Friday, February 20, 2015

Pakistan - Settling the situation in Balochistan

According to press reports, 'unknown men' blew up two towers of high transmission lines in Balochistan's Nasirababd area on Sunday, disrupting power supply to 20 districts of the province, including Quetta. In a similar incident two days earlier, a transmission line was bombed in another part of the Nasirabad district. On Saturday, Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court Justice Mohammad Maskanzai narrowly escaped remote-controlled bomb blast while passing through Noshki. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for these incidents. The province is infested with different kinds of militants including the Taliban, sectarian extremists and Baloch insurgents; any one of them could be the culprit. However, blowing up gas and power transmission lines has long been the hallmark of the insurgents, and hence they are the key suspects in the present incident. 

When Dr Abdul Malik Baloch took over the chief minister's office vowing to bring back 'angry' Baloch youth into the mainstream, hopes arose of reconciliation since he enjoys a lot of respect among the nationalists. A while ago, he had made a special trip to Britain, where some of the insurgency leaders have been given asylum. But nothing came out of the meeting because he does not seem to have the requisite authority to address their demands. Meanwhile, 'enforced disappearances' and body dumping - the main source of Baloch anger all across the political spectrum - continued despite the apex court's intervention. During his recent visit to London, the Army chief is said to have asked the government there to repatriate the rebel leaders, so far without success. 

Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been complaining of outsiders fuelling the insurgency - triggered by the Musharraf government's military operation that resulted in the murder of Baloch nationalist leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti. It is hardly surprising if interested outsiders come to fish in troubled waters. With increasing Chinese involvement in the development of the deep-sea Gwadar Port as well as commerce and transport corridors traversing Balochistan, they are to become more curious and concerned about what goes on in the province. The powers-that-be therefore would be wise to do whatever it takes to settle the situation. Understandably, it is not easy to talk to violent extremists who have been challenging the state and killing FC and security forces personnel, believed to be acting at the behest of the country's enemies. But fighting alone will not help. It is a complex problem and calls for a change of strategy. The Prime Minister, during a recent briefing at the Southern Command Headquarters in Quetta - attended among others, by CoAS and senior members of the federal and provincial governments - directed both political and military leaderships to devise a joint strategy to ensure peace in the province. Talking and fighting at the same time would be the best way forward. The civilian leadership of the province should be duly empowered to talk to the insurgents while the military keeps its pressure on. 

No comments: