In midst of empty rhetoric over Balochistan, election seen as solution
ISLAMABAD: The latest mass killing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta has once again brought the issue of mis-governance in Balochistan to the fore. As always after such tragedies, the mainstream political parties went to the town shouting the province is slipping into an abyss with each passing day but none had a political solution to offer which everyone would agree to.
Even a cursory review of the statements that political leaders of all hues made in the aftermath of bombing madness in Quetta shows the different opinions they hold on the Balochistan crisis than a willingness to some together and resolve what many see as “an existential problem” for the country.
Balochistan’s problems are traced to its backwardness and provide a cause for all sorts of politics. The ruling PPP and its coalition partners claim they have diverted billions for the development of Balochistan, and taken all the political forces of the province on board in the effort.
But the opposition parties, specially the PML-N, have throughout derided the claim. On the contrary they have been insisting that no genuine government exists there and the province has been left at the mercy of those ‘elected by default’ in 2008, because the Baloch nationalist parties had boycotted that election.
But absent in their criticism and arguments is a workable solution to the conundrum that Balochistan has become over the decades. So far the political parties on the scene have made no serious effort to build a consensus for a progressive and sustainable way out of the morass.
On Wednesday, Qamar Zaman Kaira, the chief spokesperson for the ruling PPP, was asked what his party had done for the province in the last five years. His reply was that the PPP did “its level best”, with the reminder that Balochistan had been in the throes of sectarian crisis and mis-governance for quite some time and that it would take time to fix things.
But many in his own party feel the PPP did not tackle the problems of Balochistan with seriousness. Syed Nasir Ali Shah, a PPP member of the National Assembly from Quetta, has been quite vocal about the party leadership’s failings, starting with foisting Nawab Aslam Raisani as Chief Minister upon Balochistan.
The Nawab only earned bad name for the party, according to him. Mr Shah says Balochistan suffered some of its worst crises under the PPP, such as the rampant killing of young Balochs, and warns the blood-soaked legacy would haunt the party in the coming general elections. Members of the PPP-patronised Raisani government did nothing for the Baloch people and just focused on filling their own pockets. A truly democratically elected government alone can take the province forward, says Mr Shah.
On the part of the opposition, the only statement that the PML-N issued after the weekend bombing in Quetta, was all criticism of the ruling PPP and little, if any, of the monster mindset behind the killings.
The press statement issued in the name of PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif said the latest bombing made it “abundantly clear once again” that there was no government in the province, neither the PPP leadership bothered about the province. There was no plan, suggestion or idea what a government needed to do immediately to control the mayhem in Balochistan.
A senior office-bearer of the PML-N accepted in talking with Dawn that his party had failed to respond meaningfully to the crisis in Balochistan. “The best course should have been the PML-N calling an all parties conference at a neutral venue, but, no body paid any attention,” said the PML-N leader.
According to him, all political parties, including his own, simply play politics as Balochistan burns and its people suffer.
Knowing that majority of the constituencies in Balochistan are controlled by tribal leaders, perverted political wisdom dictated that there was no need to pander to the general public of the province.
“Every now and then, you see politicians meeting tribal Sardars, wooing them for electoral alliance,” observed the PML-N leader.
PML-N’s Deputy Information Secretary Engineer Khurram Dastagir explained to Dawn that Balochistan was facing challenges on many fronts — such as sectarian crisis, killings of Punjabi settlers, violence by the nationalists against state facilities, missing persons etc — and no single policy could cover them all. In his opinion, the only solution at the moment is holding general elections, open to all political elements of the province, including those Baloch leaders living in exile.
“Let the people decide their future through the ballot box,” said Mr Dastagir.
Here it may be recalled that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had in February 2012 announced holding an All Parties Conference on Balochistan and even nominated a 12-member team of senior PPP leaders to contact other political parties for the purpose. But it never materialised, mainly because the opposition cold-shouldered it.
Two months later, though, Imran Khan and his PTI held a public rally in Quetta which was warmly received. Again, after the latest massacre of the Hazara community in Quetta, Imran Khan had the guts to denounce Lashkar-e-Jhangvi by name for “committing genocide” of Shia Hazaras.
According to Imran Khan, free and fair elections will pave way for a peaceful Balochistan.
PTI information secretary, Shafqat Mehmood says his party is quite clear that whosoever creates mess in Balochistan should be sought and brought to book.
So, by and large, holding general elections is seen as the agreed path for the people of Balochistan to find peace by electing their true representative, who then can map out their future.