Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mengal to boycott the Joint Parliamentary Committee

THE BNP (Mengal) decision to boycott the Joint Parliamentary Committee has come as a rude shock to the confidence building measures that were aimed at smoothing out tension in Balochistan. In the wake of the recent bomb attack in Quetta that aggravated matters, the government’s deal with China on a $150 million project for Gwadar deep seaport and the exploration of zinc and lead during Mr. Aziz’s visit to China, is being seen by BNP(M) as part of a deliberate move, which includes the establishment of cantonments, to turn the Baloch majority into a minority.

With a ‘vow’ to protect the interests of the province, the BNP(M) deemed it appropriate to pull out their two members from the parliamentary subcommittee. This should send danger signals to the government and foreign investors of a situation that might be getting beyond control.

Party General Secretary Habib Jalib’s statement that, “We have decided in the central committee meeting to part ways and leave the negotiation table,” should force both the government and the JCP to do some rethinking on the dialogue process and make public the so far undisclosed recommendations.

Where the government is taking up mega-projects worth billions to develop Balochistan, and, as the President announced at Ormara, where 13.7 percent of the Public Sector Development Programme is being spent, a political solution is direly needed to revert a forbidding situation.

Especially the dispatch of new army units in interior Balochistan has given the impression of a military option having been chosen. Previous use of such force has already led to unrest in FATA and demonstrations by MMA and BNP.

Balochistan regionalists’ feeling of deprivation and alienation and their fear of the Makran Coast being ‘colonised’ must be addressed if the government wants true development. Such acts as the unwarranted police crackdown on students in Quetta only make things worse. Steps are now needed to restore shattered confidence and make way for meaningful executive action.

The government should at all costs continue to hold talks with the chiefs of nationalist parties and stop the use of force for a permanent solution. In all this the Balochistan government must play a proactive role to create trust among all stakeholders.

Opinions expressed here are that of The Nation newspapers.


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