Marriages of conveniences fail

Mansoor Akbar Kundi

POLITICS is a game in which ultimate goal for a player is to gain power, maximise it or exert influence. In the game of power struggle the situation can become volatile and friends turn into enemies. The situation in Balochistan which developed in the direction of No-Confidence Vote against the incumbent Chief Minister, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri proves and supports the fact that politics is a unpredictable game and remains under conspiracies even under representative systems. Nawab Sanaullah Zehri stepped into Chief Minister office in August 2016 after the two and half year tenure of Malik Baloch of National Party expired under the Murree Agreement in July 2013. Murree Agreement was a power sharing formula to share the five year office tenure equally between Baloch and Zehri. Malik Baloch was the first Chief Minister of Balochistan since it was raised to a province status in 1970 who was not a Sardar. He got a chance to be a CM under the situation where in the wake of disputes between two Sardars, Changiz Khan Marri and Sanaullah Zehri over the CM slot, a middle decision was made by the PML-N . He was supported by all the nationalists in Assembly including Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP).
To better understand the present situation it is imperative to understand the politically and ethnically divided background of the province. Politics in Balochistan has been volatile largely due to the fact that it never experienced a coalition free government. Even in the heyday of National Awami Party (NAP) in 1970 elections it failed to form a coalition free government. Attaullah Mengal, the first CM of Balochistan held a coalition government with the support of its ideological rival: Jamiat Ullema-i-Islam (JUI) and few independents too. The then 21-member Provincial Assembly had four independent members. The Ministry was dissolved under the Interim Constitution of Pakistan 1972 thus it remained in power from 1 May 1972 to 15 February 1973.
The independent candidates whose major support comes rather on their social, tribal and personal basis than party affiliation play an influential role inside and outside the Assembly. Balochistan is the only province which experienced an independent candidate as Chief Minister. They are largely independent of party discipline and political morality at times when a unity is needed. The general elections in 2013 as usually resulted in a hung house where nine political parties appeared in the overall 65 member Assembly. They were Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 21 seats, PMAP 14, National Party 11, JUI-F 8, Balochistan National Party (BNM) 2, PML-Quaid-e-Azam 5; and Milli Watan Movement (MWM), Balochistan National Party Awami and Awami National Party (ANP) with one seat each. There was one independent candidate.
The political setup in the wake of general elections resulted in the marriages of conveniences for major national and ethnic political parties. It was a political as well as power sharing bonanza for PMAP and National Party. Things went against the common belief that PML-N would form the government. The PML-N could form the government as they enjoyed a sizeable number of seats, but they failed to do so largely because of two reasons: First, they did not have majority of seats to form a coalition free government and had to depend on both Pakthoon and Baloch nationalists. The leaders elected on party platform did not have gross roots popularity, but were bigwigs of society whose support came on social and personal bases and not party’s. Second, Nawaz Sharif as party leader and in person believed in support of Baloch and Pakhtoon nationalists with its party label in power. The Pakhtoon nationalists represented in large by PMAP have enjoyed the perks and privileges they never had before. Mahmood Khan Achakzai being a king maker and de facto adviser to Nawaz Sharif on Balochistan matters saw his brother and family members as provincial minister, advisors, and on very important public positions. His elder brother, Mohammad Khan Achakzai since 2013 is continuing in office despite his frail and weak elderly role as a Chancellor and Governor. Keeping in view the geo-strategic situation of Balochistan under the national and international scenario it was highly advisable for PML-N government to have replaced him with a strong dynamic man, but it was not. He failed to garner support for Zehri as promised in the present situation.
Three factors are largely accountable for the situation. First, inept and non-participant role of Nawab Sanaullah in settling the grievances of his coalition partners. He unlike his predecessor was blamed not listening to them. Their grievances largely involved lack of funds from provincial government to be spent in the respective constituencies. Nawab was known for his parsimonious attitude for funds allocation to cabinet men who also enjoyed tribal stature. Nawab was also under pressure by the cabinet members not to stop growing involvement of federal agencies and law enforcement authorities in Balochistan affairs. Second, the Federal PML-N government showed least interests in playing a mediatory role in settling differences amongst the annoyed members in government. By choice or circumstances the PML-N government did not heed to the situation in Balochistan and assumed all OK. The situation aggravated after the crisis at centre resulting in disqualification of Nawaz Sharif. Third, the situation developed over the civil-military estranged relationship in which Balochistan situation can be an easy target for future deterioration of civil government at centre. In my analysis, the conspiracy theory can be ruled out in the present situation of Balochistan.
— The writer is Professor, Dept of Politics & International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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