NOTWITHSTANDING CPEC-related development in Balochistan, insurgent groups remain active in the province. Over the years, security forces have largely contained the violence, but it is nevertheless an issue of concern in a challenging regional environment. Speaking at an event in Gwadar on Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan voiced an intention to hold talks with “disgruntled extremists who are offering resistance in Balochistan”.

If he is indeed considering this approach, its success depends greatly on an honest and objective appraisal — within all relevant institutions — of where the state has gone wrong in its policies towards the province. After all, there must be cogent reasons why so many insurgencies have arisen in Balochistan since independence. But does there exist a capacity for such introspection? There is no doubt of course that hostile foreign elements have played, and continue to play, a role in exacerbating the conflict but they are dabbling in troubled waters. History has shown how genuine grievances left unaddressed can become a fertile ground for inimical forces to exploit.

Read: Religion, nationalism and insurgency in Balochistan

The last time that holding talks with the ‘angry Baloch’ was pursued in earnest was when the National Party leader Dr Abdul Malik was chief minister of Balochistan. He had reached out to the separatist leaders in exile, and may have even met some of them on a visit to London. Dr Malik’s efforts, however, were doomed to fail in an environment where the execrable ‘kill and dump’ policy towards any Baloch suspected of separatist leanings was still being applied — especially given that he had in his electoral campaign vowed to bring the practice to an end. It left no doubt as to who was actually in charge of the policy towards the province. The chasm of mistrust between the disaffected Baloch and the state has only grown wider with every facile promise, every sham election and every ‘development package’ that never delivered what it claimed to. And the stories of the missing Baloch add to the sense of historical injustice.

Any serious attempt at reaching out to the insurgents needs to have the consensus of the civilian government as well as the security establishment, and it must be based on a willingness to make concessions. The state must loosen its control over Balochistan’s resources, profits from which must be ploughed back into the province to an extent and in a manner that meets the requirements of justice. Given the trust deficit, it would make sense to involve nationalist leaders — such as Dr Malik and BNP-M’s Akhtar Mengal — who may still have the ear of the ‘angry Baloch’, in the effort to ‘woo’ them. Some observers believe the time for building bridges has long gone, but it is also a fact that many Baloch yearn for peace and feel caught between the separatists and the state. That is a desire worth tapping into.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2021

Opinion

Law & processions
16 Oct 2021

Law & processions

It is up to the police to impose reasonable conditions on a procession.
Is the party over?
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Is the party over?

Many in PTI are concerned how they can hang on till the next elections.
The last fortress
Updated 16 Oct 2021

The last fortress

The state wants to use the social media rules to trample on the right to freedom of speech.
Reopening under Covid
15 Oct 2021

Reopening under Covid

It will be a challenge to deal with all students returning to classrooms and maintaining SOPs.

Editorial

Diminishing freedom
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Diminishing freedom

DESPITE the serious reservations of digital rights activists and tech companies, the federal government has...
16 Oct 2021

Dirty politics

IN her outburst against Prime Minister Imran Khan this week, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz may not have taken names but...
16 Oct 2021

Decreasing emissions

THE announcement by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam that carbon emissions in the country came down by 9pc...
No need for NAB
Updated 15 Oct 2021

No need for NAB

THE National Accountability Bureau has sent instructions to its regional bureaus to stop processing cases that fall...
Forced conversions
Updated 15 Oct 2021

Forced conversions

THE majoritarian view has once again prevailed in the matter of bringing about legislation against forced conversion...
15 Oct 2021

Transgender rights

MEMBERS of the transgender community in the country are often at the receiving end of both their families’ and...