Balochistan and the general elections
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Questions rise: how will be the upcoming general elections in Balochistan? Will general elections be held peacefully or not? And will free, fair and transparent elections be possible in insurgency-hit province? These and similar more questions are in many people’s minds about the upcoming general elections in Balochistan.
However, in Balochistan the debate rooms are hot about the upcoming general elections, and many political parties are conducting electoral campaigns. Those political parties that boycotted the elections in 2008 are now seemingly interested in the upcoming general elections. By boycotting the elections, they regrettably speak out that incompetent and inefficient politicians came into the power without reforming the system. That is why almost all political parties, except the dissident Baloch nationalists’ parties BNM (Baloch National Movement), BRP (Baloch Republican Party) and BNF (Baloch National Front), are actively going to participate in the general elections.
BNP-M (Balochistan National Party-Mengal) has removed its dilemma whether or not to participate in the upcoming elections. Sardar Akhter Jan Mengal, the president of BNP-M, addressed a press conference in Karachi that BNP-M would participate in the upcoming elections. It is also said unofficially that BNP-M along with NP (National party), led by Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, will form an alliance to contest this time in the elections. In spite of it, both parties’ leaders are afraid of ‘selection’ in Balochistan’s elections. They also warn that ‘selection’ in elections will further deteriorate the situation of the volatile province if establishment did.
Moreover, BNP-M and NP will be given tough time by their political rivals due to boycotting previously the elections. It is, this time for both pro-federation nationalists’ parties, an open challenge to win maximum seats at provincial and national level. Because by boycotting, they have been isolated from their masses. On the other hand, Baloch dissident nationalists scathingly criticize these two parties due to their participation in the elections. They say that Baloch nationalists, at the time of NAP (National Awami Party), in 1970s period, formed its government in the Balochistan. But their elected government was soon dissolved after the short span of nine months. So, they ask, how can they be let this time if they formed their government in the province? They also say that elections are not the panacea of Balochistan’s tribulations.
PML-N’s (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif has been keeping a vigilant eye on Balochistan’s elections, and so far he has successfully brought Sardar Sana Ullah Zehri, Retired General Abdul Qadir Baloch and Nawab Zada Lashkari Raisani along with his 22 associates into his party. The recent joining of Nawab Zada Lashkari Raisani along with his 22 associates, to a greater extent, strengthened the hold of PML-N in Balochistan. That is, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party), as analysts say, has lost its constituency in Balochistan’s major parts.
It is also worth mentioning here that Balochistan’s present status quo has not changed, rather it is further worsened. In present times, Balochistan is showing a bleak picture in which not only Baloch but also the Hazaras, Hindus and other peaceful minorities are living dangerously. It is lamentable that none of the ruling parties tried to grapple with Balochistan’s burning problems seriously in five years’ tenure. That is, holding elections in its many of the districts, including in its provincial capital, i.e., Quetta, seem to be impossible due to unfavorable circumstances.
Its typical example is the killing of Muhammad Ziaullah Qasmi, the District Commissioner of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in Satelite town, Quetta.
Also, the teachers of government –run educational institutions in Balochistan are worried about the upcoming elections in the province because the Baloch insurgents in rural Balochistan have announced not to allow the elections. This is the reason teachers are worried; and they are also afraid of being sacked by government if they don’t make their presence at the time of elections.
In addition, Pak-Iran gas pipeline project and handing over Gwadar project to Chinese authorities has further warmed up the environment of Makran division. That is, it is become a Herculean task now to hold elections in Makran, in which Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar District comes, because, as observers say, Baloch insurgents hold sway in Makran. There may be ‘selection’ in Makran and Khuzdar along with its adjacent places, which Baloch nationalists are afraid of.
There have also been thrown pamphlets in the above mentioned districts, written with severe forewarnings.
In this difficult phase of Balochistan, there rare chances of free, fair and transparent elections, because the already existent cases of ‘missing’ persons from Balochistan, throwing of decomposed bodies, kidnapping for ransom and killing of peaceful minorities are at increasing constantly. These problems may take the province into further an upheaval if not resolved soon.
Lastly, however, it is better for interim government to endeavor to have free, fair and transparent elections in Balochistan at any cost so that elected leaders may come forth to root out the all issues of the volatile province, and to lead province towards peace and prosperity.
(Courtesy to: Daily Balochistan Express, Quetta)