Is B.N.P. the New King’s Party?
What initially looked like a pleasant political change in Balochistan with the decision of the Baloch nationalist parties to contest elections now looks like an organized attempt to bring one particular political party (read the Balochistan National Party-Mengal) into power in the next general elections. There is always a fine line between reconciliation and official patronage. Direct and indirect patronage from any quarter, either from the government or the media, amounts to pre-poll rigging. Repeated meetings of the B.N.P. and the National Party leaders with the governor, interim chief minister and other officials raise questions about the credibility of the general elections.
When everyone says that the next elections are going to bring the Baloch nationalists in power, that in itself takes away the very essence of elections. It means we are going to experience only a selection process.
When a section of the pro-establishment media picks up Sardar Akhtar Mengal and depicts him as the sole savior of Balochistan, it makes the whole electoral process very doubtful. The establishment has been too desperate to accommodate the reconcilable and moderate Baloch nationalists to improve Pakistan’s image overseas with regards to its horrible treatment of the Baloch people. Unfortunately, Sardar Mengal has agreed to perform that task for the establishment. However, what his opponents describe as a “deal” is becoming too visible now given the flattering coverage he regularly gets from pro-Islamabad media outlets.
When the establishment goes overboard in patronizing one party, it starts showing the rest of the political parties as the ‘bad guys’. Such behavior eventually encourages a culture of defection. The Pakistan Muslim League’s support on seat-to-seat adjustment and Mengal’s willingness to open his doors for corrupt and fake degree-holder politicians, such as Syed Nasir Ali Shah, a former Member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan People’s Party, seems to be taking us back to the days of Aslam Raisani. A new government for the sake of a government is not an answer to our problems. We need a government that comes into power through a transparent process.
We have always opposed the role and the influence of the establishment in Balochistan elections. It is insignificant whether the establishment supports the Pakistan Muslim League or the Baloch nationalists. The establishment seems to have softened its attitude toward certain Baloch nationalists and everyone is feeling and talking about this sudden change. But such change, if it is meant to patronize certain people, is equally unhealthy and undemocratic. After all, this also shows that the establishment is still involved in the election process. Baloch nationalists in power are not necessarily the ultimate answer to Balochistan’s problems. The real issues is making the whole election and government formation processes look very natural and unbiased. We do not see that happening. Only some faces may change in the next provincial assembly but the influence of the establishment to engineer elections remains unchanged.
It is this reason we strongly recommend the European Union (E.U.) election observers to visit Balochistan. They have to monitor what is actually happening on the ground.
Last time, the Pakistan People’s Party was brought in power under the National Reconciliation Ordinance. For five years, the P.P.P. government indulged in massive corruption and bad governance but it was still forgiven because it carried with itself the ‘democratic’ tag. We fear we are heading toward the formation of a fake and patronized “nationalist government’ in Balochistan. This is the last thing one should wish for in Balochistan. A change in the attitude but the application of the same modus operandi just looks like an updated version of the establishment’s old game of divide and rule in Balochistan. From the past experiences, we can conclude the pitting Mir Aaali Bugti against cousin Bramdagh Bugti or the Bijranis against Nawab Khair Baksh Marri did not work. We are cautious in our response to the return of the Baloch nationalists in the election process. Some may think everything will change if nationalists come in power but that is not going to happen because that will only officially pit a ‘nationalist government’ against Baloch armed groups. This is going to be the first time in one decade that the Baloch armed groups would be directly facing a nationalist government. This is just the inception of a dangerous game. In a nutshell, the elections are taking us back to square one.
Published in The Baloch Hal on April 13, 2013