It may have taken years for Balochistan to descend into chaos, but Akhtar Mengal says the underlying issues, however intractable they may appear, can be resolved in a few days. There is however, a caveat.
The Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s chief says this can only be achieved by a political party that is prepared to take all affairs in its own hands and negate the role of ‘undemocratic forces’ in the province.
In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune from his native town of Wadh, Mengal said the Balochistan issue will remain unresolved until and unless a political initiative is taken by political parties.
Mengal, who returned to Pakistan in March to participate in the general elections after a long self-exile in the United Arab Emirates, said that his return was a reluctant one. It was the insistence of Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders along with the media and civil society, which prompted him to end his exile and contest elections.
“Nawaz Sharif’s assurances greatly contributed to my return,” he revealed, adding “Mian sahib convinced me that we must play our role in the general elections in a changed situation in Pakistan and Balochistan.” But his sense of disappointment is palpable. “Nothing has changed here,” he says.
In 1997, the BNP-M was the largest party in Balochistan and Akhtar Mengal was the chief minister. Today, the party has only two seats to its name in the 51 member provincial assembly. One is Mengal’s own seat from his home constituency and the other is of Hamal Kalmati, who won from the strategic Gwadar constituency.
Two candidates of the BNP-M, Esa Noori and Raouf Mengal, won national assembly seats from the Makran coastal region and Khuzdar, respectively. All the remaining candidates were defeated.
Referring to those defeats, Mengal claimed that his six candidates were initially in the process of winning national and provincial assembly seats from Panjgor , Turbat, Kharan, Noshki and Quetta city and the Quetta-Chaghi constituencies. However, he claims the election results were manipulated to ensure that his candidates lost in all of those areas. “It is now a known fact that election results were delayed for over three days by the local election authorities without any acceptable reasons,” he alleged.
‘’Apart from these tactics, arrangements were made by authorities to discourage voters in all those constituencies, as it is a recognised fact that those remote areas of the province are known as the strongholds of our party , Mengal said while revealing the circumstances that led to the unexpected defeat of his party candidates. “There was absolutely no process of elections by the election commission of Pakistan in Punjgor, Noshki, parts of Kharan, Awaran, Washuk, Dalbandin and a few other places,” he claims. “Election officials did not show up at many polling stations in those districts and in some cases there were no polling stations at all.” He also questioned the victory of PML-N’s NA candidate Lt. Gen (retd ) Abdul Qadir Baloch from Kharan, saying that polling did not take place in a large part of that constituency, which resulted in the defeat of his party’s candidate.
Apart from what he points out, there were also other reasons as to why the elections in Balochistan were unsatisfactory. A campaign of attacks, explosions, threats and subversive activities by militants also played a major role in disrupting electioneering in most parts of the Baloch belt. However, Mr Mengal did not discuss this aspect during the interview.
Condemning the bomb attack on the election convoy of Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, president of the Balochistan chapter of PML-N in Khuzdar, Mengal said Zehri had registered a case against him, his father Sardar Attahullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri only to politicise the issue.
Mengal plans to meet Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders to discuss this and also the treatment he and his party candidates were meted out by the ‘undemocratic forces’ in the province. ‘’ We are not being allowed to play our role in the solution of Balochistan’s issues,” he said. “The Baloch people are being forced to adopt militancy as a way to gain their political rights.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2013.