Leaders of regional parties in Balochistan have expressed their reservations about the government's plan to engage with "insurgents" in Pakistan's restive southwestern province, saying the decision to do so lies with the military leadership only
Leaders of regional parties in Balochistan have expressed their reservations about the government's plan to engage with "insurgents" in Pakistan's restive southwestern province, saying the decision to do so lies with the military leadership only.
Speaking on DawnNewsTV show 'Live with Adil Shahzeb' on Thursday night, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal said he was confused by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement that he was considering "talking to insurgents" in the province.
"If I am not wrong, he said he has only thought about it, not decided. And a person's thoughts can change at any time," Mengal said, adding that the country's rulers change their decisions often.
"I don't think the government is serious. These are not muzakrat (dialogue), they are mazakrat (a joke)," he said, adding that the people of the province have been a victim of this "joke" since 1947 when Pakistan was formed.
He stated that the government did not have the power or the authority to hold talks with insurgents.
“No political government has ever been given the powers to resolve the issues of Balochistan,” Mengal said, adding that ground realities needed to be accepted.
Pointing to the issue of missing persons, he called on the government to address the problems being faced by the people.
Mengal said work on the six-point agenda his party presented to the prime minister did not require permission from the establishment.
"However, when we used to meet him, he used to say 'go and talk to the army chief or the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence'. From his language and his actions, it is clear that the military establishment does not want to resolve the issue of Balochistan.
"They have a golden bird in their hands [...] they will never let it go," he said.
National Party leader Abdul Malik said the province had been burning for the past 15 years, holding former military ruler retired General Pervez Musharraf responsible for the current wave of militancy in the province.
Malik said his party had always advocated talks with Baloch militants. "Let me tell you frankly: the political leadership does not have the solution for this. It lies with the military leadership," he said.
However, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry rebutted the claims of the two politicians.
"There is a tradition among certain segments to say that the government and the army are separate. [But] there is no such problem in the current government." He said that the premier makes the decisions after listening to different points of view.
Fawad, however, conceded that there existed a point of view that Baloch insurgents should not be engaged at all.
"We will look at this on a case-to-case basis. We will see who we can talk to and who we can't."
Baloch nationalists have led insurgencies in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973–77. The province has been witnessing fresh incidents of insurgency by autonomy-seeking Baloch groups since 2003.