ISLAMABAD: Amidst a debilitating tribal insurgency in Balochistan, the prime minister has issued an ominous warning: if the ‘unrest in small pockets’ is not quelled immediately, it might seep into other areas.
However, in an effort to play down the insurgency, Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the unrest in ‘small pockets’ could hardly be equated with an insurgency.
Speaking at the military-run National Defence University in Islamabad on Tuesday, the premier vowed to eliminate a ‘handful of elements’ who were destabilising Balochistan.
He said his government would do everything to restore peace in the volatile province.
The prime minister appeared unwilling to abandon his overall conciliatory posturing, as he renewed calls for disgruntled Baloch leaders to renounce violence and opt for negotiations.
“The entire Pakistan is yours. Come and talk to your own government. You will not be disappointed,” he told Baloch leaders in an address.
“The people of Pakistan will go an extra mile to redress the grievances of the people of Balochistan,” he added. Constructive dialogue and political engagement can steer the province out of its troubles. Some Baloch leaders – including Barhamdagh Bugti and Hyrbyair Marri who are living in exile in Europe – have rebuffed repeated dialogue offers from the Pakistani government.
Premier Ashraf, however, made it clear that his offer was not for those who wanted to destabilise the country. “We will not talk to those who are against Pakistan’s sovereignty and who burn its flag,” he added.
The prime minister described the unrest in Balochistan as ‘foreign abetted’ and urged ‘a few angry Baloch youngsters’ not to fall prey to the intrigues hatched by the detractors of Pakistan. The situation should be seen in its true perspective keeping in view its internal and external linkages, he said. “There are not one but many fronts on which we need to fight for the cause of the people of Balochistan.”
In a comment addressed to the international community, the premier said that those who wanted peace in the region must keep in mind the aspirations of more than 95 per cent people of Balochistan who “are as patriotic as any other Pakistani”.
Security forces lauded
However, Premier Ashraf lavished praise on the army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps for ‘promoting and protecting national interests in Balochistan’. The Frontier Corps has repeatedly been criticised by the Supreme Court for the enforced disappearance of Baloch political workers.
In addition to generating economic activities, he said, the armed forces had opened a number of public schools and cadet colleges in remote areas of the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.