Parties refuse to follow BNP into cul de sac

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Heeding the call of Balochistan National Party (BNP) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Akhtar Langove and Mohammad Akbar Mengal, two members of the Balochistan Assembly from the BNP, gave in their resignations on September 4 to protest Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s death. Rauf Mengal, a member of the National Assembly who also belongs to the BNP, submitted his resignation on September 6. But while the BNP has given up, for now, its role in parliamentary politics, other parties say they will not.

“We quit because the current parliaments take dictations from the General Headquarters,” says the BNP chief. While the announcement that BNP would quit the assemblies was welcomed by the thousands who attended that public gathering on Quetta’s Manan Chowk, the BNP found out soon enough that no other party was willing to follow it out of the assemblies.

Of the four-party Baloch National Alliance comprising the BNP, National Party (NP), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and Baloch Haq Tawar Party (BHTP), only the BNP and BHTP (which many say is leading the banned Balochistan Liberation army), have said goodbye to parliamentary politics.

The BHTP believes armed resistance is the sole means to achieve Baloch rights, which is why it is not interested in political solutions anymore. “The time has come for us to pick up our guns and head for the mountains,” says one BNP leader, adding that the “rulers have closed all doors on us. They have imposed a war on us. Now we have to defend ourselves, our coast and our resources”.

Other nationalist parties like the JWP and NP, however, say they will stick to the assemblies because while quitting means isolation, sitting in means being able to protest and dialogue; these parties also say that they will not walk out and leave the province to the army.

“BNP’s decision was hasty and immature,” says Tahir Bizenjo, NP’s information secretary. “BNP didn’t bother consulting other parties before making its move; we all believe that if all parties, including the PPP and PML, tender resignations, it will have a greater impact on the government and national politics. The BNP going it alone will mean nothing,” he added.

The BNP was expecting that the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the second largest coalition partner in Balochistan, would also give up its support to the Jam-led government. But the MMA Supreme Council, on September 5, decided not to quit.

“We don’t want the democratic process in the province to be derailed. Our withdrawal from the government will in fact pave the way for the Governor’s Rule in the province,” says an MMA legislator.

The National Party, which has come under fire for deciding not to resign yet, says it is a political party, comprising political people who want to “stay in parliaments in order to continue our democratic struggle for the attainment of Baloch rights”. This is what NP general secretary Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo believes: “No matter what others say, we won’t quit the assemblies alone. We want all opposition parties to join us. If they don’t, we can’t afford to take a solo flight.” (See Mir Hasil Khan Bezanjo’s interview in this issue).

Leaders of late Bugti’s JWP have also indicated that they will not make any hasty decisions regarding resignations. “We will consult all ARD parties. If everyone is willing to resign, we won’t hesitate in doing so either,” JWP information secretary Amanullah Kanarani told TFT.

The Balochistan government, obviously, is very interested in playing upon the differences that have emerged between nationalist parties on the issue of resigning. Jam Mohammad Yousaf, Balochistan Chief Minister, expressed his amusement over the decision of JWP and NP to stay put in the assemblies.

“Their [NP and JWP] decision not to resign is interesting while the BNP resignations are unlikely to impact the coalition government,” says Jam Yousaf. In fact, Yousaf is of the view that any legislator who decides to resign from the legislative bodies should not be allowed to hold these seats in the future.

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