Friday June 14, 2024

Tough decisions for Zehri

By Adnan Aamir
January 30, 2016

Last month Nawab Sanaullah Zehri took oath as the 22nd chief minister of Balochistan after a smooth transfer of power in the backdrop of the ‘Murree Accord’. Dr Abdul Malik Baloch left the office of CM with a long list of unfulfilled promises and a track record that is far from satisfactory.

Nawab Zehri had to face a delay of almost over a month in finalising his cabinet. Last week all portfolios of ministers and advisors were notified and the government of the new CM is good to go. However, he now has to make some really tough decisions to be successful in his tenure as CM.

Before delving into the tough decisions that need to be taken, it is important to analyse why Dr Malik failed as CM. Dr Malik had taken over the office of the CM with a lot of hopes for the people of Balochistan. He ended up as a failure on several fronts. Lack of political will and capacity issues notwithstanding, the major cause of the failure of the National Party-led government was that it was blackmailed by its coalition partners – the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and the PML-N. As a result, Dr Malik could not take the tough decisions that were required for running a successful government. The incumbent CM, to be successful, will need to take a lot of tough decisions despite all odds.

During Dr Malik’s tenure there were ‘governments within government’. Dr Malik was CM but there were three parties in power. The ministers of the PML-N and PkMAP were not effective under Dr Malik; and he was at times helpless.

Dr Malik was a CM from a minority party but that is not the case with Nawab Zehri, who needs to have firm control on all the ministries including those of PkMAP and the NP. He must veto provincial ministers when they are taking decisions that are detrimental for the government at a larger scale.

One of the major problems faced by Balochistan is lack of development. This is further aggravated by the nature of development schemes approved in budgets every year. The MPAs propose development projects which are not effective in terms of socio-economic development but have political value. As a result tens of billions of rupees under the development budget of the province are wasted every year. The same practice was continued during the 30-month stint of Dr Malik.

Nawab Zehri has to make the tough decision of putting an end to this practice. It can be replaced with an integrated central development plan where each and every approved development project is part of the plan. This decision will surely prevent wastage of the development budget. It will also earn Nawab Sana the ire of the MPAs.

The provincial department of Planning and Development (P&D) has a pivotal role to play in the development of the province. This department approves and allocates funds for all the developmental projects in the province. During the government of Dr Malik, this ministry was under the control of PkMAP. It was run on a political basis and the PkMAP leader did his best to approve those development schemes where his home district of Qilla Abdullah was the beneficiary. That rendered the development paradigm of Balochistan virtually lifeless. The current CM must bring P&D under his control and free from political interference.

Another tough decision Nawab Zehri needs to take is to discipline the provincial bureaucracy. It’s an open secret that just like the politicians, the bureaucracy is corrupt to the core – barring a few notable exceptions. Due to the incompetence of the bureaucracy, almost Rs60 billion from the development budget were surrender by Balochistan to the centre over the last 30 months because the bureaucracy failed to use them within the prescribed time limit. The bureaucracy needs to be reined in and it’s the need of the hour to get things going in the restive province.

Like his predecessors, Dr Malik favoured his home district. Kech was the biggest recipient of development funds during the regime of Dr Malik. He neglected a lot of districts of Balochistan. In fact he was blamed for transferring the development funds of the Naseerabad Division to the Makran division. Nawab Zehri needs to avoid this precedent. He must not treat Khuzdar in the same way as Dr Malik treated Kech. Given the fact that Nawaz Zehri will have to contest elections in 2018 from Khuzdar, this will be a very tough decision to make – but it needs to be taken regardless.

Likewise, another practice that was prevalent during the NP’s rule was favouritism and nepotism. Only the leaders of the NP, close to Dr Malik, got extraordinary benefits. One leader of the NP was made the coordinator of the poor-performing ‘Chief Minister’s Policy Reforms Unit’ (CMPRU) while another was made chairman of Qesco Board of Directors – and the list goes on and on. There are a lot of such aspiring leaders in the PML-N who will want similar favours from Nawab Zehri. He must not appoint any incompetent leader of on any crucial position.

The 30-month tenure that Nawab Sanaullah Zehri has assumed is surely not going to be a bed of roses. There is one quick and easy recipe for success for Nawab Zehri. The first thing he needs to do is to avoid all the above-mentioned mistakes that his predecessor made. Second, he needs to take all the tough decisions mentioned so as to make a difference.

Of course, these decisions could result in a lot of problems for the incumbent CM, including facing a no-confidence motion. However, he needs to still make these decisions – to go down in history as a successful chief minister who made a difference to Balochistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist andeditor of the online newspaper,
The Balochistan Point.


Twitter: @iAdnanAamir