Balochistan elections: Talks will be initiated with insurgent leaders, says Barozai

Claims ‘certain elements’ are opposed to holding of elections in Balochistan.


Qaiser Butt April 10, 2013
Claims ‘certain elements’ are opposed to holding of elections in Balochistan.

ISLAMABAD:


Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Barozai is a man with a lot on his mind. His tenure as caretaker chief minister of Balochistan may be a short one, but the province he governs and the problems it faces are both vast. With elections around the corner, it is largely his responsibility to ensure that they take place in a secure atmosphere, an unenviable task in a province riven by insurgency and plagued with a long-standing feeling of deprivation.


With the ever-present danger of insurgents trying to derail the polls through intimidation and attacks, Barozai says he’s willing to go the extra mile to establish peace.  He means this literally; Barozai says he’s planning to fly to London to try and convince the Khan of Kalat, Suleman Daud Khan, to end his years long self-imposed exile and return to Pakistan.

“I have long-standing and friendly relations with the Khan of Kalat and will sincerely endeavour to convince him to come home,” said Barozai.



Speaking about other Baloch militant leaders, Brahamdagh Bugti, Hyrbyair Marri, Zumran Marri and Javed Mengal, who are also in exile in London and Geneva, Barozai revealed that consultations are in progress to initiate such talks with all of them.

The caretaker chief minister also said that there are certain elements that are against the holding of general elections in his province, but he is reluctant to name them. “I can’t tell you now” is all he is willing to say.

Yet he remains adamant that elections will be held on schedule, and says his talks with leading Baloch and Pashtun nationalist leaders have been encouraging.

“Talks with Mehmood Khan Achakzai, chief of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Sardar Akhtar Mengal president of Balochistan National Party (M) and Dr Abdul Malik, a top leader of the National Party proved  fruitful and this will help our efforts to ensure free, fair and impartial elections.”

But along with the confidence is a note of caution, and Barozai admits that there is a pronounced lack of trust among both the political forces and the people at large.

To a question about the reservations being expressed by Mengal over the lack of security to his party candidates in different parts of the province, Barozai said he would take all steps to ensure the security of every candidate. He did not agree with the notion that Mengal is looking for excuses to boycott the elections. “I think his reservations are based on some misunderstandings,” he said.

Mengal and his party leaders have repeatedly alleged that private lashkars of Baloch tribesmen, with the backing of the establishment, are hindering their voters’ mobilisation campaign in the Quetta, Khuzadra, Kalat, Mastung, Awaran, Makran, Kohlu and Bugti areas. Mengal’s party leaders have said that they have also informed the caretaker chief minister, chief election commissioner and chief justice of Pakistan about the threats by those lashkars.

When it comes to the myriad economic problems faced by Balochistan, Barozai is clear where the blame lies. “Islamabad is not giving the province its economic rights,” he says, adding that while there are tall claims of development projects initiated with funds allocated by the federal government, the reality is that “the funds for development projects are received here after a long delay and such delays cause losses instead of developments. Several highways development projects funded by the federal government in Balochistan have not so far received the required funds,” Barozai said. “Ultimately, the solutions to our economic issues must be in the hands of those who are sitting in Balochistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2013.

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