Balochistan: Getting it right

Balochistan requires fresh and bold initiatives by the governments in Quetta and Islamabad.

Editorial June 22, 2013
Pakistani security personnel look on as firefighters extinguish the blaze at the last residency of the founder of Pakistan. PHOTO : AFP

The thorny issue of civil-military imbalance came under public spotlight when Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan recently admitted in the Senate that the attacks on Ziarat Residency and the Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta were a result of “serious security lapse” and “lack of coordination” between security and law-enforcement agencies. PPP Senator Raza Rabbani has appreciated concerns of the interior minister but demanded that security forces should be under the provincial government, especially after the Eighteenth Amendment. Senator Rabbani added that the situation would not improve until the security apparatus was brought under parliamentary and civil control. However, he failed to mention that during the previous tenure of the PPP, it could not achieve this task. In fact, the PPP has been accused of abdicating several security-related issues to the military during its tenure.

The truth is that the security apparatus in Balochistan reports to the civilians in name only. The Supreme Court’s attempts to examine this did not bear fruit, especially on the matter of missing persons. At the same time, the civilians have been unable to develop a consensus on tackling this issue and lack the will to take the initiative. Civilian governments do not invest enough in the capacity of the key ministries and parliamentary committees meant to tackle civil-military relations.

Balochistan requires fresh and bold initiatives by the governments in Quetta and Islamabad. A policy that only has a component of force to deal with the situation will not work. Instead, a political solution to the crisis must be found. The banned militant outfits in the province need to be checked and controlled, for which there needs to be a dialogue between the political parties, as well as the civil-military leadership. The status quo is only fuelling alienation of the Baloch population, which was reflected in the low turnout during the recent elections in the province. The situation won’t improve until the Baloch develop a sense of ownership in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2013.

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