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Elections in Pakistan and the Baloch dilemma

              Balochistan Awami Party; Old wine in a new bottle

 

By Imdad Baloch

 

The security establishment of Pakistan continues to be the key actor in shaping the socio-political dynamics of Balochistan. With over 70 years of indirect rule on Balochistan, the security establishment’s control runs deep in the governing bodies and has significantly influenced the socio-political, economic and cultural spheres of Balochistan.

 

The illegitimate demarcation of the boundaries, in the wake of British withdrawal from the sub-continent, brought far-reaching consequences on various nationalities inhabiting the region from centuries. The creation of Pakistan resulted in the merger of various nationalities with a distinct language, culture and history into one state. However, the pledge to make Pakistan a federal state with each nationality enjoying equal rights was never materialized. Instead, one major ethnic group hailing from Punjab (with the majority in the security establishment) dominated the remaining ethnic groups. Since the constitution of Pakistan does not confer such dominance, this ethnic group in order to retain its cultural, economic and political supremacy opted for measures outside the constitutional and legal process of the state. Nationalism was inevitable to take roots among the oppressed ethnic groups.

 

Systematic attempts were made to rob the other ethnic groups including Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun of their language and identity by barring them from receiving education in their mother tongue, and were not given their due share in the resources and power circles of the state. Political parties representing these nationalities were not allowed to function and any dissent against such illegal practices was crushed with brute force.

 

Balochistan became a major victim of these state policies. The first nationalist government of National Awami Party (NAP) in Balochistan that came into power as a result of free and fair elections in 1972 was thrown out of office through undemocratic means. The reasons that led to the overthrow of the Baloch government were their progressive policies of demolishing the feudal system from Balochistan, the establishment of educational institutions and making Balochi and Pashtu parts of the school curriculum. These legal functions of an elected office aiming progress and autonomy for the people of Balochistan were associated with the national and ideological integrity of the state hence NAP was dismantled and its leaders were put behind the bars on treason charges.

 

This angered many common Baloch who felt humiliated rose to arms against the state security establishment. This provided the security establishment with an excuse to brand the Baloch as traitors and to crush the Baloch spirit of resistance. Many people were uprooted from their abodes; many killed, arrested and forced to flee to neighbouring Afghanistan.

 

The absence of Baloch leadership from the political arena was a blessing in disguise for the security establishment who as a policy strategy to contain the nationalist movement in Balochistan, began attacking the political and social fabric of the Baloch that in the process has generated a league of pliable and fungible characters, bearing a heavy imprint of invariable subservience to the security establishment of Pakistan. Under the state supervision, prevalent fundamentalist religious groups also trickled through to fill the void that on their face had elements of degeneration and instability.

 

To avoid 70’s like nationalist government in Balochistan and to keep the Baloch nationalist out of the parliament, the electoral process and bodies were also compromised making way to those in the establishment’s camps. These characters played a major role in dissolving the nationalist governments in Balochistan in 1987 and in 1998.

 

Organized strategies are underway to counter the Baloch struggle for national salvation; gangs of extortionists and death squads have been unleashed to prey on the public and their true representatives. Clowns herded by men in boots are being portrayed as Messiah. It is the legacy of these characters lacking any principle and ideology, have now been bestowed with a Political party. Reasonably, Political parties are not formed suddenly, they have to take root in the masses, and it takes years of intellectual and physical struggle for an ideology to mature into something, however the security establishment deserves its share of applause by creating Balochistan Awami Party aka BAP in less than a month time that convened its first council session in the lawn of Boy Scouts, Quetta.

 

The controlled media is taking a great part in posing the leaders of BAP as a great patron of progress and humanity without the slightest mention of these characters crawling to seize pennies in the previous governments installed in Balochistan. On the other hand, the leaders of this party have adopted a self-righteous attitude by laying the blame of underdevelopment of Balochistan on the nationalists.

 

For the Civil and Military establishments of Pakistan to change their mindset towards Balochistan and to allow the true representatives of Balochistan to decide their destiny seems a far cry. The decision of boycotting the elections by the nationalists has contributed in the convenience of the security establishment to install the anti-Baloch forces in the assemblies. It is time the Baloch nationalists rethink their strategies and reflect on the outcome of their policies.

 

The people of Balochistan are devastated by the presence of those in the assemblies whom they do not recognize. The security establishment’s manoeuvring of electoral process and bodies can to some extent be affected if the Baloch nationalist cooperatively and fully participates in the upcoming general elections in Balochistan. The presence of Baloch nationalists in the parliamentary institutions may not be the answer to all the problems faced by the Baloch but it will definitely be a better option than to allow those in the assemblies who have no stakes involved in the Baloch society and in their struggle for national salvation.

 

(The author is a student of information technology in Quetta and writing with his pen name. The editorial board of Balochistan Affairs requests that writers and political activists should also send their original identity while contributing to the discussion)

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