Appealing to the Baloch

BNP President Akhtar Mengal has called for an end to the Baloch insurgency and has urged ‘friends’ to come down from the mountains. He was addressing a party rally in Quetta when he made this appeal, not just because he is a former chief minister, but because he is the son of Sardar Ataullah Mengal, whose own rebellion began in the 1970s, and who is an iconic figure in the Baloch nationalist circles to which he was appealing.

He has returned from abroad to take part in the elections, even though there is an undercurrent among the nationalists of the province in favour of a boycott, mainly on grounds of inadequate security. However, that concern was addressed by the Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief of Army Staff on their separate visits to Quetta.

Sardar Akhtar introduced a new element into the Baloch equation by threatening to boycott the elections if the killers of the Baloch are not brought to justice. This is particularly significant in view of the fact that Musharraf, nominated in the murder of Akbar Bugti, is in the country. This murder is a cause célèbre among the Baloch.

Sardar Mengal said that the decision to contest should not be seen as weakness, as it had been made in the interest of the Baloch people. It is important at this juncture to convince the Baloch that taking part in the election is the best means to solve the problems facing the province, whether it be the exploitation of its natural wealth, the giving of a fair share to the native people, or giving them the kind of security of life and property that is not reflected in the existence of the missing persons problem.

Sardar Akhtar deserves support because the demand he is voicing is fair. Taking part in elections is not supposed to mean being subjected to violence and abductions. At the same time, it should be remembered that he is a voice representing Pakistani nationalism in a province where other voices are not just heard, but are growing louder.

He, as well as those political forces which want to take part in the elections, must not be forced out just because the province failed to provide the requisite security. It has already had enough troubles. There must be no further addition.