Don’t Isolate Mengal

MengalThe Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (P.M.L-N), the Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (P.K.M.P.) and the National Party (N.P.) have successfully accomplished the first phase of government formation in Balochistan by reaching consensus on Dr. Malik Baloch as the province’s next chief minister. This is a good beginning but certainly not the end of all problems.

All the three parties should now initiate talks with Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P.) to win his support for the future government. Sardar Mengal, a former Balochistan Chief Minister, has been deeply disillusioned with the outcome of the general elections of May 11. He believes that the polls were rigged by the government functionaries in an attempt to defeat his party and elect Pashtun candidates on traditional Baloch seats.

Mr. Mengal’s anger has not faded away. On June 1st, when the new members of the Balochistan Assembly took oath of their membership, B.N.P,’s two members of the provincial Assembly (M.P.A.s), Sardar Mengal himself and Hamal Kalmati, boycotted the oath session.

Traditionally, Mr. Mengal has been an ally of the three parties that are going to form the Balochistan government. It is a shame if these parties deliberately ignore  him or fail to include him in the future government. Despite his poor election performance, Mr. Mengal is a very influential and experienced Baloch politician. The upcoming government should benefit from his experiences and political vision. Likewise, Mr. Mengal would look  absolutely awkward if he decides to sit alone at a corner against the P.M.L.-N, P.K.M.P. and the N.P.

There is a real opportunity to collectively address and resolve Balochistan’s problems. Neither Mr. Mengal has a political future without the help of like-minded three parties nor will the coalition government in Balochistan succeed without benefiting from Mr. Mengal’s enormous political experience. While B.N.P.’s two seats in Balochistan Assembly may not be very important for the future government, the coalition partners should meet with Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his son Sardar Akhtar Mengal to persuade them to join the Balochistan government. After all, the B.N.P. is Balochistan’s largest political party and it also shares an ideology that is very similar to what the National Party and the P.K.M.P. stand for. If all these parties believe in similar values and common goals, they should cooperate with each other instead of making each other look inferior or weaker.

Last year, Sardar Mengal took personal and political risks by appearing before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Mr. Mengal’s visit received extraordinary attention in the national media as he presented his Six Points before the Supreme Court. Those Six Points have still not been met by Pakistan’s federal government but they are still relevant and critical in terms of normalizing the situation in Balochistan. In fact the new governments at the Center and the province will have to revisit Mengal’s Six Points to begin work on Balochistan’s outstanding issues.

Considering the greater interests of Balochistan,  Sardar Mengal should show the same level of maturity as we have seen from Nawaz Sharif, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Dr. Malik Baloch. What we are seeing at this point is a positive change in some politicians’ behavior as many of them are willing to offer sacrifices to resolve Balochistan’s problems. Only the Election Commission of Pakistan and the judiciary can help the B.N.P. address the issue of election fraud but as a veteran politician Mr. Mengal should consider Balochistan’s interests more important than the interests of his own party.

The B.N.P. may not have performed well but there are still so many ways how it can assist in fighting Balochistan’s case. Besides Mr. Mengal, B.N.P.’s central leader and former senator, Sanaullah Baloch, for example, is a remarkable writer, debater and public speaker. Such experienced people should utilize their skills and experiences in collectively fighting Balochistan’s case. Isolation is not going to help the B.N.P. leaders nor will the people of Balochistan appreciate such aloof attitude at a time when the province urgently needs wise and responsible leadership.

If Mr. Mengal sits on the opposition benches, he will not set a positive precedence in Balochistan’s politics. As a nationalist, he would be expected to morally support a government headed by a fellow nationalist. Any attempts from the B.N.P. to weaken a popular government would isolate the B.N.P. in the future.

Lastly, we sincerely hope that incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif, chief minister-designate  Dr. Malik Baloch and Mr. Mahmood Khan Achakzai will meet the Mengals and convince them to join the Balochistan government. Without Mengal’s support, the three parties may have majority in the Balochistan Assembly but they will still lack the support of a strong political stakeholder.


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