May 07, 2013

2013 Pakistan Elections and Balochistan: An Overview



CrisisBalochistan | May 7, 2013 | 2013 Pakistan Elections and Balochistan: An Overview

By Jawwad Baloch

In a nutshell, it seems unlikely that the elections will be conducted fairly in Balochistan due to the army's presence and the outcome could be no less than that of the 2008 elections, but a responsibility lies on the Baloch stakeholders to find a feasible solution to lessen the agony of the people. While taking part in elections will not guarantee any solution to the issues all at once, it can give a fair share of hope to the Baloch political parties and allow them to gain some breathing space for reorganizing themselves.Boycotting the elections risks paving the path for the army to install a dummy government like that of Aslam Raisani's and creating more opportunity for the likes of Shafeeq Mengal and Siraj Raisani to continue expanding their reign of terror across Balochistan.

As the 2013 general elections fast approach in Pakistan, the security situation all across the country has taken a serious blow with armed militant outfits carrying out attacks on the election offices and corner meetings of various political parties of Pakistan. In the past month, the media has been filled with headlines related to the attacks on candidates of various parties resulting in casualties and death. The motive behind these attacks is to disrupt the electoral process and compel the political parties to boycott it. Though there are different theories behind these attacks, the clash for power between the Pakistani political elite and military establishment seems clear. The latter is determined to retain its supreme power as it had a free role in suppressing the Baloch insurgency, double crossing the West in the war on terror and so on without considering the adverse repercussions on the country's stability. So to prolong its reign, the army is trying its best to derail the electoral process via its backed militant outfits to prevent the political elite from taking over the next government, fearing its writ in the country's internal and foreign affairs could be limited. The coming general elections could be decisive in determining Pakistan's future depending on the outcome and the party that will run the presidential office.

The political elite of Pakistan seemingly want to bring a transitional change in the country's internal and foreign affairs in order to pull it out of the current entangled mess. Various political parties are in contention to be the ruling party after the elections. PPP, MQM, JUI,PML-Q, PTI are widely regarded as parties loyal to the military establishment whilst on the other hand PML-N seems to be the opposition party determined to halt military rule. The army, aware of the consequences, is endeavoring to disrupt the election campaign by creating an atmosphere of lawlessness through its proxies. And to accomplish this task, even supportive parties, such as the MQM and ANP which were part of the previous government, are being targeted to malign the credibility of the elections. In these circumstances, the post-election scenario appears to be such that even if Nawaz Sharif wins the elections, he will find it hard to complete his tenure due to the chaotic situation which will likely prevail during his government.

A political government opposing the army's vigilante role, should it come to power, can bring a cosmetic change in normalizing the unstable situation prevailing in Pakistan and repair the breakdown of trust of the Baloch nationalists caused by the army's reprisal policies. To sustain its economic interest in Gwadar, Chamalang and Reko Diq mega projects and other illegal drug trafficking trades the army considers such a situation unfavorable to its interest and wants no barriers to continuing its loot and plunder of Balochistan. The military wants the anarchy in Balochistan to prevail because it supports their interests and with no political atmosphere and the absence of Baloch leadership it will ease their task to cause the situation to further deteriorate by creating a breeding ground for more anti-Baloch proxy organizations as measures to neutralize the Baloch struggle.

For the Baloch, it is essential to restore the political environment in order to revive the surface politics and recover the losses endured in the past decade of struggle. Nawaz Sharif, vowing to resolve the Balochistan issue as the main priority of its party manifesto, gives the impression that he if comes in power he can help Baloch get some breathing space by forging a negotiation process. The political elite have realized that the country is on the verge of destabilization due to the tyrannical approach of the army in handling internal issues, in particular the Balochistan conflict. In the past few years, it is evident that the army has established death squads such as Nifaz E Aman Balochistan and Balochistan Mussala Defa Tanzeem to target kill the cream of Baloch society. The army with the illusion of being the wrath of God still believes the issue can be defused by using lethal force and is therefore unwilling to allow the political elite to take over as it wants to sustain the current atmosphere of anarchy to militarize the Baloch society, leaving no hope of any political settlement of the issue.

Furthermore, to preserve its interest in the region, the army has turned Balochistan into a sanctuary for terrorists. The breeding of Islamist forces on Baloch soil has a negative impact on neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan's role in harming the West's interests and efforts to disrupt the reconciliation process in Afghanistan are hidden to none as it is providing safe haven to terrorists in Balochistan. The May 2nd Abbotabad incident summarizes Pakistan's role in the war on terror.

With surface politics being jammed, religious fundamentalism is also gaining momentum across many districts of Baloch society. ISI-backed Tableeghi Jamaats and terrorist outfits such as Lashkar e Jangvi and Sipah e Sahabah have been given a free hand to operate and use the tool of religion to establish firm roots in many districts of Balochistan. The purpose of promoting religious sentiments among secular Baloch societies and the recruitment of Baloch youth is to make them what the military establishment regards as 'perfect Muslims,' to cause them to abandon their support for Baloch nationalism and hence to be used in the attacks on Shia minorities and eventually against the Baloch nationalists.The prime motive behind this is to give an impression to the international community that the law and order situation in Balochistan is worsening not due to the Baloch national struggle but sectarian violence.

The politicians who are aware that Pakistan is a sinking ship want to repair the damage caused by the army's mishandling of the situation in Balochistan and the war on terror by starting peace talks to reconcile with the Baloch nationalists and also to make amends to rebuild the trust between Pakistan and the West caused by the army's double policy in fighting the Taliban, which has put the country's sovereignty at stake. The mismanagement of both situations has tarnished Pakistan's image internationally and they seem eager to take over and control the situation should they secure a two-thirds majority, which seems difficult.

Regarding the topic of the disruption of election campaigns in Balochistan by Baloch militant outfits, there are several setbacks caused by the situation. The Baloch who earn their livelihood from government institutions, primarily teachers, officers and so on, have been threatened by the Baloch groups to refrain from performing their duties held in polling stations. The government, however, has warned it will cut the monthly salaries (and possibly suspend) those who avoid attending. These twin threats have put the common people into a state of shock and confusion whether to risk their livelihoods or to preserve their lives. It is pertinent to ask why through the barrel of the gun the Baloch outfits are forcing a boycott by those willing to take part in elections when they themselves vow to endorse democracy and equal rights of Baloch people. The use of guns to force people to submit to their will is not a solution, rather it gives a negative image of the Baloch struggle to the international community. If they are not in the position to compensate the ones who risk losing their livelihood due to their actions then why make their lives more miserable by negatively impacting the psychology and economy of the commoners? Indeed, the sentimental attachment of the Baloch populace to the Baloch nationalist forces still persists, but adopting such tactics could make the people lose their hope in them.

In a nutshell, it seems unlikely that the elections will be conducted fairly in Balochistan due to the army's presence and the outcome could be no less than that of the 2008 elections, but a responsibility lies on the Baloch stakeholders to find a feasible solution to lessen the agony of the people. While taking part in elections will not guarantee any solution to the issues all at once, it can give a fair share of hope to the Baloch political parties and allow them to gain some breathing space for reorganizing themselves. Boycotting the elections risks paving the path for the army to install a dummy government like that of Aslam Raisani's and creating more opportunity for the likes of Shafeeq Mengal and Siraj Raisani to continue expanding their reign of terror across Balochistan. There is a sliver of hope that the Baloch might reduce their prevailing grievances in the case a political environment is restored. Without it, Balochistan will evolve into another Afghanistan where its people will be forced to live under the shadow of the gun.

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