Election 2008: Political Disintegration in Balochistan
25 January, 2008
By Safdar Sial
Politics in Balochistan has mostly remained in the grip of tribal elders and nationalist parties. In Baloch tribal areas the Sardars and Nawabs are in actual fact the political parties and they serve as engines of political vehicle. Political history of Balochistan is replete with such examples where political parties joined Baloch tribal elders instead of their joining some political party. Even now these tribal elders are strong enough to win their seats independently and political parties are helpless to run under their patronage.
This political scenario is ubiquitous in Baloch regions. Nonetheless, in Pashtun region the tribal clutches have loosened their grip and the tribal elders are increasingly becoming dependent on political parties. This makes the Pashtun areas more democratic and politically liberal where a Nawab or Sardar or Khan, now, can not even think to win the polls independently sans some political party’s support. However the political leadership in these areas has mostly been captured by the religious clerics and scholars. This is mainly attributed to the religious proclivity of the people of these areas.
All the political parties in the Baloch regions have tribal elders’ dominance. Balochistan National Party (BNP) is active under Mengals whereas Jamhuri Watan Party (JWP) has been in the grip of Bugtis. There was a time when National Awami Party (NAP) was under influence of Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Khair Bukhsh Mari and Sardar Attaullah Mengal. The Baloch Nawabs and Sardars have continuously managed to hold the premiership of the province from 1970 t0 2007. Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Barozai, Jam of Lasbela Ghulam Qadir, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Magsi, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Mir Taj Muhammad Jamali were the successful tribal elders who headed the Balochistan assembly throughout this period.
In this perspective the Baloch tribal elders have not only been the political nucleus but also the ruling elite of the province. Balochistan National Youth Movement headed by Dr Abdul Hayi Baloch was the first political agitation against the tribal feuds in these Baloch areas. This organization included all the former student workers of Baloch Students Organization (BSO) but during 1988 they made an alliance with Nawab Akbar Bugti and played a key role in making him Balochistan’s chief minister. This agitation movement of students also came under influence of tribal elders after 1988 and they started to raise slogans in favour of Nawabs, Maris and Mengals. After 1990 Balochistan National Youth Movement became Balochistan National Movement and the Mengals penetrated into this organization to such an extent that it was divided into two factions, Hayi Baloch group and Akhtar Mengal group. The Mengal faction of this organization later became the Balochistan National Party (BNP) whereas the other faction when joined by Hasil Bizenjo became the National Party. Jamhuri Watan Party has also divided into two factions after the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti and most of its leaders and workers have even abandoned it.
The political disintegration started in Balochistan after 1974 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made National Awami Party (NAP) defunct through a reference. This led to formation of National Democratic Party (NDP) which was headed by Sardar Sher Baz Mazari and Begum Nasim Wali Khan was also in it. Later in Balochistan Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo and Sardar Attaullah Mengal also joined this party whereas Khuda Bakhsh Khan Mari disappeared from political scenario. After sometime Attaullah Mengal left the NDP and went to England. In the meanwhile Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo also left it and formed his own party, Pakistan National Party. He contested 1988 elections but lost the both National Assembly seats from Khuzdar and Turbat. In Turbat he was defeated by a BSO candidate Manzur Gichki, a former student leader. Nawab Bugti and Attaullah Mengal had played a key role in his defeat.
Baloch politics has continued to be a mess of contradictions and conflicts. The National Party of Dr Abdul Hayi Baloch has announced to boycott the February 18 elections being a part of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) but its Senior Vice President, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, has vowed to participate in the coming elections. He has formed his own party, National Party Parliamentarians. The provincial president of the National Party, Ayyub Khattak, is also with him.
Similarly a dissident group has emerged in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) in Balochistan. The dissidents have named their faction ‘JUI-Ideological’ and say they will ‘reform’ the party in the province. The group rejects armed struggle against the state and says that a change in society is possible through parliament. The faction’s provincial convener Maulana Asmatullah has announced that the group would contest the election against JUI’s candidates led by Maulana Sherani, JUI’s provincial chief. According to Maulana Asmatullah differences within the party had existed for about 10 years, but his followers had now decided to come out publicly as corruption by the party’s ministers in the previous coalition government in Balochistan had tarnished Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s image.
This shows that Baloch politics is currently passing through its division at the tertiary level which may lead to further disintegration in the future. Bugtis have been divided and disintegrated. Nawab Khair Bakhsh Mari is staying in Karachi and has separated himself from political participation. Parallel to this political disintegration there is another discouraging development in Balochistan. Balochistan National Party, Pakhtun Milli Awami Party, National Party and Jamhuri Watan Party have announced to boycott the coming elections. Most of the Baloch nationalists are against political process due to their distrust in the government and its policies. They, nonetheless, are increasingly becoming non-democratic, violent and aggressive in their attitude. This is a matter of real concern.