In a bid to address the widespread disenchantment within Balochistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday offered to drop all cases against Baloch leaders who have left the country and are spearheading the movement for independence from overseas.

However, even as the Minister was extending the olive branch to Baloch nationalists, reports began coming from Karachi of the arrest of the vice-president of the Voice of the Baloch Missing People, Qadeer Baloch. He was picked up by the police from outside the Karachi Press Club where he was leading an indefinite sit-in to draw attention to the plight of Baloch families whose members had gone missing. His son Jalil Reki's mutilated body had been found in November 2011 — two-and-a-half years after he went missing — and the story of the family's plight had recently been written about by noted author Mohammed Hanif in a chilling account in the Dawn newspaper.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan claimed to have secured across-the-floor assurance from Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress that both parties were opposed to the resolution introduced by a Congressman seeking the right of self-determination for the Baloch people.

This assurance was given to Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani by a U.S. Congressional delegation which called on him. According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister's secretariat, the Congressmen categorically stated that the Republicans and Democrats as well as the U.S. government were against the resolution tabled by an individual at the Sub-Committee level.

“U.S. supported Pakistan's security and territorial integrity,” said the Congressmen.

The matter came up as the Prime Minister raised the issue that has incensed the political class and forced the media to break its silence on Balochistan, which has been festering since 2002 amid growing calls for independence.

Last week Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had introduced a resolution seeking the right of self-determination for the Baloch people and pointing out that they were being killed by security forces that were getting military aid from Washington. Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations — chaired by him — had held an exclusive hearing on human rights violations in Balochistan. Both these interventions had drawn a sharp response from Pakistan which summoned the U.S. Charge d'Affaires to the Foreign Office on each occasion.

In a related development, Baloch Republican Party chief Baramdagh Bugti —for long alleged to have been provided a passport by India till he moved from Afghanistan to Switzerland — rejected the All Parties Conference proposed by the Prime Minister to address the Balochistan issue. Addressing the media in Quetta on Wednesday from Switzerland, Nawabzada Bugti said the Baloch people would not negotiate on anything short of independence and welcomed support from all quarters — U.S., Russia or India — for the cause.

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