Interview by Adnan Aamir
Akhtar Mengal is the Chief Organizer of Balochistan National Party (BNP). He served as Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan from 1997 to 1998. He is son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal who served as the first CM of Balochistan from 1972 to 1973. Presently, Sardar Akhtar Mengal is staying in Quetta for Political activities. The Balochistan Point sat with Akhtar Mengal and conducted an exclusive interview.
According to some quarters, it was not possible for BNP to participate in last general elections without reaching some sort of agreement with establishment? Is this true?
In this country allegation is the other name of politics. There are some realities which should also be taken into account. If there was any deal then our stance on Balochistan issues would have soften and election result would have also come in our favor. No doubt political parties have made deals in the past and they have also got the reward of those deals. Deal means give and take and what we could possibly give to them and what they gave us? Someone should bring that to light. There was no change in our stance on Balochistan issues and that’s why we don’t have the patronage of powerful forces. If we had made any deal then we would not have lost those seats which we had actually won.
Why was BNP the biggest target of election rigging in Balochistan?
Our party conducted corner meetings, press briefings, media talks, manifesto discussions and political rallies. What we said during our election campaign was disliked by establishment. Our opponents kept their tone soft against the establishment and that’s why they got the favor. We didn’t change our stance on Balochistan and that was not liked by the establishment.
Hasil Bizenjo, President of National Party, said that BNP was not prepared for last elections. He said that you came to Pakistan on 25th march barely one and half months before elections and that’s why you lost. Your reaction.
If I came on 25th march then let me ask them what sort of political activity they carried out after announcement of elections. We had many leaders in our party equal to the stature of Hasil Bizenjo, who were active in Balochistan, when I was abroad. However, Hasil Bizenjo is an expert in forging deals with establishment and our party leaders lack that expertise. We did carry out significant political mobilization but the political activities of National Party were restricted to indoor activities only. It’s not possible to win elections without political mobilization and reaching door to door. Now, let them prove what their activities were during election campaign. I was not here but my party leaders were more active and more vocal than Hasil Bizenjo on all issues pertaining to Balochistan. Our party was vocal about Gwadar project, missing persons issue, coast and resources of Balochistan. Moreover, our party colleagues visited different places and kept contact with people. Let me admit, neither I nor my party members are not experts in backdoor politics and political intrigues like our opponents.
You took oath as member of Balochistan assembly three months after election. Now, Do you think it was good a decision?
It was the decision of our party to take oath and I abided by the decision. My personal decision would have been different. Our party is a democratic party and therefore any deciosn made by the party is binding on me.
Do you support Imran Khan’s demand for judicial commission to probe election rigging?
History shows that in those cases where establishment was involved judicial commissions have failed to deliver. If establishment wants to solve a matter through judicial commission then the commission can successfully do its job. As long as the political role of establishment remains unchecked, judicial commissions at upper or lower levels will not yield any results. In past the report of judicial commission formed to probe the breakup of country was never released. Similarly, judicial commissions formed to investigate the assassinations of President Zia-ul-Haq and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto proved to be fruitless. These judicial commissions have not been able to pin responsibility of the crimes let alone punishing the perpetrators. Therefore I think that judicial commission for election riggings will not get the required results.
Your party could have won maximum 13 seats in Balochistan assembly if, according to your claims, rigging had not taken place. With 13 seats you would have required support of others to form government?
It is not necessary that we join government in all circumstances. What we wanted was to enter assemblies in sizable numbers so that we can raise the Balochistan issue in a better way. We have never discussed in our party that who would be CM and who would get a ministry. Our aim was to raise voice for Balochistan’s issues. If we had won 13 seats then our stance on Balochistan issues would have remained the same even if we are were in opposition or had formed a coalition government.
Nawaz Sharif and PML-N leaders always say that they have given power to Baloch Nationalists, despite having majority in Balochistan assembly, your thoughts?
Only time will decide if PML-N has made a sacrifice or made Baloch nationalists the sacrificial lamb. Current government is being used as a smokescreen to continue loot and plunder of Resources of Balochistan in the background. Nationalist’s government comprising of both Baloch and Pashtoon are being used to give the fake impression that Balochistan is being ruled by the locals. This impression is obviously wildly untrue.
