QUETTA - The current political scenario of Balochistan is likely to change in the days and weeks ahead, after former chief minister of Balochistan and President of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal), Sardar Akthar Mengal, ended his four-year self-imposed exile by returning to the country on March 25th.

It is said that many behind-the-scene efforts were made to persuade the estranged leader to return to his homeland and join the mainstream politics. The offer to the veteran leader Ataullah Mengal, Akhtar’s father, to become the caretaker prime minister was also made to ‘soften’ the father and the son.

A large number of BNP-M supporters gathered outside the Karachi airport to accord a warm welcome to the Baloch nationalist leader who spent all these years in neighbouring Dubai, a favourite place for many Pakistani leaders facing adversity.

A tug-of-war seems to have started between the Baloch nationalists in the country’s least developed province. While Akhtar Mengal and his party have decided to contest the May 11 elections, Baloch separatists and radical nationalists have started mounting pressure on him to boycott the vote.

Mengal had appeared before the Supreme Court about six months ago, demanding immediate “cessation of the security establishment’s kill and dump policies and extra judicial killing of Baloch youths”. He had likened his demands to the Six Points of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman to make it clear to the relevant authorities that he would not compromise the rights of the Balochs at any cost.

However, there is a positive change in his thinking now.

A day after his arrival, Mr Mengal presided over a meeting of his party’s central committee in Karachi which decided that the BNP-Mengal should go for elections.  It took the party some 10 hours to reach the conclusion.

Akthar Mengal said after the marathon session that the BNP-Mengal is a democratic party and its members have no enmity with any tribe. But, he said, the party faces threats from the establishment. He made it clear that the powers that be would be responsible if any member of his party was harmed.

The BNP-Mengal along with other nationalist parties had boycotted the 2008 general elections. Prominent leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who was also recently offered the post of the caretaker prime minister, had also stood away from the process in accordance with a decision taken by then All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM).

During his stay abroad, Mr Mengal had highlighted the alleged excesses on the Balochs. Also, he had written a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 regarding violation of human rights in Balochistan, incidents of enforced disappearances of Baloch youths and killing of Baloch political leaders and workers.

Political observers say the BNP-M’s decision to participate in general elections is a major development in the context of the prevailing law and order in Balochistan.

Banned outfits, Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Army have appealed to the masses in Balochistan to remain aloof from the up-coming polls.

Exiled Baloch nationalist leader and chief of Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, who has also announced to boycott the elections, said that they do not wish to have relations with Pakistani state anymore.

He said that participation in the electoral process would be tantamount to recognizing Pakistan, a stance which would be against  their struggle for independence.

Dr Allah Nazar, commander of Baloch Liberation Front, said if Akhtar Mengal took part in the elections, he would be compromising with the very same security establishment that had been held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Balochs.

Political analysts say the decision of BNP-Mengal in contesting the elections was made possible because of the efforts made by government to bring the annoyed Baloch leader into mainstream of national politics.

They say convincing Akthar Mengal to contest forthcoming polls is a big victory on the part of government circles which would help improve Pakistan’s image abroad at a time when it is blamed for human rights abuses in Balochistan.

Moreover, political analysts say, Mr Mengal’s decision of contesting elections in current situation will face a serious resistance not only from radical Baloch nationalists but also from Baloch masses which are active against him.

This was evident from the rally of March 27th, at Sariab Road, Quetta, which was participated in by hundreds of women and children. The participants had chanted slogans against Akhar Mengal.

On the other hand, many political parties have announced their candidates, including National Party, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Awami National Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) and Jamat-i- Islami.

The president of PML-Q and former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat and Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed visited Quetta a few days ago and discussed the issue of tickets to party candidates with the party’s provincial leadership. 

Now that the date of elections is approaching different political adjustments would be made. 

The chief of Jamhoori Watan Party Nawabzada Talal Akbar Bugti has announced to hold All Parties Conference in Quetta before the elections. He is also in contact with different political leaders, including the PML-N of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

Talal Bugti says except for the PML-Q, PPP and MQM he would invite all political parties to the moot, which is aimed to work out a strategy to steer the country out of challenges and difficulties it faces .

It is said owing to prevailing law and order in Balochistan it would be a big challenge for the caretaker government to conduct election peacefully. It is being speculated that army would have to be called in different areas of Balochistan.

According to official sources, 3794 polling stations would be established in the province, out of which 2877 could be declared “highly sensitive” and 633 as sensitive while 284 as normal.