The omens coming in before the May 2013 elections from Balochistan, where blood continues to spill even as plans for balloting go ahead, are not good. They could well be signalling very real dangers ahead. In a warning that should not be ignored, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and a former chief minister of the province, has said that the BNP could pull out of contesting elections if things in Balochistan did not improve. This would be a disaster for the province, which has veered further and further away from mainstream political events.
Mr Mengal’s concerns about law and order, and a possible attempt by Baloch nationalist forces whom he calls “friends”, to derail the process are shared by the interim chief minister of the province, Nawab Ghous Baksh Barozai. Mr Barozai has said that he may travel overseas to talk to exiled Baloch leaders, including the Khan of Kalat, Brahamdagh Bugti, Hyrbyair Marri and others. He has also been contacting key Baloch leaders at home, but disputes Mr Mengal’s allegations that lashkars backed by the establishment are attempting to sabotage the BNP campaign. Mr Barozai also remains adamant that polls in the province will go ahead, despite the odds.
These odds are considerable. Mr Mengal has spoken of tortured, mangled bodies still turning up in towns across Balochistan and has lamented the fact that the Baloch people continue to go missing. Like Mr Barozai, he believes that the centre is largely responsible for the situation.
We desperately need to think harder about Balochistan. All Baloch political parties need to be brought together to discuss the situation and propose steps to ensure that polls can go ahead in the province. Otherwise, we may see a situation developing which will plunge the entire country into deep trouble. The clear words, signalling the risks, must be taken note of if such an outcome is to be avoided.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2013.
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