Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has termed the Balochistan situation graver than ever, and called for an apology to the ‘Baloch brothers' and efforts to reintegrate them by making sure that they get their due. He said this on Thursday morning while speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust’s fourth annual three-day conference at the Aiwan-i-Karkunan Tehrik-e-Pakistan in Lahore. The Balochistan issue was also addressed by Trust Chairman Majid Nizami, Editor-in-Chief of this paper, when he pointed out in his presidential address at the session that the present rulers were heading towards creating another Bangladesh in Balochistan. He also criticised them for their failure to redress the grievances of the people of that province. He also said that the Pakistan Movement was still continuing, as we are still possessed of a slavish mindset. The present subservience of the government to the wishes of the US is furthering the deteroriating situation in Balochistan, where India continues to be given a free hand, via Afghanistan.

The situation in Balochistan is so far out of the control of the PPP governments both at the centre and in Quetta that the Punjab Chief Minister feels he must bring it up. It must not be forgotten that the troubles in Balochistan, in which Punjabi settlers are being murdered, have repercussions on Punjab more than the other two provinces, though the troubles of any federating unit reverberate throughout the country. It is also an unfortunate truth that Pakistan has not become an Islamic welfare state as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and when the Baloch find that this has not happened, and they continue to inhabit a backward backwater, their sense of deprivation begins to make a certain sense. That this can then be exploited by unscrupulous foreign elements is also understandable, but what is not understandable is the government joining in the conspiracy of silence that protects them.

The government must accept the need to do something concrete about Balochistan. It must adopt a two-pronged strategy that must address the sense of deprivation among the local residents, while exposing all elements working against Pakistan. There must also be an end to killings and disappearances, and to all other forms of lawlessness that are plaguing the province. The government must treat this problem as a top priority, for Balochistan is not only mineral-rich, of immense geostrategic importance and the country’s largest province by far, it is also an integral part of Pakistan.