This Op-Ed By Ms. Sadiqa Sultan, Our Correspondent
The 2008 elections remained the center of discussion in all quarters of society. In a country where democracy is yet to flourish, electoral process is vividly criticized for not being transparent and impartial. Pre-poll rigging allegations were chanted by different political parties which were not heard by Election Commission of Pakistan and were continuously denied by ruling party. Law and order situation was another cause for concern during elections. Anyhow, despite security risks, people across the country came out of their houses on 18 February contributing their share in electoral process and building the turn out up to 45.6 percent, second highest turn out in the history following 60 percent in 70’s elections.
Balochistan, a dry, rocky and vast land area, cut off from national mainstream, breeding decades old insurgency in its core against federation, is still politically deprived and struggling for due status.
Election 2008 did not have a good charm for people of Balochistan, no special hustle and bustle was observed in pre- and post-election scenario in the province. Since masses deprived of basic facilities of life, set apart by ethnicity, besieged by tribalism and out wearing social set up have given up all hopes for betterment. None of the Governments since Pakistan’s inception paid attention to this part of the country, capable of bringing glories and uplift to the entire region. Whatever the reasons may be behind this, as a matter of fact, Balochistan is intentionally kept backward resulting in deplorable economic and social condition of masses besides militancy disturbing the peace of province and creating hurdles for development.
Hazaras with a total approximate population of 500,000 and creating two Provincial Assembly constituencies PB-2 Quetta II and PB-6 Quetta VI besides a seat of National Assembly NA-259, Hazaras are striving for political rights and social influence besides strengthening the hope of an enduring future. With reference of Pakistan particularly Balochistan, Hazaras live in a slightly developed political landscape engraved by bounded racial, linguistic, tribal and sectarian elements. If keenly observed, we would come to know that Hazras with quite good literacy rate are divided into clannish conflicts (thaifa perusti), which, of course, greatly affects their political and social existence. Election 2008 brought no significant change in political scene in Hazara society. Decades old trends were followed by the parties and individuals taking part in election. The said constituencies, having mixed population, required to be tackled wisely or we had to lose. Our tribal elite once again rendered their negative role disintegrating one Hazara into many clans. Each of them trying to have a candidate of their own clans to show their existence and vowed full support to him, indifferent to the fact that we are going to lose in this way. Thaifa Perusti was on its peak during election, showing the non-political and non-democratic attitude of masses.
There were many candidates for PB-2 Quetta II (Mehrabad) and PB-2 Quetta 6 (Hazara Town), including four main Hazara candidates, each for both constituencies. Abdul Kaliq Hazara, Jan Ali Changazi, Ghulam Raza, Colonel (Retd.) Younis Changazi and Syed Zahir Shah for PB-2 Quetta II and Hussain Ali Yousafi, Syed Abbas Hazara and Colonel (Retd.) Muhammad Younis Changazi for PB-6 Quetta 6. Many efforts were laid to create consensus on nominating one or more–possibly two strong–candidates in each constituency so as to minimize division of votes and enhance the chances of victory of Hazara candidates. Unfortunately, all went in vain. For the seat of National Assembly, two candidates were in the ring; namely, Abdul Khaliq Hazara and Syed Abbas Hazara. Abdul Khliq Hazara in the wider interests of the nation decided to withdraw in favor of Syed Nasir Ali Shah just before elections, giving a rational gesture for others to learn from.
Election campaigns must be discussed here as the worst non-political rather non-humanitarian acts were demonstrated by all candidates. Mud-slinging on each other, references to each other’s past misconducts, criticism of each other’s personality and character were merely a matter of joke for them. The public was fed up with all such acts and statements but no had way out to get rid of them. Publishing Pamphlets of unique form, crossing all ethical limits and increasing confusion of masses, continued till the last date. In their corner meetings and public gatherings, each candidate tried his best to disgrace his opponent instead of projecting their own manifesto.
Polls were conducted on 18th February without any major untoward situation in these two constituencies. Jan Ali Changazi and Syed Abbas Hazara were declared successful while in PB-6 Quetta VI we had to face defeat. People were delighted on the victory of two candidates but at the same time defeat of candidates in PB-6 Quetta VI grieved masses too. The need here is to find out reasons why we lost. Of course mutual differences, personal enmity, thaifa perusty, individualism, lack of coordination, political will and political attitude spoke most loudly on the eve of elections.
There are many lessons for us to learn regarding election 2008 if one critically analyzes the whole scene. Actually we never learn from past experiences, and keep repeating mistakes. This was high time we had realized that if we have to survive in this racial run, we have to unite our strength, ignore differences, get rid of thaifa perusti, equip ourselves with education, skill and art, seek out a conciliated long term political strategy, make a strong platform and above all, ensure participation of youth in actual political process so as to produce new leaders equipped with tools of modern politics and knowledge of the present and the past.
The new day will bring new challenges which, if not met accordingly, will throw out the one lagging behind. We must recognize ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses so as to approach the real destiny of capacity building and growth coupled with political and social influence in the province.