Suffering from militancy, sectarian violence and a separatist insurgency – the country’s top political and military leadership is betting on trade to uplift Balochistan.
The decision to open at least two more border crossing points with Iran and Afghanistan in Balochistan appears to be the first step towards a plan to create ‘vital links’ to transform the province into a transit route between South and Central Asia — a proposal given the green light by the United States, but one that may affect Islamabad’s relationship with one of its closest ally, China.
According to officials familiar with the development, the top political and military leaders met in Islamabad last month to tame what some participants called an ‘active insurgency’ in the province.
The huddle to address the breakdown of law and order and missing persons in Balochistan was presided over by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam.
The meeting that came on the heels of calls by top political leaders to curtail the role of the military in Balochistan also decided to form a six-member committee to spearhead dialogue with rebel Baloch chieftains.
At least three top officials, including a federal minister, told The Express Tribune that the top leadership was unanimous on addressing the Balochistan imbroglio with a mix of political means and economic measures.
“One thing that we all agreed was that the youth in Balochistan don’t have many opportunities to earn. There is no industry in the province, no agriculture. So we decided to give them a chance to have cross-border trade,” said the federal minister, who attended the meeting.
Currently, there are only two active international crossing points between the two countries – one at Taftan with Iran and one at Chaman with Afghanistan. However, these facilities are being used as transit points for smuggling.
Another official, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune, that a decision had not been taken yet as to where the crossing points would be established, adding that they could be located anywhere between Jeewani and Lasbella.
The official went on to add that another crossing point may be established in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while at least two would be set up in Balochistan.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.