Islamabad - The joint visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to Balochistan last week was of great national significance. Ostensibly, the visit served key interest of the state ranging from counter terrorism efforts and economic development in Balochistan to reinvigorated process of reconciliation with the estranged Baloch leaders.

Background discussions and interviews with key functionaries of the Balochistan government suggest that country’s civil and military leadership are on the same page in mainstreaming political role of the people of Balochistan in the economic development of the province. Both the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff are striving to do away with political inhalation and economic deprivation of the people of Balochistan and this initiative is being under taken on the war footing basis. “Pakistan Army is fully supporting the civilian government”, an adviser to Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik told The Nation on condition of anonymity. He was of the view that serious efforts are being made to bring back the estranged Baloch leaders including Khan of Kalat Prince Mir Suleman Dawood Ahmedzai as well as Mir Harbayar Marri and was upbeat that reconciliation efforts would bear fruits. He said two different committees have been set up by Balochistann Chief Minister to contact the self-exiled leaders in western countries and persuade them to come back and play their role in the development of the province.

The move to bring back the self-exiled leaders came recently in the light of a unanimous resolution passed by the Balochistan Assembly. According to the informed sources, chief of Pushtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Mehmood Khan Achakzai also recently visited UK and met with Khan of Kalat in London where he is staying since he left Pakistan in 2006. “These are preliminary contacts,” another senior government official said without giving details about the outcome of the initiative.

In another related development, efforts are underway to establish contact with Mir Harbayar Marri in Switzerland for a meeting to persuade him to give up his self-exile and come back to Balochsitan.

After the killing of Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in 2006, several Baloch nationalist leaders went into self-exile. Subsequently, the security situation started deteriorating leading to a low-key insurgency in the province. However, the process of reconciliation with the estranged Baloch leaders was set into motion by the former army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in early 2011 when he withdrew last battalion of the Army from Sui and handed over the security of the province to Frontier Corpse (FC) that operates under the command of civilian government. Gen Kayani also announced to induct Baloch youth in the Army. “The army has scrapped its plans for establishing three more cantonments in Balochistan. And the last battalion of Army has been withdrawn from Sui ,” Gen Kayani told the audience while addressing a function at Gwadar Institute of Technology in April 2011. He went on saying that from now onwards the Frontier Corps would take the responsibility and discharge its duty on the directives of the provincial government. Since then thousands of people from Balochistan have joined the military, a senior military official confirmed. The official maintained that the present military leadership especially Gen Raheel Sharif is taking personal interest in mainstreaming the Balochistan province and that is why he has committed himself in taking it as a challenge to bring peace and stability in Balochistan in order to help accelerate development process in the province.

Political and security analysts believed that situation in Balochistan would improve fast in cooperation with neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran. They were of the view that by doing this way, Pakistan can also check and counter the Indian grand designs to destabilise these efforts.