By Qudrat Ullah
In 2022, Balochistan has remained in limelight of national and international media and the reason was its security situation, where banned organizations including Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) carried out attacks, targeting armed forces. The major attacks were carried out in February in districts of Panjgur and Noshki. The recent incident which involved a Baloch woman, Shari Baloch affiliated with Majeed Brigade, carried out a suicide attack on Chinese teachers in Karachi University. The attack left the common man wondering about Baloch youth, especially women.
In Baloch culture a woman has been given a great respect. It is trait of Baloch culture, “If a woman interferes during tribal feuds between two warring tribes – both parties will stop fighting”. But Shari Baloch’s worrisome and extreme step has left many Baloch wondering in what direction she tried to take the youth of the province. Meanwhile Balochistan remain far from being in news else of security situation. In the areas where there is an impression that Baloch people are wary of state and its policies; the reality is otherwise.
Election Commission of Pakistan held Local Government Elections on 29th of May in 32 districts of Balochistan. In elections as many as 132 female candidates contested directly on general seats where they were facing male candidates. Most of these women belong to Kohlu district, from where 22 females were in the field, followed by 21 from Kech district.
Despite the threats and boycott by Baloch militants, the elections remained largely peaceful with reports of minor irregularities. Militants as per their threats carried out a grenade attack outside a female polling station in Noshki district, causing no injuries.
The participation of people in local elections expressed confidence in democracy by rejecting the resistive / armed narrative of Baloch insurgents. The peaceful atmosphere in which the elections were held shows that the security situation has improved largely and the insurgents have failed to materialize their illicit designs to disturb the peace and harmony of the province.
It also highlights that the people of the province need grass root level leaders which they can access easily and can ask them for their basic needs/rights. The other thing which is encouraging is the participation of women in elections, which in a tribal society has less affirmation. The continuation of the participation of ordinary people in the local government will strengthen the democratic structure of the society.
Balochistan province comprises of tribal ethnicities both Baloch and Pashtun. The province has been run by the governments with the amalgamation of tribal leadership of both ethnicities. It still lags in governance as compared to other provinces of the country. The inability of Baloch and Pashtun leaders to streamline the affairs of province will give more space to moderate population to come forward and play their role for the development of Balochistan.
The process which will open the sphere for such strategy is local government which is more likely than centralized structures to provide citizens with the opportunity to participate actively and directly in decisions that affect them closely.
In Pakistan there are two schools of thoughts regarding the grass root level leadership. One of them is the local government system and other is the student unions in educational institutions. If we look in past three decades, the educational institutions have produced few leaders of grass root level, whereas many of the provincial level leaders now in politics have come through local government process. The student leaders are less interested as compared to local leaders to come forward and get involved in political process.
It both depends on the opportunities and the process which enables the ordinary people to come forward and play their role for their society, province and country. But with the history and existence of local governments around the world, it shows that it is the most effective way to strengthen democracy and enhance the life standard of common people. In Pakistan, if local government elections are held consecutively, it will take the country to the list of strong democracies by producing effective leadership.
Qudrat Ullah is a freelancer and media activist. He writes on political developments and security issues with special focus on South Asia and the region.