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Opinion

March 15, 2017

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Politics in Balochistan

Despite claims about the improvements made in the sphere of security, the situation in Balochistan has yet to normalise. This is not due to disturbances spurred by security threats or political controversies. The main reason for this is that the province is still not considered to be a stakeholder in the power structure of mainstream Pakistan.

As a result, all the major political parties have restricted themselves to only maintaining a token presence in the province. The absence of the federal parties’ involvement in the politics of Balochistan is basically what is preventing normalcy to return to the impoverished province.

Let’s consider the PML-N – which forms the government in Balochistan. There are office-bearers of the party in every district of the province and the PML-N seems to be active in the press as well. However, this is just a temporary arrangement. The organisational structure of the PML-N will fall down like a house of cards when the party is out of power.

However, the federal leadership of the party has no interest in the politics of the province – even when their party is ruling the province. Since assuming office in 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has hardly held a single political gathering in the province. He visits Balochistan bi-annually to inaugurate a few projects and that is all. Other central leaders of the PML-N also don’t bother to visit the province and involve themselves in its politics. A few PML-N leaders did visit Quetta prior to the Senate election in March 2015 to ensure that candidates who were nominated get votes. This marks the apathy of the PML-N towards the politics and problems of Balochistan.

The PPP, the second largest party in parliament, is not behaving any differently with Balochistan. The PPP ruled Balochistan in the last tenure from 2008 to 2013. That period is remembered as a dark period in history of Balochistan in terms of corruption, bad governance and nepotism. Once the government of the PPP ended in Balochistan, the interest of the party’s central leadership in the dynamics of the province also dwindled. For the first three years following the 2013 elections, the PPP avoided involving itself in the politics of Balochistan – even though it is a major opposition party. It made no attempt to challenge the wrong decisions made by the PML-N government in Balochistan.

Last month, Asif Zardari made a surprising comeback in the politics of Balochistan. He visited Balochistan for the first time since his tenure as president ended. Zardari also met the so-called “winning horses” from Balochistan. There are indications that these turncoat politicians have assured Zardari that they will join the PPP before the next general elections.

However, Zardari’s recent interest in Balochistan is not because the former president is concerned about the province. It is because Zardari – being the shrewd politician that he is – is doing his homework for the March 2018 Senate elections. At the same time, he is pressurising Nawaz Sharif by attempting to puncture holes into the PML-N’s fortress in Balochistan.

Likewise, the PTI, the so-called revolutionary party which claims to be the real opposition on the streets, has not been any different. The PTI conducted a political gathering in Quetta in April 2012 and hinted towards its interest in the affairs of the province. Since then, Imran Khan has not conducted any such gathering in Quetta. He has addressed a few political gatherings in Sindh and the bordering districts of Balochistan. But those were carried out to mark the inclusion of a tribal leader within the PTI and were not public gatherings in the truest sense. Even during the dharna politics of the PTI, the party’s leadership from Balochistan was out of the scene. As of now, the PTI’s central leadership has not shown any serious commitment to strengthen the political structure of the party in Balochistan.

The nationalist and religious parties based in Balochistan have maintained a similar stance. The PkMAP and National Party are two parties that play the ethnic card. These parties are busy enjoying the bounties of the government and their political activities are restricted to attaining maximum benefits till the end of their tenure.

The JUI-F is the leading opposition party in the province. It has a vast network in the province – mainly through religious seminaries. However, the party is in the government at the federal level so they are not involved in any serious political activities which aim to challenge the provincial government. This only leaves the BNP, which is also a nationalist party and has lately remained active in the politics of Balochistan.

The nationalist parties of Balochistan have their influence only at the Balochistan level. They do not exert any influence at the federal level given the small share of Balochistan in parliament. On the other hand, the major problems of Balochistan are federal-centric in nature and can’t be solved at the provincial level. However, this does not absolve the nationalist political parties of Balochistan who are also more interested in obtaining power as opposed to solving the problems of the province. If the mainstream political parties of Pakistan keep on ignoring Balochistan, the problems in the province will not be resolved.

A non-political elite will continue to rule the province under the garb of politics. Being hand in glove with the bureaucracy, this elite will protect its personal interests at the cost of bad governance, corruption and nepotism in the province. They will face no hurdles as the federal parties have conveniently turned the other way.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @iAdnanAamir

 

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