Balochistan: elections a recipe for improvement?
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP’s) 2012 Fact-Finding Report on Balochistan reveals many festering wounds inflicting the province. Things are so bad that any hope that one could muster the courage to entertain is hurriedly shunted from the mind by the realisation that neither the provincial nor federal government calls the shots there.
According to the HRCP report, the state of affairs since it started gathering facts in 2005 has worsened, with no sign of the authorities being able to stem the rot. Even the Supreme Court’s ongoing hearings on the law and order situation, with special emphasis on the cases of missing persons, have failed to move the authorities to arrest the culprits who are in some instances known to be personnel of the Frontier Corps or the intelligence agencies.
Instead, the government has been throwing accolades the Frontier Corps’ way. Coinciding with the release of the HRCP report was the International Day of Missing Persons on August 30. Since 2010, 400 people have been disappeared. The bodies of most of these people are later found dumped throughout the province.
Those killed come from Baloch nationalist ranks, but the mayhem is added to by victims from targeted groups such as Shias, Hindus, and settlers. On August 30, three people including an additional session’s judge were gunned down in Quetta. The judge happened to be a Shia. The target killing of Shias of the Hazara community by the fanatics of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), who openly admit their crime, has become a routine. One hopes the arrest of Malik Ishaq, the head of LeJ, would be aimed at finally dismantling his organisation.
Seemingly, the hearings of the Supreme Court on the law and order situation have relatively improved the situation, but whether this will endure is uncertain. In any case, this is scant comfort for the victims of the chaos in the absence of the authorities’ will to assert their rule in the province rather than leave matters in the hands of the Frontier Corps, military, and intelligence agencies. The faint hope, as some Baloch nationalists call it, lies in the upcoming elections, if they are free and fair and not rigged.
A clean election is the only recipe at present for some improvement as it could pave the way for a truly representative government instead of the farce that passes for the Balochistan government today, with an ‘absent’ Chief Minister and all but one member of the provincial Assembly on the treasury benches, the majority of them enjoying the perks and privileges, legal and illegal, of ministerial office.