Political uncertainty is the norm in Balochistan

Published October 18, 2021
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani meets PTI parliamentary leader in the Balochistan Assembly Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind on Oct 11. — Photo provided by Ghalib Nihad
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani meets PTI parliamentary leader in the Balochistan Assembly Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind on Oct 11. — Photo provided by Ghalib Nihad

POLITICAL uncertainty has been brewing in Balochistan for the last two months. But it’s nothing new. It has been the norm for the province since its creation.

Smart politicians always cash in on uncertainty and Balochistan has always had an abundance of elements who look which way the wind blows before taking a leap of faith.

Although the province is accustomed to political skullduggery, the present crisis has rung alarm bells nevertheless. Quetta-based observers link the impasse all the way to Islamabad and the discord over appointment of the ISI chief.

It is worth mentioning that some 11 members from within the provincial ruling party called BAP (Balochistan Awami Party), two Balochistan National Party (Awami) MPAs and one PTI member have submitted the notice of a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani.

Interestingly, they are confident enough to oust Jam Kamal along with 22 members from the opposition, despite the fact that Balochistan is the province of the power that be in the country from day one.

Some political analysts assert a section from the establishment is supporting their move.

In this regard, they see Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani as the architect of the crisis. Mr Sanjrani feels that Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani has always kept him at an arm’s length and never consulted him on matters concerning the province and their party, the Balochistan Awami Party, as well transfer and postings in his hometown district, Chagai.

But he was shrewd enough not to make his grouse public; instead, Mr Sanjrani waited patiently for the right time to strike a lethal blow against Mr Alyani.

According to the political observers, the Senate chairman visited Balochistan last week not as a troubleshooter, but to lift the spirits of the anti-Alyani faction in its attempts to remove the provincial government.

“If it is between ‘yes and no’, the Senate chairman does not want Jam [the chief minister],” Rashid Baloch, a Quetta-based analyst, said.

It is no secret that the BAP was cobbled up overnight by the powers that be to make sure no party got a workable majority in the provincial assembly.

According to columnist Jalal Noorzai, who calls the BAP a “king’s party”, the ouster of the BAP-led Jam government won’t be a good augury.

Provincial governments have always been weak in Balochistan. Jam Mohammad Yousuf Alyani, the father of Jam Kamal Alyani, is so far the only chief minister to have completed his tenure.

Jam Kamal is confident that he will come out unscathed from the present crisis. He sees himself as the “establishment’s darling” and one who has never done anything to rock the boat.

A source close to Mr Alyani said he had neither been asked to step down nor promised that he would continue as chief minister. This is why he is lobbying desperately for votes in Quetta and Islamabad.

Mr Alyani never thought twice about seeking votes from the opposition camp in Quetta.

To some extent, he has succeeded in saving his seat, but Khaliq Rind, who writes in daily Jang, thinks “it is too early to call”.

According to him, it’s still anybody’s game and the prospects for Jam Kamal’s survival or exit are even.

Bizenjo factor

Ever since the Jam government took office, Balochistan Assembly Speaker and another BAP leader, Qudoos Bizenjo, has been Mr Alyani’s nemesis.

Qudoos Bizenjo believes he has a right to be the chief executive because after the removal of Sanaullah Khan Zehri’s government in 2018, Qudoos was at the forefront of his party’s efforts to form government.

But there are other contenders as well for the top job. One such hopeful is Zahoor Buledi, who has offered himself as replacement for Mr Alyani, even though he has enjoyed all sorts of perks and privileges during his rule.

But those who voted for him in his constituency (Buleda, Kech) complain that he did nothing for them. They say the area lacks even basic necessities.

The opposition too is united in its demand for the ouster of Jam Kamal as chief minister. His opponents call him “arrogant and stubborn”, alleging that he has a number of times ordered the transfer of relatives of a minister who dares speak out against him.

But unfortunately, the opposition has its own axe to grind. They want an equal share in the pie.

Adnan Aamir, who edits Balochistan Voices, an online newspaper, sums it up succinctly: “In Balochistan, the opposition is prepared and more than happy to make deals with disgruntled members of BAP for the sake of development funds and transfer and postings. And they are happy to play the role of a friendly opposition if their demands are met under the table.”

Keeping the recent developments in mind, I sat with a local in a tea shop on Quetta’s Prince Road to seek his opinion about the chief minister.

Like other locals, he gave words to his disillusionment thus: “It makes no difference whether Jam goes or stays. Everyone comes into the government for his vested interest, no matter who he is.”

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2021

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