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General elections of Pakistan, where Baloch nationalists stand?

Niaz Zehri

The general elections in Pakistan are going to be held on August 25, 2018. Pakistan’s major Political parties have already begun their election campaigns in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad.  On the other hand, the atmosphere in Balochistan is relatively calmer and the people are indifferent towards these elections. Baloch nationalist parties, who seek freedom for Balochistan, have once again boycotted these elections.

The largest pro-freedom party of Balochistan the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and the largest student organisation Baloch students Organisation – Azad (BSO-Azad) have categorically rejected Pakistan’s so called general elections. The reason and logic behind this strong decision is that, in Pakistan there is no democracy, all powers are held by the GHQ, political parties are not free to campaign and advocate for their rights, elections have been always influenced by the powerful army, whereas voters are not free to vote by their own choice. Pakistani Establishment can make somebody a chief minister of Balochistan who could only accumulate 552 votes. Similarly, somebody who never had any public profile can become chairman of Pakistani Senate with a jiff.

There is a reason and a long history behind Balochistan’s distrust on Pakistani systems. There are several historical facts which make us believe that, the elections under Pakistani regime are just a farce to show the world that, a democratic process has been exercised in the country. Baloch have unpleasant experience with the Pakistani parliamentary system. The government of National Awami Party (NAP) in Balochistan was overthrown and the top leadership were sent to the different jails of the country in 1970s by Bhutto regime. It was the first elected government of Balochistan, the Baloch nation came to the polling stations with hope and casted their vote to decide their own future and form a government of their own. But Pakistani establishment didn’t respect the will of people as it has always wanted to form governments of their own choice rather than one that is chosen by the people.

Baloch political organizations that are struggling for a free and democratic Balochistan can never be against the parliamentary system of politics or against any democratic process. The demands of Baloch nationalists are all about democracy and equality so there can be no reason why they would oppose any such system. However, they oppose the current form of parliamentary politics that is carried out under Pakistani framework. Balochistan was occupied at the might of the gun and any system that is imposed upon Baloch without the restoration of Balochistan’s sovereignty does not adhere to any lawful and ethical rationale. Additionally, only those candidates reach the parliament who have been approved by the Pakistani Army. It will not be wrong to say that in Pakistan selections are carried out not that the elections are held.

Pakistan has always used the so-called parliament against the oppressed people by passing bills that warrant more and more brutalities. Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 is the most recent example, which was criticised by the international community as well. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in a statement, has asked the government of Pakistan not to renew the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA), 2014, as it is ‘oppressive and ineffective’.

Then there are the military tribunals, which were legalised by the parliament in January 2015, on the recommendations (read orders) of Pakistani Army. The right to appeal is an essential component of a free and fair trial but the military court convicts are not given any such option to appeal in civilian courts. This also proved that Pakistani army does not trust civilian courts or have any faith in the democratic processes. The Pakistan protection Act 2014 and military tribunals have given legal power to the notorious Pakistani army to detain and kill Baloch and opposition political activists without any accountability.

Pakistan army has violated its own country’s constitution several times and is still doing the same by depriving citizen of their basic constitutional rights. In today’s Pakistan, there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, no basic Human rights and media is under military control. Presently in Pakistan there is an unannounced martial-law where the Army is running a parallel government. Elected prime minster of Pakistan was removed by judiciary on the directions of Pakistani Army. Without basic constitutional rights of people, how can one say that Pakistan is a democratic country? And how can one struggle for their rights by using such sham state institutions?

Even Pakistan army does not stand its own Punjabi leaders if they criticise Army’s policies. The recent forced dismissal of Sanaullah Zehri’s government and replacing it with Qudoos Bizenjos within a short span of a week was just one such show of force to Nawaz Sharif. If Pakistan Army can do this with the leader of Pakistan’s most powerful and most famous party in Punjab, what can small provinces with only very small number of representation are expected to do in centre?

It is not possible for Baloch and oppressed nations to use parliament as a platform to advocate for their rights. Baloch nation would have surely exercised all these tools for their national liberation if there were any kind of free and fair elections. Baloch nation will use all measures and will demand for right of self-determination, given in the UN Colonial Declaration, GA Resolution 1541 (1960) paragraph 2: ‘All people have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development …’.

We know these international declarations and charters are respected only by the civilised nations and countries. Pakistan is a rouge state, which only cares about their Punjabi elite, and can go to any extreme against their opposition. Pakistan has violated international laws in past in Bangladesh and continues to do so in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Therefore, it is not in our national interest to be part of Pakistan’s so-called general elections in these circumstances.

Niaz Zehri is Organiser of Foreign Committee of @BSO__AZAD and a student of Law at the University of Roehampton, London. He tweets at @Niaz_Zehri

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