The government made much fanfare of the presentation of the Balochistan Package, going to the extent of presenting it to a joint session of Parliament, and received much favourable comment, but the rejection of the package by Baloch leaders indicates that the opposition is more deep-rooted than the attempt to solve it. The attempt has been made not just because it is needed, but because President Asif Ali Zardari has made the promise. He had also made a much-publicised apology to the province, and the package has been thus long-awaited. The rejection also should be seen as an attempt to ensure that the nationalists can fall back to a maximalist position, and can make further claims. At the same time, the need for such a package must be seen within the context of the War on Terror, and the possibility that has been raised of a redrawing of the map of the Mediterranean, with Balochistan slated to leave Pakistan and join Iranian Balochistan as Iran gets dismembered. Pakistani politicians do remember the dismemberment of Pakistan, and then there was Indian interference in East Pakistan just as much as there is today in Balochistan. East Pakistan was not a case which can be compared with Balochistan. East Pakistan was really only half the province of Bengal, while Balochistan consisted of Kalat State, which included Sarawan and Jhalawan, and so-called British Balochistan, which included those parts of Afghanistan which had been absorbed after the First Afghan War. Incidentally, these Pakhtun areas ensure that Balochistan province is not homogenously Baloch, and it has allowed the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party to claim representation in the province. East Bengal, it might be remembered, was uniformly Bengali, with a Bihari minority. Balochistan, on the other hand, has a Pakhtun minority. At the same time, the coastal Baloch would not like to submit themselves to the domination of the others in an independent Balochistan. Another issue, which has been illustrated by the removal of cantonments from the province, is the fact that the Baloch are not well represented within the military. This dates back to the British era, when Baloch tribesmen were seen as not 'martial material' and were not recruited. This was probably because of their strong loyalty to the tribe of their birth, symbolised by a loyalty to the sardar, which could not be replaced by the loyalty to 'the salt' and to the regiment, which was the cement which held together the British Indian Army, and thus the Empire in India. This loyalty was carried over to both the successor armies, with that in Pakistan using it to bolster loyalty to the regimes that the military established four times. The military itself has been concerned about Balochistan. However, that concern has been counterproductive. Musharraf, who had been Chief of Staff of the Quetta Corps, named Balochistan, alone of all the provinces, in his Seven Points. The situation was reminiscent of past martial laws. Ayub Khan, who had been GOC East Pakistan as a major-general, thought he had tackled the East Pakistan question, but when he was replaced by Yahya Khan, the problem spiralled out of control, and despite his manful attempts, lost power after losing East Pakistan. Similarly, the military first evinced an interest in Balochistan in the Zia era, but in the Musharraf era this interest was also shown, but in ways that made the Baloch resile against Pakistan. One important symbol of this was the Gwadar port. This had unwavering Chinese support. For those who had seen, as Zia said, the Soviets driving down to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, the Afghan Jihad had just been another chapter in the Great Game. To have the Chinese, who were not even players in the 'game', not unless one counted India's northern frontier with China, reach the Gulf, through its alliance with Pakistan and through Gwadar. It may be no coincidence that, when the War on Terror began, the US military obtained airbases on the Persian Gulf on the Balochistan coast. The USA was also not a player in the 19th century 'game', but was the primary player in the 21st century 'game', which centred around oil, not coal, but still energy. The USA was interested in Central Asian oil and gas, and China directly in the Gulf. While the USA was more interested in potential, China was the Gulf's largest customer for the oil that it hoped would propel it into the ranks of developed states, and keep it there. The whole package therefore must have the approval of the military, including the decision to give the cantonments to the Frontier Corps (FC), and replace the army with FC. The FC is being used in the tribal areas, and is proving an effective substitute for regular troops, being officered by regular army officers on detachment. This is the same model as with the rangers, who provide the military with effective control. Giving the Balochistan CM, currently a PPP man, control over the FC personnel's deployment in his province amounts to giving him as much control over the military as the central government has by virtue of its control of the Defence Ministry. Military approval, or at least acceptance, of the package, implies that the USA also accepts it, and sees it as useful against Iran. The package shows evidence for its being hastily put together, with many matters not settled. Indeed, it is possible to argue that, without a settlement of the relevant constitutional issues, there is really no package. The holding of judicial enquiries, and setting up of commissions (without naming the members) is not a good sign for the future. It seems that the package consists of some cosmetic measures, mostly promises, combined with throwing a lot of money at the province. This money will not reach the ordinary citizen, and will be helpful mainly to the PPP government in office. Meanwhile, there are two defects in the package. The first has already been expressed by PPP-S chief Aftab Sherpao, who has said that NWFP should get a similar package for its suffering in the War on Terror. He has thus ignored the National Finance Commission's decision to set up a special fund for this, and has already staked a claim for one province. However, there is no reason why the remaining two provinces should remain silent. If the federation can bear the expense, it should pay, but can it afford it? However, either the money issues have not been settled, or it has been done in a very opaque manner. Then not giving a blanket amnesty to Baloch leaders will lead to invidious comparisons to the NRO. This is particularly likely with the NRO beneficiaries holding high office. Yet, the government that brought the package cannot claim clean hands over the NRO, and cannot rest easy until closure is brought to that issue. It will keep on infecting apparently unconnected issues, like that of Balochistan. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk