Quest for Mandate

By Malik Siraj Akbar

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Many people believe that Chief Minister Nawab Raisani, who is the first leader in the history of Balochistan to be voted unopposed as the head of the government, has it easy to fix all the problems confronting the insurgency-stricken province. In spite of having all political parties, ranging from the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) to the left wing Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), on board as coalition partners, Raisani still suffers from a sense of powerlessness.

In a recent interaction with the media representatives, Raisani said he desperately required the “mandate” from the federal government to negotiate with the disgruntled Baloch nationalists who have picked up guns to wage a battle against Islamabad. The chief minister’s assertion does not surprise those who truly know that the province is still not in the full control of the elected government. While the Frontier Corps (FC) is a regular contributor to trouble in Balochistan, repeated rejection of a deep-rooted indigenous issue by irresponsible and provocative officials like Rehman Malik, the federal interior minister, is another reason for flaring up the situation.

Ever since coming into power, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government has been making claims to have taken genuine measures to bring normalcy to Balochistan. Yet, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Every effort made by the government, starting from an apology offered by President Asif Ali Zardari to the Baloch people over the antagonistic policies of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to a much-hyped socio-political Balochistan Package has not helped to put out the conflagration in Balochistan. When Raisani took oath of his office, the first promise he made to the people of Balochistan was concerning the restoration of the law and order situation. On the contrary, the situation worsened and saw an upsurge in violent cases. The government, on its part, had failed to win the hearts and minds of the people with its people-friendly policies.

Governor Magsi and Chief Minister Raisani have said it again and again that the situation has not improved in Balochistan in a way they wish to see it. They whine about the slow pace of implementation of the Balochistan Package. In fact Raisani is not the only leader who keeps harping about the mess in his province and admits his powerlessness. The role of the opposition is always played in the Balochistan Assembly, ironically, by the members of the treasury benches. One always hears very heated speeches against Islamabad on the floor of Balochistan Assembly by members of the government. The Balochistan Assembly has passed scores of resolutions against the Center on the issues of resource distribution, provincial autonomy and representation in the profitable state corporations. All these parliamentary resolutions are always paid a deaf ear from the other side of the fence.

This state of affairs is alarming. If the provincial government is not in the control of affairs then the next question that pops up in our minds is: Who governs (or say “rules”) Balochistan? The chief minister has to be more vocal to expose the elements that have made his government a laughing stock. Raisani, along with his cabinet, hardly has any reason to remain in the government owing to their poor performance. If analyzed on the basis of performance, the most appropriate thing the chief minister and his cabinet could do is to resign and sit back at home. But that even does not lead to normalization of the situation.

How would Balochistan look like if the current government is removed or dissolved? There is no possibility of bringing a more “powerful” government in the province at the moment. Mid-term elections, if ever held, will not help in bringing Balochistan National Party and the National Party into power. The mode of the people in the Baloch society is hostile towards parliamentary politics. Devastation caused by recent floods also does not permit a change of guards in the provincial government at the moment.

If the so-called moderate parties like the BNP and NP participate in any kind of mid-term elections, they will only end up opening new confrontational fronts against the Baloch armed groups.

Raisani does not solely need the mandate from the federal government but also deserves a chance to be heard in Islamabad. The PPP government, without underestimating the seriousness of the issue in Balochistan, should know what it means to empower Raisani and what the possible losses for the government are in the wake of a powerless chief minister in Balochistan. Raisani is still the right guy to engage in negotiations with the Baloch separatists in contrast to Rehman Mailk, Raza Rabbani and Babar Awan.

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

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