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  • Dec 3rd, 2009
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The comprehensive and multi-dimensional Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package combining political, administrative and economic initiatives by the federal government is aimed at addressing longstanding grievances of the province and ameliorate lot of its people.

It was presented at a specially convened joint session of the parliament to get input of the elected representatives for a fine tuning of a set of proposed reforms for implementation in light of sense of the parliament to make Balochistan an equal partner in the Federation. It was prepared by a parliamentary committee headed by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani.

Political leadership in the parliament and other stakeholders were also included in the consultative process. It is giant leap forward towards addressing issues of the people and empowering them in accordance with their aspirations which will hopefully lead to a new era of socio-economic development in an atmosphere free of exploitation, terrorism and ignorance.

The people will no more be haunted by oppression but will see a new and pleasant dawn. The government is committed to making available necessary resources to make Balochistan truly reflective of its real culture and traditions. The provision of releasing all political workers, return of exiles, initiating political dialogue and setting up of a commission in respect of missing persons will have far-reaching effects and restoration of rights of the people.

There is need for more ownership rights of resources of Balochistan, regarded as the most backward province but potentially very rich in oil, gas, gold, copper, zinc, lead reserves. Soon after Pakistan Peoples Party government took over after February 2008 elections, it apologised to people of Balochistan and assured compensation for injustices of the past. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani extended invitation of talks to Baloch leaders outside the national mainstream.

The offer has the backing of the parliament and political leadership. It is hoped that those estranged leaders would respond positively to the offer of conciliation and talks. The joint session would be re-convened after Eid-ul-Azha for a detailed debate on the package in which a monitoring and implementation mechanism has been proposed for people of biggest province of the country and bring it at par with other provinces in regard to constitutional, political, economic rights and ensure ascendancy of the parliament.

The government will strive to make Balochistan a cradle of great civilisation, culture and traditions so that historians would have to accept the fact that after dark night of oppression, the emerging sun unleashed such a wave of solidarity and brotherhood that gave a new meaning of life to the province.

There is need to end political and economic deprivation of the provinces because unless the federating units were strong, Federation could not achieve destination of strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan. The need is to sink political differences, strengthen institutions and democratic system as Pakistan's future is deeply linked to democracy.

Necessary constitutional amendments would be made to strengthen provincial autonomy as demanded by the smaller provinces especially Balochistan. These would include abolition of Concurrent list of the Constitution, abolition of Police Order, Balochistan Local Government Ordinance 2001 from 6th Schedule and effective implementation of Article 153 relating to Council of Common Interests.

The package assures effective implementation of Articles 154 to 159 & 170 of the Constitution. The restructuring of National Finance Commission (NFC) Award criteria is already underway and criteria of inverse population, poverty and resource generation need to be taken into consideration.

The federal government, in consultation with Balochistan government, would release political workers except those involved in heinous crimes. Immediate to the acceptance of all proposals contained in the package, political dialogue would be initiated with all major stake holders in political spectrum of the province to bring them into mainstream. Political exiles who return to Pakistan will be facilitated except those involved in acts of terrorism.

The unanimously passed resolutions of Balochistan Assembly from 2002 till date related to the province would be implemented within legal framework of the Constitution. The federal government should review the role of federal agencies in the province and stop all such operations that are not related to the pursuit of fighting terrorism. The federal government announced that the presence of the army in Sui will be withdrawn and replaced by Frontier Constabulary (FC).

Proposals should not be formulated for construction of new cantonments except in frontier areas. Construction of new cantonments in Sui and Kohlu be stopped for the time being. Army will be withdrawn from Sui after handing over duties to FC which will take over.

The names of missing persons be identified and if found to be in custody, those against whom there are no charges, be released. Those against whom there are charges be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction within seven days for trial. Family members of such persons be informed accordingly and allowed visiting rights.

A fact-finding Commission, headed by a retired judge of High Court or Supreme Court be constituted to determine circumstances leading to the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti. Judicial inquiry by superior judiciary be ordered to inquire into the murder of Baloch political workers as well as target killing.

In view of provincial government's decision, policy of conversion of 'B' areas into 'A' areas may be reviewed from time to time. Urban areas may have regular Police. FC's role in law enforcement shall be under Chief Minister of the province. The powers conferred under Customs Act shall be withdrawn.

Coast Guard should perform its primary duty of checking smuggling of arms, narcotics along the coast and the border. There would be judicial enquiry by the superior judiciary into allotment of land at Gwadar. Special quota of scholarships by Higher Education Commission would be given to students from Balochistan to pursue studies leading up to local or foreign masters and Ph.Ds. A number of proposals have been made for rationalisation of royalty formula keeping in view demands of the province.

The federal government will pay royalty worth 120 billion rupees on Gas Development Surcharge from 1954 to 1991, to be payable over twelve years. All new mega projects would be initiated with consent and approval of the provincial government. There will be a free economic zone at Gwadar and all appointments in Gwadar from scale 1 to 16 would be from local population. Preference would be given to qualified local contractors while awarding contracts related to the port. Two jetties would be constructed on eastern and western bays.

There will be a special development package for Sui area. The federal government would create five thousand additional jobs. Balochistan will be able to purchase upto 20% of right shares of PPL, OGDCL & Sui Southern when offered in open market. The federal government will transfer 20% from its 30% shares in Saindak project and on completion, it will be exclusively handed over to the province. There shall be uniform price of gas throughout the country for calculation of gas development surcharge. Special incentives would be given to local tribes in Kohlu district to facilitate exploration.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

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