The unanimous passage of the 20th Amendment that envisages the establishment of an independent Election Commission, validates the election of 28 legislators and lays down the mechanism for finalising the caretaker setups to hold elections after the National Assembly’s dissolution, is a welcome development. Both the government and the opposition deserve unqualified accolades for exhibiting a sense of understanding and accommodation on the issues that had not only bedevilled relations between them, but were also hampering the progress towards democratic consolidation in the country.
It was nice to hear both sides complimenting each other for evolving consensus on these contentious issues. It is, perhaps, pertinent to point out that barring the 1970 elections, all subsequent polls were marred by allegations of rigging by the losing political parties. The establishment of an independent Election Commission and caretaker government through mutual consultation, therefore, will remove this festering irritant in our political system. Hopefully, it will lead to the emergence of healthy democratic practices and traditions in the country. We witnessed similar spirit at the time of the passage of the 18th Amendment after a protracted dialogue between all stakeholders. These achievements prove beyond an iota of doubt that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” One thing remarkable about these developments is that the federal government went an extra mile to accommodate the views of the opposition.
In a democratic and civilised society, the government and opposition play a major role in advancing national interests and strengthening state institutions that, in turn, guarantees the continuation of the system. The Pakistani government and opposition also need to develop the same spirit and understanding to deal with the challenges facing the country. It is a fact that Pakistan faces an existentialist threat from terrorism, Karachi continues to bleed and insurgency in Balochistan is rising.
The situation in Balochistan, however, needs immediate attention of all stakeholders, so that the issue can be resolved on top priority basis. The gravity of Balochistan problem is manifest from the fact that the US Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs held a special meeting to discuss it. Islamabad has justifiably taken exception to this unwarranted action and termed it “interference” in the state’s internal affairs. Also, the National Assembly has, quite rightly, condemned the move. Yet, this will not resolve the real issue! The fact remains that the situation in country, especially in Balochistan, has come to such a pass due to the wrong policies of successive civilian and military governments and their evasive attitudes in identifying the root causes and removing them. For them, political expediencies and narrow political goals mattered more than larger national interests.
Moreover, if Balochi youth and political activists were being murdered in mysterious circumstances, the insurgents were also involved in the target killing of Punjabi settlers and other communities. True, the province has not received fair treatment by successive governments that have further aggravated a sense of deprivation among the Balochis, but that hardly provides any justification for killing the members of minority communities, who have lived there for generations and are part of the Baloch society. Also, the links between the insurgents and foreign powers, who are hell-bent on destabilising the province for their ulterior motives, is an established fact. These despicable actions on their part are equally condemnable as are the killings of Balochi youth and political activists. The government has the responsibility to identify those responsible for such crimes and punish them.
Anyway, the government has made an effort to minimise the grievance of the Balochis through the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochi-stan package, under which about 10,000 youth have been provided employment and more than 5,000 recruited in the army on preferential basis. There is no military action going on in the province; rather it is playing a constructive role in its development. As far as ending insurgency is concerned, the government, the opposition and the military leadership must sit together to deliberate on the issue and evolve a workable strategy to bring the Balochi leadership back into mainstream politics for the betterment of Balochistan.
The writer is a freelance columnist.