Saturday June 22, 2024

Inclusive development key to peace in Balochistan: experts

By Sher Ali Khalti
May 27, 2024
A local resident shows a mountain in the Koh-e-Sabz area of Pakistan´s south-west Baluchistan province on January 18, 2024. — AFP
A local resident shows a mountain in the Koh-e-Sabz area of Pakistan´s south-west Baluchistan province on January 18, 2024. — AFP

LAHORE: Balochistan, a region characterised by its challenging landscape and complex socio-political history, faces a pivotal moment in its journey towards peace and development, say security experts.

A source, requesting anonymity, said the capture of separatist leaders like Gulzar Imam Shambay in April 2023 signifies a potential turning point for the region, offering a chance to move away from the cycle of violence towards a future defined by collective aspirations and constructive engagement.

He said the capture of Gulzar Imam Shambay has profoundly impacted the banned Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), creating a leadership vacuum that has destabilised the organisation. Formed from the merger of the proscribed Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and the banned United Baloch Army (UBA), the BNA now faces significant internal conflicts over resources and finances, hindering its operational effectiveness and pushing it towards potential collapse, the source added.

Pakistan's strategic offer of amnesty has further exacerbated the BNA's challenges. According to the source, the amnesty offer, coupled with humane treatment, acts as a powerful incentive for other insurgents to lay down their arms. The possibility of a peaceful reintegration into society is increasingly attractive compared to the uncertainty and peril of continued insurgency.

Another security expert who also chose to remain anonymous, emphasised that reconciliation and reintegration of former insurgents into society can help heal divisions and foster long-term peace. Comprehensive support programmes for defectors, including job training and psychological support, will be crucial.

"Inclusive development is vital to prevent future insurgencies. The government must address the root cause of discontent, ensuring that local communities benefit from natural resources and improving infrastructure, education, and healthcare," security expert added.

The government has been taking various positive steps to engage the youth in Balochistan, focusing on education, employment, and skill development. By prioritising youth engagement, the government aims to prevent Baloch youth from being drawn into insurgency.

The security expert stated, "The Anti-State Elements (ASAs) employ a multifaceted approach, leveraging violence, political strife, and humanitarian issues to challenge the Pakistani state. They seek to undermine the government's authority and legitimacy while shaping a negative perception of Pakistan both at home and abroad."

Addressing this challenge requires a comprehensive strategy, including enhanced security measures, political reconciliation, and addressing legitimate humanitarian concerns to counter the ASAs' narrative and actions.

To combat the propaganda of anti-state elements, the government should highlight ongoing projects for the welfare of the people. Investments in educational infrastructure, such as building new schools, colleges, and universities, and introducing scholarships and financial aid programmes for students from underprivileged backgrounds, are steps in the right direction. By promoting reconciliation, the government seeks to bridge divides and promote unity, ultimately contributing to stability and development in the region, the security expert noted.