THE current monologue coming on the Balochistan issue needs to be converted very urgently into an all- encompassing dialogue between all stakeholders, including representatives from the federal and the provincial government, local tribal sardars, nationalists, locals from all walks of life and the army. With decades of deprivation and a post- 9/11 surge in foreign interest and activity in the province, coupled with governance incompetence, the graph of violence has increased to a dangerous degree.

Considering the societal makeup, geostrategic and historical dynamics, Balochistan cannot be compared to any other place, least of all Karachi. And to brush aside the current situation as not sufficiently volatile is sheer stupidity.

Human rights organisations have showed great concern over the episodes of violence, mysterious killings and disappearances thus making it one of the main problem areas that should be solved without any delay.

The various tribal chiefs have also urged the government to improve governance in the province in order to enhance the law and order situation which irks the residents, ignite fear and hinder progress. By establishing the writ of the government in the province it can very easily lead to isolation and reversal of activities of anti- state elements, strengthen the moderates and aid in developmental schemes.

That Balochistan has been denied the use of its own natural resources and wealth is another factor that ought to be given significance in the dialogue.

The president of the Balochistan Economic Forum, Sardar Shaukat Popalzai, has very rightly pointed that there is enormous potential for investment and growth in Balochistan that should be exploited through hectic efforts and long- term vision.

Billions of dollars’ worth of revenue can be generated from unexploited treasures of coal, gas, metals and marbles which can transform the entire province into one of the richest and most highly developed regions in South Asia. A small example can be seen in the case of Chamalaang coal mines and Cassa marbles projects.

The genuine grievances of Balochistan need not only to be highlighted but brought down to the table and a roadmap delineated to resolve them with consent of all parties.

It must be realised that misunderstanding and misconceptions are varied and will require a great deal of patience and tolerance for which the government must be ready.

The elected government should give top priority to the ignored province and its people by ensuring frequent and prolonged interaction with the locals to provide them a channel for conveying their version of the story.

Relations with the centre and the armed forces are the most fragile at this point in time which needs to be corrected. The free flow of the information in both directions will help dismantle old grudges entrenched in the Baloch memory and will establish their much needed connection with reality.

MAIMUNA RAZA Karachi

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