QUETTA- Balochistan is passing through a critical phase due to what is being called mishandling of the crisis by the federal government, which remains oblivious to ground realities in the countrys largest but least developed province. The conflict in Balochistan, according to nationalist circles, is not new rather it dates back to independence, when the first military action was launched to force the Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan. Four uprisings occurred in the province in 1948, 1958, 1962-63, 1973 and the fifth one that started in 2006 is still continuing, though not as vociferously. According to some observers, the governments utilized excessive force to crush these revolts instead of solving issues through political means. Balochistan comprises almost 43 per cent of the total area of Pakistan and is strategically the most important region of the country. It is bestowed with valuable minerals, including vast reserves of copper, gold and natural gas deposits, but its people are least developed as compared to their brethren in other provinces. The gas deposits of Sui in Balochistan are catering to the needs of other provinces for the last many decades, but majority areas of Balochistan are without this facility even today. With the passage of time successive rulers, instead of addressing the miseries of Balochistan, adopted force to settle the disputed issues that pushed the province to what many call as the brink of separation. Veteran Baloch nationalist leader and former governor and chief minister of Balochistan Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was brutally killed in a military operation in 2006. The murder of aged Baloch leader ignited anger among Balochs and resistance spread across the province. In order to quell the resistance, rulers and state functionaries started whisking away the political leaders and workers. The issue of missing persons turned to be a big one and remains a major irritant in relations between the federation and Balochistan. According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), around 13,000 people from Balochistan have gone missing since 2006 and bullet-riddled bodies of around 200 have been recovered so far. The disappearance of a large number of political activists followed by their brutal killing has further exacerbated the situation. This has created a feeling among the Baloch people that Balochistan always receives a raw deal from the federal government. The incidents of targeted killings are almost a daily occurrence in Balochistan and they are having an adverse impact on the socio-economic situation in the province. The killing of Baloch nationalist leader Ghulam Muhammad Baloch along with two other Baloch leaders in 2008 and Habib Jalib Baloch in 2010 sent shockwaves throughout the province. Baloch nationalist leaders held the intelligence agencies responsible for these murderous acts and such incidents of high-profile killings have gone a long way in weakening trust between Balochistan and federation. Most of the key hardliner Baloch nationalist leaders who do matter in normalizing the situation of Balochistan, including Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Daud, Nawabzada Harbiyar Marri, Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti and Sardar Akthar Mengal are out of Pakistan. The present PPP-led federal government during past three years did not come up with practical steps to initiate dialogue with disgruntled Baloch leaders. Provincial government formed a committee to contact Baloch leaders but despite the elapse of several months it could not start its work. The federal government introduced Aghaz Haqooq-e-Balochistan package on November 24, 2009 as part of its efforts to heal the wounds of the province. But the package still awaits implementation. The rulers claimed that it would change the fate of Balochistan and termed it a great achievement of PPP, but in reality except for appointing 5,000 youth in education departments on temporary basis so far no other practical steps has been taken in the light of the package. Recently the federal government announced that Governor and Chief Minister Balochistan had been given powers to initiate dialogue with disgruntled Baloch leaders so the law and order situation of the province could be improved. But, So far no step has been taken on the part of provincial government to start dialogue with the annoyed Baloch leaders. A minister in PPP-led provincial government requesting not to be named says the government would seek guarantees from the federal government before contacting key Baloch leaders. Baloch leaders, who are in exile or have gone on mountains, consider the PPP government powerless and they will not agree to talks without solid assurances, he said, adding that if you ask reality neither federal nor provincial government was serious to solve Balochistans issue. Just one year of the tenure of incumbent government has been left and still it could not even initiate dialogue process with disgruntled Balochs and I do not see any breakthrough in near future, the minister said. It may be mentioned that Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani on several occasions accused Frontier Corps of having established a parallel government in the province. However, for reasons best known to him he is no longer harsh towards FC and other security agencies under the federal government. Instead of criticizing them the chief minister now praises them for their efforts to restore peace. Political analysts say the federal government, first of all, should come up with a concrete plan for resolving all outstanding issues before commencing dialogue. The decades-old mistrust can not be ended overnight, but the first step taken in the right direction would facilitate the task. Well begun is half done. All missing persons should be recovered and should be produced before a court of law and tried in accordance with the Constitution of the country if they were found guilty. Intelligence agencies must cooperate with the Supreme Court of Pakistan and an independent investigation be conducted for resolving the issue of missing persons. A conducive atmosphere should be created to restore the exiled leaders confidence in the rulers and all fake cases registered against them be withdrawn. The powers of Frontier Corps should be curtailed and it should work under the provincial government besides all check posts of paramilitary forces be withdrawn. The people who were responsible for assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and other Baloch leaders should be brought to justice.