Governor Rule— Unfair Rule
By Malik Siraj Akbar
President Asif Ali Zardari has officially signed a decree for the imposition of the governor rule in Balochistan under article 234 of the Constitution.
The decision to bring Balochistan under a state of emergency for the next 60 days was made by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in consultation with this coalition partners. The government had to take this extraordinary decision of terminating its own party’s rule in the wake of widespread criticism on Raisani and his cabinet over their complete failure to end lawlessness in the province. The killing of more than 100 people on January 10 in Quetta in three powerful bomb blasts proved to be the turning point which led the Prime Minister to rush to Quetta and declare a state of emergency.
That said, the democratically elected Balochistan government has been dismissed and Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, who had previously served as the chief minister for two terms in 1990s, has been empowered to serve as the chief executive of the province. Under the Governor rule, the federal government will make all of Balochistan’s key decisions while the Frontier Corps (F.C.) has been granted complete policing powers which means it can now issue arrest warrants, conduct search operations, detain alleged criminals and investigate people. The commander of the Southern Command in Quetta, who is the senior-most military officer stationed in Quetta, has been asked to closely monitor F.C.’s performance. If the situation does not improve, the government says it may call the army to move in Quetta city.
Since the Supreme Court ruling on October 12, 2012 ruled that the Balochistan government had lost constitutional validity to run the province, a number of developments indicated that C.M. Raisani’s days were numbered. The apex court judgement was immediately followed by a confrontation between Raisani and the (former) Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Mohammad Aslam Bhoothani which culminated in the ouster of the latter following a vote of no-confidence by most members of the Balochistan Assembly. It seemed that the former Speaker was acting on the behalf of the Pakistani security establishment and the judiciary to derail the civilian government. On its part, the government made an immediate come back and showed temporary signs of stability after the election of a new Speaker and a Deputy Speaker for the Balochistan Assembly. They were further assured of the continuity of their power by the Balochistan High Court that rejected an appeal filed by Bhoothani against his expulsion. President Asif Ali Zardari went public to extend complete support to the Chief Minister and his government but now he has clearly betrayed Raisani and signed an orders for the imposition of governor rule.
The imposition of governor rule is extremely disappointing and despicable . The way a democratic government, although corrupt and incompetent, has been dismissed clearly shows that Islamabad treats Balochistan as a colony where it does not respect the public mandate. The brazen derailment of the democratic process brings back the old memories of 1973 when Balochistan’s first elected government headed by Sardar Attaullah Mengal was ousted in an undemocratic fashion. While Raisani and his cabinet can justifiably be blamed for bad governance, there failure does not validate the imposition of governor rule in Balochistan. This is a political and constitutional invasion of Balochistan by the central government that has already been engaged in military actions in certain parts of the province.
Here is why we believe the dismissal of the Balochistan government is deeply outrageous.
First, the P.P.P. should have encouraged a change within the government through a democratic process by electing a new chief minister. Calling Raisani’s failure as the failure of democracy is absurd.
Second, President Zardari and the Prime Minister did not take major stakeholders in Balochistan into confidence while taking this decision. It is further disturbing that the top P.P.P. leadership acted on the advice and demands of Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, Iltaf Hussain, the London-based head of the Muthida Quomi Movement and opposition leaders Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and Imran Khan. All of these leaders are outsiders with very limited public support in Balochistan. Therefore, these outside leaders are nobody to decided Balochistan’s fate.
Third, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is based in the south of Punjab. It is nobody’s creation in Balochistan. This terrorist organization continues to exist without any action by the federal and the Punjab governments. Thus, Balochistan has to, ironically, sacrifice its public mandate for what a Punjab-based terrorist organization does in Balochistan. This is the most undeserving punishment awarded to our provincial government.
Fourth , the pro-government media outlets are airing only the views of those leaders (such as former prime minister Mir Zafar-ullah-Jamali and ex-Speaker Bhootani) who appreciate Raisanis’ removal. They still think this whole emergency is about the removal of one corrupt chief minister but they don’t realize that how big a damage the emergency has caused to our fledgling democratic system.
Fifth, while sectarian attacks routinely occur in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan, the government does not impose a state of emergency over there. Why should then Balochistan solely qualify for governor’s rule?
Sixth, , the latest developments in Quetta are a major setback for the moderate, pro-Pakistan political parties. It provides hardliner Baloch nationalists a unique opportunity to cite the dismissal of Raisani’s government to question the significance of contesting elections. They will use this government’s example to tell their supporters that if Islamabad does not allow a government with 98% majority complete its term then how can the rest of the Baloch trust Islamabad? This is a serious blow to those Baloch nationalists who boycotted the previous elections and have this time indirectly showed an interest to participate in the polls.
Finally, granting police rights to the F.C. is like a bull in a China shop. National and international human rights groups have blamed the F.C. for carrying out widespread human rights abuses in the province. It is believed to be involved in enforced disappearances, torture, and murder of Baloch political workers. Even the Balochistan Police provided the Supreme Court of Pakistan an authentic video footage which showed F.C. personnel kidnapping some political activists. The F.C. is a part of the problem instead of the solution. Its assumption of police powers is certain to cause mistrust and confrontation between the local residents and the F.C.
Originally published in The Baloch Hal on January 13, 2013