QUETTA, April 9: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has said that dialogue with militants is necessary for restoring peace.

Addressing the provincial assembly after taking a vote of confidence on Wednesday, he rejected a perception that people fighting in the mountains were terrorists or saboteurs.

He said that people would invest in the province and government officials would perform their duty without any fear if peace prevailed and national assets were protected.

He said the political movements of the Baloch people, Pukhtuns or Sindhis could not be suppressed by force. “The fighters in the mountains are our brothers and they have taken up weapons for the rights of the people,” he said.

“If Gwadar is a gateway for Central Asian states then it also is a mega problem for the Baloch because settlement of outsiders will deprive the natives of their right to sit in this house. The settlement of outsiders will be conditional and they will have no right to vote or contest elections,” he said.

Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani announced in the morning session that Aslam Raisani had returned unopposed as the Leader of the House.

In the evening session, all 57 members present in the house supported him as the new chief minister.

Mr Raisani said: “If we can talk with Indians or Jews then why should we hesitate to initiate negotiations with militants in Balochistan. We don’t agree with the elements who call fighters struggling for their rights in other areas mujahideen or hurriyat pasand but dub the fighters in Balochistan as traitors or terrorists.”

He said national reconciliation meant sitting with the forces with whom one disagreed. “I want to talk with the militants to persuade them to come down from the mountains to resolve the contentious issues on the negotiating table,” he said.

He called for an end to the military operation so that displaced people could be rehabilitated and compensated.

He demanded that the federal government should release former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal and trace the missing people.

The chief minister said that no development activity could be started amid internal strife. “We must accept the ground reality that we cannot proceed to tackle the problems faced by the people of Balochistan without harmony and love.”

He said that members of the house belonging to different schools of thought had elected him unopposed which reflected their aspirations to struggle jointly to take the province out of the grave crisis confronting it.

Mr Raisani said blowing up electricity pylons, damaging railway tracks and killing people were not in the interest of the province but the question was why had the attackers taken the extreme steps of damaging national assets. “We must concentrate on resolving the main issue because of which we are facing the law and order problem.”

He said the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Balaach Marri and hundreds of others in the military operation had deeply hurt the Baloch people; thousands of people had been displaced, hundreds of political workers, including Akhtar Mengal, had been under detention for a long time and none of the prisoners had been presented in a court.

“If a political worker is killed or hanged, his family will at least be satisfied that he has been buried but the family members of the missing people remain anxious about whether they are alive or dead or are being tortured.

“It is the responsibility of the institutions that hold the missing persons to present them before courts,” he said.

The chief minister said the federal government and its institutions should accept the reality that use of baton, denial of rights and keeping politicians in custody were not working.

“To save the federation and develop harmony between the Baloch and the federation we have to take concrete measures to remove the feeling of deprivation of the oppressed people.”

He said the people of Balochistan should be given a share in the governing bodies and allowed to participate in the development process. Lack of trust between the haves and have-nots would perpetuate the feeling of deprivation and disharmony between Balochistan and the federation, which would not be good for national integrity.

Paying tribute to Benazir Bhutto, Nawab Bugti and Balaach Marri for sacrificing their lives for the rights of the people, democracy and the coming generations, he said recognition of rights was the only way to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to Balochistan.

He said granting autonomy to the federating units was the main issue and the centre should only keep the portfolios of currency, defence, foreign affairs and communications.

He said Fata should be merged with the NWFP and the federal capital’s representation in the Senate should be abolished to maintain equal representation of the provinces in the upper house of parliament.

The chief minister announced that his secretariat’s expenses would be reduced by half and directed the provincial secretaries to cancel all appointments made by the caretaker government, except the recruitments made through the Balochistan Public Service Commission.

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