ON Saturday, Sardar Akhtar Mengal met the governor of Balochistan and, in his remarks to the media after the meeting, he commented that it was not possible to “achieve national rights through an armed struggle”. These words will be welcomed by all those who believe that Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan and that the current problems can be resolved within the existing constitutional framework. The challenge in achieving this is considerable. This was highlighted by Mr Mengal the same day he criticised the authorities. How can free and fair elections be possible when bullet-riddled bodies are found in different areas of the province, the former chief minister asked. His remarks underscored the fact that mere words will not heal Balochistan’s wounds. The political stakeholders in general and the Pakistani state in particular have to take specific steps if peace and reconciliation are to be given a chance in the province. Other political parties for instance need to evolve a meaningful plan to bring Balochistan into the mainstream after the elections. In this regard, they have to show more sincerity and seriousness than they did in the previous term. Throwing money at incompetent and corrupt leaders is not enough, which is about all that happened after 2008.
The state, on the other hand, needs to ensure two things — one, that there will be no interference whatsoever in the coming elections, and, two, that all the politicians campaigning will be provided adequate security. Mr Mengal and others who have put their hopes in Pakistan and the democratic process face a genuine threat from the insurgents who have made public their hostility to mainstream elements. And this was brought home on Tuesday with the attack on the PML-N president in Balochistan which has been referred to in the editorial above. Mr Mengal and other Baloch politicians need to be protected — their security can serve as a sign of the state’s sincerity towards Balochistan and more.