A supporter of Baloch rights and provincial autonomy, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani now has a chance to do something for his people and province
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
The boycott of the February 2008 general elections by the Baloch and Pashtun nationalist parties in Balochistan was good news for the PPP and one of its provincial leaders Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani. The party won more assembly seats than ever in the province and was thus able to form a coalition government with Raisani as the chief minister.
Though his family has been associated with the PPP for long, the 54-year old Raisani formally joined the party in 1994. His late father, Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani, was a leader of the PPP during the time of its founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and had served as Governor of Balochistan and federal minister in the 1970s.
Following the assassination of the elder Raisani as a result of a tribal feud, Aslam Raisani became the chief of Sarawan, the traditional headquarters of the Raisani tribe. He inherited the Raisani tribal feuds, including one with the Rind tribe which is ongoing and has kept former federal minister and PML-Q leader Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind out of the PPP-led coalition government in Balochistan. Rind, it may be mentioned, is the only MPA in the 65-member provincial assembly who is in the opposition as everyone else is part of the large and unwieldy ruling coalition comprising parties having secular, religious, nationalistic and centrist orientation.
Aslam Raisani obtained his masters degree in political science from the Balochistan University. He also served as deputy superintendent of police in Balochistan before entering politics.
The Raisani, according to some accounts, is a Brahui tribe but is now referred to as a Brahui Baloch tribe. In fact, certain anthropological texts mention the Raisanis as Pashtuns belonging to the Tor Tareen tribe. On their part, the Raisanis are now very much part of the Baloch tribal set-up and Aslam Raisani is a member of the supreme council of the Baloch Qaumi Jirga that was set up by the Baloch tribal elders to carry out struggle for the rights of the tribe.
Starting from 1988, the younger Raisani has been elected MPA a number of times. He has a constituency tailor-made to his needs as the Raisanis and their allies live in significant numbers in Mastung-Kalat that makes up the area Balochistan Assembly’s PB-38 seat.
Aslam Raisani’s younger brother, Lashkari Khan Raisani, was elected MPA in the past. He is presently the Balochistan president of the PPP. They have four other brothers, including one Aminullah Raisani from another mother.
As Balochistan is still a largely tribal society dominated by the Nawabs and Sardars, the chiefs of various tribes have taken turns to rule the province. Both Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his son Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal served as chief ministers to set up a record of sorts. The late Jam Ghulam Qadir Khan, a tribal chief from Lasbela, and his son Jam Mohammad Yousaf also made a record as both remained chief minister of the province. Sardar Mohammad Khan Barozai, Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti and the Jamali cousins, who are forever in power due to their pro-establishment politics, too have served as either governor or chief minister of Balochistan. Even now two Nawabs are ruling the province. Nawab Raisani is the chief minister and Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi is the governor.
On Apr 9, 2008, Aslam Raisani was elected the 13th chief minister of Balochistan. His election was unopposed as every political party with representation in the Balochistan Assembly had already been won over with offers of positions in the cabinet. So broad was the support for him that no nomination papers were filed for his election as leader of the House by MPAs from his own party, PPP, and those belonging to the National Party, Balochistan National Party (Awami), Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F, Asfandyar Wali Khan’s ANP and the PML-Q. In fact, a likeminded group was formed by the PML-Q lawmakers, who were 18 in number and had the largest number of seats in the Balochistan Assembly, to join the PPP-led coalition government and destroy any chance for the PML-Q to lead the provincial government.
In his first speech after his election as chief minister, Aslam Raisani described maintenance of law and order as the first priority of his government and said he and his colleagues would work wisely for restoration of peace in the violence-hit province. As President Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP head originally belonging to a Baloch tribe, was supportive of the peace initiative in Balochistan, chief minister Raisani was able to make some moves toward this direction and a number of political prisoners were freed. The armed Baloch separatist groups such as the Baloch Liberation Army and the Baloch Liberation Front responded positively by declaring ceasefire. However, these groups later began expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of progress in peacefully resolving the Balochistan conflict and announced an end to the ceasefire. The subsequent kidnapping of UNHCR’s Quetta-based official, John Solecki, by a previously unknown group claiming to fight for Baloch rights and the increase in the incidence of acts of terrorism showed that hopes for peaceful resolution of the problem had receded.
Raisani, who in recent years became afflicted with health problems and now faces difficulty in speaking coherently and clearly, has been a supporter of Baloch rights and provincial autonomy. Now in power, he has a chance to do something for his people and province. The whole Balochistan Assembly is behind him as there is practically no opposition in the legislature and the PPP-led federal government is supportive of his efforts. Raisani has also been campaigning for foreign investment in Balochistan and offering incentives to investors.
However, this goal would be difficult to achieve if peace and security wasn’t restored in the vast province, which is the largest in Pakistan in terms of area. A new headache for Raisani were the recent reports in the US media based on leaks by American officials about Washington’s plans to launch drone attacks to hit suspected Afghan Taliban hideouts in Quetta and rest of Balochistan. He reacted with strong condemnation of the move and the Balochistan Assembly came up a unanimous resolution against it.
But the US until now hasn’t cared about such protests by the Pakistan government or the public outcry and continued its policy of using the CIA-operated drones to fire missiles at any target suspected to be linked to al-Qaeda or Taliban. The Raisani-led Balochistan government would have to cope with the fallout of any such US attack. The provincial government, already facing problems due to the constant jockeying among the coalition partners for more powers and ministerial portfolios, would come under greater strain in case the US went ahead with its arrogant policy of undermining Pakistan’s sovereignty and attacking places in Pakistani territory with impunity.