ISLAMABAD - Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Monday stressed the need for bringing Balochistan in the mainstream of political, social and economic landscape of the country.

“The inclusive and pluralistic approach is the dire need to address the grievances and deprivation of the people of Balochistan,” he said while addressing the inaugural ceremony of ‘International Conference on Balochistan: History and Culture.’

National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (NIHCR) has arranged the three-day international conference in collaboration with Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad and Higher Education Commission.

Dr Baloch said, “The pressing issues that today’s Balochistan is facing must be addressed on priority basis. And in this regard the change in the mindset of Islamabad can change things a lot better.”

The chief minister stressed, “The bleeding Balochistan with undeveloped infrastructure, loose communication routes, pathetic education and health sectors need to be highlighted. Chaghi is reservoir of 52 minerals but the people of the area don’t have the facility of clean drinking water.” He maintained that traditionally Balochistan was not a part of the subcontinent instead it was a part of the Middle East and the ruling elite did not understand the psyche of Balochistan.

The plight of poverty, unemployment, scarcity of water, deprivation, and deteriorating law and order situation must be addressed properly, he stressed. “Missing persons is the biggest issue of Balochistan. Besides its total literacy rate is 34 per cent against the national literacy rate of 52 per cent. It also has the least number of educational institutions, the lowest literacy rate among both males and females, the lowest ranking in the gender parity index (GPI) and the smallest presence of private educational institutes in the country.”

The province is also the worst in the country with only 27 per cent literate women and stands poorly against the national female literacy rate of 48 per cent. It is estimated that less than 2 per cent of the rural female in Balochistan are literate, he added.

“Every civilised nation seeks solutions to its problems through dialogue and peaceful way. We need to be tolerant enough to listen to, exchange and accommodate each other and live with dignity. We need to strengthen our political institutions and address our issues in a democratic way. The people of Balochistan have been very determined since the inception of Pakistan and have played a vital role in strengthening the federation of Pakistan,” he opined.

He said, “Culturally, economically and linguistically the province is very much diverse. Speaking different languages, they have similarities in their beliefs, moral orders and customs. The people of Balochistan are known for their hospitality. Open heartedness is one the most lovely features of the people of Balochistan.”

He was delighted that the NIHCR had organised the international event on Balochistan to promote an understanding in a diverged society. This event will provide new horizons and set new precedents for giving space and importance to the underdeveloped and smaller province, he said.

Earlier in his welcome address, Dr Eatzaz Ahmad, vice chancellor Quaid-i-Azam University and chief organiser of the conference, said, “Balochistan with largest proportion of land and thin population is in the limelight in the contemporary affairs. There is a dire need to think beyond its vitality as a geostrategic location. It is the time to think beyond the conflicts and understand its marvellous rich culture and history.”

Prof Dr Tahir Amin, director National Institute of Pakistan Studies (NIPS), QAU, delivered his brainstorming keynote address of the conference. Discussing multiple narratives about the current scenario of Balochistan he stressed upon the state to take some steps to cope with the complexity of situation effectively. Appreciating the recent positive gesture of the PM Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his unconditional support to the government of Balochistan he said that it was highly appreciable. He, however, stressed that a lot more was still required to be done.

The NIHCR head Sajid Mehmood Awan in his address said it was a regular feature of the NIHCR to organise conferences, seminars, symposia, workshops, roundtable sessions and trainings for variety of issues and subjects. So far it has organised 18 national and international conferences and countless seminars, he said.

He also shared the inaugural resolution of that conference which says that “deadlock cannot resolve deadlock; only discourse can do that. Thus this conference initiates a discourse for resolution of every sort of deadlock on academic front.”

Dr Javed Iqbal, vice chancellor University of Balochistan, and Prof Dr Yar Jan Badini, senior journalist, also spoke on the occasion.

Afterwards, proper proceedings of the conference started. The first day of the conference was dedicated to discuss history of Balochistan. The first academic session, which discussed Balochistan in historical perspective was chaired by Prof Dr Riaz Ahmad, former director NIHCR. Ten guest speakers including Fozia Naz, Ifqut Shaheen, Sandul Hasan, Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, Fatima Asghar, Humera Naz, Jahanzeb Khan, Rafiullah Khan and Majid Hussain explored the history of Balochistan during the first session.

They were of the view that Balochistan was rich enough in terms of ancient history and culture. This history garners a very special importance in relation to the development of the Indus Civilisation. The earliest settled villages in Balochistan date back to the ceramic Neolithic (7000-6000 BC) including the site of Mehrgarh. The earliest built tomb on the Pakistani soil is located in Bela Town and belongs to Muhammad bin Harun who was an Arab governor of Makran, besides the historical tombs of the Jams of Lasbela. In 1520, under the leadership of Mir Chakkar Khan Rind, Balochs were ruling over Balochistan.

They viewed that British Balochistan was predominantly a Pashtun province which voted for affiliation to Pakistan. The valiant Balochs had also resisted strongly against the British colonial rule in different areas of Balochistan for protecting their lives, land and honour. Being a governor-general’s province, running the affairs in Balochistan, after the independence of Pakistan in 1947, was the special responsibility of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Around one hundred eminent scholars from Pakistan and abroad will participate in the conference.