The much-hyped amnesty that Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced for the disgruntled Baloch leaders the other day has turned out to be conditional, after all. Bearing out the widely held belief that he lacked credibility, he now says that the cases of terrorist acts, murders and other crimes against them would not be withdrawn. Only the politically motivated cases would be withdrawn. Arguably, though, he is right; for only a court of law has the right to quash cases of heinous nature and it would be wrong for the government to make that choice. However, Mr Malik’s initial offer of blanket amnesty, no doubt, has left a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, President Zardari’s wish to meet the estranged Baloch leaders to talk about their grievances in order to remove them is quite plausible. During a call at Governor Magsi’s house where he had gone to condole with him the death of his mother, Mr Zardari also referred to the apology he had offered. One, instead, wished he was able to boast of significant achievements in removing the sense of deprivation among the Baloch people.

Admittedly, the Balochistan issue is not a simple case of deprivation. It is a veritable imbroglio that hides within itself foreign interference, that lends it a grave dimension. The Foreign Office is, apparently, in possession of credible evidence of outside interference in destabilising the province. Its spokesman Abdul Basit, replying to question at his media briefing on Friday, said that Foreign Minister Khar had raised the issue with her British counterpart. It must be pursued vigorously at the diplomatic as well as at local level. As a peace-loving nation, we should not be paying back in the same coin, and to quote Mr Basit, “Pakistan does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and it expects the same from the international community.” Our security and intelligence agencies must bear the burden of proof, if the accusations of machinations of foreign elements are to carry effect. Incidents of target killings, abductions and the discovery of tortured and defaced bodies occur daily. Both the ISI and MI have sought the Supreme Court’s permission for an in-camera hearing in view of its sensitive nature, when the court asked them to file their report on the Balochistan situation. The SC was hearing a petition of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association on continued target killings and the murder of Mir Bakhtiar Domki’s wife and daughter.

Joining the countrywide protests at a US Congress subcommittee’s uncalled for interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution decrying it. That Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has, meanwhile, stuck to his call for the grant of the right of self-determination reflects the arrogance born of the impression that as a public representative of a superpower he could not be faulted with views he chooses to pronounce on any subject on earth. The challenge he poses can only be met with a wise and negotiated approach to the issue.