KARACHI:   Earlier this month, Dawn reported that the number of Baloch “missing” persons registered with “Voice for Baloch Missing Persons” has touched the 2,353 mark.

But this number remains disputed. The National Party (NP), led by Hasil Bizenjo maintains that many “missing” people, especially from the tough terrains of Marri and Bugti areas, had in fact migrate to Sindh and Punjab due to unbearable circumstances.

A Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) fact-finding mission to Balochistan (5-11 October 2009) entitled “Pushed to the WALL,” says, “Balochistan, the largest federating unit of the state, can only be likened to an active volcano that may erupt anytime with dire consequences.”

The report further says: “It is the military that still calls the shots.”

NP Central General Secretary Tahir Bizenjo told Dawn.com via telephone from his home town: “There are places in the Marri and Bugti areas where nobody can dare to enter, including journalists and the HRCP people.”

“The Home Department of Balochistan government in 2009 had put the figure of missing people at about 1,000. HRCP also adheres to almost the same figure,” Tahir said.

“Violations of human rights in Balochistan are widespread and harrowing. Regrettably, the state has not addressed these complaints and the media, either under pressure or on account of its own failings, has been unable to probe and report the dreadful reality on the ground,” he added.

Asked what was the solution and whether the Baloch community, especially youth, could be pacified, he said the federation needs to adhere to the Constitution.

“If there is a culprit he should be tried in a court of law,” he said. “Use of force will only accentuate hatred and alienation among the Baloch people,” he cautioned.

Tahir pointed out that former Chief Minister Balochistan Akhtar Mengal did make a proposal but the establishment did not take it seriously. “If Islamabad has a will resolve the problem, perhaps the alienated Baloch youth can still be brought in the fold of the federation and pacified,” he explained.

Asked to what extent it was true that India and several other countries had a stake in Balochistan, he said: “If there is evidence that India is involved in fanning separatism in Balochistan the proof should be presented in Parliament.” Tahir, also a former senator, further said: “We ourselves provide opportunities to outsiders to intervene in our affairs.”

Balochistan’s strategic importance

Balochistan happens to be extremely rich in natural resources. According to government figures there are huge deposits of coal, chromite, barytes, sulphur, marble, iron ore, quartzite and limestone.

“Balochistan’s coal can cater to the existing and future energy requirement of our country to a great extent. More than 90 per cent of coal is dispatched to other provinces for use in the form of brick kilns,” the former senator said.

Balochistan also has a strategic location and a vast coastline. Bordering Iran and Afghanistan; several countries, including Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, Saudia Arabia, Oman, UAE and India have been eyeing the natural resources of Balochistan.

One need not say that we no longer live in a uni-polar world. China has emerged as one of the largest economies in the world while the “War on Terror” has had a grave impact on the United States where the recession continues unabated.

It’s high time that the Pakistan government becomes cognisant of the socio-economic situation at home as well as the interests of global and regional players – and instead of indulging in adventurism, decides to move cautiously.

What’s happening in Balochistan is no longer part of an information blackhole. Information technology and satellite imagery has made every thing stark. Now, it appears, peaceful co-existence and détente can be the only remedy.

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