A senior Baloch nationalist leader warned that Balochistan would not "remain with" Pakistan if extra-judicial killings and excesses by security forces in the restive province were not stopped immediately.
If steps were not taken immediately to halt the extra-judicial killing of Baloch nationalists and to engage them in a dialogue, then "Balochistan will not remain with you" (Pakistan), said Sardar Ataullah Mengal, a senior leader of the Balochistan National Party.
He made the remarks while addressing a televised news conference with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in Karachi. Sharif said he met Mengal to discuss ways to address the grievances of the Baloch people and to strengthen democracy in the province.
In unusually blunt remarks, Mengal said the violence and killings by security forces had taken "Balochistan to the point of no return" and steps have to be taken to engage youths "who have been driven into the mountains by the army".
Criticising the powerful Pakistan Army, Mengal question why the security forces only acted in response to killings and political violence in Balochistan and not in places like Karachi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
"I don't understand why our beloved army doesn't react to killings in those places as it does in Balochistan," he said. "This army only takes up the issues of Punjabis. This is Punjab's army and not Pakistan's army," he said.
At the same time, Mengal acknowledged that the killing of Punjabi settlers by Baloch groups was "wrong". He said he was part of Pakistan but was not accepted as a Pakistani. "I have no objection; they made the decision for me. They decided, not the people of Balochistan," he added.
Mengal also dismissed claims that a "foreign hand" was backing the violence in Balochistan.
Balochistan has been racked by violence over the past two years. Baloch national groups demanding autonomy and a greater say in the utilisation of the province's natural resources have carried out numerous attacks on security forces and infrastructure.
The bodies of over 200 Baloch activists have been found across the province since last year. Rights groups have alleged the activists were victims of extra-judicial killings by security forces. The army and intelligence agencies have denied these charges.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif said his PML-N party would fight for Balochistan and its people's rights. "We love Balochistan and it is a precious part of Pakistan," he said. Those responsible for rights violations and excesses in Balochistan should be held accountable, he said.