ISLAMABAD, Sept 3: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday that the announcement by Balochistan province’s militant organisations to suspend their activities indefinitely would help restore peace in the region.

“Our government has repeatedly stressed that violence is not the answer to the problems of Balochistan, which are essentially political in nature. The past government’s confrontational policies vis-a-vis the province brought this conflict to a no-return point, causing maximum damage to the nation,” said Ms Rehman while talking to media about the government’s efforts to restore peace in the province.

She said that Balochistan was the most important province for the present government.

“The province has long been kept low on the priority list by earlier regimes because of its small population. This approach in itself is fraught with risks because it seeks to alienate a certain section of the population on the basis of its strength. As we have all seen, it has only widened the Centre-Balochistan divide.” The minister said that healing the wounds of the province was the top priority of the government.

“Starting from tendering an apology to the province on behalf of the state by PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, our government took forward the agenda of reconciliation to start a process of dialogue with the political leadership of the region. Cases against Sardar Akhter Mengal and Shahzain Bugti were withdrawn and they were released weeks after we took office.

“The prime minister himself has demonstrated his personal commitment to redress grievances of the province.

The PM recently issued a grant of Rs6 billion to the province besides announcing a host of development measures, including electricity and gas supply projects, for the province.

“The number of lady health workers in Balochistan has also been doubled. The National Finance Commission has been constituted and we are committed to ensuring that the province gets its due share in the NFC award.”

Ms Rehman said that measures announced by the government last week, including removing of FC checkposts, directing law-enforcement agencies to work under the chief minister, release of political prisoners and withdrawal of non-criminal cases against them, were a response to long-standing demands of the province.

“The government has an obligation to address all legitimate demands of the province.”

Ms Rehman said that the announcement by militant organisations to suspend their activities vindicated the government’s stand that violence in Balochistan was a response to injustices meted out by the previous government and the denial of the province’s right to have a say in the development of the region. —APP

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