Malik:“Instead of addressing the concerns of the Baloch through intellectual or political means, they were addressed with guns,”
Balochistan crisis: Panellists urge for emulating British-Irish model for conflict resolution
Speakers at a conference on Monday called upon the state to change its policy from use-of-force to dialogue. They also advised the rulers to adopt a pro-people mindset.
The speakers expressed these thoughts during the opening ceremony of a three-day international conference on Balochistan’s history and culture, organised by the Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (NIHCR) at a local hotel.
Balochistan Chief Minister (CM) Dr Abdul Malik said the conflict in his province stemmed from the lack of a political approach to resolving the issues of the people.
“Instead of addressing the concerns of the Baloch through intellectual or political means, they were addressed with guns,” Malik stated.
The CM of the largest province by area said people are the real source of power, and if they are united, the hatred will go away.
“I will only tell Islamabad’s elites to change their mindset, not just for Balochistan, but all of the provinces,” said Malik.
He said he believed the British-Irish approach of negotiating with insurgents will be better than the Sri Lankan-Tamil approach of killing the last man.
QAU National Institute of Pakistan Studies Director Dr Tahir Amin supported a policy of dialogue during his keynote address on the factors for the current insurgency in the province.
He warned that the current phase of insurgency, coupled with issues such as missing persons, mass graves and extrajudicial killings pose serious threats to the province and the country.
Amin said his main argument is that the state policy is the most important factor in the present crises. International factors are peripheral and could only become significant if domestic crises are not resolved, he said.
The state’s narrative demonises Baloch sardars as opposed to the alternative narrative of the marginalised Baloch under threat of extermination and there is no effort by the government to bring the alienated sardars into the mainstream, he highlighted.
Amin said if the state policy is focused on power sharing, the movements against the state will decline.
He said there was an indication in the 70’s that the Baloch supported the federation but the subsequent military actions seemed to have destroyed goodwill and unleashed a “terrible cycle of violence.”
“The state policy should change,” Amin said. “There should be dialogue with all stakeholders, the policy should be dominated by the elected people and the missing persons issue should be resolved on priority.”
Malik said the missing persons issue is still a problem for his government and a “very basic need” for any negotiations to take place. “I agree that there is a need to revisit the policy especially regarding radicalisation.”
Other speakers highlighted that people in the resource-rich province are living in extreme poverty.
Malik said his government has drastically increased the education budget and is working on confidence-building measures as well.
The conference, ending on Wednesday, is part of NIHCR’s attempt to document the history and culture of provinces.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2014.