The Baloch leader and former Chief Minister of Balochistan, Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal, said in Karachi on Monday that the worsening situation in the province had reached “a point of no return”, as a result of policies pursued by successive governments over the decades. He was talking to journalists at a joint press conference with PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif, who had called on him earlier in the day. Sardar Mengal remarked that the Baloch youth had taken to the hills and howsoever hard he tried to bring them to the plains to live normal lives, he continued to fail to convince them. Mian Nawaz, while endorsing fully the contention that the Baloch people were being unfairly targeted, offered to work for getting them a fair and just deal. He went so far as to suggest that he formed an alliance with the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) so that the both joined hands in the redress of their grievances. However, Sardar Mengal bluntly stated that, first of all, the loose cannons that are out to kill and torture the Baloch in the province have to be silenced. He placed the blame for the murders taking place in the province on the security forces.

It must be acknowledged that the geographically largest federating unit of Pakistan has remained in a state of utter backwardness for over 63 years since Independence, despite being rich in natural resources. Those demanding their rights have also been brutally suppressed. Balochistan, it must be noted, is located in an unstable area. The situation serves as fertile ground for hostile and mischievous elements to further exacerbate discontent. Unfortunately, next door Afghanistan is a state of war, with a large presence of foreign troops and the resulting resistance within the local populace this brings. The alliance between the US and India, which fits in with the strategic goals of both the countries, has brought a large number of Indian secret agents in the guise of embassy personnel, traders, businessmen and builders to Afghanistan. There are a number of Indian consulates, not officially recognised as such, which manned by intelligence officials, keep funnelling money and arms to fan the flames in Balochistan. The grandson of Akbar Bugti, Brahamdagh Bugti, previously lived in safe houses provided by the Afghan government. He has now fled to Switzerland with the help of Afghan and Indian officials, but not been handed over to Pakistan despite repeated demands.

The mere announcement of any Balochistan development package would not help appease frayed sentiments. There is urgent need not only to undertake massive development works in the province to convince estranged elements to give up their separatist struggle, but also to provide the local population with education and health facilities, a proper communication system and road network, and jobs to ensure a decent quality of life. One fails to understand why the so-called Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan has remained only existant on paper, barely producing any result on the ground. Development work has to be done on a war footing to win the hearts and minds of the local people.