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09KARACHI111 2009-04-02 08:40:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Karachi
Cable title:  

BALOCHISTAN - NATIONALISTS SKEPTICAL ABOUT ZARDARI OFFER

Tags:   PGOV PK PREL PTER 
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1. (C) On March 26, President Zardari visited Quetta to
propose a package of assistance and reconciliation measures
to Baloch nationalists. The Balochis reacted skeptically,
claiming that the GOP has formed committees before to address
the province's problems, without success. The Baloch
nationalist insist that the government give the province full
control of its natural resources (primarily gas), halt army
operations in Dera Bugti and account for alleged missing
persons. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim
League (PML) leaders told Post they were optimistic about
Zardari's proposed aid package.

Zardari Offers Olive Branch


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2. (C) Several Baloch political groups reacted with
skepticism to President Zardari's March 26 conciliatory offer
to Baloch militants while he was visiting Quetta. Among his
proposals, Zardari said the GOP planned to establish a
parliamentary committee to formulate a plan for a more
equitable distribution of the proceeds from the sale of
Balochistan's natural resources and committed around $583
million for development projects. He also promised the GOP
would assist Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),
representing thousands who have fled conflict between Balochi
militants and the Army, fund and train law enforcement
officials and fast track dam projects in the province.

Baloch Nationalists Skeptical


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3. (C) Many Baloch leaders greeted his offer with
skepticism. Balochistan National Party (BNP) ) Mengal
Acting President Jahanzaib Jamaldini told Post on March 30
that similar GOP committees in the past had not effectively
resolved the issues that concerned most nationalists. He
said the GOP should demonstrate its sincerity this time by
releasing political leaders from prison, accounting for
alleged missing persons, and ending military operations in
Dera Bugti.

4. (C) National Party (NP) General Secretary Tahir Bezenjo
said that he saw no difference between Zardari's announcement
and the unfulfilled promises of previous governments. He
opined that the GOP had used its proposal to form another
committee as a delaying tactic. Bezenjo claimed the real
impetus behind the Baloch insurgency has been GOP
unwillingness to halt army operations in Dera Bugti. He
added that Zardari had not consulted with leaders of the
three main opposition tribes, the Marris, Bugtis, and
Mengals, to discuss their concerns, prior to making his
announcement.

5. (C) Baloch National Front (BNF) Chair Ghulam Mohammad
dismissed Zardari's efforts, saying that his party would
accept nothing short of full Baloch control of the province's
natural resources. He added that the problems in Balochistan
could not be resolved by aid packages. (Note: The BNF is an
umbrella organization for several smaller political entities:
the Baloch National Movement (BNM), the Baloch Women's
Panel, the Balochistan Bar Association, the Baloch Rights
Council, the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), and the Marri
Ittahad. End note.)

PPP, PML Leaders Optimistic


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6. (C) Pakistan People's Party (PPP) President Lashkari
Raisani noted that Zardari's speech had brought the problems

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in Balochistan to the forefront. He said his party is
serious in its efforts to resolve the conflict in the
province and pointed out that Zardari had invited all
dissident Baloch groups to participate in a dialogue to
address their grievances. Provincial Law Minister Rubina
Irfani, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), told
Post that she viewed the move as a positive step forward
towards resolving the Baloch insurgency. (Note: PPP is the
lead party in the province's coalition government. End note.)

Comment


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7. (C) Baloch nationalists have made provincial autonomy and
control over the province's natural resources the lynchpins
of their movement. Over time, issues such as GOP military
operations in Dera Bugti, alleged missing persons, and
political prisoners have been added to their list of demands.
The GOP has made unsuccessful peace overtures and formed
committees to address the problem in the past (ref B, C, D).
If the GOP has the resources and the political willpower to
carry out its current plans, this could be a first step
towards resolution of the conflict.
RODRIGUEZ