The Positive, Negative and the Disturbing Sides of Bhootani’s Ouster
At least 47 members of the Balochistan Assembly (B.A.) cast their vote in a no-trust motion on December 26 against Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani. There is a positive, a negative and a disturbing side of the move against Speaker Bhootani.
Firstly, the no-trust motion showed positive signs because the elected representatives of the Balochistan Assembly united to defeat an attempt from the Supreme Court and its pawns, such as people like Speaker Bhootani, to derail the democratic process in Balochistan. This was a very encouraging sign on the part of the politicians to stand against any judicial intrusion. The legislators sent a loud and clear message: They would stand for the supremacy of the parliament and oppose anyone who becomes a tool in the hands of the Supreme Court to undermine the significance of the parliament, which is the supreme institution in a parliamentary democratic set-up.
Secondly, the incident showed the negative and the selfish side of Balochistan’s legislators. They wasted no time to unite to preserve their government. The current adminstration is a few months away from completing its five-year term but the members of the provincial parliament are unwilling to give up their position a few months earlier. They want to make sure that they remain in the office until the very last day of their stint so that they keep benefiting from the perks and privileges attached to their positions. These members of the the parliament, unfortunately, never demonstrated the same level of urgency and commitment to fight for the rights and needs of the common citizens of Balochistan. In the past five years, Balochistan has witnessed extraordinary human rights abuses, such as the kill and dump operations, and enormous natural calamities like the floods of the past three consecutive years. One wishes the Balochistan government had also acted and responded in a similar quick fashion on those urgent occasions.
Thirdly, the ongoing tussle between the Chief Minister and the Speaker has also exposed the deep involvement of the provincial bureaucracy in the political affairs of the province. Our bureaucrats are either too greedy or badly influenced by politicians. One can cite two examples of the brazen involvement of the bureaucracy in the tug of war among the politicians.
In the first place, Speaker Bhootani apparently compelled the Secretary of the assembly, Zahoor Ahmed Baloch, to go public and oppose the no-trust motion against him on the grounds of being extra-constitutional. The Secretary delightedly and immediately complied with Bhootani’s wish and addressed a press conference which eventually received enormous criticism from the pro-Raisani members of the assembly who accused the Secretary of being partisan and acting like a politician.
In the second instance, two top bureaucrats, the Principal Secretary of the Chief Minister and Director of Public Relation Department were caught on camera during the Balochistan Assembly session in which members of the assembly cast their vote against Speaker Bhootani. The two senior officers was seemingly entrusted the responsibility by Raisani to make sure that every M.P.A. [Member of the Provincial Assembly] showed them their ballot before casting it to make sure that they had indeed voted against the Speaker.
All three bureaucrats, Secretary of the Assembly and the two in Raisani’s side, breached the public trust by indulging in unethical practices. If they had refused to be exploited by the politicians by clearly telling them in the face that they would not become a part of illegal practices, they could have easily done so considering their high and unshakable positions in the provincial bureaucracy. These bureaucrats, disappointingly, did not respect the sanctity of their office and brazenly submitted themselves to dirty politics and corrupt politicians. By agreeing to do so, they either saw some ‘benefits’ in return of their loyalty to the politicians or feared losing their current prestigious and lucrative positions.
Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi has summoned a session of the assembly on December 31st to elect a new Speaker for the House.
The current Deputy Speaker from the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Syed Matiullah Agha, is likely to replace Bhootani. But this is not going to be a smooth transition. The government’s bumpy ride is not over yet. The Balochistan High Court (B.H.C.) has already promptly responded to an application submitted by Bhootani, the ousted Speaker, in which the applicant has questioned the legality of the way he was removed from his office. Justice Tahira Safdar of the B.H.C has summoned the B.A. Secretary and the Deputy Speaker to respond to Bhootani’s charges while the infamous National Accountability Bureau (N.A.B.), which is notorious for being a permanent blackmailing institution against opposition leaders, has also taken notice of the violation of the secret ballot during the session that ousted Bhootani.
As we argued in our previous editorial, the judiciary cannot make an impartial judgement on Balochistan’s ongoing constitutional crisis because it has already become too politicized and Speaker Bhootani is an open champion of the judiciary’s superiority over the legislative branch of the government. Therefore, the courts should abstain from hearing a case which, if decided in Bhootani’s favor, will profoundly empower the judiciary over the parliament. The Balochistan Assembly’s vote of no-trust against Bhootani should be respected and the election of a new Speaker on December 31 should also be allowed to take place smoothly. However, we strongly recommend action against politicians and bureaucrats who were found in undemocratic and unethical practices on camera.
This editorial was originally published in The Baloch Hal on December 29, 2012