ISLAMABAD: Offering talks to estranged elements in Balochistan, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Tuesday said that the government would not let a handful of people take the patriotic people of Balochistan hostage, adding that it would also never talk to those who disrespected the national flag.
Addressing the participants of a workshop on ‘Balochistan Situation — Perception and Realities, The Way Forward’ at the National Defence University (NDU), which was attended by intellectuals, scholars and media persons, the prime minister said the people of Pakistan would go an extra mile to redress the grievances of the people of Balochistan. He said the unrest in Balochistan was an “internal issue” that would be amicably resolved by the government and the people of Pakistan through “collective wisdom” and by standing united.
The prime minister described the turbulence in Balochistan as ‘foreign abetted’ and said the state and people of Pakistan were capable of solving their problems and would assert their sovereign right and independence in dealing with their domestic problems. He said the unrest in small pockets in Balochistan could not be equated with insurgency, though it could have a simmering impact on other areas if not tackled immediately. He emphasised that the situation in Balochistan should be seen in its true perspective keeping in view its internal and external linkages.
“There is not one, but many fronts on which we need to fight for the cause of the people of Balochistan,” he said, adding that those who wanted peace in the region must keep in mind the aspirations of more than 95 percent people of Balochistan, who were as patriotic as in any other part of the country.
Raja urged the “few angry youngsters” involved in negative activities within the country and abroad not to fall prey to the intrigues of detractors of Pakistan. “The entire Pakistan is yours, come and talk to your own government. You will not be disappointed,” he said.
The prime minister expressed full faith in holding constructive dialogues and political engagement, which he said could steer the province and country out of its present set of problems. He said the government would do everything to restore peace and security in Balochistan. “We will not talk to those who are against Pakistan’s sovereigntyand Pakistani flag,” he stressed.
Raja called upon all the stakeholders to keep in mind the larger interest of the nation linked to the future of Balochistan and the country indeed. He said “dispassionate” decisions could have an impact on the lives of people in the long run. He stressed rising above personal interests to empathise with Baloch brothers and find pragmatic solutions for all issues. “What we want to achieve is actually winning the hearts of our brothers through a solemn and dedicated commitment for their socioeconomic uplift,” he said.
The prime minister asked the national media to refrain from towing the line of foreign media on the Balochistan issue, which he said was projecting it “disproportionately”. He said it was undermining the national solidarity and causing anxiety among the people of Pakistan. Raja termed socioeconomic deprivation as the real issue of Balochistan. He regretted that this basic issue was receiving proportionately little attention from the media. He pointed out that sectarian killings in the province needed to be seen in the context of geo-strategic linkages to the Balochistan issue. He said non-state actors and foreign-sponsored groups under the sectarian cover were fuelling the fire that warranted vigilance at governmental and societal levels.
Raja said the democratic government had taken concrete steps to take the people of Balochistan onboard. He mentioned President Asif Ali Zardari’s public apology to the people of Balochistan for the wrongs done to them and a pledge to usher in a new dawn of prosperity in the province. He said the 7th National Finance Commission Award, 18th Constitutional Amendment and Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan initiative were implemented to redress the grievances of Baloch people. Besides, a large number of Baloch youth had been recruited in the military and civil sectors, he added.
The prime minister lauded the role of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps in promoting and protecting the national interests in Balochistan. In addition to generating economic activities, he said, the Pakistan Army had opened a number of public schools and cadet colleges in remote areas of the province. He appreciated that the Headquarters Southern Command in collaboration with the provincial government was taking care of 4,500 students from across Balochistan stationed in Quetta.
The prime minister stressed the need for focusing on the social sector, including education and healthcare, wherein Balochistan lagged behind due to its vast area and the lack of resources vis-a-vis demand. “Balochistan tops the agenda of the present government and we will do everything possible to eliminate the sense of deprivation among our Baloch brothers and sisters,” he said. “I assure the people of Balochistan that your government will continue to reach out to you and will go an extra mile to alleviate your sufferings.”
Raja mentioned several projects, including the completion of Ratu Deru Link Road, aimed at unleashing the real benefit of Gwadar Port City and the Kachhi Canal project to transform agriculture and alleviate poverty. Earlier, NDU President Lt Gen Agha Umer Farooq greeted the prime minister on his arrival at the university.