Three NADRA officials arrested by NAB have admitted during investigations that they have issued Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) to 500,000 Afghans. Do you think it’s a part of plan to convert Baloch into minority?
It’s extremely difficult for a local resident of Balochistan to acquire a CNIC. NADRA officials demand local certificate and CNICs of parents and other relatives before issuing a CNIC. I think that issuance of huge number of CNICs to afghan nationals is a part of wider plan that also involved riggings in election. These afghan nationals with Pakistani CNICs must have voted in 2013 general elections and they would obviously never vote for a Baloch nationalist party or even a Baloch candidate for that matter.
This revelation proves our claim that engineered rigging has taken place in Balochistan. These CNICs were used specifically in Quetta region to cause the defeat of candidates of BNP. The three arrested officers of NADAR are not the only culprits. All NADRA officials that were involved in verifying and finalizing the data of these CNICs are also culprits. It’s not possible that a handful of NADRA officers issued illegal CNICs to half a million foreigners. They definitely received some instructions from the powerful quarters in Pakistan.
What’s your stance on forthcoming census in Balochistan?
Last census was conducted in 1998 when I was the CM of Balochistan. I tried my level best to make the census transparent and prevented the entry of Afghan Immigrants in the census process. Government itself confesses that 500,000 CNICs were issued to afghan nationals. Many CNICs must have been issued before these. Now, the children of these CNIC holders, even if they are one month old, will be counted during census. Not only Afghans, CNICs could have also been issued to other foreigners such as Iranian Baloch, Uzbeks and Hazaras. As long as the detailed verification of these illegally issued CNICs has not taken place, we will not accept the Census.
Final decision about census in Pakistan will be made in Council of Common Interests meeting. If CM Balochistan agreed to census, without settling the issue of Afghan immigrants, then what will be your reaction?
Dr. Malik made contact with our party members in the recent past and asked us to oppose census as it’s not possible to carry it out in present circumstances. We told him that we are opposing the census from the outset but you are the one who has to take the decision. You have to decide whether present conditions of Balochistan permit a census. Baloch belt of Balochistan is having war like situation. It’s not possible to conduct elections in these areas. In constituency of Dr. Malik voter turnout was less than 15%. In Panjgur no polling took place due to security concerns. That was one and half years ago and now situation has worsened. If elections couldn’t be conducted then how can census staff go from door to door to conduct census. On one side census could not take place in Baloch belt and on the other side hundreds of thousands of people, in Pashtun belt have been issued illegal CNICs. This proves that an engineered plan is underway to convert Baloch into minority. If provincial government agreed to census then we will not only protest against federal government but also against provincial government.
Recently a news anchor alleged that Dr. Malik and others are planning to receive millions of dollars in kickbacks from Rekodiq deal. Dr. Malik has denied that allegation but there is still a lot of ambiguity concerning Rekodiq. Your comments?
I can’t say who has got kickbacks and who has not. Certain wolves are salivating to get their hands on Rekodiq for long time. Definitely there is something fishy going on relating to the Rekodiq. Why similar allegations were not leveled against Dr. Malik and his colleagues in the past? If any unfair deal is made on Rekodiq then Baloch nation will never forgive those who are involved in it.
Balochistan Development Forum is taking place in Islamabad where Dr. Malik and his government will attract foreign and local investment in Balochistan. Do you think it’s a good effort?
We have always supported the development work in Balochistan. Firstly, we have to see whether local people will benefit from the investment in Balochistan. Secondly, we have to analyze whether the present security situation of Balochistan permits the arrival of foreign investors. Investors either from inside Pakistan or from outside require two types of securities; security of life and security of finance. Today, doctors and political activist are being kidnapped in broad daylight from Quetta city. Yesterday someone told me that a six year old boy was kidnapped from Quetta and Rs. 30 million are being demanded for his release. Now, can the foreign investors come and invest in Balochistan in these conditions? Resources of Balochistan government will be spent lavishly in five star hotels for this conference but Balochistan will not benefit from it in anyway. Presently, only graveyards are developing in Balochistan. If foreign investors are willing to develop the graveyards and want to make them modern then for sure that’s the only lucrative investment opportunity available for them.
