It is that time when once in five years all political parties highlight the problems of Balochistan. In political gatherings, press statements and social media posts, these parties decry the suffering of Balochistan’s people.
It is that time when an ordinary citizen of Balochistan is made to believe that all political parties care for his problems and wish to resolve them. But no political party proposes any concrete or precise solutions to the province’s enormous problems.
Ever since the creation of Balochistan as Pakistan’s province, power politics in the area has revolved around a vicious cycle that has benefitted the ruling political elite, not the people. The cycle starts when a political party is in the opposition or is out of power. This party then becomes the biggest champion of the rights of Balochistan’s people and uses the support of the public to make its way to the government. Once there, it forgets about the people’s problems and concocts excuses about how it is helpless in bringing about any meaningful change.
Once these parties are out of power, there is a gap of a year or two and then the cycle repeats itself. This has been the case with almost every government in Balochistan – except for the National Awami Party (NAP)-Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) coalition government in the 1970s.
Coming to the forthcoming elections, there are multiple parties which are playing the aforementioned role. Today, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) is one of the most popular parties in opposition – the last time it was in power was in 1998. The BNP actively raises voice for Balochistan’s burning issues, such as fears of a demographic change and the control on the province’s natural resources. However, the party lacks a concrete and detailed plan of action to resolve these problems. Even if the BNP did come into power it will not be able to change anything.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) – also an aspirant for the next Balochistan government – is not the typical opposition party because it was founded suddenly at the end of March. The party has based its campaign on the slogan that Balochistan’s decisions should be made in Balochistan, and not in Lahore or Larkana.
The BAP is currently the most popular destination for the electables of the province. This has increased its chances to form the next government. But the BAP also lacks solutions to Balochistan’s problems. One can’t imagine what it will do differently than the government of Quddus Bizenjo, once it is in power.
Moreover, the right-wing JUI-F has always been in the government. The last tenure (2013-18) was an exception as the party had to sit on the opposition benches. It is also a popular opposition party in the run-up to the elections. As per predictions, the JUI-F will dominate elections in the Pashtun belt of Balochistan and will be a leading coalition partner of the next government.
But just as the BNP and BAP, the JUI-F is also doesn’t offer practical solutions for Balochistan. They will win votes only because they were in the opposition for the last five years and also because they play the religion card.
The PML-N, National Party (NP) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) completed their five-year tenure in government this year. But these parties did not complete the one to two-year waiting period required for a political party in government to become a party of the opposition. This is why these parties are going into the elections but without much hope.
The PTI is not a major player in Balochistan’s politics either. It lacks what it will take to solve Balochistan’s problems. IIrrespective of which party comes into power, nothing will change for Balochistan. The province is a classic example of how the status quo remains while the faces and political parties change.
Any government that wants to solve Balochistan’s problems will need to bring about governance reforms. These reforms cannot be introduced at the whims of politicians. They require detailed studies that are in line with the latest governance systems and practices. Balochistan needs to rid itself of inefficiency and corruption, which requires institutions to be strengthened and nepotism to be eliminated.
Balochistan’s development-spending plans need to be rationalised, the gap between the demand and supply of electricity needs to be met, and five-year plans to produce private-sector jobs need to be implemented. Political parties are not the only ones who share the blame. Balochistan’s problems have exacerbated owing to the mistreatment of federal governments and the high-handedness of the establishment. However, political parties are responsible in a big way and cannot get away with blaming the establishment for everything.
These parties argue that they cannot deliver while in government because they are powerless. This is a lame excuse. If they don’t have power, then why don’t they resign from the government? Because political parties in Balochistan only want to come into power and not solve people’s problems.
The writer is a journalist and researcher based in Quetta.