What is a “Deet Government”?
In his most scolding language ever used to describe the abysmal performance of the Balochistan government, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftekhar Mohammad Chaudhary, has billed Nawab Aslam Raisani’s administration as absolutely ‘deet‘ [utterly incompetent].
The top judge looked upset because no amount of criticism and court orders have helped to persuade the Balochistan government to improve its performance. In an earlier verdict in October, the Supreme Court, while hearing a case of the Balochistan Bar Association about the state of law and order in the province, said that the provincial government had lost its ability to rule the province. The judgement initially led to naive speculations that the ruling Pakistan People’s Party would ask Raisani to step down or the court would order his ouster, as was seen in the case of the former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani.
In addition to its existing problems, the government was immediately caught up in a fresh constitutional crisis when the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Muhammad Aslam Bhootani refused to chair further sessions of the Assembly because, in his words, the government’s legal status had become controversial after the apex court ruling. As the tug of war divided the government, Raisani still succeeded in obtaining a vote of confidence from the provincial parliament.
The vote of confidence, however, does not in any way suggest the stability and popularity of the Raisani government. The Chief Minister has developed two major opponents: Speaker Bhootani and Saddiq Umrani, the provincial president of the P.P.P. who believes his party is beating a dead horse by supporting an incompetent man like Raisani. On his part, Raisani has avoided responding to hard questions (relating issues of governance) by presenting himself in the public as a joker and a man known for his (sick and dry) humor.
Some other reports suggest that Raisani has been planning to avenge Speaker Bhootani by bringing a vote of no-confidence against the king-maker politician. But the C.M. does not have the support from his coalition partners for his initiative. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (J.U.I.), which has closer and older ties with the P.M.L.Q as compared to the P.P.P. in Balochistan, appears least enthusiastic about a vote of no-confidence against the Speaker because the J.U.I. believes such a confrontational move will deepen the ongoing crisis in the province. The constitutional crisis in Balochistan is already very serious; if it gets worse, we may have face the C.M.’s expulsion by President Asif Ali Zardar who will ultimately impose the governor’s rule in the province. While preparing for the next general elections, the P.P.P. is not ready to accept more political losses in return of its support to Nawab Raisani. Ironically, the Balochistan C.M. has outdone President Zardari in unpopularity among the general masses. So, Zardari wonders why he should gamble on his party’s future by standing beside Raisani.
One could also see a change in the P.P.P.’s attitude toward Mr. Raisani from the dramatic cancellation of a visit of Interior Minister Rehman Malik to Balochistan where he was expected to address a much-hyped closed-door session of the Balochistan Assembly. Mr. Malik even did not provide any convincing reasons for the cancellation of his trip to Balochistan but Raisani was certainly disgraced by, what he called, Mr. Malik’s ‘immature behavior’. The C.M. told the media that Mr. Malik, who belongs to his own P.P.P., had disrespected the mandate of the Balochistan government by now showing up in the assembly session as promised. However, Raisani’s opponents, such as Mr. Umrani, the provincial president of the P.P.P., appreciate Mr. Malik for his ‘right decision’ to not address the Balochistan Assembly which, he says, “has averted a new life to a government that has lost constitutional legitimacy.”
In the midst of this deepening crisis, we still believe that the Supreme Court has not been fair to Mr. Raisani and his government. While the government’s failures and corruption are already known to everyone, the million-dollar question is: where do we go from here?
By soley and excessively rebuking the Balochistan government, the S.C. is risking giving a free hand to the Pakistani military for its covertly overt political role in Balochistan and the extra-constitutional activities of the intelligence agencies and the security forces. If the S.C. does not approach the issue from all directions, the status quo will continue in the troubled province.
Raisani may not return to his current office but nor will the next general elections lead to significant structural changes in the next dispensation. The Supreme Court is apparently unable to make a ‘deet‘ government work but it can at least put accountable all those, including the intelligence agencies, who have so miserably contributed to the Balochistan unrest. If that is done, we will have some hope for freer and more transparent elections next year.
If the current state of fear and corruption continues, popular political parties like the Balochistan National Party, the National Party and the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party may either be forced to once again stay away from the elections or fail to gain substantial electoral gains under the shadow of the security establishment’s influence.
Originally published in The Baloch Hal on December 6, 2012