Jan Achakzai |
Baluchistan is in the media again for one reason: the missing person issue. The main political contender Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the Chief of BNP, is spearheading this issue and capitalized well in his election campaign, as a result, he got remarkable success compared to other nationalist parties.
But the issue is more complicated as, at the moment, the narrative articulated on missing persons is the one peddled only by ethnic nationalists and militants. The mainstream media, HR lobbies, the liberal left, NGOs, and the federal government have all adopted militants’ version on the missing persons and smartly capitalized by politicians as vote gainer issue.
Nepotism and misgovernance have escalated the frustration among the youth and also created a negative perception against the federal government as 90 % plus funds come from the federal government under various heads.
However, there is another version; missing persons went missing when they were targeted by ethnic terrorist groups from BLA to Dr. Allah Nazar group. Fatwas were issued to kill more moderate Baloch nationalist workers and leaders like NP.
Unfortunately, because of poor understanding of Baluchistan, the incumbent PTI government has adopted a one-sided version on missing person issue. The Federal Government needs to bring a closure to the missing person issue for its own merit instead of pandering to vested interest constituencies and letting them masquerade the real dynamics of the issue for political brownies.
Read more: Balochistan continues to bleed: Where is Pakistan’s counter-terror strategy?
Baluchistan issues including missing persons need to be deal with differently by the Federal government. Here are a few lessons we can draw from Baluchistan policies of the past Federal governments’ that could serve as an eye opener, to begin with:
- The first step, the Federal government has to take is to revisit past governments’ political appeasement policy of the provincial political elite and stop perpetuating the propaganda and falsification by the small political elite of the province.
- The best political approach Prime Minister Imran Khan should adopt is to reach out to the people of Baluchistan. There are growing middle classes and a youth bulge who have rebelled against the traditional elite of Sardars and Nawabs. The complete disconnect of the youth and middle classes of Baluchistan with the elite, make it a compelling case for the federal government to take new measures restoring the confidence of the disenfranchised youth and middle classes over the federal government policies. No longer is youth interested to see the bosses of political parties and the elite made happy by ignoring their wrongdoings and corruption.
- New confidence measures should include jobs creation, loans for youth, special security short-term recruitment for the less skilled and a major share in latest Qatar employment offer (unfortunately the federal bureaucracy has opened no office for Qatar recruitment in Baluchistan) among other efforts. Targeted policy interventions aimed at the people of Baluchistan can alleviate the deep sense of mistrust of broken promises, neglect and appeasement of corrupt provincial elite.
- The Federal government should not buy into the fake lip service of the provincial elite to good governance and trickle-down-service delivery and work with the Army to run parallel projects until and unless the capacity of the provincial government and its endemic corruption is not addressed.
- The anti-corruption laws should be strengthened and institutions like NAB and provincial anti-corruption bodies be activated to make the elite accountable and break the few families’ strangleholds on the masses. Nepotism and misgovernance have escalated the frustration among the youth and also created a negative perception against the federal government as 90 % plus funds come from the federal government under various heads.
- Trimming the political clout of the political families and expanding on the representation of youth, middle classes and women in political bodies including provincial Assembly is a must. Otherwise, public delivery will remain a dream even after 10 successive elections if the same elite capture of the provincial Assembly and government continues. The root cause of misgovernance and corruption is that the elite gets elected regardless of political platforms by bribing electorates, exploiting tribal loyalties and obliging through nepotism once in power, besides, using coercion. So spanning over generations same political families dominate the political scene. Many creative solutions and reports suggesting political reforms have been put to dust by the same vested interests.
- The misuse of funds and neglect of the past have also been contributing factors for the youth to resort to militancy fueling anger and frustration when the snobbish elite show off hunting skills and hold expensive car rallies in deserts of Baluchistan.
- All complaints against the law enforcing agencies should be held through internal inquiries by a high powered security commission and if any inadvertent and honest mistakes committed in special situations, should be compensated.
- The national media not only contributes to the escalation of anger and frustration of the masses of Baluchistan but also alienates them from the rest of Pakistan. The media should debate on good governance and corruption in Baluchistan rather than creating a false narrative of militants; promoting “grievance black hole” to serve their agenda; deepening the fault-lines; portraying only the elite and widening the void between Baluchistan and the people of Pakistan.
- The challenges of Baluchistan should not be portrayed as a local “grievance or governance“ issues only and must not be dealt with by solely engaging its myopic political elite who are part of the problems of the province ignoring real stakeholders (the people of Baluchistan).
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst and a politician. He served as an advisor to previous Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.