SENDING the Balochistan government home made sense at the time for both practical and symbolic reasons; the administration’s complete failure to protect the province’s residents needed to be acknowledged, in particular for those who had lost loved ones and those at risk of future attacks. But the JUI-F’s call for lifting governor’s rule — along with the election of a new chief minister — has some merit. For one, governor’s rule is an interruption of the democratic system. And while general elections might be just weeks away, giving any new provincial administration barely any time to govern, it is precisely for that reason that restoring the elected set-up is important. The existence of a functioning provincial legislature would make the democratic transition smoother, given that the processes laid out in the constitution for dissolving the assembly prior to elections and for appointing a caretaker chief minister require a legislature and a head of government to be in place. The major parties in the Balochistan Assembly would do well to jointly work out a way to lift governor’s rule and elect a new chief minister so that no questions are raised when the country goes to the polls.
Doing so would in no way imply, though, that all is right in Balochistan. Since the governor took charge the bureaucracy appears to have taken some steps to improve the security situation in the province. But preventing sectarian attacks, working out a settlement with nationalists and ending enforced disappearances and killings are enormous tasks that remain largely unaddressed. To confront these problems any new government, now or after the general elections, would have to shed the indifference that characterised the previous administration. And until the military establishment changes its approach and priorities in Balochistan, including giving the civilians more room to operate, no real transformation can take place. Restoring the democratic set-up at this point is important in the interests of avoiding any questions that could make the elections controversial or delay them. But that should not be interpreted to mean that Balochistan’s security problems are anywhere near being resolved.