Baloch nationalists reject Musharraf’s talks offer

By Malik Siraj Akbar

QUETTA: Baloch nationalist leaders on Thursday rejected President Pervez Musharraf’s ‘offer’ of talks on the Balochistan issue.

President Musharraf invited Baloch leaders to talks on issues facing the province during his visit to Dera Bugti and Sui districts earlier on Thursday, but Baloch leaders said the offer was “fraudulent and insincere”.

Talking to Daily Times, Kachkol Ali Baloch, the leader of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly, said that the inauguration of a military cantonment in Sui despite a unanimous resolution in the provincial assembly against cantonments in the province was “a violation of people’s wishes”. He said that the president’s repeated assurances to Balochistan’s people about the development of the province were “misleading because none of the development projects are actually meant to improve people’s socio-economic conditions”. The government promised in the past to include Baloch people in the Pakistan Army and other national institutions, but did not do so, he claimed.

“We wish the president had inaugurated a university or a technical college for the Baloch people instead of a cantonment. It is ironic that the Baloch Regiment of the Pakistan Army does not have a single Baloch. Similarly, there is no Baloch representation in the Pakistan Navy, Coast Guards and Marine Security Agency,” he said.

Criticising the president’s remarks about the conversion of ‘B areas’ of Balochistan into ‘A areas’, Baloch said the decision had been made against the wishes of the Baloch and Pashtoon people, adding that it was aimed at paving the way for Punjabi officers settled in Balochistan to “intimidate Baloch people”.

Habib Jalib, the secretary general of the Balochistan National Party, said President Musharraf had apologised to the Baloch people twice in the past over successive governments’ injustices to them. “The president never kept his word. Had he not sanctioned a military operation in the province and apologised over Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing, we would have considered resuming talks with him. He has closed all doors for talks with Baloch leaders,” he said.

Jalib accused the government of ‘grabbing’ more land in the name of development and “converting the Baloch majority into a minority”. He said that Gen Musharraf promised to give jobs to thousands of Baloch people, but the government did not hire even five percent of those promised.

Jamhoori Watan Party Information Secretary Amanullah Kanrani said: “It is somewhat impossible to fill the huge vacuum created in Balochistan due to the government’s repeated blunders. Akbar Bugti was the right man to talk to, but the government killed him,” he added.

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