Dr Syed Farooq Hasnat Balochistan, which had calmed in months of post-Musharraf democratic period, provided hope that its chronic sense of depravation and frustration is near its redress. But it did not happen. The government was too slow to act and was busy in consolidating its strength in all parts of Pakistan, even where it needed to pause and compromise. In recent weeks, a lot has been said and written about the volatile situation in parts of the Balochistan province, but little steps are seen taken by the federal and provincial governments, to even understand the real issues. The killings of three Baloch nationalist leaders added fuel to the fire, triggering protest marches and strikes in the far-flung areas of the province. Protest meetings, in sympathy with the slain were also held in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. These political activists were members of a committee, locating persons who went missing, during the Musharraf rule. The highlight of Baloch urgency came when Interior Advisor Rehman Malik's April 23 explanations, of the killings and other happenings in Balochistan, at a closed-door Senate session, was rejected by the Baloch senators. A well known and respected Baloch Senator, Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party remarked after the session that the government had not addressed the real issues of Balochistan and that Malik's accusation of foreign involvement desired more evidence. Mr Malik said in a follow up press conference that in order to create an atmosphere of congeniality and better understanding, political prisoners have been released, and he cited the withdrawn of cases against a political activist Hyarbyar Marri. He further added: "All the 36 check posts of FC have been removed and it has been directed to work under the provincial administration and in coordination with police." The complexity of the Balochi situation comes when Pakistan is threatened by further intrusion of the Taliban in the settled areas of the NWFP. The statements of Sufi Muhammad and the likes make it more difficult for the ANP Peace Agreement to provide for a permanent solution to the militancy, in that area and beyond. There are strong indicators that the agreement might fall apart and a stern military action might be underway. In this background, to let Balochistan go unattended in tangible terms is something which anyone with even an elementary sense of prudence would not understand. The simmering insurgency and discontentment in the Baloch areas has to be addressed now, in concrete terms. To begin with, there does exist a sense of depravation, amongst a large segment of the Baloch population, for one reason or the other. The underline singular theme is that this province attracts less attention from the government and is not getting its due share of natural resources. This perception has a mixture of truth and exaggeration, but a real frustration cannot be denied. As it is said, at times perceptions are more effective and lethal than realities. In the given complex national and regional security situation, the danger of things getting out of control has become a possibility. And the most alarming feature is that all this is taking place in the aftermath of February 2008 elections and when elected governments are in place. Balochistan is not being ruled by the government or bureaucrats, imported from other provinces, but by a team of Baloch tribal sardars and representatives of the people. In the past few months half hearted attempts were made to address the convulsions in Pakistan's largest and most strategic province. The Zardari government tried to remove the damage inflicted by Musharraf's murder of Bugti and his other 'anti-Baloch' policies. He had publicly apologised to the people of the province for past unjust practices and had promised to constitute a commission for taking a serious stock of the entire demands of the Balochi people. On his first visit to Quetta President Zardari announced a development package of Rs 46.6 billion for the province and promised more for the Baloch people. He remarked: "My government won't hesitate to make constitutional amendments in the light of legislators' recommendations to solve problems of the province." But little came from the promises. At least the urgency of the redress is much slower that the speed of events, violent and otherwise, taking place on daily basis. There is no doubt that Balochistan should become top priority of the government, notwithstanding the FATA and Swat militancy. The following six remedies are suggested to address the dismal situation in Balochistan and to bring it in the national mainstream socio-economic/political system. ? An all party conference should be immediately convened to discuss all aspects of Balochistan province. There should be no time limit for the meeting. Every opinion should be heard, especially those from the aggrieved province. The conference must include intellectuals, media persons and other related personalities. ? The activities of intelligence agencies should cease with immediate effect. By interfering in the domestic affairs, these agencies have done more harm to Pakistan and its well being, than have produced any useful results. ? Concurrent List from the constitution should be removed, forthwith. The province should be given more autonomy as provided under the origin 1973 constitution. ? The Senate should be made a more powerful legislative body, thus promising a true spirit of the federation. ? National Finance Commission award (NFC) must provide the resources as according to the requirements of the provinces. Punjab has already conceded its stance of making population a basis, for the distribution of resources. ? Balochistan needs "freedom" from some of its "anti-development" sardars. The people of the province should be involved in massive developmental projects. In the past these sardars and nawabs had usurped the Baloch resources, leaving the people poor, illiterate and frustrated. The writer is a scholar at the Middle East Institute, Washington DC