The past three months have almost entirely been dedicated to the generous praise of the Chief Minister from the coalition partners,
Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch’s failure to complete his cabinet two months after his election as the chief executive of the province has begun to worry his allies, particularly those in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, the provincial president of the P.M.L-N who was once determined to become the Chief Minister, spoke at a press conference at his residence on Monday and reminded the Dr. Baloch of two things.
One was clear and partially threatening as well: We made you the chief minister. Two, Zehri reminded Dr. Baloch of the agreement reached by the coalition partners regarding the formation of the government in the province. Mr. Zehri did offer lip service that “we will stand by the chief minister until the end’ but his greater emphasis was still on the need for the completion of the cabinet so that the P.M.L-N legislators also start to benefit from the fruits of power.
Since assuming office , the C.M. has only formed a three-member cabinet. On June 19, Governor Balochsitan Muhammad Khan Achkazai
administered oath for the three provincial ministers Sardar Sanaullah Zehri (P.M.L-N), Nawab Mohammad Khan Shawani (National Party) and Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal (Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party). However, even these three ministers have not been formally allotted ministries.
During the previous government of the Pakistan People’s Party, the Balochistan cabinet remained infamous across the country because Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani had inducted almost every member of the provincial assembly as a minister or an adviser in the cabinet. (Many of Raisani’s cronies are now, unfortunately, back in power by joining the P.M.L.-N). After the passage of the 18th Amendment, the provincial governments can no longer keep large cabinets. The chief minister in Balochistan can have at least 15 ministers in his cabinet.
The obvious reason for the delay in the completion of the cabinet is lack of consensus among the three coalition partners. It is not only the number of ministries each party will get but also the portfolios that count. So, the three coalition partners are currently debating about the number of slots and also the portfolios. During the previous government, ministers brazenly asked for ‘profitable ministries’ (which meant ministries that received big funding from the annul budget and provided the ministers an opportunity to receive kickbacks and make black money while serving in the public office).
Now, Dr. Baloch faces a three-pronged challenge.
He has to offer equitable representation to each party and, at the same time, he is also expected to “satisfy” his allies while distributing “profitable” ministries. This practice is indeed a disgraceful part of our democracy but it is also the norm of regional and national politics as well. At the same time, on the third front of the challenges, the C.M. must ensure good governance and discourage his coalition partners from indulging in any kind of financial and administrative corruption.
The C.M. should waste no more time since there are so many goals for the new government to accomplish. The past three months have almost entirely been dedicated to the generous praise of the Chief Minister from the coalition partners, the civil society and the media as they all have been frantically obsessed with Dr. Baloch’s election as Balochistan’s first middle-class chief minister. But now it is the time for the C.M. to get to work. His government cannot start properly functioning without the completion of a cabinet. Once the ministers are appointed, the government will have to reactivate all departments that have been run by the bureaucrats during the interim period.
Besides the formation of the cabinet, the C.M. should also make sure that Standing Committees in the Balochistan Assembly are also formulated and activated so that the government remains continuously engaged in addressing public policy issues. It was a shame that the Raisani government failed to form Standing Committees during its entire five-year term. The government’s job is not only to formulate Standing Committees but also to make sure that they meet regularly and smoothly perform the tasks assigned to them.
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
The Baloch Hal