BALOCHISTAN is the bellwether of Pakistan’s power politics. Political instability that brews in that province is usually not confined there for long but spills over into the rest of the country as the first sign of an approaching national crisis. So it is not surprising that some developments in Balochistan’s politics that may appear insignificant at the time can often turn out to be the first indication of possible changes in the overall political landscape. How the PPP was forced to suspend its provincial government and declare governor’s rule in the province in 2013 or how the PML-N led coalition was voted out of power weeks before the Senate polls in 2018 are just two examples of the way in which political dynamics in Balochistan can affect national politics.

The decision of Yar Mohammad Rind, PTI provincial chief and education minister, to resign from the Balochistan cabinet, citing differences with Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, may not appear significant at the moment. His resignation — the second after the local bodies minister quit the cabinet a little over a month back — is, at best, a sign of an individual’s dissatisfaction with the Jam of Lasbela for interfering in his ministry or for not sharing development funds with him. Viewed through the lens of recent events outside the provincial assembly on the day of the Balochistan budget, when opposition lawmakers and their supporters clashed with the police to obstruct the session, the current situation may be a forerunner of unsavoury occurrences. Are these ministerial resignations and the opposition’s violent protests a few isolated happenings or a harbinger of potential change in the provincial set-up, with implications for Mr Alyani’s coalition partners outside Balochistan? Time will tell. But local conflicts involving Baloch chieftains and politicians remain submerged in provincial and national politics until the powers that be start to use those disputes to reset political alignments to suit their own agenda. That said, it needs to be emphasised that perpetual political uncertainty in a province battered by long years of insurgency, militant violence and underinvestment is damaging its development landscape and increasing anguish and despair among the people, the vast majority of whom are forced to live in abject poverty without access to proper food, clean water and other services. What they need at the moment is a caring government that does not spend money to win the elections, but to pull them out of their misery.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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