Who is responsible for the sad state of affairs in Balochistan? The military or the civilian governments or both? The PM recently said that law and order being a provincial subject, it is for the provincial government to manage local affairs properly. As I wrote in my last column, both at the centre and in Balochistan that there are PPP-led governments. And considering what has been going on for the last many years in a strategically important part of the country, can the federal government hide behind the plea that law and order is a provincial subject?

The fact of the matter is that the democratic civilian Government of Pakistan in power for more than four years has shown callous indifference and neglect of a troubled part of the country, letting conditions degenerate from bad to worse. Again, the reality is that the Balochistan issue is not a local or provincial matter. It has been for decades a national issue and is now fast becoming a matter of international concern.

Both the central and provincial governments have been tinkering with the Balochistan problem unmindful of the pressing need to contain the disastrous fallout of Musharraf’s myopic and violent mishandling of the Bugti resistance to his arbitrary operations.

Any wise administration would have taken steps to go out of the way to adopt a convincingly reconciliatory stance and seek to douse the fires of hurt and anger. Soon enough, Bugti’s murder was readily used by the already aggrieved and disaffected Balochi nationalists to step up their anti-government activities. The “disappearances” and later killings of Balochi activists have added fuel to the fire. The insurgents started targeting “settlers” - Punjabis and Hazaras - and attacking even the security forces. Instead of developing a political solution of the menacing situation, the government resorted to blaming the outsiders for interference in our internal affairs. This, too, was done in a perfunctory manner, confined as it was to vague statements on the part of the Interior Minister and the handing over of a dossier by our Prime Minister to his Indian counterpart at Sharm El-Sheikh. The Indian pooh-poohed such allegations with little coming out of these half-hearted moves. As for remedial measures, a programme under a bizarre title of Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan was announced promising jobs and fund for development. It hardly made any dent to a worsening situation.

The role of the opposition political parties, too, has left much to be desired. Nawaz Sharif’s positive moves, visiting the province and meeting the veteran Mengal Sardar was not followed up with any meaningful subsequent initiatives. All that was done was to call for an all parties conference (APC). The idea was later picked up by the Prime Minister. The way he is playing with the proposal only exposes his lack of seriousness. A Committee has been set up to prepare for the APC and contact the alienated Balochi leaders. It is flabbergasting indeed, how a matter of utmost importance is being handled so casually. There is little of any sense of urgency. And this in spite of the issue having been raised in the US House of Representatives. When the Prime Minister says that tabling a resolution on Balochistan and a reference to the right of self-determination and independence amounts to an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty, what indeed is his government doing internally to grapple with the rising Balochi insurgency?

The latest move to announce amnesty and withdrawal of cases against the rebellious Balochi leaders has been ridiculed by the Bugti and Marri nationalists. Such isolated reactive sporadic announcement has little value and hardly any wholesome impact.

Instead of strengthening the governments’ resolve to address the issue, the PML-N has put forward tough conditions for its cooperation for the APC. While the PML-N’s thinking makes sense, the situation demands an urgent national response. Why not include Nawaz Sharif’s conditions in the agenda of the APC itself. The killers of Nawab Akbar Bugti must be identified and punished. The “disappearances” have to stop without delay.

An integral part of the approach to the solution has much to do with the role of the military and the FC in Balochistan. This role has to be fully subservient to the decisions taken by the civilian political entities. The APC should have an in-camera session with the COAS and the DG ISI. Disappearances have not only to stop, justice has to be seen done and whoever has been guilty of the breach of law and excessive use of authority must be brought to book. Similarly, Musharraf and others accused of direct involvement in Sardar Bugti’s killing must be hauled up and an expeditious judicial trial initiated. The question is: Does the present government have the will and the guts to undertake these measures?

It is also desirable that Imran Khan’s PTI, the MQM and the religious parties are closely associated with not only the formulation of the agenda and the roadmap for the resolution of various issues, but also made a part of the monitoring mechanism to ensure that the decisions taken are faithfully and speedily implemented.

With the resolution on Balochistan moved by a Republican of California, Dana Rohrabacher, in the House of Representatives after hearings by a House Committee, the rebellious Baloch leaders feel strengthened to work more vigorously to achieve their goals. On various TV channels some of them have categorically stated that they do not trust the present federal government and have questioned its bonafides and credentials. How they are to be engaged in talks is a challenge by itself. It is vital that the scions of the Marri, Bugti, Mengal and the Khan of Kalat leader, Suleman Daud (who has been helping Rohrabacher in drafting his resolution) and who all are operating from abroad, are approached through various channels and firm commitments held out to them that all their legitimate concerns and demands shall be sincerely and seriously considered by the civilian government, as well as the influential military authorities. These contacts have to be intelligently planned and pursued with diligence.

It also needs to be stated that a majority of the people of Balochistan, including the large component of the Pathan population while unhappy on various counts with regard to their rights and the use of their resources, are good Pakistanis and need to be looked after.

Balochistan because of its size, its strategic location, long coastline, Gwadar sea port, tapped and untapped mineral resources and the possible designs of the outside forces, as well as the complex relationship it has with Afghanistan and Iran, is much too important to be treated cavalierly and imprudently as it has been by various regimes so far.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and  political and international relations analyst.

Email: pacade@brain.net.pk