President Zardari would have us believe that resolving the problems of Balochistan has always been his top priority. Yet it took him as long as seven months to pay his first official visit to the province after apologizing in his very first address to Parliament in August, 2008 for the excesses committed against the Baloch in the past. One wonders how long he would take to address the issues, which remain pretty low on his priority. No doubt it was about time to tell the people of Balochistan that Parliament would ensure that they would not be deprived of their rights. The President could not probably get it more right when he praised the Baloch for their long history of struggle but he could not probably get it more wrong to expect them to trust his words that with democracy in place they would get back all that was snatched from them in the past. They certainly need money for the development of their province, and Mr. Zardari gave them enough. But what they would be more desperate about is the protection of their lives. The country's return to a civilian rule a year ago hardly brought them any respite from the sufferings they had endured doing nine years of Musharraf's most repressive regime. There has been no respite from the military operations that left hundreds of innocent civilians killed in a campaign ostensibly launched against insurgents. Can democracy now provide the Bacloch an opportunity to live their dreams? There is no justification for attacking security forces nor does one hold any brief for those involved is subversive activities. But then it was the state's policy of using force to resolve essentially political issues, which actually exacerbated the Balochistan situation in the past. Much to the disappointment of the Baloch population there has been no paradigm shift in this repressive approach after the assumption of power by the elected leadership. They are being treated as aliens and expected to behave like responsible citizens Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani might have a lot to share with Mr Zardari in private. Perhaps he could tell the President that if the Baloch did not trust the rulers in Islamabad it was not without rationale. They have yet to see the democratic regime lay its hands on those who killed Nawab Akbar Bugti in cold blood. They have not received any assurance from the federal government about abandoning the project of establishing cantonments across the province. Probably they see no difference between Musharraf's dictatorship and Zardari's democracy when it comes to their aversion to lending an ear to saner counsels that quasi-insurgency could be quelled by allaying fears of the Baloch, not by merely announcing the uplifts plans. President Zardari will have few takers for his claim that no one knows better than the PPP about Balochistan's miseries and it has solved the problems of the province to a great extent. If he thinks that by putting in place an artificially contrived set-up in the province he has addressed the genuine concerns of the Baloch he must be grossly mistaken. The recent revolt against the CM by five of his cabinet members indicates that all is not well with the ruling coalition. The President's visit to Quetta came about at a time when the American media has been speculating about the Obama Administration's plan to extend drone attacks far beyond the tribal areas into Balochistan. It was an expression of solidarity from Islamabad. The Baloch might have felt encouraged to hear Mr Zardari announce from their soil that as far as the drone attacks were concerned it was the stated policy of Pakistan that it was against such incursions. But if the drones are to come anyway the Baloch might be constrained to ask is that a part of the new US strategy that Mr Obama claimed to have shared with the Pakistani authorities before hand? Mr Zardari was heard cautioning the people of Balochistan that if they did not strengthen democracy they would be strengthening those who were trying to break Pakistan. You can't simply expect the Baloch to repose confidence in a system, which too closely resembles the worst dictatorship they had endured for nine years.