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

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid