ISLAMABAD: Genuine democracy and rule of law. These are the simple remedies for all of Pakistan’s ills, according to veteran Baloch politician Dr Abdul Hai Baloch.
“Once we achieve these, all the other problems we face as a nation will be resolved automatically,” he tells The Express Tribune in an exclusive conversation.
An adherent of leftist ideology, Dr Hai has been a prominent name in various movements for the rights of oppressed communities in general and for the people of Balochistan in particular. A stalwart Baloch nationalist, he sees peaceful struggle as the only way to secure the rights of the people of his province.
Dr Hai started his political career as an ordinary worker. He rose to prominence when he famously defeated the nawab of Kalat in the first general elections held in the country on adult franchise on December 7, 1970.
Later, he co-founded National Party in 2003 and was elected its president the following year. When NP finally came to power in Balochistan after the 2013 elections, the veteran leader found himself sidelined by the party he had helped establish.
Dr Hai is one of the few politicians in Pakistan who refused offers for the country’s highest offices. Before the 2013 elections, he was among the figures considered for the caretaker prime minister’s slot. But he ruled himself out and Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was subsequently appointed to the office.
Living an ascetic life, Dr Hai shuns protocol and uses public transport like an ordinary citizen of Pakistan. This sets him apart from much of the country’s political elite who, for all their talk of egalitarianism and altruism, are often found serving their own interests first.
Throughout his career, Dr Hai has been a vocal critic of the establishment’s role in Pakistan’s political affairs. “As a humble political worker, I strongly believe that this country cannot get out of political and economic crisis as long as the establishment remains the real power broker,” he says.
“There has always been a conflict between the will of the people and the real power holders in the country. The establishment has always played a defensive role in deciding political issues in the country.”
Dr Hai says no elections in the country, save for the one held in 1970, have been free and fair. According to him, every election was manipulated by establishment one way or the other to ensure favourable people were elected to the assemblies.
“This applies to all political parties, including my own. How else would a party with 11 members in the provincial assembly have formed government against PML-N’s 27 and PkMAP’s 15 seats,” he says, referring to NP’s two and a half years at the helm in Balochistan.
He accuses nationalist parties in the ruling coalition in Balochistan of toeing the establishment’s line and criticised them for failing to address the issue of missing persons. According to him, the issue has persisted since the military launched an operation in Balochistan in 2006 after the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti.
Dr Hai also doubts whether the purported dialogue the government has initiated with estranged Baloch leaders will be successful. “I cannot say for sure if this will lead to a permanent solution. I don’t think there is any change in the mindset of our real rulers [the establishment],” he says.
“As long as they [the establishment] are unwilling to make people sovereign, such issues will keep on re-emerging.”
“The Balochistan issue is 90 per cent political,” claims Dr Hai. “The people of Balochistan want ownership of their resources. They [the establishment] don’t need us [the people of Balochistan], just our resources.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2016.