Balochistan — ballot or the bullet?

Published: September 15, 2012

The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003-08 and of the National Assembly from 1997-99. He tweets @Senator_Baloch

The newly-appointed Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, during his visit to Quetta, reaffirmed his commitment to holding free and fair elections to the disgruntled segment of Balochistan, urging them to use ballot rather than bullet to seek a solution to their problems.

However, Baloch qualms about engineered political processes are not fictitious. I am not a big fan of Stalin but his quote truly sits well within the Pakistani political context. He said that “Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything”. The ensuing situation in Balochistan has compelled many to look for radical alternatives, including political violence to protect their collective interests and attain their political and economic objectives.

Over the years, due to continued manipulation of political and electoral process, the lack of confidence and trust amongst Baloch nationals in state institutions, including election process and an unproductive parliamentary system has been reinforced. Therefore, the CEC’s plain offer may not encourage the Baloch to opt for the ballot.

In the pending Asghar Khan Case, former DG-ISI General (Retd) Asad Durani has openly admitted the ISI’s role in politics and the election process. Recent revelations about the 2008 elections in Balochistan also confirm how pro-establishment candidates were flooded with “money and support” by the security apparatus.

The whole of Balochistan has been besieged since 2002. Many top Baloch leaders have been systematically killed, resulting in targeted killings, forced disappearances and the kill-and-dump policy of Baloch nationalist have left no room for moderate political activists to participate in the democratic process, including public mobilisation, voter registration, verifications and civic education.

Compelling questions have been raised about the Final Electoral Roll (FER) of 2012, which indicates 22 per cent less voter registration in Balochistan compared with the FER of 2007. The number of female voters on the lists has also decreased by more than 600,000, while millions of Balochistan voters are simply missing from the FER 2012.

After forming a clear understanding about politically-stagnant Balochistan, the CEC and the Election Commission of Pakistan have to come up with a concrete agenda to ensure a transparent process. These include, but are not limited to, demilitarisation, pre-poll accountability of serving the political regime, stopping appalling human rights violations against Baloch people and revitalising the political process.

Pakistan’s election-related dispute resolution mechanism is completely ineffective. They work under immense influence of the ruling government and security apparatus. In contradiction to section 67 (1A) of the Representation of People’s Act of 1976, the election tribunals linger on cases for years. During 2002 to 2007, despite confirmation of fake degrees of half of the MPAs in Balochistan, their cases were delayed until their terms finished. The EC ineffectuality is a big question mark when it comes to the real test. In April 2012, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to verify the degrees of some 70 parliamentarians, out of 937, and these degrees were then sent to the Balochistan University for further scrutiny. However, due to severe pressure from the  ‘agencies’, the university declared all of them ‘valid’. Despite this huge deception and fraud, the EC and the apex Court failed to take action against perpetrators of this national crime.

Without addressing fundamental and structural flaws of elections and the subsequent democratic process, the futile exercise of vote casting would miserably fail to bring peace, prosperity and political stability. In fact, ambiguous ballots cannot guarantee Balochistan’s future in Pakistan and nor can a bullet ensure the integrity of the state. In reality, the will and policies of the dominant establishment will define the future course of Baloch and Pakistan relations.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.

Reader Comments (18)

  • Zainab
    Sep 15, 2012 - 12:59AM

    Wonderful piece- but Mr. Baloch political process is the only way out. We agree that elections are horrifically manipulated our agencies and we don’t have a single standing representative in assemblies. We would love to see educated and morally strong people like you to represent Balochistan and raise their issues in national forums.

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  • Pakistan Khan
    Sep 15, 2012 - 1:10AM

    It is time for Pakistani state to take radical steps to address Baloch grievances. Otherwise, foreign elements can take advantage of the situation. Furthermore, Baloch nationalists need to realize that secession from Pakistan would not solve their problems. They should remain within the fold of Pakistan and demand their rights through peaceful means.

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  • Chandra
    Sep 15, 2012 - 1:17AM

    Whatabout elections in UN supervision – I think if Baloch political groups unite than there is less chance of rigging. No doubt non-Baloch security forces will try to support criminals to return in assemblies. If upcoming elections failed to bring peace – than we see a south Sudan like situation and UN intervention would be legitimate to prevent large scale genocide and massacre.

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  • PakPunjabi
    Sep 15, 2012 - 1:35AM

    Sanaullah Baloch, like Hazel Bazenjo, are people who can truly help Pakistan resolve this issue. Alas, the stubborn headed in this country ignore them! Nothing but hatred and violence has come out of this mess. Punjabis got killed. Balochs got killed. Hazara getting killed. And now, increasingly Pashtuns getting killed. It is like someone wants to set everyone against themselves.
    I went to Balochistan in 1998 and visited almost every major city. I spoke Punjabi with my relatives all along the way. NO BODY even noticed. The Pakistani flag flew on top of many Baloch households. People welcomed us. At a local hotel in Quetta, the Baloch owner treated my 6 years old sister as his own daughter and played with her. Now, I shudder at the thought of visiting even Quetta. Sometimes, I close my eyes and just wish that all of this is a bad bad nightmare that will pass once I open my eyes……..
    O Allah, bless our country Pakistan with peace and prosperity. Ameen!

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  • Faraz
    Sep 15, 2012 - 1:35AM

    Fair elections can change the situation …
    The situation was good in 80s and 90s .
    it will be good again INSHALLAH …

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  • Sanjeeda
    Sep 15, 2012 - 2:02AM

    International community has already prepared the blue print of future map of Balochistan. Islamabad and particularly “Pindi guys” still believe that suppression can work as an instrument to subdue Baloch. Army’s tunnel vision has led to us at. This quagmire – we lost East Pakistan and we are gonna loose Balochistan. Obaidullah Khattaks kill and dump policy is not going to glue Baloch with Pakistan.

