IN a dramatic turn of events involving Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s fruitless dash to Quetta because of week-long revolt within the ranks of the Balochistan chapter of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party’s beleaguered chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri tendered his resignation hours before a no-trust motion was to be put to vote in the house on Tuesday.
Mr Zehri’s announcement — which came minutes after his spokesman Jan Achakzai’s denial to the effect — reflects the nature of power game dominated more by a tribal mindset than upholding of any political affiliations.
Veteran Baloch author and former chief secretary of Balochistan Hakim Baloch sums up the situation in these words: “In Balochistan, a tribal chieftain runs the system, not a politician. And the rest of the chieftains, who are not in the government, oppose him for the simple fact that they are not getting their share.”
Mr Zehri, who was nominated as the 22nd chief minister, was born on Aug 4, 1961 in Anjeera, the headquarters of the Zehri tribal territory in Khuzdar district.
The former CM is not only the tribal chief of the powerful Zehri tribe, he also heads the Jhalawan tribe, like his father Sardar Doda Khan Zehri.
Mr Zehri matriculated from Karachi Grammar School and got a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Karachi University in 1983.
He started his political career with the Pakistan National Party (PNP) of Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo. He remained the great Baloch leader’s staunch follower until Mir Bizenjo’s death on Aug 11, 1989.
Siddique Baloch, a Quetta-based senior journalist, said Mir Bizenjo introduced Mr Zehri to politics after having differences with Sardar Attaullah Mengal.
Mr Zehri contested the 1990 elections on the PNP’s ticket and became a member of the Balochistan Assembly. He was inducted into the cabinet of Chief Minister Taj Muhammad Jamali and later also remained part of Zulfikar Ali Magsi-led cabinet.
In 1998, when Sardar Akhtar Mengal was the provincial chief executive, he moved to the national-level legislature, and took oath as senator.
In 2002 and 2007, he was again elected to the provincial assembly from the platform of NP-Parliamentarians. He won all the elections he contested, barring one, which was from Kalat.
In 2010, Mr Zehri joined the PML-N and was subsequently elected its assistant general secretary for Balochistan. In 2012, he became provincial president of the PML-N and next year was made senior provincial minister.
Ahead of the 2013 elections, he faced a tragedy. His son, brother and a nephew were killed in a bomb blast. He, however, survived the attack.
After the 2013 elections, although his PML-N had majority of seats in the house, under the Murree deal Dr Abdul Malik Baloch of the NP was appointed CM.
One hint how tribal traditions used to drive life in the country’s poorest and the most backward province is that during the days of former Khan of Kalat, on his right side sat the chief of the Jhalawan tribe while on his left chief of the Sarawan tribe. It’s because Jhalawan is ranked second in Baloch hierarchy and Sarawan is third. Needless to say, Khan of Kalat kept the top rank.
This tribal ranking continues to hold sway even today and Baloch leaders always adopt a tribal approach in politics. Mr Zehri, critics say, was also following the same tribal approach in the political set-up of Balochistan. In the process, he alienated many.
According to Hakim Baloch, “the Baloch leaders have always stood united when they have been in opposition. And they have stood against one another after the formation of a governmnet. This happens because of tribal approach, though if you are a politician then you must be a politician, not a tribal chieftain”.
Siddique Baloch while endorsing this said: “These tribal chieftains always want to be on top. In politics too, they all want to be number one, not number two.”
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2018