History is repeating itself

March 20, 2022

Five months in office, the Balochistan chief minister faces a party revolt

History is repeating itself

The Balochistan government, led by Chief Minister Quddus Bizenjo, is facing an imminent crisis. A group within the ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) is planning to oust the chief minister. This adds to the never-ending political turmoil in Balochistan.

In October 2021, Jam Kamal had resigned as the Balochistan CM following a similar revolt. Kamal was the BAP president. However, several party members, led by Quddus Bizenjo, had revolted against him. Kamal had taken many actions, allegedly including orchestrating the mysterious disappearance of four BAP members from Quetta, who had later surfaced in Islamabad. After Jam Kamal’s resignation, Quddus Bizenjo was elected chief minister for a second time.

He had been previously elected to the office in January 2018, when he had toppled the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in the province.

After barely five months in the office, he now faces party members plotting to oust him the way he had ousted Jam Kamal. This battle, too, is being fought in Islamabad, where both Jam Kamal and Quddus Bizenjo are maneuvering for support.

Zahoor Buledi, a former minister who was earlier instrumental in ousting Jam Kamal, has rejoined the Jam camp against Quddus. He announced through a tweet that “a decisive majority [of BAP assembly members] has agreed to send the government [off].” He was referring to a no-confidence motion being planned against the chief minister.

In response, Farah Azeem Shah, the spokesperson of the Balochistan government, said: “The Balochistan Awami Party is a stable, united and organised party.”

Why have the BAP members turned against their CM so soon? The main reason is that as a chief minister, Quddus Bizenjo is close to the opposition parties, including the BNP-Mengal, the JUI-F and the PkMAP. He has been not only posting government officials on their demands but has also announced plans to start new development projects worth Rs 30 billion, allegedly to benefit opposition parties supporting him. As a result, there is no effective opposition in the provincial assembly at the moment. Some members of his own party, therefore, feel threatened and are planning a no-confidence motion against him.

Some of the party members are plotting to oust Quddus Biznejo the way he ousted his predecessor. This battle, too, is being fought in Islamabad, where both Jam Kamal and Quddus Bizenjo are maneuvering for support.

Tania Baloch, a former editor of the Balochistan Inside magazine and a political analyst, says that there is usually a single leader in conventional political parties and others follow him. “In the BAP, everyone considers himself a leader worthy of being a chief minister. This is what is causing all the trouble,” she tells The News on Sunday. She says the local politics is centered on making money and nothing else. “They want to get rid of the CM because they are not getting enough funds from him,” she says.

The way things are shaping up, only a miracle can save Quddus Biznjo’s government. If he is ousted it will be the second change of government in less than six months. The continuous shuffling of government leaders has grave consequences for governance in Balochistan, which is already facing a plethora of problems. With frequent changes in government, no meaningful governance reforms can be implemented in Balochistan. Development spending will also be ineffective if there is no stability in the spending pattern and no clear priorities.

This frequent changes will further weaken the already fragile democratic process in Balochistan. This leads to political uncertainty and the element of accountability through elections at the end of the tenure also disappears. The opposition has informally joined forces with Quddus’s government so that there is no one to point out government’s failures and excesses.

What is the root cause of the current crisis? It is mainly a result of the way the BAP was formed overnight. A political crisis is bound to happen when politicians with totally disparate ideas are put together to form a party.

“It would be unfair to expect the BAP, a party formed overnight by the powers that be, to operate in accordance with the norms of political parties that have roots in the public,” Tania Baloch says. “The BAP was an experiment that was bound to fail; the ongoing crisis is a manifestation of this reality.”

It is still uncertain whether the Quddus Bizenjo can survive the vote. What is certain is that any government in the tenure of the current Balochistan Assembly cannot take any meaningful steps for the welfare of Balochistan’s people.

Any change for the better can only come about after the next general elections.

The writer is a journalist and researcher. He can be reached on twitter: @iAdnanAamir

History is repeating itself