Embracing Musharraf’s Cronies
Until he joined the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz) on April 12th,2013, Jan Mohammad Jamali, who was elected as the new Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly on June 4, remained an ardent supporter of former military dictator General Pervez Muhsharraf. As a leader of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam), Mr. Jamali served as the Deputy Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate for as many as six years (2006-2012).
Like his predecessor, Aslam Bhootani, Mr. Jamali was also elected unopposed as the B.A. Speaker. Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo of the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Q), who embarrassingly secured only 500 votes to become a member of the provincial assembly during the general elections, was elected as the Deputy Speaker.
The appointment of two former supporters of General Musharraf as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly is absolutely surprising and disappointing. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (Pk.M.A.P.)and the National Party had agreed to in principle to exclude all supporters of General Musharraf, such as the P.M.L-Q, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P-Awami) from the upcoming government. They said all three parties would be consulted before including a new party in the provincial coalition government. No one knows for sure how an M.P.A. from the P.M.L-Q was appointed as the Deputy Speaker of the provincial assembly. Who benefits from such a decision is also hard to speculate. Also, spending two months as P.M.L-N leader does not wash away Mr. Jamali’s sins as a supporter of General Musharraf, who is largely disliked in Balochistan for the deadly military operation he unleashed in Balochistan during his dictatorial regime.
Mr. Jamali is a former Balochistan chief minister who is known as a man with little respect for women’s rights. In 2010, when the whole country was shocked over news reports about the alleged burial of five women in the name of honor in Balochistan’s Naseerabad district, Mr. Jamali, along with Senator Israrullah Zehri, stood as a defender of “our cultural practices”.
Appointing such men on top government positions is a setback for women’s rights in a province like Balochistan where women’s rights urgently need to be advocated and encouraged.
Last month, there was substantial debate over the future chief minister of the province and all parties agreed upon Dr. Malik Baloch’s name after holding extensive discussions. The coalition parties did not debate at all the positions of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. They were voted very hastily under a shadowy arrangement. No body knows who nominated them and how they were elected so quickly.
Among the coalition partners, only the Pk.M.A.P. has cautiously objected to the appointment of a P.M.L-Q leader as the Deputy Speaker. It should have also objected to Mr. Jamali’s appointment because of his past affiliation with a party that supported Musharraf.
It is disturbing to see how Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been accepting Musharraf’s cronies in his party and also offering them key positions in Balochistan. Besides Mr. Jamali and Mr. Bizenjo, the new Deputy Speaker, another key leader of the Musharraf era, Asim Kurd Gillo, the province’s former finance minister from the P.M.L-Q and Lashkari Raisani of the Pakistan People’s Party have all been accommodated in the P.M.L-N. These are all the tested bad eggs of Balochistan’s politics. Taking them on board and offering key positions will not help the P.M.L-N. improve its image but these corrupt politicians will take the P.M.L-N rule as an opportunity to renew their careers.
The new government in Balochistan is about to kick off its journey. But, the appointment of two Musharraf supporters as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker is not a very positive omen. The people of Balochistan have a right to object to these appointments and ask Mr. Sharif and the coalition partners about the motivation behind these flawed decisions.
Published in The Baloch Hal on June 6, 2013