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The Baloch: A people without a state
A leading nationalist party of Balochistan, BNP, has used the tool of dialogue to press for its demands which is quite significant in the backdrop of decade long armed insurgency in the province.
Amid the controversy surrounding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Balochistan National Party (BNP) conducted a Multi-Party Conference (MPC) on January 10. Basic purpose of the MPC was to present the case of Balochistan with regard to CPEC to all the mainstream political parties of Pakistan. MPC was titled CPEC and Gwadar: Future prospects for Balochistan.
This MPC was unique in nature as it gave space to both opposition and government to present their case on the issues raised. Top leaders of almost all political parties participated in MPC. Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal was also present in the MPC.
Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini, general Secretary of BNP delivered the main presentation from the side of host party. In his presentation, Senator Jamaldini focused on political instability, military operations, absence of civil rights, mineral and coastal resources, strategic depth of Gwadar Port and resource distribution from these projects.
Sardar Akhtar Mengal, former Chief Minister of Balochistan and host of MPC said that if state does not meet their demands then it will be difficult for it to invite the people or political parties of Balochistan to Islamabad in future.
Participants of MPC, belonging from Balochistan, raised concern over the latest restriction imposed in Gwadar in the name of projects. Different speakers opposed the scheme in which citizens of Gwadar would be issued special resident cards and outsiders would have to seek permission to enter the port city.
At the end of the MPC, a set of resolutions were drafted and released. The resolutions demand that ownership of Gwadar Mega Project should be handed over to Balochistan, federal government should implement the decisions taken in APC of 28th May 2015, and legislation should be carried out to prevent major demographic changes and provision of basic facilities including drinking water to people of Gwadar on urgent basis.
Normally, BNP complains that it does not get enough coverage in mainstream media of Pakistan. However, this MPC got significant coverage in media and the reason was that it was held in Islamabad. If it was held in Quetta then situation would have been different in terms of media coverage. So, the decision of choosing Islamabad as venue for MPC proved to be a wise one.
There is mixed opinion of different stakeholders on success of the MPC. Shahzada Zulfiqar, a senior analyst based in Quetta believes that MPC was a success in a sense that a provincial party of Balochistan managed to hold a successful MPC in Islamabad. Mr. Zulfiqar feared that if establishment did not take action based on the demands of the MPC then it will help strengthen the cause of insurgents in Balochistan.
Waheed Baloch, former speaker of Balochistan assembly had a totally different take on the MPC. He said that MPC was hijacked by non-Baloch parties who used it to further their own interests at the cost of Baloch interests.
Nawab Ghous Baksh Barozai, former caretaker Chief Minister of Balochistan told The Nation that "It is now the prime duty of the [Federal] Government to come out in a clear and transparent manner to save the Project from further controversies."
Mr. Barozai endorsed the claim that as CPEC starts from the Balochistan so it must have the priority in the reaping benefits of the proposed Economic Corridor.
Former caretaker Chief Minister criticized some of the government parties including NP, PkMAP and JUI-F for their suspicious and dual policies on the issue of CPEC.
Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, spokesman of provincial government said that federal government cannot change anything substantial in CPEC as it's being financed by Chinese money and not from Pakistani taxpayer's money. He further claimed that federation has applied an inclusive approach of all of Pakistan in CPEC projects and refuted claims of discrimination with Balochistan and other provinces.
Irrespective of the outcomes of the MPC in near future, it's a step in positive direction given the context of Balochistan. A leading nationalist party of Balochistan, BNP, has used the tool of dialogue to press for its demands which is quite significant in the backdrop of decade long armed insurgency in the province.
This MPC further proves a point that political leadership of Balochistan is still willing to talk. This provides the rulers in Islamabad with a golden opportunity to mend fences with political leadership of the restive province. Taking urgent action on the demands made in the MPC would be a giant leap in the process of solving the Balochistan conflict.