The elections in Balochistan will be less than credible because elections held in an environment of terror and harassment, where people are permanently terrorised by the security forces and their proxy death squads can never be free or fair. The turnout will be naturally extremely low due to the overall security situation, which has for long been appalling for the Baloch and Hazaras, and also the boycott. Although the physical turnout will probably be extremely low, the participation figures will be manipulated to give them a semblance of respectability. Incidentally, the turnout even during the un-boycotted and peaceful elections of 2002 was a pathetic 29 percent. The people’s interest in elections in Balochistan waned a long time ago as these brought them more misery and sufferings while only the elected and their families thrived. The extremely successful strikes of May 9 and 10 have put paid to expectations that people can be forced to come out to vote.
By the time this article is published, the elections will be over but its ramifications will take some time to appear and register. The elections in Balochistan and elsewhere do not augur well for the Baloch, Hazaras, minorities and the people in general. Dr. Mohammad Taqi, an outspoken and cogent columnist, rightly observed in these pages: “Several polls predict the chief patron of the sectarian bigots, the PML-N, perhaps taking the helm at the Centre and possibly in a coalition in Balochistan.” Then discussing how sectarian, fundamentalist parties and individuals have gained ascendency during these elections he rightly concluded, “The principal bad news is that it might not be possible to recover from this hard right turn.” It is this ‘hard right turn’ that spells trouble overall with far-reaching implications. Recovery will be well nigh impossible from this body blow. Indications are that the parties in cahoots with the religious and sectarian outfits will have primacy in the new set-up and this is exactly what the institutions that do not tire of emphasising the role of Islam desire and will be getting. Needless to say, the five-year performance and policies of the so-called liberal coalition were disastrous and disappointing.
Since the army operation, in fact ongoing since March 1948, was again officially launched on May 1 in Balochistan, there have been clashes with nationalists and places like Mashkay have come under concerted attack. Mashkay happens to be the hometown of the charismatic Dr Allah Nazar, who is desperately sought by the security forces for his daring and successes against them. All those resisting the injustices are being sought and hunted but the news filtering out reveals that the army, FC and their proxy death squads have failed in their objectives.
The Baloch opposition to these elections is being unjustly condemned; historically, polls in Balochistan have always simply provided the much needed legitimacy to the brutal actions that the establishment had taken to suppress the rightful demands of the Baloch nationalists. The election boycott was announced to expose the farce of legitimacy and respectability that elections afford to the persistently perpetrated brutalities, exploitation of resources and denial of rights. Moreover, because an election was imposed on the Baloch through violence, they had no option except to use violence to oppose it. Dr Allah Nazar has reiterated that the Baloch do not oppose elections in principle but oppose the establishment’s use of them to legitimise all illegal actions and exploitation of the Baloch resources. Castigating the Baloch for resisting and countering atrocities is not only ill advised but also unjust.
I won’t hazard a guess about the winners in Balochistan because the situation will remain unchanged no matter who wins. The establishment and institutions, overtly or covertly, brazenly or subtly ensure that the dice rolls according to their whims and fancy and these have nothing to do with reason or logic because their only criterion is narrow self-interest. From its protégés the establishment expects the loyalty that courtiers accorded to Mahmud Ghaznavi. Once during a hunt Ghaznavi ended up at a peasant’s hut, and hungry, he demanded food. The peasant had but eggplant and prepared a meal. Famished, Ghaznavi relished it initially and his accompanying courtier eulogised it accordingly. Soon his stomach grumbled so he belittled the eggplant. The courtier too began vehemently disparaging it. Ghaznavi said, “Moments ago you praised it and now you denigrate it.” He said, “Sire, I am your servant and not of the eggplant.” The establishment demands this sort of loyalty and will unquestionably get it from the new government, which means the Baloch rights can go jump in the lake.
More difficult times loom ahead for the Baloch because those elected dread the nationalists and the army is their only guarantor, so to save themselves they will obsequiously oblige the army and institutions. The first task for the newly formed government in Balochistan will be to legitimise and indefinitely extend the present ongoing operation; the second task will be to rubberstamp Gwadar’s handover to China and the Iranian pipeline. It will certainly remain busy long striving to ensure that the establishment’s will is mistaken for the will of the Baloch people. The fact remains that except for the short-lived Ataullah Mengal government of 1972-73, all other governments have emulated Mahmud Ghaznavi’s courtier and obliged the establishment obsequiously. Little wonder then that the worst atrocities against the Baloch were committed during the Raisani government and have continued during Barozai’s tenure.
Interestingly, the Balochistan caretaker Chief Minister Ghous Bux Barozai has proudly proclaimed that he has no cabinet. He revealed that someone offered him Rs 20 million for cabinet induction; he should be made to expose the persons behind these offers. His doing without a cabinet instead of proving his ability to govern singlehandedly simply proves that the army and the Frontier Corps no longer run a parallel government in Balochistan but are fully in charge.
These elections have polarised Balochistan irreversibly and people like Sardar Akhtar Mengal are now firmly in the establishment’s lap. They pin hopes on the establishment’s magnanimity while in general the Baloch have totally given up on the Islam and Pakistan ideology-inspired establishment. Once the new government is in power it will willy-nilly play the tunes that its mentors ask it to and this will only further exacerbate the already deadly polarisation. One thing is certain that however hard Barozai successors may try, they will neither be able to convince the Baloch to cooperate nor defuse the situation.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org