National Party-J.U.I-F Nexus
The National Party (N.P.) has taken a dramatic decision to support the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (J.U.I.-Fazal) in Khuzdar district against the candidate of the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P.-Mengal). This move has attracted considerable criticism from Baloch nationalist quarters for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the J.U.I.-F was a part and parcel of the past two provincial governments responsible for the killing of Baloch people and carrying out deadly military operations in the province.
Secondly, it maintains close contacts with the Taliban and provides them shelter inside Balochistan. The formation of any kind of election alliance or seat-to-seat adjustment with J.U.I-F amounts to encouraging religious parties in Baloch areas. It is not a very healthy sign at a time when Balochistan is witnessing an extraordinary rise in Sunni extremism in the wake of the unabated attacks on the Shia, Hazara community in Quetta. The Baloch nationalists should in fact play a pivotal role in weakening and defeating religious parties instead of consolidating their grip over the province.
Thirdly, the two major Baloch nationalist parties, the B.N.P. and the N.P. should assist each other in winning the elections instead of pitting candidates and supporting religious elements against each other. Right now, Baloch secular parties should stay united if they want to stage a political comeback after the elections in order to change the political landscape of the province.
Jamil Akbar Bugti, a son of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, has strongly objected to N.P.’s support for the J.U.I. In a statement published in local newspapers, Mr. Bugti asked the Baloch parties to refrain from using his late father’s name in the election campaigns. He alleged that the J.U.I. was equally responsible for the killing of his father and, he maintained, the N.P. had joined hands with the murderers of Nawab Bugti. Hence, Mr. Bugti, who lives in Quetta, appealed to the N.P. not to run an election campaign in the name of Nawab Bugti, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in 2006 by the General Musharraf regime.
On its part, the N.P., has defended its decision by saying that the latter did not respond positively to repeated offers of electoral cooperation with the National Party. The N.P. senior leader and the former senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo said that his party was very keen and committed to the idea of brokering an electoral alliance with the B.N.P. but negotiations between the two parties did not succeed because the B.N.P. wanted more seats in the parliament.
The N.P. has not set a very good precedence for the Baloch nationalists by supporting the J.U.I. against a Baloch nationalist political party. The N.P. knows that the B.N.P. had been winning the National Assembly seat from Khuzdar for many years. All the past three winners of the seat from Khuzdar, Usman Advocate, Rauf Mengal and Sanaullah Baloch, had remained affiliated with the B.N.P. This year, B.N.P.’s victory in Khuzdar is extremely important if the Baloch nationalists want to limit the influence of Mr. Atta-ur-Rehman Mengal, a son of former senator Naseer Mengal. Mr. Mengal’s brother, ShafiqMengal, is accused of running the anti-Baloch nationalist death squad known as the Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem and promoting radical Islam in the secular Baloch region. This underground group has killed hundreds of Baloch political workers allegedly with the support of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Similarly, the N.P.’s support for the J.U.I will divide the nationalists’ votes which will also favor Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, the Balochistan head of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (P.M.L.-N). Mr. Zehri had recently shown his personal disliking for Sardar Akhtar Mengal and the Marri family by registering a case against the two in connection to the killing of his son, brother and the nephew in a recent assault on his convoy.
The National Party is an important political group of Balochistan that believes in the empowerment of the Baloch middle class. But such absurd decisions raise eyebrows about N.P.’s questionable intentions and flawed electoral alliances. The Baloch society can hardly afford to vote for religious parties. While the people do have a right to vote for whoever they like, a progressive and secular Baloch party must not assist a religious party to come into power.
In support of his party’s decision, Senator Bizenjo has reminded how the B.N.P. chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal had once held hands with Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, the Balochistan head of the J.U.I. during his government in late 1990s. However, Senator Bizenjo should know that we no longer live in 1990s. The threat of religious extremism was nearly nonexistent at that time. Today, the situation has significantly changed across Pakistan. The Taliban and the homegrown Sunni extremist groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are trying to gain full control of Balochistan to reconfigure the dynamics of our secular society.
The National Party leadership should review their decision and withdraw the electoral support to the the J.U.I-F. in Khuzdar and elsewhere in Balochistan. Whether or not the N.P. agrees to adjust seats with the B.N.P. is secondary at this point. Currently, the biggest concern is the left-wing Baloch nationalists’ support for the pro-Taliban J.U.I-F against another fellow Baloch Nationalist in a district which is constantly on the ‘must-occupy’ list of religious extremist elements.