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PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. — Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said that the issue of Balochistan was crucial and that those who had gone missing from the province were Pakistani citizens and it was vital to raise one's voice for them, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives in Lahore after condoling former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and human rights activist Asma Jahangir over her mother’s demise, the PML-N chief said the recovery of the missing was the government's responsibility, adding that, the government should have taken significant steps to resolve the issue during the past four years.

Sharif said the government should remove the hurdles in the way of holding free and fair elections in the restive province, adding that, if the Frontier Corps (FC) were being considered an impediment, they should also be withdrawn from Balochistan.

He said it was a key demand of the Baloch leadership that the army and the FC be called back from the restive province.

The PML-N leader feared that if the government did not act on the issue soon enough, it may eventually run out of time to salvage the situation.

Sharif further said that he was in favour of the formation of a grand alliance to resolve the Balochistan issue.

On the occasion, Jahangir said it was the first time that a Punjabi leader had spoken out so strongly for the Baloch.

Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has been wracked by an insurgency waged by ethnic Baloch tribes seeking more political rights and a greater share of profits from the region’s natural resources.

Hundreds of people have died in violence ripping through the province since the insurgency flared in late 2004.

Scores of people are also alleged to have gone missing in the vast, sparsely populated province since then and their families have accused intelligence agencies of carrying out the abductions.

The region has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants.