By Benazir Shah
We recently spoke with Dr. Baloch of the National Party about the challenges his coalition government in Quetta must overcome for peace in Pakistan’s restive province. Excerpts:
How does one quell the violence in Balochistan?
Balochistan’s problems are multidimensional. There is the Baloch insurgency, sectarianism, target killings, and then the large number of kidnappings. I am in the process of preparing a twofold solution: a political and an economic one. The political solution will stress on the need to reconcile with the insurgents. As a first step we will immediately need to rehabilitate families displaced from [areas under the traditional control of the Marri and Bugti tribes] and Quetta.
In your opinion, is Balochistan on the verge of seceding from the federation?
There is no doubt that a school of thought has always existed in Balochistan which believes in separatism. But honestly, I don’t think we have reached a stage where there is no other solution. Let’s not give up. It’s time we negotiate with those who want to secede.
How accurate or inaccurate are claims that Pakistan’s military agencies are responsible for the violence and separatist sentiment in Balochistan?
Hopefully the agencies will work with us and use their power over those they command.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has suggested India’s involvement in fomenting trouble in Balochistan. What involvement, if any, do you see of foreign countries in creating tensions in your province?
We are in a war zone. To our west is Afghanistan, and NATO is still there, so you cannot rule out the possibility of foreign interference. Now if you ask me who all are involved and to what extent, I have no way of knowing. But in the case of sectarianism, I think we all know. It is quite clear.
It is widely believed that Mullah Omar is alive and running the Afghan Taliban through the Quetta Shura. What can you share about the presence of the Taliban and its affiliates in Balochistan?
I have no idea. I don’t know where Mullah Omar is. As for the Taliban, of course they are operating in Balochistan. They are operating with great impunity in the entire country.
How realistic or reasonable are the claims and figures cited by the leftwing about people who may have gone missing in the province?
There is no exact number of missing persons in Balochistan. Every organization has its own number. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons has a different figure to the one being cited by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Specifics aside, we should recover those we can and present them in court.
How soon can Balochistan be stabilized?
I am neither that naïve to believe I can solve all of Balochistan’s problems nor am I that pessimistic to think that I can achieve nothing. Let me at least do what I can to help my people as much as I can.
Akbar Bugti was attacking national installations in Balochistan and he was killed alongside Pakistan Army troops who had gone to apparently negotiate with him. Is it acceptable, in your opinion, for tribal chieftains to take up arms against the country?
No, now that is not true. Nawab Bugti was forced to take the decision he did. I was there [in Balochistan]. I saw what was happening and what he was doing. His death spiraled Balochistan into a state of instability. (Courtesy: Newsweek Pakistan)
Republished in The Balochistan Point on July 29, 2013