Peace moves in Balochistan initiated by the ruling coalition have not gone beyond the release of a few BNP and JWP leaders. The All Parties Conference which the PPP co- chairman had promised to hold is nowhere in sight. Meanwhile incidents of violence mostly claimed by the BLA continue to take place almost every day. Gas pipelines, railway tracks, police and FC personnel continue to be targeted. The newly appointed vice chancellor of the Quetta University was killed last month. Early this week unsuspecting cricketers were fired on in the provincial capital leaving one dead. The powerless committee on Balochistan formed by the PPP has done little beyond paying a visit to Quetta and holding a seminar. The committee set-up to trace the missing persons has done practically little. This reminds one of the fate of two parliamentary committees nominated under the previous government to resolve the province's problems and to ensure the end of insurgency. On February 25, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari had formally apologised to the Balochi people for injustices done to them. To the common Balochi these have turned out to be empty, meaningless words. Despite the PPP government holding office in the province, there is no let up to the injustices. Hundreds of political activists arrested since 2004 when Balochistan was put in a state of siege continue to rot in jails. Scores of innocent people taken away by intelligence agencies and kept incognito for months, and in cases for years, remain untraced. Thousands who were forced to leave their hearths and homes as a result of the military operation have been forced to live as refugees in far off places without proper shelter, food or medical aid. Nothing has been done by the new government to compensate and resettle them. Demands for a general amnesty have met with no response. There is little possibility of the nationalist parties of Balochistan agreeing to attend an APC under these conditions. The PPP has no policy about some of the core grievances that have over the decades deepened the sense of deprivation in the province. There is for instance no clarity about the mega projects like the Gwadar deep sea port which most Balochis believe, and rightly so, could turn them unto a minority in their own province. If the mineral resources of the province which include natural gas and gold and copper reserves had been used for the welfare of its people, Balochistan would long have outpaced other provinces in education, health and overall social development. The Balochis naturally want to establish their ownership over their resources. The jobless youth are told by the BLA that an independent Balochistan endowed as it is with gas, minerals, a large port and a crucial geographical location has the potential to turn into another Gulf state ensuring prosperity to all its people. The PPP led government has two choices. It can go for maximum autonomy, accept the right of the people of Balochistan over their natural resources, undertake crash training of thousands of Balochis to take over jobs of all types to run mega projects in their province thus creating in them a genuine desire to remain a part of Pakistan. Alternately it has to be prepared for the separation of the province over years to come if not in foreseeable future. As Sardar Ataullah Mengal once observed, a slave may not be able to get himself free but he would be constantly on the look out for any opportunity to escape. Balochi politicians willing to resolve the issue within the context of a genuine federation wherein the rights of the province on its natural resources are accepted have in the past been maligned and persecuted by the short-sighted establishment. Nawab Akbar Bugti was physically eliminated. Acts of the sort have led to the sidelining of the moderate nationalists. Twenty years back the concurrent list and share in government jobs were live issues. Now more important problems that need radical solutions have risen to prominence. Most Pakistanis today worry why they had failed to agree to maximum autonomy and a bigger share for East Pakistan in jobs and development funds. This is precisely what many of us might be doing in days to come if what belongs to the Balochi people is not given back to them. There is still time to strengthen the pro-federation forces provided the ruling coalition is willing to take the bold but necessary policy decisions. It must not be misled by assessments of the situation by the military establishment which tend to overrate the importance of sophisticated arms and ammunition and ignore the potential of the people in a state of desperation. E-mail: