Go vote, no vote
reposted from: http://nation.com.pk/daily/feb-2008/13/columns3.php, Source:
The Nation, Feb 13, 2008
For more article and
interviews by Baloch leader Sanaullah
Baloch, visit his website.
SENATOR SANAULLAH BALOCH
Pakistan is divided on polls, some parties believe that change is possible through
vote; but some quality people think that taking part in elections under current
conditions and regime will further result in more political suffocation.
Supporters and contenders of February 18 polls are nervous, there poll campaigns
are limited and in majority cases chill. They are unable to campaign freely and
create an atmosphere of popular participation.
However, APDM's polls boycotting parties seem more confident and in action to
stop people from voting. Government crackdown against APDM's leaders and workers
in Balochistan and Sindh is a clear sign of the government's frustration that,
no vote slogan is more popular and getting momentum in unhappy provinces then
go vote rhetoric.
Following the APDM decision, Baloch and Pushtoon nationalist parties are boycotting
the upcoming elections in Balochistan. No doubt, moderate, literate, and student
groups are affiliated with the poll boycotting parties.
The government is not justified to stop, intimidate or arrest those who are for
or against the polls. Peaceful political campaign is the constitutional right
of every citizen. The act of voting in Pakistan is not compulsory it's voluntary;
however some countries, such as Australia , Belgium and Brazil , have compulsory
voting systems. Stopping popular parties from anti-poll campaign is also an act
of election rigging.
Boycotting parties in Balochistan are voicing serious concerns in support of
their decision of no vote; these issues include central government hostilities,
military operation, killings, displacements and mass arrests of nationalist activists.
Their boycott will certainly give the government an opportunity to re-install
a pro-military religious government in the province to continue its unpopular
Four major nationalist parties like, Balochistan National Party, Pushtoonkhwa
Milli Awami Party, National Party (NP) and Jamoori Watan Party (JWP), believe
that the "boycott weapon" might prove to be effective against dictatorship and
autocracy. They claim that the on-going military operation has worsened the situation
in Balochistan and was now taking a critical turn after the assassination of
Baloch nationalist leaders like Akbar Khan Bugti and Balach Marri. The also allege
that thousands of Baloch political activists including Baloch leader like Sardar
Akhter Mengal had been put behind bars and were being tortured, while many others
have disappeared. The core issue is not just boycotting election but it's more
alarming that mistrust and dissatisfaction on the political system is rising.
Parties and political representatives are loosing political faith and they compelled
to believe that regime policies will continue to benefit only the majority province.
The elections are not boycotted for first time; in 1977 political parties under
the umbrella of PNA boycotted the general elections because of military operation
and detention of a majority of Baloch leaders. Due to the boycott, military operation
and incarceration of Baloch-Pushtoon leaders, PPP managed to win all Balochistan
In 1970 elections, which claimed to be Pakistan's only free and fair polls, the
moderate Baloch nationalist won three out of four national assembly places and
eight in provincial assembly out of twenty. Although five members were elected
as independent candidates but a majority were supported by nationalists. JUI
was able to win only two seats in 1970 elections from Balochistan . The Pakistan
Peoples Party (PPP) did well in Punjab and Sindh but failed to win a single national
and provincial seat in Balochistan.
In 1988, Baloch nationalists won the majority seats in Baloch populated constituencies.
JUI and other parties managed to win seats from Pushtoon dominated areas of the
province. Nawab Akbar Bugti was appointed chief minister. His unpleasant relations
with Benazir Bhutto 's led central government made it difficult to initiate effective
economic activity in the province to uplift the socio-economic condition of impoverished
In 1990, once again Nawab Bugti's JWP and other Baloch nationalist won the majority
seats in the province but their efforts to form a provincial government was hampered
by the intelligence agencies. In 1993, Baloch nationalists suffered heavy election
losses due to election manipulation by the agencies and some internal fractions.
In 1997, Balochistan National Party formed by veteran Baloch Nationalist Sardar
Atthullah Mengal secured quite a reasonable portion of seats in the Balochistan
Assembly and formed a coalition government in province. But soon after the May
1998, nuclear test and BNP's opposition to the nuclear trial resulted in the
removal of Akhter Mengal's government. In 2002, Musharraf's government successfully
managed to keep the Baloch nationalists out of the assemblies through massive
rigging and manipulation. This helped the pro-Taliban MMA to occupy Balochistan's
election scene. This systematic and planned exclusion of Baloch moderate parties
resulted into Islamabad-Baloch conflict.
Moreover, the last four years of intense military operation in Balochistan resulted
in the killing of politically valuable Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
The former chief minister and Balochistan National Party President Sardar Akhter
Mengal's prolong and unjust detention has also disappointed the Baloch electorate.
In such a state of affairs it's not complex to forecast that an inexperienced
government supported rogue element will dominate Balochistan's election scene.
In 2008, elections will further push away moderate Baloch and Pushtoon political
forces from the centre and unrest will continue to grip the region.
July 2007, report of International Crisis Group regarding "Elections, Democracy
and Stability in Pakistan " expressed concern over the regime's support towards
religious groups in Balochistan and argued that "Now, as before, Musharraf has
little choice but to support the Islamist parties to counter his moderate opposition.
The pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI)'s help is essential to him, particularly
in Balochistan, where the staunchly anti-military Baloch nationalist parties
would likely win a free and fair poll. In the national parliament too, Musharraf
would need the Islamists' support to get renewed approval of his dual hats. If
the Islamist parties gain five more years of power in Balochistan and Northwest
Frontier Province (NWFP), their militant allies - Pakistani, Afghan and transnational
- will benefit, and the moderate parties, which still retain the support of the
vast majority of the population, will lose."
Political parties in Balochistan also raised their concerns towards central and
provincial caretaker governments and described them as biased and alleged that
a "master plan" had been prepared to rig the election and "brothers and sisters" of
the caretakers minister in the province are going to "win" the elections. They
claim that how free and fair general elections are possible when twenty-three
out of twenty-eight district nazims belong to the Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q),
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Balochistan National Party (BNP-pro-government).
There are also visible evidences that provincial caretaker cabinet members close
family associates are contesting from several constituencies and likely to get
elected due to profound influence of provincial administration.
In their poll boycott rallies APDM leaders are vocally convincing the gatherings
and telling the masses that "how free, fair and transparent elections could take
place in a country where political parties are prohibited from campaigning, military
and agencies visibly enforce an atmosphere of intimidation; where top Baloch
representatives have been persecuted on ethnic basis, they have been jailed for
years without any transparent judicial trials, political activists have been
detained for months under the pretext of maintaining of public order."
No doubt, the rhetoric of "free, fair and transparent" election without ensuring
the fundamental human rights will remain a meaningless exercise.
Although, the government seems determined to hold elections in the province,
but turn out in province will be low and legitimacy of polls will remain questionable.
In future, any provincial government in volatile province would not be in a position
to function and deliver, as it will lack mandate from the people.
The nationalist parties have been a strong mass support and they have been able
in past to paralyse the provincial government at a number of occasions.