The presence of local government is an important aspect of democratization of a political system and enhancing involvement of people in the decision-making process. No political system is considered complete and democratic if it does not have an effective local government system. Local government system act as conduit between a government and citizens and is an effective way to understand and address the issues at local level.
The peaceful culmination of recently held local government elections in Balochistan has not only ushered the prospects of inclusive development and prosperity but also demystified the false impression about security situation of the province. The overwhelming participation of people in the local government elections with a turnout of more than sixty percent in areas like Turbat demonstrate that the people of Balochistan trust the democratic process and stand with the state.
Local government election is indeed a step towards inclusivity through alleviating the deprivation of the province that somehow remained underdeveloped as compared to other parts of the country. The fact that more than 130 female candidates contested the election on general seats and participation of large number of youths is also a clear indication of growing sense of inclusiveness and interest within all genders to become part of democratic process considering it a mean to address their issues.
The peaceful conduct of elections not only debunks the misconception about security situation in the province but also demonstrats that the people of Balochistan believe in utilizing the democratic process to address their issues. The law enforcing agencies have effectively countered the foreign sponsored terrorism in the province. The credit for a successful local government election goes to the brave people of Balochistan, the administration, security institutions and election commission. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that the participation of people in elections shows trust in the state and also admired role of security agencies for the betterment of the province.
According to Election Commission, no major political party of Pakistan has voiced any objections to the unofficial results of the Balochistan local government elections, which is a great success of the ECP. While analyzing the results of the elections, it becomes clear that the regional and mainstream political parties have somehow lost their prominence as the independent candidates came out as winners in the majority. This is indeed a time for introspection for the political parties that what is missing in their political agenda and commitment because that the people’s confidence in political parties has weakened. This also reflects the political awareness of the people of Balochistan who have rejected the separatist tendencies of foreign-sponsored terrorists.
Balochistan has an important geostrategic location and the world powers always remained interested in the region. Balochistan is not only rich in natural resources but also connects South Asia with Central Asia and is the shortest route to the Arabian sea. Therefore, the regional countries including Iran, India, China, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States have great interest in the region. The advent of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has augmented the importance of Balochistan. The construction of Gwadar Port and the development of Balochistan under CPEC will be a game changer for Pakistan’s socio-economic development. Operationalization of Gwadar port will increase commercial activities and will lead to regional economic integration.
Effective local government systems across the country can help achieve the goal of Pakistan’s Agenda 2030 to become part of the league of upper middle-class countries by prioritizing Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). Right policies and planning are needed for the assimilation of the people of Balochistan into the mainstream to uplift the livelihood of locals and strengthen Pakistan’s economy. The conduct of local government elections provides a much-needed opportunity to ensure development at the grass root level. Security institutions have ensured peace in the province now the federal and provincial governments need to extend all possible support to the local government by providing funds and technical assistance to make the dream of development a reality.
Muhammad Khalique is a research analyst based in Islamabad.