The province of Balochistan, largest and least populated of the federation of provinces that make up Pakistan, has become politically invisible. It is desperately poor, has the lowest literacy rate for females of the entire country and is home to a festering insurgency that culls lives in a steady dribble to no resolution for either of the several sides. It is relatively rich in natural resources that ought to be a source of poverty alleviation if not significant wealth, and has to all intents and purposes been written into the background by the majority of parties contesting the upcoming election. It is as yet unclear as to whether any of the mainstream party leaders are going to visit the province before Election Day.
The multiple woes of Balochistan are nothing new and date back to Independence and before. The end of the Musharraf era in 2008 heralded the PPP as a provincial government for five years which brought little relief. In 2013 there was a righting of the political scales as moderate nationalists came to power but they also eventually faded into factionalism and were at the mercy of a security establishment that regarded the province as a fiefdom. A PML-N government rose, only to succumb to intra-party blood-letting that has produced that most dangerous of states – a political vacuum.
Nobody, at least nobody politically, seems to want to fix Balochistan and the election is unlikely to provide an out-of-the-box solution. Far away and unremarked on the western border with Iran, there is an insurgency within an insurgency that is currently spiking at a time when Iran itself is being pulled hither and thither by those seeking to destabilise it with regime change in the crosshairs. Iran is a close ally of Pakistan let it not be forgotten, and a failure to address the boiling instabilities in the west of Balochistan serves neither country well. Whichever party wins in Balochistan on 25th July has a Herculean task before them, not least being fitting the province back into the national jigsaw. And the prospects of that? Slim.
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