Local Bodies Elections: Another Setback to Baloch Separatism

Bringing peace in Balochistan   By Sajjad Shaukat

By following the violent path of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baochistan separatist outfits, especially Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Baloch Republican Party (BRA) had accelerated their terror-activities by targeting the political leaders, election-sites of Balochistan National Party (BNP) and the National Party (NP) including independent candidates to sabotage the general elections 2013 in the province. But by ignoring boycott-call of  the separatist outfits, BNP and NP including several nationalist candidates participated in the polls, while a majority of the Baloch nationalists cast their vote in wake of threats and violent. By giving a greater blow to the Baloch separatism, it has indicated that a majority of the Baloch are loyal to the federation.

As a result of the elections, the government led by a nationalist leader Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has been established. He is progressive and moderate man who announced to hold dialogue with all militant groups operating in the province. While speaking in the Balochistan Assembly over worsening law and order in the province on July 29, 2013, Dr Malik Baloch pointed out his efforts for restoring Baloch pride by ensuring that socio-economic justice would meet with success. He played a key role in empowering Baloch leaders to manage the affairs of their province and also to participate in Pakistan’s decision-making process.

Baloch separatism received another setback when on December 7, 2013; local bodies elections were largely held in a peaceful manner in the province. However, holding of local government elections in Balochistan has been a landmark achievement in Balochistan which needs special analysis.

In this regard, although the challenges were extraordinary and the atmosphere appeared unfavorable, yet, despite short time, chief minister decided to hold local bodies elections in Balochistan in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court. While, there were speculations by media and some foreign-backed entities that deteriorating law and order situation, menace of terrorism and coercive threats of the separatists posed to general milieu in Balochistan would not make it possible to hold or organize mass scale activities like local government elections. But, Dr Abdul Malik and his political team proved that such speculations were wrong and showed to the world that Balochistan was not a hopeless case. It was owing to his firm resolve, strategic vision, political acumen and sense of commitment which made the local bodies elections possible not only in time, but also successful and nonviolent.

However, it was due to the strenuous efforts of the Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik that by setting aside the threats of foreign-assisted militant groups such as BLA, BLF and BRA, a majority of the Baloch male and female equally cast their votes. In some areas, women voters were stopped by the hostile elements for casting their votes. Amid protest by the women voters, local administration intervened and resolved this problem.

Official sources confirmed that in Quetta, a large number of male and female voters were seen going to the polling stations since morning. Long queues of voters were present at the polling stations in different parts of the city and on its outskirts. Turnout of voters was encouraging in Quetta and its suburbs. According to an estimate, around 35 percent votes were polled in the first four hours in central areas of the city. Overall turnout stood at 45 percent in Quetta district. Nevertheless, on the whole, a better turnout was witnessed in Balochistan, and over 4000 seats have been filled by successful candidates and rest few hundred seats will also get completed in due course.

Notably, acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk visited different polling stations and expressed satisfaction over the polling process.

It is mentionable that to ensure the local government elections, over 54,000 personnel of the Pak Army, Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary, Police and Levies were deployed across the province to ensure peaceful polling. In this context, the provincial Election Commissioner, Sultan Bazaid praised the role of the Pakistan Army in facilitating the constitutional process.

Even, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch remarked, “I must also give credit to police and security forces for maintaining peace during the election process. Law and order has significantly improved in Balochistan, as was evident from the peaceful conduct of the local government polls.”

As regards the local bodies elections, while talking to reporters at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch pointed out that by conducting the polls, his government had proved that it was committed to transferring power to the grass roots. He explained, “Balochistan is the first province to hold local government elections…I must give credit to the people who took part in the electoral process.” The greatness of the chief minister of Balochistan can be judged from his statement that instead of appreciating himself, he said his government and its coalition partners deserved the credit for holding ‘timely’ elections of the local bodies in a transparent and peaceful environment.

In fact, the credit goes to Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch because by showing insight and political wisdom, he arranged the elections in such a manner that by defying all threats and fears in wake of kidnappings of some candidates by the externally-supported militants, people turned out in large numbers to exercise their right to vote in 3,500 of the total 4,168 constituencies. And, in the end, the will of the provincial government and the state prevailed. This is a strong indicator that environment in the province is improving and the law and order situation is not as bad as is being propagated by some entities.

It is noteworthy that the entire process of elections at grassroots level in Balochistan remained peaceful and free of violence. This has sent a strong message to those who have gone astray to make trouble in Balochistan at the behest of their foreign masters as well as to foreign agencies involved to exploit the situation in the province. These elections also proved that people of Balochistan have voted against militancy, terrorism and separatism.   Moreover, local government elections in Balochistan in a single stroke have successfully refuted media elements which have been projecting gloomy picture of Balochistan. In this regard, media anchors’ claims about Balochistan are totally fake and callous because people of Balochistan love Pakistan as much as they do for their province. No doubt, the successful holding of the polls raised not only the profile of the chief minister, but also the province in the eyes of the nation. As the polling process remained smooth across the province, a tangible—potentially sustainable development, it showed that if the chief minister could deliver successfully in connection with the local bodies polls, the man and his team could also rise to other challenges as well by further improving the aggravated law and order situation of Balochistan due to his unmatched leadership qualities. He also demonstrated that people of Balochistan under his dynamic leadership are following the true spirit of democracy and no external interference or internal disorder could hamper their political will in completion of a legal-political process in the province. Besides, Dr Abdul Malik took a commendable decision to demonstrate that if political leadership becomes sincere to resolve the problems faced by masses, no hostile element can have a negative impact on their performance.

Particularly, Pakistan’s other provinces must also emulate Balochistan in holding of local bodies elections in accordance with already agreed schedule and orders of the Supreme Court, otherwise they will run the risk of damaging the democratic norms.

Nonetheless, it would not be our wishful thinking about local bodies elections, if we conclude that because of his farsightedness, strong will power and supervision, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has made a landmark development by giving another setback to the Baloch separatism, and by surprising all those who had predicted doom and gloom for the troubled province of Balochistan.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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