To some it might be a small local body elections in Balochistan but the way people of Balochistan have spoken in these elections is unprecedented and very encouraging in so many ways. The message delivered by the people of Balochistan in these elections is crystal clear i.e. they have full confidence in the state of Pakistan and they want to contribute fully in the development & progress of Balochistan. Local body elections result also gives us a reality check that there is always a stark difference b/w rhetoric and ground realities. Few key questions that emerge out of the results of local bodies elections are; while a river of opinions, images, videos and perceptions is gushing out of our screens on hourly basis but does it have the steam to sway an election on ground also? Can hate mongering & divisive style of politics alter the outcome of an electoral politics? The answer lies in the recent Local government elections held in Balochistan where Balochi people have spoken loud and clear. While all mainstream political parties were able to get sizeable share, it was mostly Independent candidates who won the elections. Is it a new wave of the real change? Has the wind of change started from Balochistan? The hard reality of concerns, it appears, can clearly confront the gentle breeze of perceptions and this is what Balochistan proved in its recent local government elections. These elections have busted so many myths if we dive deep in it. Let’s take a look at a few messages the people of Balochistan have conveyed to all relevant stakeholders through the polls;
• The local body polls held in Balochistan after a lapse of almost 10 years proved that Balochis proudly stand with the constitution of Pakistan. One of the highest turnout in the history of Balochistan/ Pakistan has proven that the people of Balochistan stand firmly with the state. They believe on democratic electoral processes and their willingness to be part of democratic dispensation in the province. In 32 out of 34 districts, approximately 17000 candidates appeared under various political platforms. Overall turnout remained 60% which is one of the highest in the country. The turnout in Turbat was 61% making it the highest after 1988 elections. The participation of women candidates in these local body elections is unprecedented and not only did women participate in the electoral process as candidates, but the turnout of women voters also remained encouraging. But what is extremely surprising is that independent candidates have won almost 1300 seats in municipal corporations. The next party which secured seats is JUI-F with a win of 98 seats and the ruling party of Balochistan, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) has secured almost 70 seats. Mainstream political parties like PMLN, PPP or PTI also secured the seats with PTI having the lowest number among these three contemporary parties.
• This raises serious questions on Imran Khan’s conspiracy mantra and style of politics. Is Imran Khan political rhetoric only prevailing in the urban centres or is it only limited to his keyboard warriors on Social media? Because if people of Balochistan had believed in his conspiracy mantra, then the outcome of local body elections would have been different. Elections result clearly indicate that concerns and issue of the common people are way different than much trumpeted political narrative of PTI and other nationalist parties which secured lesser number of seats. People have chosen to side with the state to resolve issues related to their basic necessities instead of the flawed narrative of “Haqeeqi Azaadi”. Does it mean Imran Khan’s message of conspiracy is not finding space on ground? Is it a reality check for Imran Khan and his conspiracy mantra? It’s further confirmation can be made during next local body elections in Punjab and other provinces at later stage.
• One more factor, which clearly has been authenticated on ground is the establishment’s apolitical role in Balochistan’s local body elections. The clean sweep of “Haq do Tehreek” in Gwadar proves a free and fair election in the province as the party leadership kept protesting against the federal and provincial governments all along and kept disrupting the normal routine in the city for long time. One point which merits attention is that Haq do Tehreek under Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman carried out its movement completely following the political discourse and constitution of Pakistan and followed the democratic path even during its agitation spread over months. They spearheaded the public protests and engaged in talks with members of the provincial government at the same time. Eventually, it was people of Gwadar who chose them as their representatives in local bodies. Same party leadership would now work in constitutional ambit to resolve issues of the people and strengthen roots of democracy in Balochistan. It has also shown how people can obtain their rights in a manner that does not involve riots and violence. With peaceful agitation they got the results in local body elections through a political discourse. This proves that one cannot blackmail the state through disruption of peace and political process based on dangerous ideologies.
• The conduct of successful local body elections in Balochistan actually marks the beginning of Balochistan’s support for the national discourse and is a befitting response to hostile elements like India and all sub-nationalist terrorists’ who continue their failing efforts to undermine peace and stability in Balochistan. The credit goes to law enforcement agencies, civil administration, people of Balochistan and most importantly the soldiers who sacrificed their lives to maintain peace and stability in the province.
It’s important to debate that the 18th amendment to the constitution has guaranteed the financial and political autonomy to the provinces. Today is the right time to convert that financial and political autonomy to its full manifestation. These Local body elections have paved the way for Balochistan’s development and allocation of funds through implementation of local bodies dispensation at grassroot level which is the need of the hour. All relevant stakeholders need to keep these local representatives relevant in their wards by providing them adequate funds for development of the province as per the 18th amendment. Else, the true dividend of these encouraging results would not trickle down to grass root level and it will also not translate into the real development Balochistan has been longing for decades.