The landscape of Balochistan has absorbing peculiarities. The province is spread over more than 45 percent of Pakistans total area, and is inhabited by less than 5 percent of the countrys population. Roughly, half of the population is ethnic Baloch, while the remaining half comprises Pashtuns and settlers from other provinces. The means to travel are meagre, while deficient infrastructure distorts the time and space conception. Water is a scarce commodity. The population is concentrated in urban centres and secluded rural clusters, leaving large stretches of land uninhabited. Media access is limited; hence, information vacuum is promptly filled by rumour-mongers. Unfortunately, the people of Balochistan are one of the poorest communities of Pakistan with the lowest human resource development indicators like literacy, employment rates, and life expectancy. The political process too follows an interesting profile. The tribal chiefs (sardars) share the economic and political spoils in a musical chair pattern; those left out of the power grabbing spree make it a point to shout foul. Political appeasement is the order of the day. Almost all the members of the Provincial Assembly are ministers. Out of 92 sardars in Balochistan, only three have been persistently anti-establishment. To reinforce their position of authority in respective fiefdoms, a majority of the chiefs block literacy, health and infrastructure related development projects; generally, they make it a precondition for their cooperation with the establishment. Also, Balochistan has a long history of political unrest bordering armed resistance, since an overwhelming majority of the ethnic Baloch groups advocate greater autonomy, while a handful of dissidents wish cession. A series of incidents and broken pledges have eroded the provinces trust in the federal government. In November 2009, the federal government attempted to address the grievances of the Balochis about the economic and political deprivation by announcing a package called Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan (i.e. the beginning of the restoration of rights of Balochistan). However, implementation has been rather slow. Likewise, measures such as the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award and the 18th Constitutional Amendment are pertinent corrective steps, but lack the required speed for follow-up actions. Amnesty International has recently called upon the Government of Pakistan to immediately account for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan mostly attributed to the security forces in recent months. The relatives of the victims and dissident groups too blame the "kill and dump" incidents on the Pakistani security forces, particularly the Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies. On the contrary, the security forces have denied the charges, claiming that these deaths are a result of intra-tribal and inter-tribal rivalries as well as competitive struggle amongst various militant groups and feuds arising out of sectarian prejudices. Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Director for Asia-Pacific, said: "The Baloch armed groups must also avoid endangering civilians.The apparent targeting of civilians, teachers and government officials by Baloch groups, has forced many of them to flee the province, which only worsens the conditions for an already poorly-served Baloch people." They have also claimed the responsibility for a series of attacks on the gas pipelines, causing an acute shortage of fuel for cooking and heating throughout the province during the previous winters. Balochistan, undoubtedly, holds the largest single source of domestic energy reserves in Pakistan, but the armed groups argue that their resources disproportionately benefit other provinces and ethnic communities; primacy of the rights of the Baloch people over native natural resources should be accepted and respected. More so, ineffective governance and corruption in various development projects is a major cause of trust deficit. So the real issue is how to ensure an efficient and transparent implementation of development and political initiatives. Indeed, the Baloch people are development friendly, they yearn for peace and even small scale projects like the installation of water hand pumps, digging of tube wells, and addressing the sanitation and health problems can help calm the temper. More importantly, the state of education facilities in the Baloch-majority areas is worrisome, while the Pashtuns and other settlers are far ahead in education. The recent conversion of a military cantonment in Sui into a college, Chamalang Education Programme, and the Gwadar Institutes of Technical Education are initiatives in the right direction, provided they do not get bogged down. Meanwhile, representatives of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB) have stepped up their overseas liaison activities in London, including meeting with the British, American and Indian diplomats. Recently, a group of anti-Pakistan Baloch and Sindhi elements gathered in front of the US Embassy in London and demanded foreign intervention in Pakistans largest province. At the same time, the Human Rights Watch has stated that covert hands support the insurgents in Balochistan to destabilise Pakistan. It is, however, important to note that the exiled Government of Balochistan has its headquarter in Jerusalem, while the Balochistan Legal Fund (BLF) is Washington based. The US considers Balochistan as a vital ingredient of its covert strategy of getting control of Asia and for obtaining access to the Central Asian region, encircling Iran, containing China and restraining Pakistan from developing the Gwadar seaport. While America is broadly committed to the general 'stabilisation' of Pakistan, it does have a vested interest in delaying projects that would establish a Chinese strategic presence in the region. Thus, the US seeks to keep Balochistan perpetually destabilised through low-grade violence. Besides America, there are other countries which provide platforms to the anti-Pakistan Baloch elements. The activists and rebellious leaders are being liberally granted asylums in the UK and the facilities of Indias visa are always forthcoming to them. The Khan of Kalat and Hyrbyair Marri operate from Britain and America, and Brahamdagh is pegged in Switzerland. In the same vein, the Indian Consulates established on the Afghan territory, bordering Balochistan, are operating in a high gear in the context of training, arming and financing the separatist elements. A networking of the CIA and RAW can be discerned in most of the clandestine operations in Balochistan. The Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), and Observer Research Foundation (ORF), in New Delhi, frequently organise seminars and conferences in which select dissident Baloch leaders are invited to malign Pakistan. Some of these gatherings are a closed door activity, headed by former high-ranking officials from the RAW and Indian military. Several covert Indian subversive activities against Pakistan and Iran have been going on since long, along the Afghan territory. Maps of Greater Balochistan include Irans Balochstan-Sistan province as well. Similarly, the Afghan areas adjoining the Pakistani border are also envisaged as part of the Greater Balochistan. Surely, the leadership in Islamabad, Tehran and Kabul need to put their act together to thwart such developments. Needless to say, the situation in Balochistan is being grossly over-projected by the dissidents from the platforms provided to them by the foreign countries. Although widespread, yet the insurgency does not present an existential threat to Pakistans integrity. Low population density and poor communication infrastructure make Balochistan an unsuitable territory for waging a victorious insurgency; however, by the same token, effective counterinsurgency campaign is also a nightmare. Pinprick stalemate is the likely outcome. Nevertheless, the ensuing suffering of a common man in Balochistan is a serious dimension warranting immediate attention. The solution to its problem has to be a political one, comprehensive enough to cover all the aspects of the issue. Piecemeal appeasement will not lead to sustainable calm rather it may embolden the separatists. More so, prompt defogging of the mystery surrounding the missing persons issue would trigger enormous Baloch goodwill towards the military and political leadership. The writer is a retired Air Commodore of Pakistan Air Force. Email: