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KARACHI: Two nationalist parties of Sindh and Balochistan on Tuesday agreed to launch a joint struggle for the rights of their people against the backdrop of the forthcoming population census and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

This was decided in a meeting between Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, president of the Sindh United Party (SUP), and Sardar Akhtar Mengal, president of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), here at Haider Manzil.

Later, speaking at a joint press conference, the leaders shared a joint communiqué comprising 10 points both parties agreed on as regarding the census and the CPEC.

Akhtar Mengal says CPEC will bring progress in Punjab, not in Balochistan

“We have prepared these 10 points that we have agreed on as they serve the purpose and ideology of both our parties,” said Mr Shah before reading out the 10 points.

The points demand a federal system, based on ground realities, resisting terrorism in the name of religion, state and politics, giving control of natural resources and seaports to the province in which they may be located along with dealing with corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and corrupt departments for an end to corruption and better governance.

They also wanted the native people of each province to have the right to vote there alone along with having the right to own property there.

The next thing on the list is the peaceful return of all aliens and internally displaced people (IDPs) to their places of origin and they should not be included in the National Database & Registration Authority. They should not be given passports, too. For transparency in the election system, there should be electronic voting machines.

Next demand read out was for the provinces to be included in any decision, which includes them, all regional languages to be given the respect of national languages and basic education in the mother tongue and free health and education to be extended to all backward areas along with access to clean drinking water, electricity, gas and other basic facilities.

The BNP leader then said that what was happening in the provinces was not hidden from anyone and the national census and CPEC were some of the things that directly affected the people of the country.

“Everyone wants to be included in the headcount but there should be a separate list for the aliens. Balochistan has been undergoing a military operation and insurgency for the last 15 years, so our case is even worse than Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Other people have been brought into Balochistan to settle there and make us Baloch a minority in our own province,” he said.

“I can suggest delaying the census in Balochistan until the IDPs return to their provinces,” he said before coming to the issue of CPEC. “We believe that CPEC and the $57 billion invested in it have only $1billion reserved for development in Balochistan while the remaining money is for metro buses, motorways and power plants in Punjab. Progress will not take place in Balochistan, it will take place in Punjab,” he said.

“And why have none of us seen the CPEC agreement?” he said. “Then whenever there is VIP movement in Balochistan, even the fishermen in the sea can’t take out their boats to earn their livelihood.”

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2017