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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More