Thank you, People's government, for addressing genuine issues and grievance of the people of Balochistan, through a comprehensive "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package" which was tabled in the Parliament today as advised by the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani formally announced the promised package on Balochistan in parliament on Tuesday, saying that “dreams of Baloch people have come true,” report said. “The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package is being announced today. Dreams of people of Balochistan will come true through this package,” said the Premier. He said the package contains a series of constitutional reforms, economic measures and administrative steps to assuage the hurt feelings of the people of Balochistan. Gilani also said: ‘We apologise for neglecting Balochistan in the past’
The Head of package-preparing Committee Mian Raza Rabbani announced the package in the joint session of the Parliament. He said the package comprises four parts, i.e. constitutional, political, administrative and economic recommendations.
However, he said the package is not a substitute for provincial autonomy, adding the national history in connection with provincial autonomy is rather bitter and those who raised their voice in past demanding their rights were termed as defectors.
Mian Raza said the dialogue process would be initiated with all political forces in the province and the exiled people would be offered passage for homecoming.
Also, it has been recommended to present to the fore the list of missing people and they would be brought to the courts, adding the package recommends that those missing people would be set free who have no cases against them.
The joint session of the Parliament was held here today at 3.00 p.m. for approval of Balochistan package.
President Asif Ali Zardari under the article 54(1) of the Constitution summoned the joint session of the Parliament to discuss the package for the uplift of Balochistan.
Editorial: Balochistan package
The government on Tuesday presented the much-awaited Balochistan package to parliament. The package comprises constitutional, political, administrative and economic recommendations. It states that the government is “conscious that the provinces have a sense of deprivation in the political and economic structures of the federation” and that the provisions of the 1973 Constitution related to federation-province relations were circumvented in the past. The package talks about giving provincial autonomy to Balochistan and abolishing the concurrent list. It also recommends that the under-construction cantonments at Sui and Kohlu in the Bugti and Marri areas respectively be halted for the present, and the military be withdrawn, to be replaced by the FC. The package also deals with the issue of missing people. It says that the list of missing persons would be investigated and if they are found in custody, would be released. The government has also assured that there would be no political victimisation. Among other things, there would be an inquiry by the superior judiciary into the murders of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Baloch political workers, and target killing in the province.
It is indeed a welcome move that for the first time any government has realised that in order to safeguard the federation, it has to seriously address the Balochistan issue. For the first time, a government has recognised the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Balochistan and promised to rehabilitate them. Balochistan has been gravely neglected in the past and victimised. With the insurgency in Balochistan registering its presence time and again, the issue of provincial autonomy has finally assumed critical importance. Bringing normalcy to Balochistan may not be as easy a task as may appear because the people of Balochistan carry a history of neglect, exploitation and repression. The Baloch people have been fighting for their rights through political and constitutional means for nearly three decades after the military action of the 1970s and only frustration with that fruitless process persuaded a new generation to take up arms again. The Centre has finally been forced to consider the question of provincial autonomy and equitable distribution of resources. Despite being the richest province in terms of natural resources, including gas and minerals, successive governments have been denying the benefits of these riches to the local population of Balochistan. The government has now promised to settle the arrears of gas royalty owed to the province. It has also promised that all new mega projects would be initiated with the consent and approval of the provincial government. Balochistan’s share in the projects’ profits/benefits has also been assured. This is indeed a welcome move because in the past, the federal government did not involve the local people in any project, two prominent examples being Gwadar Port and the Saindak project.
With this government’s conciliatory and mature approach towards the issues facing the country, it is hoped that Balochistan’s grievances will finally be addressed. However, some of the provisions of the package may work against its thrust of reconciliation. For example, the leaders in exile are welcome to come home without fear of prosecution, except those who have serious charges against them. Similarly, political prisoners are to be released except those with serious charges against them. That leaves out all the prominent leaders in exile and most of the political workers in custody, whether acknowledged or ‘missing’. This will hardly work to bring a healing touch to the troubled province. The government must talk to the actual protagonists to bring about real change in the province.
That said, the government must be appreciated for bringing forth a package that addresses the most important issues related to a province that has been neglected and hard done by for the last six decades. The Baloch people deserve relief after successive military operations and exploitation at the hands of the Centre.