Once more, the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Suleman Daud Khan has refused the government’s request to end his self imposed exile, choosing to stay in London rather than return Balochistan. His refusal – not altogether unexpected – is another dent in the government’s efforts to stabilise the restive province.

The refusal may have more to do with customary traditions than it does with any concrete policy objective as he was asked to campaign from abroad by a Grand Balochi Jirga. Yet, sitting comfortably in London, the Khan can do very little as his people languish in Balochistan. His efforts to “internationalise” the Baloch cause may be a success in his estimation, but apart from very weak and sporadic pressures on the government they have achieved nothing. Considering the international community’s reluctance to intervene in local insurgencies – even high-profile ones, such as Kashmir – it is highly unlikely they would ever do so in Balochistan’s in any meaningful manner.

His presence in Pakistan, on the other hand would have countless benefits. An influential and legitimate leader such as Daud Khan can fill the power vacuum that exists in the province, insuring that it does not go to other, more nefarious entities, such as religious extremists. He can help the government resolve local tribal conflicts and lend legitimacy to the government’s assurances to tribal leaders and insurgents alike. If the “struggle for the rights of Balochistan and its people” is his objective, there is no better place to strive for it than here in Pakistan, where his actions carry weight. Just as Prince Agha Abdul Karim Baloch realised that the struggle against Kalat’s accession to Pakistan was futile in 1950, Daud Khan too must realize that there is no solution to the Balochistan conundrum without the state. It is time to start talking.

For its part, while it is appreciated that the government is approaching Baloch leaders to seek a political solution to the crisis, it must realize that one meeting is not enough to compensate for decades of mistrust. The government needs to do more, make defined promises and carry them out, initiate confidence building measures and show that it is willing to listen to the concerns of the Baloch people. When the Commission on Missing Persons can’t even receive enough attention from the Prime Minister to submit its reports how do we expect leaders like the Khan to change their stance? A negotiated solution is the only possible way forward. Both parties need to be flexible to achieve it.