THE good news on the Balochistan front is that the President approved the report submitted by the Balochistan reconciliation committee on Friday. President Zardari also said that soon an all-parties conference would be convened and all stakeholders consulted, to resolve the conflict. A special package was also expected to be announced. However, it remains to be seen what effect the move would have on the outstanding problems of Balochistan. Mr Zardari, who had tendered an apology to the people of the province for past injustices, had not done much to translate his wish into reality. Nearly seven months after the formation of the government, virtually nothing has improved and that in turn reveals an unfortunate lack of earnestness on its part. Initially, when the government expressed its wish to end the suffering of the people, various political and social circles, including Baloch leaders themselves, had warmly welcomed it. Among others, it was agreed that all political leaders would be released, all abducted persons freed and thousands of displaced persons, who had emigrated from troubled Bugti and Marri areas, compensated. There was also an unambiguous preference for finding a political solution to having recourse to military means. However, by far the most significant issue is that of the economic backwardness of the area. The Baloch leaders accuse the centre of usurping the province's share of gas royalties. It is obviously futile for the government to hope for the restoration of peaceful conditions in the province until their grievances about the abovementioned problems are removed. These are long-standing issues that have been aggravated by mishandling by successive governments during the course of history. The present government would have to take concrete steps to put an end to the prevailing resentment against the centre. The President's wish is surely positive, but it would have to be followed sincerely with a clear-cut roadmap, to have an effect.

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