QUETTA: Around 400 militants on Friday laid down their weapons before authorities in Quetta during a ceremony to celebrate Pakistan's Independence Day.
Militants from various banned Baloch organisations handed over their weapons to officials at a ceremony held at Quetta's Police Lines area. School children present at the ceremony handed national flags to the militants who surrendered to adopt peaceful lives.
"You have laid down your weapons as per your free will," Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Nasir Khan Janjua said while addressing the ceremony.
|The picture shows weapons laid down by the militants. — Photo by author|
Home Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Provincial Minister for Irrigation Nawab Jangayz Marri, Deputy Speaker Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo and senior military and civilian officers were among those attending the function.
"Abandoning violence and adopting peaceful lives is a positive stride," the commander said.
The government of Balochistan had already announced a reconciliation policy a few months back to pave way for solutions on issues relating to the province which has been under the grip of violence for over a decade.
The militants chanted zealous slogans of "long live Pakistan" during the ceremony. They vowed not to work against the state and assured that they would be part of endeavors for development and prosperity of the country.
|Militants waving flag during the ceremony. —Photo by author|
"We welcome you all in joining this process for peace," Home Minister Balochistan Sarfaraz Bugti said on the occasion.
He added that the blood of innocent people has been shed in Balochistan and it was high time to make joint efforts for restoration of peace in the province.
The militants waved national flags during the function, which was organised amidst tight security.
The government of Balochistan has announced provision of Rs500,000 to Rs1.5 million to each militant for laying down weapons before the authorities.
"We will provide jobs and education to you and your kids," Bugti assured the militants while addressing the function.
The militants laid down their weapons in Quetta, Khuzdar, Dera Bugti and other parts of Balochistan in the aftermath of a reconciliation policy announced by the provincial government.
The southern commander termed the laying down of weapons as a good omen for peace and development of the Balochistan.
"This country will prosper at all costs," Lt Gen Janjua said while referring to incidents of violence in the past.
The government also announced amnesty for the militants adopting peaceful lives and they will be integrated in Balochistan.
Pakistan's largest province — which borders Iran and Afghanistan — is riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.
Its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
Baloch separatists demanding more autonomy and control over gas and mineral resources have frequently targeted security forces and police for years.