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Red tape hindering progress on Balochistan package

ISLAMABAD: The mainstreaming of Balochistan remains a far cry even 15 months after the government initiative called Aghaz Huqooq-i-Balochistan was launched, with most of policy decisions awaiting implementation because of procedural and administrative red tape.

Aslam RaisaniOf the 61 major steps envisaged in the package, only 15 have reached the stage of the full implementation despite more than a dozen high-profile meetings, two of them presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, says an official report finalised last week.

Most of the policy decisions stood finalised as part of the 18th Amendment and the 7th National Finance Commission award.

The constitutional and economic package was announced in Nov 2009 to undo a deep-rooted sense of alienation and deprivation among the people of Balochistan. Interestingly, the measures on the political and constitutional front have failed to materialise at the administrative level.

The measures either directly fall under the NFC or were settled as part of the NFC award.

Some of them included enhanced resources under the NFC, revision of the gas royalty and surcharge formula, an agreement on phased payment of gas development surcharge arrears and relief in cases of natural calamities.

The report prepared by the establishment division which functions as a secretariat to the cabinet committee entrusted with implementation says that about a dozen policy proposals under the package are in advanced stages of implementation while 34 others trail behind.

The report is, however, silent on the question of forming a commission to determine circumstances leading to the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a judicial inquiry into allotment of land in Gwadar, takeover by the provincial government of 20 per cent shares in PPL, OGDCL and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited and payment of compensation to people returning to Sui and Dera Bugti.

The authorities have failed to revisit the role of federal agencies like Frontier Corps and Pakistan Coast Guards in the province.

The package envisaged civilian control over FC, particularly in matter of law and order and local operations to be conducted in coordination with the district administration.

“Attempts are being made to address this aspect” is the only development, says to the report.

Regarding jurisdictional limits during peace time, the report says the FC and Pakistan Coast Guards are required to operate within certain geographical limits -FC up to a certain distance from the international border for anti-smuggling and the PCG from the coast -while for all other posts permission is required from the provincial government. There has been no progress on this front.

“Existence of all such FC and PCG checkposts (set up without permission of the provincial government) is being addressed (sic) under the AHB.”

One of the major initiatives in the package is replacement of army by FC in Sui and Kohlu and ending construction of cantonments in Kohlu and Sui.

The report says the “construction of cantonment at Sui and Kohlu has been stopped. Cantonment at Kohlu has been taken over by FC”. This has not happened in Sui.

“Approval for establishment of four wings and one corps headquarter of FC has been given” to replace army in Sui.

The report says the progress on resolving the missing persons issue also remains critical.

The package envisaged persons with no charge be released, those charged be presented for trial and their families informed about their status.

The report said there were 183 cases pertaining to prisoners not involved in heinous crimes involving 681 persons.

Of them, 172 cases involving 665 persons have been withdrawn and 11 cases were being looked into by the provincial government.

A committee headed by the Balochistan home secretary was currently in the process of examining cases against political prisoners.

Also, people arrested by the FC were required to be handed over to police or district administration and the role of FC and PCG should be as prescribed under the law.

The only progress on this front has been formation of a committee comprising senior officials of ministries of interior, defence, Balochistan government and Federal Board of Revenue to resolve issues relating to jurisdictions of respective agencies and issue of checkposts and operational control.

“The ministry of interior has asked the FC to assist the provincial government in matters of law and order and when asked and cautioned both the FC and PCG from setting up of new checkposts”.

From the defence side, the progress has been limited to the extent that the defence secretary has assured “to look into all issues, hold in-depth meetings and come up with possible solutions”.

A total of 23 missing people from Balochistan have been traced as reported by the ministry of interior and the provincial government.

The conversion of B areas into A areas introduced by the previous government has been done away with and all such areas have been reconverted into B areas (as reported by the Balochistan government).

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