CPEC and Balochistan
Courtesy: MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF
A boulevard of progress and development
Needless to emphasise that CPEC presents a historic opportunity to change economic profile of Pakistan and the economic situations of its teeming millions, especially the people of Balochistan besides unleashing an era of shared economic prosperity in the region, with Pakistan playing the role of an economic hub. The success and implementation of this epoch making initiative by China and Pakistan depends largely on restoration of peace in Balochistan to facilitate the development of the necessary infrastructure. In fact it would not be an exaggeration to say that Balochistan is the pivot of the CPEC. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presiding over a high level meeting at Quetta convened to evaluate the security situation and progress on development projects, which was attended by the COAS, high ranking military and civil officers and the political leadership of the province, rightly said that Balochistan was the corner stone of future development of Pakistan and would be the principal beneficiary of the CPEC projects. He also accorded approved a plan known as ‘Pur Aman Balochistan’ for bringing the angry Baloch leaders back to the national mainstream.
The federal government and the military establishment have been working relentlessly on a two-pronged strategy to restore writ of the state in Balochistan and ending an almost decade old insurgency in the province. The first is the use of the military muscle, as part of the National Action Plan, to quell the foreign supported and funded insurgency in the province by all means. General Raheel Sharif who recently visited Panjgur and Turbat to inspect the road network being built by FWO as part of the Economic Corridor said that CPEC and Gawadar port would be built and developed as one of the most strategic deep sea port in the region at all costs. The FWO is entrusted with constructing 870Km roads at five different locations out of which 542 Kms have been completed in a record time of one and a half year.
Earlier in the wake of the killing of 20 labourers by the insurgents, the COAS sounded a warning to the insurgents in these words: “The anti-state elements should get prepared to face dire consequences. Those found involved in any sort of activity against national interests will not be spared. The armed forces are responsible for security of the country and will go to any length to establish writ of the state and unearth terrorists, their abettors, sympathisers and financiers and none of them will find a place to hide in the country.” He also warned the foreign forces supporting insurgency in the province to keep their hands off Pakistan. This strategy is being successfully implemented as is evident from the intelligence-based spate of military actions that have been taken against the insurgents in which hundreds of them have been killed across the province and as a consequence there has been a sharp fall in the incidents of sabotage and terrorism in the province.
The other strategy purports to encourage and promote a process of reconciliation by bringing the insurgents and the estranged Baloch leaders back into the national mainstream. Efforts on this front have also shown some positive signs and probably the most significant development in this regard is that Khan of Kalat, Suleman Dawood, who is living in London in self-imposed exile since 2006 and has also formed a government in exile, did receive delegations from Balochistan to discuss his return. It is pertinent to mention that he spurned all the previous attempts to involve him in a dialogue on the issue. Reports about contacts with Brahmdagh Bugti are also rife and sources close the Chief Minister Balochistan have revealed that efforts are on the anvil to convene a meeting of the grand tribal jirga to appeal to the exiled leaders to return to the country.
The recent surrender of some commanders of the insurgents along with their companions also indicates the success of the behind the scene efforts through tribal channels to persuade the insurgents to give up their armed campaign against the state. Another very commendable step taken by the government is the announcement of an amnesty scheme that envisages handsome monetary benefits for the surrendering militants, ranging between half a million to 2 million rupees. These efforts combined together hopefully will have a ripple effect.
The federal government, especially Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to begin with, took a very wise step in installing a Baloch nationalist as the Chief Minister of the province to facilitate the process of reconciliation. Under the National Action Plan the government of Balochistan was also authorised and mandated to make efforts for reconciliation and it goes without saying that the initiative has started producing positive results.
The Army apart from fighting the insurgents has also put in place commendable initiatives in the education sector and providing employment to Baloch youth by recruiting more than five thousand in the Army. These measures will help in eliminating the sense of deprivation in the province and thereby denying the insurgents of a legitimate cause to mislead the Baloch youth. These efforts surely need to be strengthened and supplemented through other steps devoid of political expediencies and firmly rooted in the recognition of ground realities. The military action against the insurgents designed to establish the writ of the state in the province must continue with unruffled commitment as emphasised by the COAS.
There is also a need to sensitise the international community about Indian interference in Balochistan and unmasking its real face before the international community. It is encouraging to note that the government has finally decided to take up the matter at the forum of the UN. That needs to be pursued vigorously to put pressure on India to dissuade her from supporting the insurgency. It is pertinent to mention that India is also trying to sabotage the CPEC through covert and overt means and making vigorous efforts to malign Pakistan at the international level by projecting its image as a state sponsoring terrorist activities in the neighbouring countries, especially India. The latest hue and cry over the Gurdaspur incident by the Indian government and media is a classic example of the grudge and enmity that India harbours against Pakistan. Thank God it has turned out to be fallacious allegation courtesy the efforts of the Pakistani media at such an early stage. The arrested person belongs to a village in Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan, therefore, needs to mount a well thought out strategy and campaign to thwart the Indian designs to soil its image among the comity of nations.