A Distasteful Joke

Why are there no reactions, both from the government and the civil society, to thebrazen and bizarre statement of Balochistan Communication Minister Ali Madad Jattak that there is nothing wrong with indulging into corruption? A person holding a public office and defending corruption would have indeed been kicked out of the cabinet had he lived and worked in a civilized country with a functioning democracy.

Mr. Jattak is going to continue to work in his office because he works under a boss who once publicly endorsed possession of fake and fraudulent degrees for the members of the Parliament. Aslam Raisani, Jattak’s boss and Balochistan’s current chief minister, told the media that a degree was a degree whether it was fake or original. This is a sickening state of affairs in Balcohistan where overt defenders of corruption and fraud hold public offices. There is no reaction on the part of the civil society ostensibly because of public sense of powerlessness and despondency. The ordinary citizen in the province is caught between rogue and repressive intelligence agencies, security forces and a bunch of crooks occupying public offices.

While talking about the conflict in Balochistan, one key area that almost always remains ignored is the performance of the provincial government. One often hears about the illegal actions of the military and the intelligence agencies, flawed policies of the federal government and a growing rebellion in the province among the youth who aspire to seek independence from Pakistan. What we do sufficiently hear about is the members of the provincial government who get the least attention in the conflict. If not getting attention is a blessing then only ministers in the Balochistan government can explain its benefits.

Balochistan has a group of permanent members of the Pakistani Establishment who continue to rule the province during all good or bad times. This bunch of individuals mainly comprises of tribal chiefs and the clergy. They have nominal political affiliations. They switch political loyalties with the change in the federal government. They join the Pakistan Muslim League, either Nawaz or the Quaid-e-Azam League, when this party rules the country but instantly become members or supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party when it comes into power. Thus, there is a little that changes in Balochistan’s internal politics following an electoral process. This group of people will remain in power no matter what Balochistan’s relations with the central government look like. For example, more than half of today’s provincial government comprises of the loyalists of General Musharraf. They immediately become supporters of the PPP as Musharraf lost popularity. Some of them are gradually becoming admirers of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan keeping in view the changing politics in the country.

What is missing is the clear absence of a political or civil society-driven movement in Balochistan that calls for accountability of the provincial government. The current assembly of 65 members has only one member of the opposition whereas everyone else is a part of the government as a minister or an adviser. They are corrupt to such an extent that they, just like Mr. Jattak, publicly defend corruption because they know that they are not answerable to anyone for their deeds. While being skeptical and cynical of government policies is a positive attitude in a democratic culture, pessimism and complete disassociation is catastrophic.  It offers a free opportunity to politicians to misuse public office and indulge into corruption. Lack of public interest leads to lack of the primary public quest for accountability.  No one can help the people of Balochistan but themselves to stand against the status quo.

The youth in Balochistan, political parties and the media must play a vibrant role in holding the provincial government accountable just like the way they vigorously fight the federal government for its exploitation of the province’s mineral wealth and committing human rights abuses.  The people should give up a policy of forgiving to their elected representatives for whatever nonsensical statements they make.  We would also like to urge the Minister to apologize for his remarks. The PPP central leadership should take notice of his remarks and it must discourage such undemocratic attitude in the greater interest of the democracy. Democracy should not be deemed as a means to absolute authority and stark impunity. If unchecked, such arrogant (mis)use of power leads to collapse of democracy in any given society and serve as the catalyst for authoritarianism. (Courtesy:  The Baloch Hal)


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