Situation Polarization Plus

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Optimists who are still unwilling to equate the situation in Balochistan with a state of “civil war” would at least agree that the situation has gone beyond mere political polarization. The current situation could at best be termed as “polarization plus”. Many are drawing parallels of BNP leader Habib Jalib’s murder with that of late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Balach Marri.

The fact that the killings of Nawab Bugti and Balach devastated the entire Baloch society cannot be gainsaid. However, what came as a highly positive achievement for the Balochs in the wake of the killing of the two top popular leaders was the unity that the crisis offered them. The Balochs stood as one in response to the killing of their leaders. On the other hand, the Balochs stand badly divided in the aftermath of the killing of two important nationalist leaders –Mir Maula Baksh Dashti of the National Party and Habib Jalib Baloch of the Balochistan National Party.

Polarization in a political system is a normal thing. It has always remained a part and parcel of the Baloch nationalist politics. At times, polarization was based on ideological differences whereas rifts among top leaders of different parties also caused such a divide in other times. The current wave of polarization kicked off soon after the killing of Nawab Bugti which clearly divided the Baloch society among those who believed in maximum autonomy and those who asked for Balochistan’s complete independence from Pakistan. There were the ones, called ‘militants’ or ‘hardliners’ who supported the use of violence to achieve their goals and, on the other hand, there were those who advocated parliamentary struggle against armed struggle to achieve the rights of the Balochs. They latter were identified as “soft and moderate Baloch nationalists forces” while the proponents of an independent Balochistan would call the moderates as “pro-establishment” or “ideologically confused” people.

Two separate newspaper statements published in most local newspapers on Sunday have alerted everyone. The first strong-worded statement has been issued by former chief minister and the central president of Balochistan National Party Sardar Akhtar Mengal which has directly addressed the supporters of independent Balochistan. Mengal has categorically stated that his party would not change its stance on the insistence of a handful of what he called “politically immature teenagers” who wanted to dictate his party policies. This is the first time that Mengal has spoken so harshly to the supporters of armed struggle. He had to say this in response to a statement issued by Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Marri, a group loyal to Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and the idea of independent Balochistan, which said the BNP should now shun parliamentary politics after the killing of Habib Jalib.

One does not understand the logic behind the stance of those who persuade the BNP to give up parliamentary politics by citing the killing of Habib Jalib. Late Balach Marri, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch, Mureed Bugti, Rasool Baksh Mengal and many others collectively did not believe in parliamentary politics. Why were they killed? How was their killing different from that of Jalib or Maula Baksh Dashti? Or how are the BNP leaders going to be safer if they join the pro-independence camp? In fact it does not make a lot of sense to argue that Jalib and Maula Baksh Dashti were killed because they believed in parliamentary politics.

What needs to be understood is the fact that Baloch leaders, whether they believe in armed struggle or parliamentary politics, are equally under threat. They are unacceptable to the country’s Establishment until they soften their stance to the extent of BNP-Awami or the Balochs holding membership of PML and PPPP.

Now that Akhtar Mengal has clearly stated his party’s policy, he needs to make it clear that why his party still refuses to play the role of an active opposition in Balochistan. With Usman Advocate in the National Assembly and Abdul Rehman Mengal, (both cardholder members of the BNP), in the Balochistan cabinet, it still needs to be clarified why the BNP does not openly own these members of the parliament as its own members. In such a situation, BNP needs to play its role as an active opposition party by demanding mid-term elections in Balochistan because the province is in the grip of worst law and order problems.

The second significant statement which was published in different newspapers on Sunday come from the central spokesman of the National Party in which fingers have been raised at the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), one of the most prominent underground Baloch armed groups, for the killing of Mir Maula Baksh Dashti, a central leader of the party and a former district Nazim of Kech district who was killed last Sunday. Known as a very nonviolent political party, the National Party must have thought ten times in advance before issuing this strong statement. National Party surely knows that saber-rattling with BLF may cause more confrontation and violence in the future.

As the situation in Balochistan does not improve, everybody is predicting more violence and chaos. Some experts, including the chief minister of Balochistan, believe the new trend of target killing Baloch nationalist leaders may even get worse. National Party president Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch and Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, NP’s secretary general, could also come under similar attacks which killed Habib Jalib Baloch. God forbid, such ugly incidents will create an unimaginable situation in Balochistan. The province cannot afford to lose more leaders. Let’s hope that these vulnerable nationalist leaders adopt improved security measures rather than behaving like a Machoman.

It is the time the armed groups and the moderate nationalist parties provided ample breathing space to each other. There is no questioning each others’ commitment to the rights of the Baloch people. They should focus on fighting for the rights of the people of Balochistan rather than engaging in an internal battle. This battle is no longer confined to a war of words but it has reached a point of physical attacks (or at least allegations, as leveled by the National Party) on each other’s leaders. Such confrontation does not serve the interests of Balochistan. The fight for the rights of Balochistan is a political battle. It should not be taken personally. Groups should try to perform better than each other in the political battlefield by winning the hearts of the masses rather than physically harming one another.

We earnestly hope that sanity prevails and this crucial moment in our history is handled wisely and responsibly by all stakeholders in the greater interest of the Baloch people.

(This piece originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper)

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