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Shehbaz Sharif visits Balochistan, to take up issue of missing persons with ‘powerful quarters’

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif holds meeting in plane on way to Balochistan (Photo: NageenFayyaz/Twitter)

In outreach to the alienated Baloch community, Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif promised to discuss the vexed issue of Baloch missing persons with "powerful quarters". Sharif's statement to take up the Baloch community's human rights violations is not just an acknowledgement of the problem but also shows the tight grip of the country's military and intelligence services on Balochistan.

"Enforced disappearances", in Balochistan have become an international embarrassment for Pakistan as the families of the State-kidnapped people have maintained a sustained campaign for over a decade to trace their family members. International journalists too have documented how 'death squads'–notorious for killings and kidnappings, in Balochistan have been let loose on the impoverished Baloch community.

Sharif spoke about the missing Baloch persons on his first visit to Balochistan capital Quetta.

Sharif said: "I held meetings with the leaders here today and all of them said the same thing. They said that development projects are important, but it is the other problems, predominantly the issue of missing persons, that need to be solved first”, reports The Express Tribune.

He added: "Today, I’m making a promise. I will speak for missing persons along with you. We will raise the issue with powerful quarters. And we will talk to them on the basis of law, justice and merit.” Sharif admitted that in his meetings with local leaders, "it was the issue of missing persons that called for immediate solution”.

He also reviewed the security situation in the province where Baloch nationalists have stepped up fatal attacks on Pakistani security forces, often engaging them in fierce fighting for days on end. The Baloch armed groups have also attacked Chinese nationals and projects in a bid to dissuade the Chinese from working on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Pakistani Prime Minister was in Quetta to launch a section of the Chaman-Karachi Highway. He told the people that his government intends to launch numerous development schemes to bring Balochistan at par with other parts of the country, says The Balochistan Post.

People are however sceptical about how much can Sharif achieve for the Baloch against the military.

Balochistan, which lies to the east of Pakistan, is the poorest region in Pakistan despite a small population and rich deposits of coal, gas, copper, gold and other minerals. Apologising to the Baloch people for keeping them poor and under-developed, Sharif said: "Balochistan is Pakistan's biggest province geographically, but despite having a small population, it was left behind.”

Talking about the government's Benazir Income Support Programme, Sharif said: "The only condition is that the money should go to families that will use it to send their children to school. We don’t want to raise an army of beggars. We want to empower the youth to become independent as they are the future of the country".

Sharif was joined by Baloch leaders–Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Chief Minister Mir Quddus Bizenjo, federal ministers and officials.

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