Fighting for mere survival

March 3, 2024

Establishing its legitimacy will be crucial for the new government in Balochistan

Fighting for mere survival


he first session of the new Balochistan Assembly was held on Wednesday. In the next few days, Balochistan will get a new chief minister. A cabinet will be formed subsequently. The new government will face a wide range of challenges, especially in its first 100 days.

The elections in Balochistan were marred by allegations of irregularities and tampering with results. In many constituencies, a candidate was declared victorious or leading in the vote count on the night of the elections but on the next day, a different candidate was declared the winner. The results are still pending for three seats of the provincial assembly. In Quetta, several people have been elected for the first time. Some of them neither reside in the constituencies from where they won nor were seen carrying out impressive election campaigns. The controversy has raised concerns about the new government’s legitimacy. Overcoming this trust deficit will be crucial, particularly, during the first 100 days of the new government. The government will need to act quickly to earn its legitimacy.

The second challenge will come from the opposition parties. A four-party alliance, comprising Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Hazara Democratic Party, National Party and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, continues to hold street protests, demanding an audit of the elections and reversal of the alleged tampering with results. Even when the first session of the Balochistan Assembly was convened, these parties were holding protest demonstrations. It seems that these protests will not die down anytime soon. These will keep the pressure on the next government, which will face hurdles from the belligerent opposition in the form of strikes and pickets. There is nothing much the government can do to address this issue because if the alleged tampering of election results is reversed, many in the government will lose their seats.

The third major challenge stems from the problematic coalition that has been cobbled up in Balochistan. Among others, it includes the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Balochistan Awami Party. Maintaining this coalition and navigating internal power dynamics will require careful handling. There are several candidates within the coalition for the chief minister’s office. After the coveted slot is taken, there could be disputes over other lucrative ministries. It looks like many of the coalition members will do their best to get a ministry of their choice. This will result in a tussle within the coalition. From the very outset, this coalition will face the threat of implosion. Therefore, the next chief minister will have to run the government very carefully so as not to earn the ire of a coalition member.

The fourth challenge will be to improve governance, especially in the aftermath of some important decisions taken by Quddus Bizenjo’s government. Bizenjo was chief minister from September 2021 to August 2023. He was accused of sleeping during the day and staying up during the night, missing important meetings, and generally not taking the responsibilities of his office seriously. Opponents said corruption was rampant during his tenure. Development work ground down to a halt in the province and the bureaucratic machinery also became dysfunctional.

The next government will have to solve the problems created by the Bizenjo government, reviewing and reforming policies that have proven ineffective or detrimental to the public interest. This could involve revisiting development projects that have been stalled or been mismanaged and implementing measures to improve transparency and accountability in government institutions. Additionally, investigating allegations of corruption and taking necessary actions will be crucial to restore public faith in the government’s ability to deliver. This will take time. It will not be easy to reverse the damage, within the first 100 days.

Moreover, the fifth challenge for the new government will be on the economic front. The entire country has been badly hit by the economic downturn. The situation could further aggravate in the next few months. In Balochistan, there is already very high unemployment. A further increase in inflation will make life even more difficult in Balochistan, where three out of four people already live below the poverty line, as per the Report on Multidimensional Poverty 2016. With its limited economic resources, the government in Balochistan will be under pressure to deal with the economic challenge that the people are expected to face in the next few months.

The government has to take a wide range of actions to address the economic challenges. Addressing inflation requires a multi-pronged approach. This could involve working with stakeholders to streamline supply chains, identify and address factors causing price hikes and potentially implement targeted subsidies for essential goods. To tackle unemployment, the government could focus on promoting investment in key sectors like agriculture, tourism and infrastructure development, which have the potential to create new job opportunities. Additionally, exploring skill development programmes and providing vocational training can equip the workforce with the necessary skills to compete in the job market.

However, taking these aforementioned steps will require political will and determination. The fragile coalition that has been put together to run the Balochistan government may not be up to the task. It is feared that the government will be made up of important individuals with large egos and competing interests. This could prove a serious handicap as a weak government will be unable to take effective people-centric decisions.

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad and the lead contributing writer for Nikkei Asia in Pakistan. His X handle is @iAdnanAamir

Fighting for mere survival