After spending the last 14 years away from parliamentary politics, prominent nationalist politician Sardar Akhtar Mengal returned to the Balochistan Assembly as a member of the house on Wednesday.
Former chief minister and president of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M), Sardar Akhtar Mengal, returned to Pakistan in March this year, ending his four-odd years of self-exile to lead his party in the May 11 elections.
The BNP-M, however, didn’t fare well in the elections which, he alleged, were massively rigged. The party staged several demonstrations, triggering fears that Mengal might say goodbye to parliamentary politics for good.
It took MPA-elect Mengal over three months to make up his mind. “The members of this house should not just pledge allegiance to Pakistan, but to Balochistan as well,” he said after he and his fellow MPA-elect Mir Hammal Kalmati were sworn in. “We cannot be faithful to Pakistan without being loyal to Balochistan,” he added.
Mengal said peace could be restored in the violence-wrecked Balochistan if the federal government implemented his ‘six points’.
The six-point charter, revealed by Mengal earlier this year, calls for ending all covert and overt military operations, producing all missing persons before a court of law, disbanding all ‘proxy death squads’, bringing those responsible for the killings of Baloch leaders to justice, allowing Baloch political parties to resume their political activities without any interference and rehabilitating all displaced Baloch people.
Talking about the volatile security situation, Mengal said there was no guarantee that the various proposals being floated in this regard would work until there was change in the establishment’s mindset. “Enforced disappearances and the dumping of mutilated bodies at public places can only end if the mindset of the rulers changes.”
He claimed that despite a public apology by outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari for the past excesses in Balochistan, a military operation was still ongoing in the province with ‘visible consequences’. The BNP-M chief called for drawing a line between people waging a struggle for their ‘usurped’ rights and terrorists.
“Displaced people from the entire region used to seek shelter in Balochistan in the past … Now, there is no place to provide shelter to our own sons and daughters,” he said.
The BNP-M chief said ‘state-backed’ terrorists had imposed the ‘law of the jungle’ in Khuzdar for the past two months. The entire city has been barricaded, preventing food and other supplies from reaching residents, he added.
The BNP-M chief said instability in Afghanistan also affected law and order in Balochistan. “Extremism was introduced in this region by the US to fight communism … [Now] we are left facing the disastrous consequences.”
Mengal said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had shared his plans for development in Balochistan with him during a meeting. He said he warned the premier, however, that development and progress would not be possible without peace.
He demanded all agreements signed between Pakistan and China regarding the Gwadar port be presented before the Balochistan Assembly. He also sought a guarantee from Premier Nawaz that the Baloch people would not become a minority in Gwadar.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2013.