Editorial: Generosity Beyond Capacity

While speaking at a passing out ceremony of police recruits held in Quetta, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani reiterated his offer to Baloch nationalists to initiate a process of negotiation and reconciliation to normalize the heated political climate prevailing in the province. He repeated that the government had not shut down all doors of dialogue for those pro-independent Balochistan forces who had taken to the hills to fight for their democratic rights. In the same speech, the chief minister instantly contradicted himself saying that the federal government had not granted him the ‘mandate’ to resolve the Balochistan crisis.

If the chief minister himself confesses in public that he does not have the powers and the mandate to independently talk with the Balochs then how is anyone going to take him seriously? Raisani is surely a man with a generous heart but no powers,  capability and mandate to play a decisive role in settling the crisis that has engulfed Balochistan now for almost one decade.

The Chief Minister also strongly condemned the target killing of what he called innocent people in the province but expressed satisfaction over a decline in the spate of violence. He attributed the improvement in the state of law and order to coordinated government efforts and insisted that international cities like London and New York were even not totally free from crimes. Therefore, he added, it was not justified to blame his government for the sporadic acts of violence.

Ever since being voted as the first unopposed chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Raisani has been offering olive branch to Baloch nationalists. At the beginning, there was indeed a hullabaloo about a possible solution to the ongoing conflict as Raisani enjoyed enormous respect in Balochistan’s tribal society as the Chief of Sarawan. Nonetheless, he soon lost the confidence of Baloch nationalists who saw him as a collaborator with Islamabad. Off and on, he underestimated and ridiculed the movement by asking the Baloch youth to give up their ideological commitment and join the army and the Establishment.

On its part, the government can surely take credit for the following measures which were taken with the hope to improve the state of affairs in Balochsitan.

First, the government introduced the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, a multidimensional economic package, in November last year which promised to provide at least six thousand jobs to unemployed Baloch youths.

Second, the faulty formula for resource distribution under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award was rectified and a new consensus-based formula was inducted in Balochistan’s port town of Gwadar.

Third, 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution introduced by the PPP government promised to meet smaller provinces’ demand for maximum fiscal and internal autonomy.

The aforesaid developments did not, as expected, assist in improving the situation because:

First, the government did not resurface even 5 percent of the missing Baloch persons who are believed to be held in the custody of the country’s powerful security institutions. Hundreds of people went missing during the PPP government from different parts of Balochistan as extra-constitutional enforced disappearances continued across the province.

Second, dozens of missing persons were killed during custody and their dead bodies were thrown on the roads and isolated places.

Third, Nawab Bugti’s murder case was never investigated nor were the perpetrators, influential or influenced, ever brought to justice.

Fourth, the Frontier Corps (FC) expanded its oppressive control all over Balochistan. Civilians complained about regular harassment by the FC personnel stationed at numerous check-posts.

Fifth, military operation was expanded to Mekran and Mashky areas as a part of which the houses of many Baloch leaders were burned and dozens of political activists hailing from opposition parties were detained. Reports about the operation were confirmed by provincial ministers Mir Asadullah Baloch and Asghar Rind on the floor of Balochistan Assembly.

Sixth, Baloch Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Dera Bugti were never resettled. Instead, they were discriminated against by Islamabad as compared to the IDPs of Malakand Division in Khyber Pashtoonkhawa province.

Seventh, underground organizations like Baloch Armed Defense Organization (BADO) and Sipa-e-Shohda-e-Balochistan emerged on the scene which disrupted plenty of political rallies by opening fire, killed Baloch nationalist leaders such as Habib Jalib Baloch, the central secretary general of Balochistan National Party (BNP).

Eighth, Raisani’s government has failed to gain popularity among the masses in Balochistan who largely view it as corrupt and self-serving. Around 85% of the members of Balochistan Assembly have been appointed as ministers and advisers.

Ninth, Balochistan Assembly, which has been embarrassingly marred with insufficient quorum to meet, has further indicated the non-seriousness of the Balochistan government. After two years, standing committees have still not been formed and made operational in the provincial assembly.

Tenth, the PPP government has not inducted a single major development project to demonstrate its commitment to the economic prosperity of the province. No one project can be cited as a reference to entail broad-based benefits for the masses of the country’s most backward province.

As mentioned in the above lines, Raisani’s offer for negotiations is unlikely to be taken by the Baloch armed groups. In addition, the chief minister has to work in multiple areas to improve his approval ratings and enhance his popularity.