Flagrantly Artificial — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The Balochistan Assembly and government are unique because of their composition, corruption and performance

Chief Minister of Balochistan Mohammad Aslam Raisani is irked by Rehman Malik, who stood the people of Balochistan up on a promised date; the Supreme Court’s reprimands; the Senate Standing Committee for Finance threats to review the provincial Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP); and the barrage of criticism that he and his army of ministers have faced. Speaking in the Balochistan Assembly he said, “I challenge Sheikh Jafar Khan Mandokhel or anybody else that if he could improve law and order within three months I would leave the chief ministership and go home.”

Before proceeding further, I will share a George Orwell quote: “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable.” Mr Raisani, mind you, has thrown the challenge to the ruling class, which has until now clung to power through both force and fraud and will never be able to make society tolerant or intellectually stable. He has challenged his brazenly corrupt and exploitative ruling class, which has lost its function and become flagrantly artificial. Expecting this morally and politically bankrupt establishment to succeed is tantamount to living in a fool’s paradise but then that is where fools reside permanently.

Whosoever in the ‘establishment’ accepts Mr Raisani’s challenge will be able to do precious little simply because the existing system and state has outlived its purpose, if it ever had any, and is living a flagrantly artificial existence. The entire set up in Balochistan is based on force and fraud, the force being represented by the army and the Frontier Corps (FC) and the fraud by politicians and the bureaucracy. They have lost their function and the consequent unravelling brings increased travails and tribulations for the people; it would indeed be surprising had it been otherwise.

Don’t believe me? Here are some statistics. In November, out of 97 countries, Pakistan was declared the seventh most corrupt in the Rule of Law Index 2012. To add to these laurels, its ranking on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has gone from being the 42nd most corrupt country in 2011 to 33rd in 2012. Corruption has permeated the very soul of society here. Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) chairman Advocate Sohail Muzaffar, quoting the chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), said that the daily corruption in Pakistan was to the tune of Rs seven billion. This, he said, “meant that within five years, if the trend was allowed to continue unchecked, corruption would touch the Rs 12,600 billion mark.” Moreover, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has decided to whiten Rs15,000 billion under the new Tax Amnesty Scheme for collecting a paltry Rs150 billion. So, decide where they are headed.

Balochistan’s exploitation combined with military operations has had perpetually devastating effects. Murtaza Haider’s op-ed in a national daily, ‘Investing in Balochistan’s human capital’ exposes how Balochistan has suffered under the flagrantly artificial set-ups. He says, “The UNDP-sponsored Pakistan National Human Development Report in 2003 ranked Dera Bugti in Balochistan as the least developed district in Pakistan with a human development index (HDI) of 0.285. On the other hand, Jhelum, a district in Punjab known as the army’s primary catchment, was ranked first in human development (HDI = 0.703) in Pakistan. The socio-economic disparities in Pakistan are quite evident from the UNDP report, which revealed that despite being only 8.0 million strong; almost half of the bottom 30 districts in human development were located in Balochistan. In comparison, 60 percent of the top 31 districts in human development were located in Punjab.” He adds, “Since its inception, the University of Balochistan has awarded fewer than 50 doctoral degrees. The universities of Punjab and Karachi, in comparison, have awarded over 1,500 doctoral degrees each.” The situation worsens exponentially as the death squads rule supreme, violence against the Hazaras intensifies, and corruption flourishes.

The Balochistan Assembly and government are unique because of their composition, corruption and performance. Nowhere in the world is there an assembly that in its near entirety is also the cabinet. They manage these onerous responsibilities by spending the vast funds at their disposal without any accountability.

Fahd Husain’s article, ‘No legs to stand on’ in another newspaper exposed the failings of the Balochistan Assembly. He wrote that Speaker Aslam Bhootani admitted that there were no standing committees. When asked, “So if you don’t have standing committees, how do you do legislation?” The reply was, “We introduce a bill on the floor, vote on it, and it’s done.” Husain found that the bills originate from the bureaucracy and to present them these have to be read in the Assembly but it is difficult to even find a minister to read them. He adds, “The bill is read, then a voice vote is taken, and it’s done. A law has been made, but the elected reps are mostly clueless. Often some ministers raise objections, but they are told that they themselves have passed the bill. Oh! they say.” Another reason for the absence of standing committees was fear of wrangling over the chairmanship of these committees and “Raisani didn’t want to risk alienating anyone — and thereby risking his own position.” Those oblivious even to bills they pass cannot be expected to stand up for the rights of the people simply because that would directly conflict with their primary aim of self-aggrandisement.

Once the state exhausts its fraud options, it resorts to force, but in Balochistan, it was used as the only option with the connivance of the likes of Mr Raisani. In the past two years alone, more than 600 abducted Baloch have been killed; abductions continue, as does the dumping of bodies. Extra-judicial killings have increased. A few days back in Gebon, Hakim Shahsawar, Rasool Bukhsh and Maula Bukhsh were targeted, who according to relatives were asleep and unarmed. A shutdown was observed to protest these killings. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) has been protesting for nearly 1,000 days but none of the over 10,000 missing have been recovered. History proves force invariably fails.

The state and system here is now beyond redemption and the situation like a bad fish rots every nanosecond. To succeed in their struggle the Baloch will have to learn and adopt new strategies but more importantly, they will have to unlearn a lot of things.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at [email protected]

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