Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Interview: Bringing peace to Balochistan – Akbar Hussain Durrani

 BY Mian Abrar

Akbar Hussain Durrani - The Home Secretary, Balochistan

Making talks a success

Mr Akbar Hussain Durrani is the Home Secretary, Balochistan. He conceived, led and planned the operation against religious, sectarian and ethnic insurgents in across Balochistan.

It was none other than Akbar Durrani who convinced the then Corps Commander of the Southern Command Lt General (r) Nasir Janjua not to provide state cover to some insurgents who were targeting the miscreants of BLA, BRA and UBA, including Shafiq Mengal who is on the run now.

He talked to DNA exclusively about the evolving situation in the province.

Question: News about ‘uprisings’ and ‘miscreants’ are generally misunderstood in other provinces. Since you have been an integral part of the operation against such troublemakers, could you please explain the present state of the agitation in Balochistan?

Akbar Durrani: This was the fifth insurgency in Balochistan, which is being dealt with by the security forces successfully. Out of the total 32 districts of Balochistan, insurgents had influence in only eight districts. However, after the successful operation, 95 percent insurgency has died down — thanks to the timely punitive action initiated by the provincial government and Civil Armed Forces (CAF). The people of Pakistan in general and the inhabitants of Balochistan in specific have appreciated the action taken against the outlaws and miscreants.

    The headquarters of the Southern Command, federal and provincial intelligence agencies, civil armed forces, police and levies were not only on one page, but rather they were on one table under one roof

Although there is a coalition government in Balochistan, the political leadership has shown maturity in handling this operation. Within two years, the surge of miscreants was brought to the lowest ebb. I must give credit to all the officers, officials of the Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) who have laid down their lives to eliminate this menace of terrorism.

The headquarters of the Southern Command, federal and provincial intelligence agencies, civil armed forces, police and levies were not only on one page, but rather they were on one table under one roof. The credit for the successful operation goes to the people of Balochistan who have suffered enormously but they refused to bow to the misleading slogans of the miscreant forces.

Q: How do you see the reconciliation process in Balochistan? How much this process has succeeded and how may top insurgent commanders have surrendered yet?

AD: The state has two functions — maintenance of law or rule of law and tax collection. Any person who takes up arms against the state and kills innocent people has to be dealt with under the laws of the land. In case of the insurgency in Balochistan, the state took strong punitive action against sectarian and ethnic miscreants who were involved in taking up arms and attacks on innocent public or state installations and security forces.

The Balochistan government had launched back-channel dialogue with the miscreants to help bring back the misled youth back into the mainstream. The federal government, armed forces and intelligence agencies were fully on board.

However, to make the talks a success, strong action was launched before the dialogue process. Under the plan, the government conducted Intelligence-Based Operations (IBOs) against the miscreants. These operations were largely appreciated and backed by the general public, hence, this operation brought peace and stability in the province.

Meanwhile, the government also launched a reconciliation process namely “Pur Aman Balochistan” under which all those outlaws who would lay down their arms shall be treated as peaceful citizens. They would also get a stipend in three categories. Under these categories, those who agree to lay down their arms would get Rs1.5 million, one million and 0.5 million besides cash payment for their weapons. Out of this cost, 50 percent would be provided by the federal government and an equal 50 percent would be paid by the provincial government.

Those who would lay down arms would have to submit a Surety Bond under the signature of his respective tribal chief promising not to take part in any sort of insurgency. Any such person who falls between 18-30 years would also be employed with any government department. People beyond 30 years of age would be provided a skilled job to help bring such people into the mainstream. The children of such people would also be provided free-of-cost education and health facilities.

Under the Pur Aman Balochistan initiative, around 436 second-tier commanders/insurgents have laid down arms and have also received Rs100,000 as first tranche of the promised amount. Another 200 are in the process of laying down arms and getting benefits of the amnesty scheme. The second-tier leadership of the Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), United Balochistan Army (UBA) and other insurgent groups have laid down arms and joined the government ranks.

Q: What, do you think, will be the fallout of the change of CM? Dr Malik had set high standards of a functioning government and clean administration, which was a welcome break from the Raisani days. What does the future hold?

AD: Democracy has its own strengths. The continuity and the change of the government are a regular phenomenon in a democratic setup. The period of Dr Abdul Malik shall provided a benchmark for the upcoming setup as a high standard has been set up in various fields including education, health, communication, etc. If provision of safe drinking water is a revolution, Dr Malik’s government allocated 26 percent funds in budget for education, while health was given 14 percent and 32 percent allocations were made for the communication sector — all these allocations were a record by all means.

Above all, the improvement in the law and order and improvement in lives of the people at large across province would encourage the new government to continue the good work. Now the international obligations in polio vaccination have been met and this success was also lauded by the local and international donors. Now hardly a single case of refusal for polio vaccination has been reported. This all success was due to a positive campaign by political and religious leadership in this regard. Let’s hope that next setup would work on the same lines to meet the required targets.

Q: Baloch leaders, of late, have expressed concern about the way China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being handled; some have even warned that it might end up like the Kalabagh Dam. Are you more optimistic?

AD: All major political parties have given their willingness and assurance to support the CPEC due to massive economic activity and infrastructure development which is bringing prosperity in the lives of the people of Balochistan. Since in the past, deprivation had resulted into misleading slogans raised by miscreants. Lack of basic amenities of life had also played a key role in upping the ante.

Therefore, the massive economic activity and huge development is changing the thinking patterns in Balochistan and common public is getting the advantage of the better life and all basic amenities would now be on the doorsteps of the people of Balochistan.

    The security of the Gwadar Port has also been ensured by the armed forces while CCTV cameras and other modern surveillance gadgets have also been installed. Marines are also playing their role in protecting the port site

CPEC is not a mere construction of a road from Kashgar to Gwadar. Rather it is a corridor which would bring about a cultural change in across Pakistan and people from all provinces would get fruits of this mega development initiative. Not only the lives of the people would see a new and positive change, but the people of Pakistan would be able to have better connectivity with the world.

The offer the CPEC has made is not about the Gwadar Port but energy sector is being revived for the people of Pakistan while a new revolution would come in education, health and other sectors due to the One Belt and One Road Initiative launched by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Q: Some local and Chinese analysts have begun questioning Pakistan’s capacity in terms of CPEC’s accompanying projects, especially infrastructural pre-requisites in Balochistan. Do you think such concerns are warranted?

AD: The construction of road infrastructure on the western route has started at a high pace. Since the CPEC is a game-changer for Pakistan, all required measures are being taken by the federal and provincial governments. Security of Chinese workers was a major concern which has been addressed by heavy deployment of armed forces, CAFs, police and levies astride the route from Gwadar to Mughal Kot.

The security of the Gwadar Port has also been ensured by the armed forces while CCTV cameras and other modern surveillance gadgets have also been installed. Marines are also playing their role in protecting the port site.

However, while friends of Pakistan have been lauding CPEC, there are enemies with hidden agendas who are raising questions over the prospects of the CPEC. There is a dire need for Pakistan’s government to develop a counter-narrative and quell the negative propaganda. A flawless strategy is the need of the hour to make the CPEC a success. Pakistani media also needs to come forward and play down unnecessary doubts being raised by certain quarters with negative intent.

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