The strategic significance of Baluchistan is in perpetuum. The peace, security, and law-and-order situation impacts the social development of any region. Unfortunately, the law-and-order situation of Baluchistan continues to remain uncertain, and the province has been facing security issues and political instability for decades. A number of factors and actors that include international and regional players, nationalist insurgents, sectarian and religious extremists, and political elements have been involved in instigating the conflict.
The haphazard response to the conflict in Baluchistan paved the way for further fragmentation. Consecutive governments have been trying to resolve the Baluchistan issue, as is the current government which is working on a reconciliation process in the province. For this purpose, it is of paramount importance to understand the root cause of Baloch grievances. These are mainly political and can only be addressed through political processes; they must neither be suppressed coercively nor be manipulated.
In this vein, it is necessary to uphold the sanctity of political processes that give representation to the ordinary Baloch people. Recently, after a gap of almost 10 years, the peaceful local body elections in Baluchistan held on 28th May 2022 clearly indicated that the people desire change and leadership. Given the chance, they have chosen leaders that they feel have their best interests at heart. The credit for the peaceful elections in Baluchistan goes to the law enforcement agencies. Secondly, these elections are befitting response to external actors like India and all other negative forces in the region who continue their failing efforts to undermine peace and stability in Baluchistan.
The local body elections observed a significant number of people standing for election (over 17,000 candidates contested some 4,556 seats). In the Turbat division alone, the turnout remained 61%, which was equivalent to that of any large city in the country. The voter turnout was estimated to be the highest in the province since the year 1988. Another positive development was the participation of women candidates. This participation of women candidates in these local body elections is unprecedented and not only did women participate in the electoral process as candidates, but the turnout of women voters also remained encouraging. But what is extremely surprising is that independent candidates have won almost 1,300 seats in municipal corporations. The next party which secured the most seats is JUI-F with a win of 98 seats and the ruling party Baluchistan Awami Party (BAP) has secured almost 70 seats.
|Sr.No||Political Party||Seats Won|
|1||Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF)||362|
|2||Balochistan Awami Party (BAP)||257|
|3||National Party (NP)||128|
|4||Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP)||125|
|5||Balochistan National Party (BNP||92|
|7||Awami National Party (ANP)||32|
|8||Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP)||19|
The statistics shows that the leading political parties like PMLN, PPP or PTI also secured seats, with PTI having the lowest number among these three contemporary parties. These results raise questions that is their political activism restricted to the urban cities only? The results
The public apolitical participation in Baluchistan’s local body elections is another aspect that has been clearly demonstrated on the ground. The victory of ‘Gwadar ko Haq Do’campaign is demonstrated in the election in Baluchistan. The campaign in Gwadar began in November 2021 with the local community demanding rights and livelihood. Thousands of women, men, and children marched on the city’s main highways, raising slogans against the province administration. However, in December 2021, the government acknowledged and agreed to some of their demands. The people of Gwadar eventually elected their representatives in local bodies. The same party leadership will now work within the constitutional framework to settle people’s grievances and establish the foundations of democracy in Baluchistan. It has also demonstrated how people may get their rights without resorting to rioting or bloodshed.
Baluchistan holds the key to the future of Pakistan. Following measures can be adopted for peaceful Baluchistan:
- By addressing the grievances of locals and building the lost trust we can hope for a sustainable situation and move forward on the road to development.
- To attract the foreign investors and international development agencies, the security situation must be improved. To encourage the foreign investment the provincial government should work on the adequate security, particularly at development sites.
- The 18th Amendment gives the provinces financial educational, and political autonomy. The recent electoral process for local body elections in Baluchistan indicates that people are finally accepting to bring change through the legal and legitimate processes. The same could be replicated in Kashmir as well. The people of Kashmir must also be given the same choice.
- Both the federal and provincial governments must streamline religious madrassas in the provincial and national educational framework, by taking complete ownership and responsibility of these institutions. The purpose of teaching students’ Islamic knowledge can be achieved in normal schools as well. The streamlining of madrassas will also help eliminate any potential religious extremist elements.
- Furthermore, resources such as copper and gold deposits should be used to strengthen Baluchistan’s economy, and the federal government should integrate the Baloch in the CPEC project more readily. Therefore, Baluchistan’s security will improve.
- The Baluchistan government should build an institute where they are trained and create a workforce which can be utilized in different development projects and different industries in the province. This will create employment opportunities for the civilians of Baluchistan.
- For advancement in the education sector, the government should create educational and research institutes to enhance livestock management skills and capacity.
- Confidence building measures are one of the favourable factors to empower the Baloch people. Engaging the local civilians of Baluchistan in the development projects will generate the feeling of the empowerment.