Two months after its formation, the Balochistan government has not been able to constitute a full cabinet.
Two months after its formation, the Balochistan government has not been able to constitute a full cabinet. Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch does not deem formation of the cabinet as his top priority whereas he should have completed this process soon after coming into power. Leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz), the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the National Party, who constitute the coalition government in Balochistan, have repeatedly ruled out any differences among themselves on the cabinet issue but they have not explained the causes of the delay due to which the Balochistan, unlike the rest of the three provinces, has not been able to form its cabinet.
Despite official denials, insiders say the coalition parties face a deadlock over the distribution of the ministries. The Balochistan chapter of the P.M.L-Nawaz, particularly its president Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, are running out of patience. The P.M.L.-N does not only want more seats than the rest of its coalition partners but it also believes that it has not benefited at all from the power sharing formula that led to the formation of the government in Balochistan.
The P.M.L.-N, despite emerging as the largest party in the provincial assembly, paved the way for Dr. Malik Baloch of the National Party and Mohammad Khan Achakzai of the Pk.M.A.P. to be appointed as the chief minister and the governor of the province respectively. Up till now, the P.M.L.-N has only been rewarded with a ministry offered to Sardar Zehri. On his part, Zehri has endlessly been expressing discontent and frustration over the chief minister’s failure to form a cabinet despite the lapse of two months.
Zehri is apparently not in good terms with Dr. Baloch. The former had stubbornly resisted the latter’s appointment as the chief minister. Zehri is to Dr. Baloch what Sadiq Umrani was to ex-chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. The only difference is that they belong to different parties but in both the situations the cause of discontent is the office of chief minister.
A cabinet is not only essential to run the affairs of the government but it is also very important to keep the coalition intact. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (J.U.I.), which is almost-an-ally of the P.M.L.-N at the Center, has been tirelessly endeavoring to join the Balochistan government as a quid pro quo for its unconditional support to the newly elected president, Mamnoon Hussain. According to an Express Tribune story, when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of the P.M.L-N. contacted Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, the J.U.I. chief, last week to seek his party’s support for P.M.L.-N’s candidate for the office of the presidency, Mr. Rehman’s immediate response was: “Let’s first talk about the new political arrangement in Balochistan.”
The J.U.I., which considers itself as “an important stakeholder” in Balochistan, according to the Tribune report, says it has ”serious reservations” over functioning of the present government in the province. In return, the J.U.I. has offered a ‘new political contract’ to overcome Balochistan’s political and economic challenges.
J.U.I-’s moves to get into the government also include a fresh meeting between Mr. Rehman and Mahmood Khan Achkazai, chairman of the Pk.M.A.P., in Islamabad whereas in Balochistan the P.M.L-N appeared on the receiving end as Mr. Zehri walked to the house of Maulana Abdul Wasay, a top J.U.I. leader, to seek support for the presidential elections. On the election day, Mr. Zehri and Mr. Wasay even addressed a joint press conference in Quetta where Mr. Zehri criticized the chief minister and Mr. Wasay stated that his party was not interested to join the provincial government. You can’t always buy what a Muallh says for the first time. Sometimes a ‘no’ is simply not a ‘no’.
In contrast, the Pk.M.P. and the National Party seem opposed to the J.U.I. efforts to join the coalition government because the J.U.I. already remained a key coalition partner of the past two governments headed by the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam) and the Pakistan People’s Party. The Baloch and Pashtun nationalists consider the J.U.I. as an “equal contributor” to the mess in the province. However, Mr. Zehri, P.M.L.-N’s provincial head, has already initiated and expedited contacts with the J.U.I. Every time, Mr. Zehri talks to the media, he does not mince words in recalling that the P.M.L-N came into power due to ‘my sacrifices’ and ‘we offfered sacrifices to make Dr. Malik the chief minister.’
Dr. Malik has been taking his power for granted without realizing that cost of delay in forming a cabinet and satisfying his coalition partners. Ironically, there are already complaints in Baloch districts that the National Party has concentrated all its attention on transfer and posting of its government officials. While it has begun to appoint its favorite officials on key posts, those belonging to opposition parties, such as the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P-Awami), have been transferred in far-flung districts as an implicit act of revenge and politicization of public institutions.
The Chief Minister should stop procrastinating on the cabinet-formation if he is truly keen to embark upon a successful five-year term as the chief executive of the province. A chief minister cannot run a province alone while leaving all important government departments at the mercy of bureaucrats. Without a cabinet, the government cannot provide and execute its road-map for the development of Balochistan. Dr. Baloch will fail miserably if he acts as a civilian dictator, unwilling to share power with the rest of the members of the government.
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR
The Baloch Hal