Good governance in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains one of the critical dimensions of our approach to dealing with our biggest issue: countering militant insurgency. On the appointment of the Chief Minister in K-P, as we all know Khattak’s background and we have all witnessed his words of wisdom in his first press conference, there is really not much to say.
However, the choice of Balochistan CM remains a tug-of-war. The CM in the last term, who ran the province from Islamabad for five years, was the pro-establishment Baloch sardar, Nawab Aslam Raisani, set in place by the PPP government. He had been elected to the provincial assembly four times by the Raisani tribe in his constituency of Mastung/Quetta.
Running his administration by remote control, especially when the barbaric attacks on the Hazara community generated country-wide sympathy, he never even attempted to condole with them. As a result, the President had to oust him from his position. Another long sitting CM we can mention is Jan Mohammad Yusouf hailing from the royalty of Lasbela.
Seeing the way the majority of the people live in Lasbela, that alone is enough to tell you about his commitment to his people. These tribal leaders each ‘ruled’ the province for five years at a stretch, while others got shorter terms. In general, there is hardly any evidence, so far, that a Balochistan CM had resolved local problems or demonstrated any commitment whatsoever to the people of Balochistan. In most cases their commitment was restricted to their tribal elites and/or to the establishments who supported them in gaining these positions.
I think the decision of choosing the next CM is difficult as the new leadership of the federal government is trying to get the Baloch factions to come to a consensus on one name. The people of Balochistan have never had a single party that represented their collective interests. This provincial government has always been a weak coalition of several parties. Despite all the glaring issues Balochistan has been allowed to fester for decades under self-promoting tribal chiefs who were born into their position.
The Pakhtuns, by contrast, have achieved greater success through a joint stand. The Hazaras have also organised under one main front. The Baloch however remain divided with each of the rival tribes nurturing age-old animosities, and one sardar refusing to accept another. That is the reason many are suggesting Dr Maalik, the head of National Party, as the next CM. He is not a tribal chief, but a Baloch leader who is acceptable to Pakhtuns, Hazaras and a wide range of the Baloch people. He should be acceptable to the Federal Government as well as he is clearly not a separatist and is focused on resolving the political and economic problems rather than grabbing money and power for his tribal elite.
Whether the centre is interested in resolving the problems of Balochistan is a separate discussion, but these problems have become so overwhelming that they can no longer be considered local problems.
Although the political problems of Balochistan are complex, the continued appointment of tribal chieftains has accentuated its problems. Balochistan needs a leader who is backed by a parliament that is serious about resolving these issues.
The rest of Pakistan should be supportive of an open process of dialogue among all parties. The appointment of the next chief minister of Balochistan was never more important than it is today. If the right decision is made, this can be a turning point for Balochistan rather than another round of inept governance from the same fragmented and inept elite tribal leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2013.