The No-Trust Motion Against Balochistan Assembly Speaker

At least 22 members of the Balochistan Assembly have moved a no-trust motionagainst Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani who has entered into a fresh confrontation with Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani of the Pakistan People’s Party.  The motion, which is scheduled to be heard in a session of the Balochistan Assembly chaired by Deputy Speaker Syed Matiullah Agha, is being sponsored by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a consistent force in Balochistan’s politics and almost a permanent supporter of each coalition government and the Pakistan People’s Party.

The Speaker has come under fire after his refusal to chair further sessions of the Balochistan Assembly following the October 12, 2012, judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which stated that the Balochistan government had lost its constitutional legitimacy to rule the province.

The Speaker says he does not want to breach the judicial decree because he is convinced that the provincial government has lost constitutional legitimacy. By chairing the session, he says, he would be challenging the rule of the law. The Speaker is backed, ironically, by the provincial president of the P.P.P., Sadiq Umrani, who is a staunch political rival of Chief Minister Raisani. The Secretary of the provincial legislature, Zahoor Ahmed Baloch, has also gone public in asserting his indirect support for Mr. Bhootani, who is the first man ever to be elected as Balochistan’s Speaker unopposed. The Secretary of the Assembly, who is not an elected official but a civil bureaucrat, questioned the legal aspects of the no-trust motion against the Speaker. As a result, Mr. Baloch drew enormous criticism in the assembly session on December 22 in which all the ruling coalition partners accused him of being partisan and encroaching his official powers. The government legislators said that the Secretary of the Assembly acted as if he was a political opposition leader for which,they demanded, he should be punished.

On their part, the P.P.P. and the coalition partners believe that Mr. Bhootani has become a pawn in the hands of the military-judiciary nexus to oust Balochistan’s elected democratic government. President Asif Ali Zardari, on December 21, assured his full support to the Balochistan government. Presidential support for the Balochistan government is deeply reassuring but it is still not sufficient to safeguard the future of the Balochistan Assembly. After all, President Zardari could not do much to protect former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani from being kicked out by the politically active and revengeful Supreme Court.

On Monday, Speaker Bhootani, while addressing a press conference, threatened to move the Supreme Court if the assembly proceeded with the hearing of the motion against him. According to him, the no-trust motion against him is extra-constitutional. The Supreme Court, if approached by Mr. Bhootani, is very likely to give a judgement in his favor because he has remained an ardent pubic supporter of the top court’s ‘heroic role’ in ‘saving Balochistan from disaster’.

There is certainly something wrong with our democracy the way it is being practiced in Balochistan. A vote of no-trust motion by 22 members of the parliament cannot make its way because one person (either the Chief Justice or the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly) does not show respect for the authority of the majority. While endeavoring to block the majority’s decision in one or the other way, Mr. Bhootani is acting ridiculously and democratically.  He is not doing a service to the cause of democracy (as we are not currently talking about the issue of ‘good governance’, an area where the Raisani government can and should be collectively held responsible and accountable).

The Supreme Court and the office of the Speaker should stop experimenting their wired ambitions in Balochistan. We have passionately opposed any kind of federal interventions in Balochistan’s internal matters either they come the Pakistan military or the Supreme Court. Even good judgments from the Supreme Court and ‘positive works’ done by the Pakistan army are not a long-term solution to Balochistan’s problems. The province should be provided ample space to make its own decisions. If the military and the top judiciary do not have such intrusive roles in rest of the three provinces, we do not see any reason why such attitude should be applied in Balochistan’s context.

The current government should be allowed to complete its term without any destabilizing interventions from the Center. It should be for the people of Balochistan to decide whether they want to retain or outvote the current government in the upcoming general elections.  The Supreme Court would be doing a great service to the democratic process by staying away from politics and giving up its political ambitions.

This editorial was originally published in The Baloch Hal on December 25, 2012


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