Parallel Assembly: Merely a Bargaining Tool
Parallel Assembly: Merely a Bargaining Tool
Mirza Ghalib

Recently, four major nationalist parties built an alliance and announced protests against rigged elections. This alliance also observed that a parallel assembly would be formed of “true representatives” of Balochistan.

These parties alleged that elections were rigged and their mandate was stolen. Elections were indeed controversial as usual. For instance, the MNA for Kech-cum-Gwadar is not from the Makran region and he probably cannot name a single area of Gwadar. Despite this, he got more than 40 thousand votes defeating two major nationalist candidates, Dr Malik and Hussain Wadela. Ironically, both defeated candidates got 20 thousand votes, half of what the ‘elected’ MNA got. Similarly, there have been other such cases in Balochistan. So, this raises multiple questions about the transparency of elections. However, the nationalist response has been moderate so far.

The idea of parallel assembly by the nationalist parties is crucial, particularly in the current political climate of Balochistan. But this idea is only rhetorical to regain the lost trust of the masses and rebuild their lost power. Additionally, this parallel assembly is also a bargaining tool against the supreme powers. Historically, it has worked mutually. Establishment and political parties had a symbiotic relationship. Both mutually benefited each other. At times, political parties were sidelined and neglected. In response, they built movements and bargained for their desired objectives. This practice is not limited to Balochistan only but extends to the rest of the country. Moreover, this practice has historical roots.

Since the 70s, every political party has been in cahoots with the establishment including the nationalist parties in Balochistan. In 2018, BNP joined the federal government on the pretext of 6 points. Throughout 3.5 years of PTI-led government there have not been any significant developments regarding those 6 demands alongside enforced disappearances. Yet, Sardar Akhtar continued with the government. National party in 2013 also remained silent on major human rights violations.

Apart from the bargaining tool model, this also sheds light on the anxiety of these political parties. Baloch masses have lost trust in the nationalist parties. Sardar himself posted on X on Election Day about the very low turnout. Moreover, Dr Mahrang and co have thrown parliamentary politics in Balochistan into the dustbin of history. Today, common people have lost trust in parliament. They view parliament as a tool of oppression instead of the bedrock of democracy. However, there has been limited trust in parliament before the Baloch march in December. This march has significantly advocated against the parliamentary system. The reason for people’s distrust is the failure of parliament to solve the major issues of Balochistan, particularly enforced disappearances. People voted for BNP in 2018 under the agenda of missing persons. Yet, BNP failed to deliver. Likewise, there has not been effective law-making for the major burning issues of Balochistan.

So, what lies ahead for nationalist parties in Balochistan? Nationalist parties are stuck in a dark tunnel, it is not sure whether there is light at the end or not. On one hand, non-nationalist forces with the support of the establishment have dominated the assembly. Today, PPP, PML-N, and JUI alone can form governments in Balochistan. On the other hand, grassroots nationalism has derailed the status of parliamentary politics. The Baloch march strongly condemned the Baloch parliamentarians and called them the partners of oppressors. In such situations, nationalist parties have a viable option to build a mass party and focus on major issues of Balochistan. A single mass party is the need of the hour. Without a mass party, the relevancy of these parties is at stake. Secondly, these parties need to build their support from the public not from the non-democratic forces. Their legitimacy should be derived from the people. A major reason for their downfall is very low and limited communication to the public. Even, if they agitated their role was more of rhetorical than practical. The only effective communication to the public of these leaders was during elections whether current or prior elections.

During November, all of Turbat and Makran were mourning for Balach Baloch while DR Malik did not visit the camp once. Likewise, Sardar Akhtar also failed to mobilize the masses on this burning issue of Balochistan. However, they immediately reacted against the election results. It seems that these parties only care for their limited power share in the assemblies. It is a need of time to revisit their outdated policies and rebuild their trust in youth. Mass mobilization and the single mass party can only save them from irrelevancy.



The writer is a resident of Gwadar and an M-Phil scholar in Political Science from Forman Christian College, Lahore.