Ensuring transparency in AHB appointments

By Malik Siraj Akbar

As promised in the Aghaz-e-Hoqooq-e-Balochistan (AHB) package, the government of Balochistan has initiated a process of accepting applications for 3000 new job-seekers. The department of Services and General Administration is responsible to monitor the recruitment process. The other day, hundreds of unemployed young men and women rushed to Quetta’s Officers’ Club to submit their applications. Applications were also collected in all district headquarters for the second day on Tuesday.

This is an encouraging decision by the government to provide jobs to the jobless youth of Balochistan. Another commendable decision in this regard was the five-year relaxation provided to the applicants. Now, the maximum age level has been increased from 30 to 35 for those who are applying for a government job under the Balochistan package. Though the recruitment of three thousand young men is unlikely to resolve the entire Balochistan problem, it is certainly going to economically empower the local people and give them a sense of participation in the affairs of the state. It will convert people’s sense of isolation into participation.

However, the government has not stipulated a clear policy about the distribution of these newly announced posts. It is not known if the jobs are going to be distributed on open merit or on district-based quota system. Given the political culture of Balochistan, many people in Balochistan justifiably fear that all appointments would be made by the government on political basis. It makes sense to smell nepotism, favoritism and violation of merit in these appointments as the Balochistan government is known for pampering coalition partners as 48 Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) are serving as ministers.

Furthermore, reservations concerning possible corruption in the appointments are not ungrounded given the fact that Chief Minister Nawab Raisani recently acknowledged illegal appointments in the provincial Board of Revenue (BOR). Later on, the CM took action and cancelled all such appointments in BOR which were made while violating the official procedure for employment.

Very little is known about the elements within the government who would like to get the Balochistan package implemented successfully and those who are desperate to see it fizzle out. There are three key players capable of making the package successful or widely spurned: The democratic government, the civil bureaucracy and the country’s military establishment. Surely, those who would like to sabotage the Balochistan package would find this as an excellent opportunity to encourage nepotism and corruption in appointments on these posts so that the government is, subsequently, exposed by the opposition in the media and proved as dishonest and insincere. Fascinatingly, it is hard to ascertain the level of trust that exists between the provincial government, civil bureaucracy and the military. They all suspect each other.

Thus, the supporters of the Balochistan package are advised to make sure that these appointments are made transparently and not distributed among provincial ministers. Therefore, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Balochistan should formulate a commission comprising of highly respected and reliable individuals to monitor the fresh appointments. Revelation of corruption in these appointments will surely come as a huge blow to the credibility of the present government and it will tarnish the whole package.

In addition, we recommend the government to distribute these posts on district-based quota system so that every district of Balochistan benefits equally. Unemployment is a grave issue in rural Balochistan. For instance, newspapers reported that at least three young Baloch boys have committed suicide in Panjgur district in a single week due to joblessness and economic pressure. Sadly, these stories are coming about the youth of a province that is often described as home to greatest reservoirs of natural gold, copper and gas resources. Rural areas, like Dera Bugti, Sui and Kohlu have enormously suffered due to the military operation unleashed during Pervez Musharraf’s time.

The military operation rendered several hundred families as internally displaced. Many of the IDPs are the ones who were enjoying jobs at various companies and government departments before being forcefully driven out of their homes in early 2005 because of the military operation.

Hence, preference should be given to the people living in rural Balochistan, mainly those who bore the brunt of the military operation, floods and earthquakes in the recent past. People belonging to rural areas should not be asked to compete with urban candidates as a resident of Kohlu surely does not have the same level of knowledge, skill and exposure as someone from Quetta. Every district in need should be given a prescribed number of posts and candidates should be asked to fulfill the officially stated requirements within their districts.

Lastly, the people of Balochistan should be assured that they would be given jobs on the basis of their abilities not recommendations mad by district nazims, members of the provincial assembly, the National Assembly, the senators and the tribal chiefs of the area. It is an insoluble task for a government that claims to be striving to weed out Balochistan’s sense of deprivation.

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