Local elections in Balochistan will strengthen democracy – OpEd – Eurasia Review
In 2022, Balochistan remained in the national and international media spotlight and the reason was its security situation, where banned organizations including the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) carried out attacks, targeting the armed forces. The main attacks took place in February in the districts of Panjgur and Noshki. The recent incident which involved a Balochi woman, Shari Baloch affiliated with Majeed Brigade, carried out a suicide attack against Chinese professors at the University of Karachi. The attack left the common man wondering about Baloch youth, especially women.
In Baloch culture, a woman has been given great respect. It’s a trait of Baloch culture, “If a woman interferes in tribal feuds between two warring tribes – both sides will stop fighting.” But Shari Baloch’s disturbing and extreme move has left many Baloch people wondering in what direction she was trying to take the province’s youth. Meanwhile, Balochistan remains far from in the news on the other hand for the security situation. In areas where the Baluchis are perceived to distrust the state and its policies; the reality is different.
The Election Commission of Pakistan held local elections on 29e May in 32 districts of Balochistan. In the elections, no less than 132 female candidates ran directly for general seats where they faced male candidates. Most of these women are from Kohlu district, from where 22 women were in the field, followed by 21 from Kech district.
Despite threats and a boycott from Baloch activists, the elections remained largely peaceful with reports of minor irregularities. According to their threats, militants carried out a grenade attack outside a women’s polling station in Noshki district, causing no injuries.
People’s participation in local elections expressed confidence in democracy by rejecting the resistive/armed narrative of the Baloch insurgents. The peaceful atmosphere in which the elections took place shows that the security situation has greatly improved and that the insurgents have not succeeded in carrying out their illicit designs to disturb the peace and harmony of the province.
He also points out that the people of the province need leaders at the local level who they can easily access and ask for their basic needs/rights. The other thing that is encouraging is the participation of women in elections, which in a tribal society has less affirmation. The continued participation of ordinary citizens in local government will strengthen the democratic structure of society.
The province of Balochistan includes both Baloch and Pashtun tribal ethnicities. The province was ruled by governments with the amalgamation of tribal leaders from both ethnicities. It still lags behind in terms of governance compared to other provinces in the country. The inability of the Baloch and Pashtun leaders to rationalize the affairs of the province will give more space for the moderate population to come forward and play their part for the development of Balochistan.
The process that will open the sphere to such a strategy is local government, which is more likely than centralized structures to offer citizens the opportunity to actively and directly participate in decisions that closely affect them.
In Pakistan, there are two schools of thought regarding leadership at the local level. One of them is the local government system and the other is student unions in educational institutions. If we look back over the past three decades, educational institutions have produced few leaders at the local level, while many of the provincial leaders currently in politics come from the local government process. Student leaders are less interested than local leaders in coming forward and getting involved in the political process.
It depends on both the opportunities and the process that allows ordinary people to come forward and play their part for their society, their province and their 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 improve the living standards of ordinary people. In Pakistan, if local government elections are held consecutively, it will bring the country to the list of strong democracies by producing effective leadership.
Qudrat Ullah is an independent and media activist. He writes on political developments and security issues with a particular focus on South Asia and the region.