent if that were the case because unless we want to be embarrassed further by lawmakers overseas tabling resolutions on Balochistan, it is definitely about time that the Centre changed its tack completely on the province and got serious about redressing Baloch grievances.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.