The Future of the Raisani Government
By Malik Siraj Akbar
In its scolding ruling on Balochistan, the Supreme Court (SC) has scathingly castigated the provincial government over its numerous failures to govern the province. The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary, ruled the PPP-led coalition government had lost its constitutional authority over the province.
Since the Balochistan Assembly does not have any opposition, the SC judgment carries some weight. After all the apex court spent several months, conducting hearings in Islamabad and Quetta and recording dozens of statements from top government officials as well as the family members of the missing persons. Balochistan’s former chief minister, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, also appeared before the SC and proposed Six Points to build confidence for future negotiations between the government and the Baloch nationalists.So where do we go from here?
After the ruling, there are a few possible scenarios emerging on Balochistan’s political landscape. Firstly, the Supreme Court should officially disqualify the Balochistan government. Secondly, Chief Minister Aslam Raisani should resign to pave the way for an interim government that will hold free and fair elections. Thirdly, the President should impose Governor’s rule as a sign of federal government’s intervention to help the suffering people of Balochistan.
There are also media reports that the President Zardari has called up senior provincial leaders of the PPP in Islamabad to discuss the future of the Balochistan government in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment. The President, according to media reports, will meet his advisors on Monday or Tuesday to see if it is possible to replace Chief Minister Raisani in order to make sure that the PPP does not lose much credibility in the province ahead of the upcoming general elections.
Almost every criticism directed at the Balochistan government is valid if we analyze its ability to establish peace and serve the people of the volatile province. Yet, the application of any of the three scenarios mentioned above would be catastrophic.
The dismissal of the government would make Nawab Raisani and his cronies new ‘political martyrs’ leading to a new chapter of tensions between the center and the province. It is somewhat unfair to compare Raisani with Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Balochistan’s first chief minister. The dismissal of Mengal’s government in 1973 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto has left such unforgettable memories for the Baloch that they still keep bitterly alluding to that episode how the federal government trampled their mandate.
By dismissing or disqualifying the Balochistan government just a few months before the next polls, the Supreme Court or the federal government would be condoning all of Raisani’s failures and his ministers’ corruption. Such a situation will abruptly transform Raisani and his gang of 50+ ministers/ advisers into victims of the federal government’s violation of the ‘people’s mandate’. Throughout the coming years, they will keep making the same excuse that they were never allowed to complete their democratic term to serve the people of Balochistan.
The best punishment that can be awarded to the inept Balochistan government is to allow it to complete its current stint so that the local voters are uniquely positioned to ask Raisani why he failed to serve Balochistan in spite of having his party, the PPP, in government in the Center too.
One of the biggest drawbacks in Balochistan’s politics is the voters’ lack of courage to hold their local representatives accountable over their performance. The voters should be educated about the basic lesson of democracy: You will suffer until you vote for the right candidate.
At this critical stage, Balochistan cannot afford any kind of intervention from the Pakistan army, the federal government or the Supreme Court no matter how well-intended these interventions may seem. It will take us back to square one. The SC should not feel flattered when Sardar Mengal describes it as the “last hope” for Balochistan. The central machinery, including the military, should encourage maximum autonomy for the province and exercise a policy of minimum interference in the affairs of the province.It is unfortunate that the Balochistan government has turned into such a shame with regards to its performance but the Supreme Court, under no circumstances, should be above the provincial parliament and empowered to dismiss the provincial government.
An intrusive Supreme Court in the affairs of Balochistan could someday be as troublesome as today the intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps have transformed into. By encouraging federal intervention in Balochistan, we are going to achieve short-term success but create more mistrust between the province and the Center.
In addition, the dismissal of the current Balochistan government will significantly undermine the credibility of the future chief minister and his set-up. The Raisani team, for instance, will get an opportunity to propagate that the Establishment actually dismissed his government to pave the way for their favorite chief minister. For the transparent outcome of the next general elections, it is very important to allow the current provincial government to complete its tenure.
We should get back to the basic rules of fixing the Balochistan imbroglio: The province needs long-term and transparent healing and dealing not mere hasty interventions.