ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Quetta in the coming days to intensify the reconciliation efforts to bring home the exiled Baloch leaders. The Prime Minister met Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch here yesterday to discuss the challenges faced by the underdeveloped province. His visit will take place amid a rare and wide consensus among both the federal government and Baloch nationalists. Balochistan’s ruling National Party, the opposition Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party (M) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) have all voiced their support for the dialogue.

“We must know 90 percent of the Baloch people are not anti-state. If the government shows commitment, the issues could be solved and we can move forward,” PML-Q Senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhail said. Sharif last visited Balochistan in August and launched a ‘Peaceful Balochistan Plan’ to bring angry Balochs back into the mainstream. Plans to reconcile with the angry Baloch leaders were approved by a special apex committee comprising Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan among others.

Yesterday, the premier said that he will visit Balochistan soon and ensure swift implementation of the multi-billion Kissan (farmers) package. The underdeveloped province has long complained of discrimination by the centre and the resentment caused by it led to the rise of insurgents. Some Baloch leaders like the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud Khan and Brahamdagh Bugti went into exile in protest against the prejudice.

Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had recently announced he would be sending a jirga (tribal council) to meet the exiled leaders and persuade them to return. Chief of Jhalawan and Senior Balochistan Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri had met the Khan of Kalat in London in August as part of the reconciliation policy but there has been little progress since. Hope for a reconciliation stems from Brahamdagh Bugti’s recent statement in which he showed willingness to hold talks with the Pakistan government to resolve their differences.

A government official told The Nation that the PM’s upcoming visit will explore options to address the Balochs’ grievances. “The visit will be a reconciliation effort for all. He will meet those present here (in Balochistan) and will be discussing how to bring the exiled leaders back. The PM really wants all the Baloch leaders to participate in development of the province,” he said. The official said that the issues of Balochistan were discussed in the meeting between the PM and the Balochistan Chief Minister. “The two leaders agreed the return of exiled leaders will allow the provincial and the federal governments to improve the situation in Balochistan,” he added. Sharif said, the development of Balochistan will remain the government’s top agenda and assured Balochistan will not be subjected to step-motherly treatment anymore. The Prime Minister appreciated the provincial government’s policies saying these have started yielding positive results in the province. He also acknowledged the provincial government’s efforts to improve law and order situation in Balochistan.

During his next visit, the PM will also check progress on three development projects, Mangi Dam, Balochistan Agriculture University and a flyover on Smungli Road that he inaugurated in August. The Mangi Dam project, the Sumungli Road Flyover and Agricultural University projects will be completed at a cost of Rs 9,853 million, Rs 1500 million and Rs 4,589 respectively. Senator Mandokhail said that the reconciliation efforts could succeed if ‘proper people’ were contacted. “If the government contacts the media popular people again and ignores the real representatives of the public, status quo will prevail. This could only succeed if proper people are contacted,” he added. He said that the federal government had promised to work on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan but “we are still waiting for it.”

“They promised the work on CPEC will start from the western route. They have not fulfilled this promise. Mere talks won’t settle problems. We need to show the will too,” he said. The legislator said, the situation in Balochistan was not ideal but it had improved since the new government took over. “If reconciliation takes place with the exiled leaders and reservations of the aggrieved nationalists are solved, we can think of development and prosperity,” he added.

Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party lawmaker Agha Syed Liaqat Ali said that Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch is working hard to address the exiled leaders’ concerns. “He is backing meetings with the exiled leaders and at home he remains in contact with the dissidents. The Prime Minister is supporting his efforts and we hope to find a solution soon,” Ali said. He claimed that 70 percent of the Balochistan issues had been solved since the new government took over in 2013. We are moving towards improvement. Once the exiled leaders come back, the situation will improve further,” he remarked.