You are chief organizer of BNP? What are plans of restructuring and politically mobilizing your party?
We are in the process of organizing our party. We are computerizing the data of our all members across Balochistan. We have asked all of our districts bodies to submit the data of members in the form of pro-formas. Using these Pro-formas and computerized data, we will issue membership cards to our members and then constitute basic units of our party. My basic purpose of visit of Quetta was to get in touch with Quetta members of our party. District worker’s convention of Mastung, Kalat and Khuzdar will be held in coming months. After that district level elections of the party will take place and in May this year, central council session of the party will be convened. BNP was the under suppression from the powerful quarters since time of Musharraf. During the hard times many activist of BNP were slain but still our ideological workers are with us. We just have to reactivate them and we are holding workers conventions for that purpose.
Will you allow the politicians of BNP-Awami to rejoin BNP when next elections are announced?
If they want to be a part of Baloch struggle and regret what they did in past then we can take them in our party. BNP did not change its stance during all the hard times. If our ex-party member feels that they have made a mistake and confess their mistakes then doors of our party are opened for them.
Recently there has been upsurge in religious extremism in Balochistan. Do you think it’s spontaneous or engineered?
If this was spontaneous then it would have taken place hundred years ago when Baloch people were completely uneducated. Now, Baloch community has been able to get some education and awareness. Makran region has been the main victim of this upsurge. Now, it’s interesting to note that Makran is a non-tribal region. People of Makran are educated, political and nationalists. Religious extremism is being used as a weapon to counter nationalism and that’s the main reason behind the upsurge. Those who are involved in loot and plunder of resources of Balochistan feel threatened by nationalists and not by fundamentalists. Nationalists, despite their weakness, have been able to actively raise voice for Balochistan and its grievances. Fundamentalists have never raised voice about Balochistan issues and they are not bothered about them.
What’s your take on Military courts and 21st amendment?
We have opposed military courts since day one. Military courts are not new for people of Balochistan and we have faced them since 1948. Notable Baloch leaders like Agha Abdul Kareem, Nawab Nauroz Khan, Mir Ghaus Buksh Bizenjo, Nawab Khair Buksh Marri and Attaullah Mengal all have faced military courts in the past. People of Balochistan have been extra-judicially arrested without any involvement of civil administration. So, military courts will not be something new for Balochistan. Only difference would be that people of Balochistan, before receiving capital punishment by military courts, would be able to see their relatives for few minutes. Supporting the military courts will prove to be the last nail in the coffin of all the so-called democratic political parties of Pakistan who voted from them.
As a leader of Major political party and former Chief Minister, what solution you propose that is agreeable to all stakeholders including nationalists, Baloch militants and the establishment?
First of all establishment needs to clear its intentions about Baloch. We the Baloch nationalists have always been viewed with suspicion, whether we are in government or opposition. I don’t think that there is any way we can clear their intentions about us, only god can do that. If they are sincere in solving the Balochistan problem then they have to take certain positive steps. Putting a dummy government in power is not a positive step in his regard. Establishment needs to realize and admit their mistake that by putting a dummy government, the situation will not be solved and it would only aggravate. I proposed certain steps in this direction when I issued my 6-Points, in Supreme Court in year 2012. However those proposed steps were not accepted by the deciosn makers of Pakistan. My proposed steps would not have brought 100% betterment in situation but substantial improvement for sure. I didn’t ask for any favors for myself or my party in my six points. Essentially, my 6-points were for the entire Balochistan. At that time civil government of PPP was not in any position to make a decision about Balochistan even if it had wanted. Today, same is the case with PML-N government.
Who has the key to solution of Balochistan problem?
I can’t see a single lock let alone a single key. There are many locks in Balochistan; biggest lock is the intentions of the establishment. Key for that lock is with the god and we can’t do anything about it. Second lock is with the Baloch militants and they think that they can use the barrels of their guns to defend it. Third lock is with people of Balochistan and their sacrifices and struggle have made their lock strongest among all three.
Published in The Balochistan Point on January 19, 2015
Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and The Balochistan Point not necessarily agrees with them.