Search for a new governor

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Reports have suddenly begun to pour in about a possible change in Governor’s House, Quetta. Such reports cannot be termed as “rumors” or “speculations” for the reason that the incumbent governor of the province, Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, has already tendered his resignation from the office.

It has been more than one year since Magsi resigned from the coveted Zarghoon Road office saying that he had no reasons to stay in the office after General Pervez Musharraf, the former president who appointed Magsi as Balochistan’s governor, had been ousted from power. His resignation has not been accepted by President Asif Ali Zardari yet due to known reasons. Magsi, on his part, says he is willing to leave the office by the time Islamabad finds the suitable person.

Nawab Magsi was appointed as the governor of Balochistan by former dictator General Pervez Musharraf. Like his counterparts in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Sindh, Magsi also continued to serve on his position even after the exit of General Musharraf. By and large, he remained an acceptable and non-controversial governor of the province. Unlike Punjab, Balochistan experienced excellent working relations between the Governor and Chief Minister. It was indeed not very easy to agree to work as a docile governor soon after a period in which governors called the shots in the provinces.

Governor Magsi is laudable for his deep respect and continued cooperation extended to the democratic government in Quetta. He never interfered in the affairs of the provincial government. At the same time, he spoke bravely on a number of occasions for the rights of the province to the extent of offending Islamabad. He also criticized the performance of the provincial government every now and then. Some sections of the political divide have however expressed their displeasure over Magsi for not doing enough to play his role in brining normalcy in Balochistan. On his part, Magsi has kept quite on such criticism for the genuine reasons that he is not the head of the government. It is the responsibility of the chief minister, not the governor, to run the affairs of the government and resolve people’s issues.

When Nawab Magsi and Nawab Raisani started to work as the head of the province and the government respectively, the Balochs welcomed them with an open heart. They reminded the local people of the first indigenous Baloch government of 1970s which was headed by Mir Ghose Baksh Bizenjo as the Governor of the province and Sardar Attaullah Mengal as the head of the government. Sadly, these bedfellows failed to repeat the history as the government of Nawab Raisani soon became very unpopular with the Balochs. The responsibility for this in fact lies with Raisani’s poor administration.

Currently, Magsi’s graph of popularity is much higher than that of Raisani for a number of reasons. For example Raisani reintroduced all the cronies of General Musharraf hailing from Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Quaid-e-Azam) Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, who overtly backed a military operation in the province, in his cabinet. On his part, Magsi demonstrated courage to point out that the provincial government was dominated by crooks and corrupt elements who needed to be publicly hanged.

The Pashtun population of Balochistan was never pleased with Magsi as the governor. It insisted that in the presence of a Baloch chief minister, a Pashtun should be appointed as the governor of the province as a part of an old convention. One wonders when, where and among who this convention was ever brokered. Thus, Pashtun resentment towards Governor Magsi or any other Baloch governor is always unreasonable.

There are speculations about different names for the post of governor, a position Magsi would apparently be more than happy to vacate for his successor. One such name is that of Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, the central secretary general of the National Party. Bizenjo has been meeting big guns of the Pakistan People’s Party in Islamabad. He was, nonetheless, too quick to refute the statements in the media about his name being under consideration for the office of governor Balochistan. Insisting that he had no desire to become the governor of Balochistan, Bizenjo, a son of illustrated Baloch nationalist leader Mir Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, sarcastically commented that Balochistan was full of other nawabs and sardars to be appointed as the governor. He was in fact indicating at the painful phenomenon where only tribal chiefs in Balochistan end up as the chief minister or the governor of the province and the people hailing from the middle class families still have no say in the affairs of the province.

Hasil’s statement does not help in ending speculations as every true news report is initially dealt with rebuttals and refutations. Hasil Khan is no longer a popular guy among the Baloch nationalists. National Party, of which he is the central secretary general, had boycotted the general elections of 2008. Hence, the NP did not make it to the Balochistan Assembly. Even then, Hasil Khan managed to become a member of the Senate of Pakistan with the help of votes cast by Nawab Aslam Raisani, Aslam Bhoothani, speaker Balochistan Assembly, and some other members of the ruling elite. This naturally started a fresh chapter of amity between Hasil and the rulers of Balochistan.

Another name includes that of former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Wazir Khan Jogezai. His appointment will assuage the grievances of the Pashutn population of being underrepresented in the provincial top echelon of governance.

Appoint of Hasil Khan Bizenjo or Mr. Jogezai is not going to be a bed of roses. Balochistan National Party (Awami), an important coalition partner of the Raisani-led government, has its own reservations about the National Party. Having spent a reasonable period in the government, the BNP-Awami now believes it equally has the right to have its say in nominate the next governor of Balochistan. In that case, the chief of the party and federal minister for the postal affairs Mir Israr Zehri would be a more suitable name for this position. Zehri, who has two more brothers currently serving in Raisani’s cabinet as ministers, enjoys closer relations with the federal government and enjoys greater influence in the tribal society of Balochistan in contrast to Mir Hasil Bizenjo.

Similarly, Jammiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), another important coalition partner of the government in Quetta, is eying the office of governor. JUI-Fazal is too good to blackmail any coalition government in the province. They are as loyal as rebellious with different chief ministers, depending on their own demands, interests and the quid pro quo they get. In case of a change in the governor, JUI-F will hopefully put the name of its chief Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, a Pashtun, or former ambassador and ombudsman, Malik Sikandar Advocate, again a Pashtun, for this slot.

For Islamabad, a governor in Balochistan has to meet multiple preconditions. Most importantly, he needs to have strong tribal roots and an ability to pursue the so-called process of reconciliation in the province. With Magsi and Raisani both collectively failing to bring the Marri (Khair Baksh Marri group), Mengal (Sardar Attaullah group) and Bugti (Bramdagh Bugti group) to the negotiation table, the task for finding a governor who can accomplish this extraordinary task has become more difficult.

Both Hasil Khan Bizenjo or Wazir Khan Jogezai do not have the ability to influence any faction of the disillusioned Balochs. Magsi’s exit will only create a big void in the province. It is, in the current situation, better to retain Magsi as the governor in order to avoid more political uncertainty and instability in the province.

A mere change in the office of governor does not bring with itself major improvement in the performance of the government. This will only disturb the sequence of developments, good or bad, taking place right now. Change in the office of governor is not what Balochistan desperately requires at the moment. It is indeed reformation of the provincial government, induction of good governance, acceleration of implementation of the recommendations enshrined in the Balochistan Package and the 18th amendment and immediate recovery of the missing persons which will considerably assist in bringing a positive political change in Balochistan.

(This write-up originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper)

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