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ISLAMABAD: Prominent political parties in Pakistan’s southwestern restive province of Balochistan have decided to contest the upcoming general elections, unlike the 2008 boycott, which they call ‘a political mistake’.
“It’s our joint strategy to go for the 2013 general elections at all costs,” the chief of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal group, Akhtar Mengal, said.
However, he stressed implementation of his six-point charter for a long-term solution to the problems the province is facing.
Local parties should resume political activities in Balochistan without any interference by the intelligence agencies, he added.
Moreover, former senator and leader of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), Shahid Bugti, said that Baloch political parties should not boycott the 2013 polls like as they did in 2008.
“Elections are the only solution to restore peace in the province,” Bugti said.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) Abdul Rahim Mandokhail stressed the need for holding elections in Balochistan. “We’re waiting for a fresh announcement on the elections. Governor’s rule is not acceptable to our party,” he said.
National Party Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo said his party is considering forging an alliance with PkMAP and BNP-Mengal in the province.
Balochistan has had more than its fair share of troubles. While participation of parties this time around can be seen as good news, the road ahead is rocky for one stakeholder: the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Elaborating upon the fragile security situation of the province, Senate Deputy Chairman Sabit Baloch said that hostility in Balochistan, especially in the sensitive areas such as Dera Bugti, is a cause of concern for the ECP.
“It is a litmus test for the ECP to hold elections in the province,” Akhtar Mengal said.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Mir Jan Jamali said that his party still enjoyed maximum support in the province. He felt, however, that feudalism dominated over real politics, where important personalities, not the electorate, take the final decision in the polls.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz appears to be a major stakeholder in the province as it is inching towards a grand alliance with major parties.
“We are heading towards an alliance with several political parties in Balochistan,” Senator Mushahidullah Khan said.
Independent voices described the upcoming polls as a battle between voters and insurgents.
“The 2013 elections would be an epic battle between violent groups and Baloch political parties,” predicted independent Senator Humayyun Mandokhail.
“It has become inevitable for all political forces to play a part and show responsibility for bringing peace through elections in the troubled province,” he added.
The Baloch National Front, an alliance of eight nationalist organisations, has warned democratic Baloch parties against participating.
Several Baloch leaders said that certain ‘violent groups’ had threatened them.
Leaders of the NP and PkMAP claimed that they might become a prime target.
The Baloch Students Organisation-Awami, Baloch People’s Liberation Front and BSO-Azad which is divided into BSO Mohiuddin and BSO Baijar, are running this campaign in the province.
Balochistan Republican party (Brahamdagh) and Balochistan Liberation Army (Harbyar) are rumoured to be against the general elections. When contacted, however, Harbyar Marri, just said, “I will announce my agenda later.”
Baloch People’s Liberation Front formed by Sher Mohammad Marri is campaigning to boycott the elections in the province, while the Popular Front for Armed Resistance has fought against the deployment of the army.