The government is ending the cases against the disgruntled Baloch leaders if they come back to Pakistan. This was announced by Interior Minister Rehman Malik after a meeting on the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan in Islamabad on Thursday. He said that the cases would be withdrawn against Baloch leaders including Mir Harbiyar Marri and Brahamdagh Bugti, except for one case against Mir Harbiyar. It was clearly stated by Mr Malik that this was being done to make these leaders attend the all parties conference (APC) called by the Prime Minister, after the moving of a resolution in US Congress calling for the Baloch people to be given the right of self-determination. It would be a tragedy if such an important issue as the fate of one of the country’s provinces was to depend on the credibility of Mr Malik. There is a general disinclination to believe him, and the result has been that this latest offer has not received the belief it should have got, not just as a removal of the disabilities under which these leaders suffer, but also as a sign of government purposefulness. The lack of trust in Mr Malik is a sad comment on him, for this was very much something it was in his power to do, as it involves his portfolio.

This step was also necessary to save the APC, which has already been effectively torpedoed by the refusal of the Baloch nationalist parties to attend, as well as the setting of conditions by the PML-N which the government is unlikely to meet, going by what Mr Malik told the meeting. As for arresting former President Pervez Musharraf in the Akbar Bugti murder case, he said that he would get red warrants issued from Interpol if the Balochistan government wrote to him. Throwing the blame on the Balochistan government would not work, because the blame would come on the PPP. As the hold-outs from the APC have pointed to the PPP’s lack of credibility, this only enhances the problem. Mr Malik’s informing the meeting that the number of missing persons was much lower than believed either by the PML-N or the Baloch parties was also discouraging, because it minimised the problem, even if it was positive in the sense that it at least acknowledged that there was a problem. While Mr Malik’s statement made it evident that the Bugti murder case as well as the missing persons were both proper issues for the APC, it also made it seem that Mr Malik was veering dangerously close to the view that these issues did not exist.

The meeting also examined several measures to improve the pace of development in Balochistan, but Mr Malik showed no sign of understanding that an existential threat was being posed to Pakistan. He also maintained an ominous silence on the question of outside interference, possibly because he wished to avoid treading on any toes. There can be no solution, not even an APC, unless the government plucks the courage to do so.