There may be movement in the logjam that is Balochistan. For more than a decade, Balochistan has presented successive governments of Pakistan with one of their more intractable problems. But even the most intractable of problems is capable, if not of resolution, then being potentially soluble. It only takes one of the parties to the dispute to make a positive move for the logjam to begin to ease, and Brahumdagh Bugti is the man who just might make all the difference. Hitherto he has been implacably opposed to dialogue, but has now announced from his UK base that he is open to dialogue and may be willing to withdraw his demand for an independent Balochistan state.
This is no small move. In the past, his insistence on the only solution being armed struggle has locked the province in a violent spiral from which there seemed to be no escape. Now, in an interview with the BBC he has said that 10 to 15 years of violence in Balochistan had solved nothing — and he is right, it has not and has done nothing but create wells of anger and bitterness — to say nothing of impeding development in the least developed province of Pakistan. The comments by Bugti have lobbed the ball squarely into the government court. Although he has denied contacts with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, who is coincidentally in London, there are almost certainly going to have been back-channel discussions between the interested parties. He has said he is willing to engage politically, and that if the people of Balochistan are ready to choose to “stay with Pakistan” then he is willing to support them. War has not worked and there was never any likelihood that it would. It is now for the government of Nawaz Sharif to identify and engage the mechanisms of peace, complex and challenging as they may be. Let none of the interested parties put rocks in the road — here is a real opportunity to create a win-win that must be grasped with both hands.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2015.
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