Choosing The Right Chief Minister
For the first time in one decade, the process of choosing a chief minister for Balochistan is taking so long. This is not a bad thing at all. The last two chief ministers, Jam Mohammad Yousaf and Nawab Aslam Raisani, respectively belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam and the Pakistan People’s Party, were hastily picked up and installed as the puppets of the central government. They lacked commitment, authority and the ability to professionally govern the province. Their terms turned out to be complete disasters in every sphere of governance.
The Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz), which won an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly following the general elections of May 11, has been taking particular interest in the future government of Balochistan. The P.M.L-N. is destined to form a coalition government in the province with the help of the Pashtunkhaw Milli Awami Party, the largest party in the provincial assembly, and the National Party.
The P.M.L.-N does not seem to be interested in forming a routine government in the province. It appears that Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, the future prime minister of Pakistan, is also taking personal interest in seriously addressing the Baloch issue. In order to that, he needs an efficient and reliable chief minister. Mr. Sharif has shown great caution to choose a widely acceptable chief minister for the province. The more he thinks about the new chief executive of the troubled province, the more he realizes how hard it is to pick up one man in a province where, unlike the rest of the country, no single party emerged with absolute majority.
The P.M.L-N has not officially announced any candidates or preferences for the office of the chief minister. Most of the speculations are based on media reports. Before the elections, people speculated that Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party could become the next chief minister but his party performed very poorly in the polls. After the elections, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, the provincial head of the P.M.L-N self-appointed himself as the consensus candidate for his party. He cited his ‘sacrifices’ for the party, while alluding to the killing of his son, brother and the nephew during the election campaign, as a reason to be appointed as the next head of the provincial government. Mr. Zehri’s speculative nomination even drew extraordinary criticism in the media, including this newspaper. While some called Mr. Zehri’ , if nominated so, P.M.L-N’s “first blunder” in Balochistan, we described him as “worse than Raisani“.
Reading between the lines that Mr. Zheri would not make a perfect and acceptable chief minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the former chief minister of the Punjab, visited Quetta for ‘further discussions’. During his stay in Quetta, he met with Baloch and Pashtun nationalist leaders and future coalition partners besides meeting his own party representatives. It was in Quetta where he learnt about other people within the P.M.L.-N, such as Jangiz Marri, the eldest son of nationalist leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, who were also ambitious to become the chief minister. Just like Zehri, Mr. Marri is also known as an insignificant figure in Balochistan’s politics as his father and brothers do not share his political philosophy and vision. Mr. Marri has no previous experience of holding such a high position. Hence, Mr. Sharif returned to Lahore without making a final decision about the name of the future chief minister. He said his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, would instead have the final word on this important matter.
Unofficial reports now suggest that the P.M.L.-N is considering former senator, Dr. Malik Baloch, who is also the head of the National Party, for the coveted position. Some reports suggest that his name was recommended by Hasil Khan Bizenjo, N.P.’s vice president, while others say Mahmood Khan Achakzai of the P.K.M.P. suggested his name or at least raised no objections to the idea. Balochistan’s Hazara community, despite not having any major representation in the Balochistan Assembly, seems to accept Dr. Baloch for the top seat.
Dr. Baloch is a reasonable candidate at a time when we are left without better available candidates. But it is dangerous to attach very high expectations from Dr. Baloch. He will also have his limitations and weaknesses. We will actually have to lower the bar and hope that he will at least do better than Jam Yousaf and Nawab Raisani.
By appointing Dr. Baloch as the C.M. the Sharifs and the rest of the country will be helping Balochistan complete its social transition. Balochistan needs to be helped to get out of its archaic tribal structure. Dr. Baloch will become the first non-tribal chief minister of the province. For Balochistan choosing a chief minister from the educated middle class means exactly the same thing as what it meant for the Americans to choose an African American as their president. This is going to be a milestone in the history of the province where the middle-class urgently needs to be empowered with modern education and better economic opportunities.
Dr. Baloch will not have the capability to immediately end the insurgency in Balochistan, as no one else in the entire assembly can do that either. What he can do at best is to start with smaller but important things, such as spreading education and health facilities in the province and negotiate a fair deal with the central government with regards to province’s equitable representation in every sphere of life. The new government should end corruption, build infrastructure and ensure good governance. The federal government should offer complete support to the next chief minister. After all, Dr. Baloch, if appointed, will heavily depend on the support of the P.M.L-N and the P.K.M.P. for his survival. Balochistan needs stability and consistency of policies. The Sharifs should help in achieving that goal.
Published in The Baloch Hal on May 25, 2013