News / Asia

In Pakistan's Baluchistan, Nationalist Parties Return to Contest Vote

Pakistani volunteers search for blast victims in the wreckage of a destroyed passenger bus following a bomb explosion in Mastung district, about 25 kilometres south of Quetta, the capital of insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, September 18, 2012.
Pakistani volunteers search for blast victims in the wreckage of a destroyed passenger bus following a bomb explosion in Mastung district, about 25 kilometres south of Quetta, the capital of insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, September 18, 2012.
Ayaz Gul
Authorities in Pakistan’s insurgency-wracked Baluchistan province have put in place extremely tight security measures to ensure May 11 national elections are held peacefully.

Separatist groups have threatened to disrupt the polls. But the participation of Baluch nationalist parties has led to hopes the vote could bring much needed political stability to the mineral and energy-rich province.

Militants in Pakistan's volatile Baluchistan province have already attacked election-related events. The violence has led to a more subdued campaign season in most of the region. Residents and independent observers expect an all time low turnout.

But authorities are confident that deployment of around 70,000 security forces across the province will ensure the safety of voters and prevent a disruption of the May 11 vote.

"We are providing security to all polling stations and to the people, and it is the resolve of the provincial government to conduct just, free, fair and transparent elections," explains Provincial Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, who is supervising the security arrangements.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s biggest, but least populous, province. Despite being the richest of all four provinces in natural resources, its estimated 12 million people are the poorest in the country.

While the rest of Pakistan is benefiting from Baluchistan's mineral and energy wealth, a World Bank report says the southwestern province has the worst economic growth record, the weakest infrastructure and the lowest national socio-economic indicators.

Residents have long complained of being neglected by both the provincial and central governments. The resentment has helped fuel the low-level Baluch insurgency that has long battled the Pakistani state for political autonomy.

"Baluchistan is a typical question of a mismanaged province by our own politicians, by our own administrations," said Wazir Ahmed Jogazai, a senior Baluch politician and a former deputy speaker of the national legislature.

The people in Baluchistan are also opposed to the heavy presence of military forces in their province. Some accuse the Pakistani security forces of using brutal methods to suppress demands for greater political and economic autonomy.

The law and order situation worsened after the Pakistani army's 2006 killing of senior Baluch politician Nawab Akbar Bugti. His death is said to have broadened support for the Baluch fighters seeking independence from Pakistan.

The killing also prompted moderate nationalist parties to boycott Pakistan's 2008 national elections.

End to violence

But after five years on the political sidelines, the parties contesting this year's vote, promise to bring an end to the violence through the ballot.

"Good luck for Pakistani democracy that major nationalist parties of Baluchistan," Zafarullah Khan, the executive director of the non-governmental Center for Civic Education Pakistan, said, "they are contesting elections, they are showing a lot of courage to give electoral process of Pakistan a chance to solve the Baluch question. But their challenge is that certain Baluch separatist, those who don’t find their future in the electrical process, they are posing a lot of challenges for them and restricting their campaign.”

Former army general Talat Masood also agrees that participation of Baluch nationalist parties could go a long way in addressing the problems of their province.

“If they can get back into the political fold I think that will be extremely helpful because that will sooth the passions and will bring them into the political process rather than they remain alienated," he said.

But nationalist leaders such as Jahanzaib Jamaldini have long accused the military establishment of manipulating election results in favor of politicians they have created to counter nationalist forces.

He warns that if those policies are not abandoned the insurgent violence will increase.

“So, what we want is a free and transparent elections, mandate should be respected, trust deficit should be defused then there could be a way out to settle the problems [of Baluchistan]," he said.

Worsening the so-called "trust deficit" between the Pakistani government and the people in Baluchistan are the hundreds of people alleged to have been disappeared in the last several years.

Baluch activist groups blame the army for disappearances and targeted killings. Pakistani authorities reject the allegations and instead blame separatist groups.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs