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Saturday December 04, 2021

Politics in Balochistan

January 12, 2018

It is strange that the PML-N rebels had no successor in their mind when they succeeded in getting Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri’s resignation amid reports of differences, deepening the political crisis in Balochistan further, as the division could lead to dissolution of the provincial assembly as earlier feared by political pundits.

Soon after Sanaullah Zehri resigned, the race for the top slot for five months started and the groups which looked united till his resignation now are vying the office and other favourite ministries. The role of JUI-F is also seen critical as unlike in the Centre, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is trying to use this instability in his favour.

Apparently, there was not logic behind ousting the CM a month before Senate and six months before general elections except that if the assembly is able to elect the new CM, he will remain most vulnerable to his dozens of allies and we may see a big cabinet and distribution of development funds.

If the assembly fails in electing the new CM, the options are very limited like dissolution or Governor's rule. In both the cases, the Senate elections from Balochistan would not be held.

Unlike 2013, when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif surprised many political pundits and took a matured decision of giving power to Nation Party of Dr Abdul Malik, he did not take much interest in the vote of no confidence against Zehri initiated by his own party's MPAs.

The 2013 decision was an attempt to remove misunderstandings against Punjab and to bring the nationalists into the mainstream. Dr Malik did not fully succeed but at least things looked much better than today. Had he been given the free hand for negotiations with the rebels or given a full tenure, he might have performed even better.

I was in Murree when it took the PML-N and the two Sharifs hours to convince Zehri to accept Dr Malik. In the end, a formula was evolved under which Dr Malik and Zehri would remain CM for two and half years each.

It was certainly not easy for the Sardar to accept this formula, but Zehri did. Dr Malik quit the post the day he completed his first half and backed Zehri till his resignation and did not create any problem.

While Zehri showed political maturity and stepped down after he lost the confidence of his party's MPAs, he could have completed his term had he taken party along. He has also been accused of spending more time outside Balochistan during his tenure. But was that the only reason for his ouster?

The PML rebels could have waited for May, when an interim government would take over for 60 days. The party could have assured Sarfraz Bugti and others that he would not be the chief minister after the general elections. The other scenario would have been to allow the party replacing him without the no-confidence vote.

The current scenario has put the PML-N in the no-win situation and at the same time even the rebels and the opposition are not sure as to who could be his successor. Therefore, neither the vote of no confidence was based on any high moral grounds or principles nor the PML-N/ Centre was able to resolve the crisis. PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi faced humiliation when his own party's rebels did not even meet him during his visit to Balochistan.

It is an unfortunate province, where not only the politics remains underground, but also even the development funds – a reference to a recovery of around 65 crores or even more – only from one secretary. Only few days back, the NAB had arrested a secretary of the former CM in a case concerning misuse of funds and corruption.

It was Zehri's bad luck that unlike his predecessor Sardar like Attaullah Mengal or Akbar Bugti, he could not kept his party intact while the non-Sardar allies like Dr Malik stood with him till the end.

The Balochistan politics always remains complicated and dominated by strong Sardars even when ideological politics was strong in the 70s, and the then NAP and the united JUI shared the coalition government. But their leaders were also politically strong and had certain discipline in their politics.

If there were people like Attaullah Mengal, Khair Bux Mari or Akbar Bugti, there were also people like Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo or Maulana Mufti Mahmood. One could disagree with their politics and approach but they did carry weight in national politics as well. Some of them were hard-line politicians and to some extent non-compromising.

They had a strong challenger in the form of popular and strong Zulfikar Ali Bhutto whose biggest political failure had been the Balochistan operation, dissolution of Balochistan and the then NWFP assemblies and imposition of governor's rule instead of mending his differences with NAP and JUI.

The politics of Balochistan could not recover after the fall of NAP-JUI government and like Bhutto's mistakes the then leadership of NAP committed a major blunder when they supported General Ziaul Haq’s martial law and as a result they were released.

This itself reflects the two extreme positions of otherwise very mature political minds. It looked like a tussle between the feudal against Sardari mindset and in between the people of Balochistan become the victim.

There has been considerable decline in our politics particularly in Balochistan. The leaders of the past might have done many wrongs but neither Bhutto nor the then opposition has been accused of horse trading or branded as corrupt. The same could not be said about today's politicians –certainly not all.

Balochistan cannot afford such a political turmoil at a time when terrorist attacks had increased in the last one year and the province is not only divided on ethnic lines but also sectarian killings have become order of the day.

Balochistan needs political and economic stability, if we really want to develop and make Gwadar functional. It is also important as we have been saying for long that CPEC is a game changer.  

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

  Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO