A Landmark Decision For Balochistan and the Monumental Challenges Ahead
The incoming prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif has finallynominated former senator, Dr. Malik Baloch, who is also the president of the National Party (N.P.), as Balochistan’s next chief minister.
This is indeed a landmark decision as it will be thefirst time in Balochistan’s history that a self-made man belonging to the Baloch middle-class will be appointed as the chief executive of the province. The rest of Pakistan has always blamed tribal chiefs of Balochistan for the province’s backwardness but they never admitted the central governments’ contributions in imposing, protecting and patronizing these unpopular and power-starved tribal chiefs on top government positions in Balochistan against the will of the Baloch people. The Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz) has finally broken the tradition of preferring tribal chiefs over more qualified political leaders.
Critics rightly point out that a mere administrative change is unlikely to resolve Balochistan’s longstanding issues. Dr. Baloch, they say, could be a weak and powerless chief minister considering the fact that the actual authority regarding Balochistan still rests with the Pakistani military,the state intelligence agencies and the security forces, such as the Frontier Corps (F.C.).
Dr. Baloch’s appointment will have more positive social, than political, implications. There are at least three critical areas where we have experienced and should hope for more positive changes.
First, the Baloch society will transition from tribalism and the middle-class will have more authority. Dr. Baloch exhibited extraordinary confidence and courage in believing in what his party stood for i.e. non-violent, parliamentary struggle within the Pakistan federation. As a “moderate nationalist”, Dr. Baloch and people like him from the middle class had to face the criticism from the school of thought that believed in Balochistan’s absolute independence and also that of the central government that considered ethnic nationalism as an anathema to Pakistan’s ‘national integrity’.
Despite two assassination attempts on his life during the election rallies, Dr. Baloch has not been apologetic about his political views and approach. On the one hand, he clearly refused to follow the nationalist philosophy espoused by Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, Bramdagh Bugti and Dr. Allah Nazar and, on the other hand, he also openly criticized the policies of the other tribal block headed by pro-government people like Nawab Aslam Raisani and Zulfiqar Ali Magsi.
Dr. Baloch’s politics carries a lot of hope for Balochistan where people are encouraged to have the freedom of choosing their political philosophies and strategies. This is the sign of the rising Baloch educated middle-class. This trend should continue until tribal system is completely abolished in Balochistan and the middle-class is empowered with education and economic opportunities.
Second, the Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (P.K.M.P.) played a positive and mature role in strengthening Baloch-Pashtun relations in the province. The P.K.M.P. chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai remained extremely proactive in advocating Dr. Baloch’s case. Mr. Achkazi’s positive attitude will bring the Baloch and Pashtun communities closer and sets a positive trend of mutual respect, trust and cooperation. It is reassuring that Mr. Achakzai and Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo have brought the Baloch and Pashtun communities to good terms which was promoted by their fathers, Samad Khan Achkzai and Mir Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, in 1970s. The new phase of cooperation and respect reminds us of the glorious days of the erstwhile National Awami Party (N.A.P.) and the Baloch and Pashtun leadership deserve to be applauded for discouraging extremist elements on both sides who want to cause rifts between the Baloch and Pashtun communities. By the way, what is wrong with the idea of reviving the N.A.P.? Isn’t it the time the Baloch-Pashtun leadership thought of restoring the N.A.P. for a better future of Balochistan?
Third, the civil society and the media played a very proactive role in lobbying for Dr. Baloch. It was the first time in the country’s history that as many as 172 civil society organizations and individuals from across Pakistan signed a petition endorsing Dr. Baloch.
The positive take away from this petition is that the civil society has started to care about Balochistan’s problems. It is important to end public indifference in political issues. It is wrong to believe that governance and politics are only the headache of politicians and the masses have nothing to do with them. The involvement of the civil society is essential in highlighting the key areas where the government should improve its performance. Balochistan’s issue should not solely be seen from a security and political point of view.
The province is the hub of several other issues such as poverty and substandard health and education facilities. Unfortunately, the civil society did not actively play its role during the previous government. Headed by the P.P.P., the last government indulged in massive corruption and the chief minister, Nawab Raisani, remained notorious across Pakistan as a non-serious and deeply corrupt politician. But, no one, including the civil society, campaigned to hold him accountable for his negligence of duty. The more the society remains indifferent to public issues, the more the politicians would feel entitled to indulge in corruption and be emboldened to continue such unlawful practices.
It is unrealistic to expect a major policy change in Balochistan soon after Dr. Baloch’s appointment as the chief minister. The anti-government Baloch tribal elite, such as the Marri, Mengal and the Bugtis and the pro-establishment tribes like the Zehris, Raisanis, Magsi and Jamalis will do everything to embarrass and weaken Dr. Baloch’s government. In the same way, the Pakistani military, which did not take a powerful man like Nawab Akbar Bugti very seriously is unlikely to pay much respect to a chief executive belonging to the Baloch middle-class.
So, the challenges of governance will continue to exist but still, right now we should celebrate the great moment that Balochistan is going to have its first middle-class chief minister. The P.M.L-N, P.K.M.P. and the N.P. have all worked collectively to create history and we deeply congratulate them for taking the first major step toward ending the dominance of tribal chiefs in Balochistan’s politics. Balochistan does not need a revolution but such evolutionary changes.