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  • Shehryar Mazari
    Sep 15, 2012 - 2:02AM

    What Sana Baloch wrote rings true. For too many years, in many electorates, the results have been preordained, leading to a mockery of the elective process. More recently in 2008 Musharraf had reportedly delegated the gerrymandering of the elections to various agencies – Balochistan and NWFP to MI, Sindh to ISI and Punjab to the IB.
    Sadly the people of Balochistan have been denied a say in chosing their government since the early 1970s, so it is no wonder that many of them are disenchanted with the idea of remaining within this country. Contrary to popular belief, many, if not most, of the sardars are creatures of the establishment. It is high time ordinary members of the Baloch population of the province were allowed to chose their own representatives without any inference.

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  • Omar Chakarzai
    Sep 15, 2012 - 2:48AM

    “Sanaullah Baloch, like Hazel Bazenjo, are people who can truly help Pakistan resolve this issue.”

    Here you go Senator Sana, you got your certificate of a true Pakistani, you can have a good sleep now. @PakPunjabi:

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  • Rao
    Sep 15, 2012 - 7:28AM

    Good piece by Mr Sana.
    If elections are held free and trnasparent in Balochistn what is the Guarantee that Baloch leader will change the fate of their own people, Baloch common man has been oppressed by the Baloch leader and chief,he is not direct victim from the Establishmnet’s policies.
    Mr. Sana, there is a dire need to change the Baloch triabl mentality.
    Isnt’ sad Baloch leaders sends their kids in Itcheson College,and LAHORE schools while poor Baloch has no opportunity to edcuate his child.
    In fact only few elite/fudal Baloch have problem, and they want to have power for ever without check and accountabilty,in 21st centuray it is not possible.
    God bless Pakistan and Balochistn will remain part of it.

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Sep 15, 2012 - 9:29AM

    Sanity should prevail. Pak government must stop the exploitation of Baluch people and Baluch Liberation Army must stop massacre of innocent Punjabi and Pashtun settles. By these genocides Baluch Leberation Army is not doing any good to humanity or the cause of autonomy. A very small window is still left for the Pakistan Government to resolve the issue of separatist movement but it requires honest and committed effort by them and not just the lip service. Blaming other countries will also not do good beyond a certain period as the grievances of Baluchs are genuine and their sufferings are real !!

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  • Munir Kakar
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:09AM

    Reading between the line one can easily discern that the genuine Baloch leadership are willing to take the calculated risk of participation in elections despite the unpalatable memories of rigged and engineered elections. The people of Balochistan suffered immensely under the present dispensation and perpetuating the nightmare will undoubtedly exact a heavy political toll on all concerned. Sana has eloquently shown light at the end of this horrible tunnel. The establishment with the hindsight should now ponder and circumspect over finding a way out of labyrinthine of violence and bloodshed the province has gone through. History’s offer are always circumscribed.

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  • waqas
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:25AM

    i urge all the baloch people to fully participate in the forthcoming elections and they should strive for their rights through this constitunal process like Our Quaid e Azam.our Quaid did not used any bullet for the independence of pakistan.after the 18th amendment,balochistan assembly can struggle for thier rights quiet well.

    We should also pray always for unity of pakisatn.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:27AM

    Full autonomy and fair elections for all Balochistan in the UN supervision. Nothing less would be too little too late.

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  • Ahsan
    Sep 15, 2012 - 2:36PM

    Every Baloch wants to save and stabilise Pakistan and that is why all Baloch are struggling. The best solution to the Balochistan situation would be in giving right to vote and have property to the Baloch people only, and this kind of management should continue for at least a hundred years. By Baloch I mean all those be they Pukhtoon, Hazara, Baloch or Punjabis who have been living in Balochistan since at least fifty years.

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  • Rohan
    Sep 15, 2012 - 4:23PM

    Top Baloch leader like Saradar Mengal declined to be caretaker Prime Minister – No doubt, Balochistan has very standing leaders – unlike majority Pakistani politicians, they dislike position and money. We have to understand to and deal with Baloch with dignity and respect. Our nuclear power can not subdue them – we have to find a political solution. A comprehensive political package.Recommend

  • ahmed41
    Sep 15, 2012 - 7:19PM

    —” Full AUTONOMY ” ? Please define your terms.

    ” fair elections ” are easy to conduct~~~~~~~but look , the author says : it is not the votes that matter, rather who COUNTS the votes !!

    Looks like a loosing game, for the voters .

    Does some form of autonomy mean : Baluchistan ONLY for the Baluchis ?
    That would be impractical.

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  • usman786
    Sep 15, 2012 - 10:33PM

    An easy step would be further sub division of province and merger of some areas into Sindh and South Punjab. This will bring better use of resouces, control and suppress the desire of sardar to be governor of their district under foreign promises of their mineral rich area. Why donot sardars develop their area instead of only collecting royalties. Islam teaches sacrifice to get better reward in next life. How can BLA justify killing innocents and except human rights champs to help them like South Sudan

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  • Ali Baba
    Sep 16, 2012 - 8:05PM

    Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything”. This is completely true ,we should do agree on says of Stalin .Nothing will happen if you caste your vote because in Pakistani Politics ISI’s involvements.A big involvement of ISI specially in Balochistan Politics .

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