Amir Mateen

QUETTA:  Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik’s social moorings are ideally suited to Balochistan’s current circumstances and political requirements.

He is known to be soft-spoken and patient even with his worst political rivals. This is important in a highly divisive polity that has never seen a majority government except for the NAP government in the 1970s. His background in grassroots politics, starting off as Balochistan Student Organisation (BSO) leader, helps him in keeping a disparate array of political players together in a minority coalition government. One can dare say that after Nawab Akbar Bugti, Dr Malik is the only politician left in Balochistan who can rally together such a diverse mix of political forces.

Nawab Khair Bux Marri was respected immensely by Baloch but he was more of an ideologue and a romantic than a practical politician. In 86 years that he lived he contested elections only once in 1970 and was hardly present during less than two years that the NAP government lasted. The third among the Great Baloch quartet, Sardar Attaullah Mengal’s influence has also been reduced to a few strongholds on the Baloch belt where he is represented by his son, former Chief Minister Akhtar Mengal and his Balochistan National Party (BNP). Attaullah’s other son, Javed has chosen to run his own band of insurgents as Lashkar-i-Balochistan. Attaullah has limited leverage over Baloch nationalists, leave alone the extremists living in the mountains or abroad. The three other former living Chief Ministers, Nawab Aslam Raisani, Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and Jan Jamali, don’t have much jurisdiction outside their small pockets — without the support of the establishment, that is. Former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali, who was also a chief minister for a few days, does not have influence even in his Jamali clan. This leaves Dr Malik as the biggest voice among Baloch nationalists who could take along Balochistan’s political and ethnic diversity — much like his mentor Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo whose Pakistan National Party (PNP) was the parent party of the ruling National Party (NP).

It was from Bizenjo that Malik learnt the skill of forging coalitions in difficult circumstances. Believe me he is not a bad student. He keeps Rawalpindi in good humour by talking it out with them instead of confronting them. Malik’s stint in the Senate has also given his exposure to Islamabad’s perspective and concerns. He keeps his coalition partners, particularly PkMAP, happy by letting them have their ways to a certain limit. Sadly, Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s party is getting overly greedy in gobbling Quetta’s controversial property, besides adjusting too many cronies from his family. But then what do you expect from the PkMAP that got into power for the first time ever. The idea is perhaps to gather some wealth to match the enormous riches of their JUI-F rivals who are now among the richest men in Balochistan. Somehow this does not go well with Achakzai’s aura but Dr Malik conveniently looks the other way. Malik also throws a few crumbs at the JUI-F opposition in the shape of development funds — much to the chagrin of the PkMAP.

But his biggest issue is the PML-N honchos. Leading the trouble-makers is Senior Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri. He already has the most lucrative ministries of Communications and Works, and Minerals and Mines, besides being the senior minister. But he would like to be the chief minister although half of the people in his own party would not back him, let alone PkMAP.

Another member of the conspiratorial gang is Deputy Speaker Quddus Bizenjo. He got elected on PML-Q seat but here in Balochistan Chaudhry Shujaat’s party, if you can call it so, is ally of the PML-N. Yet another trouble-maker is Balochistan’s Chanakya, Asim Gailu.

This is in a long time that he is out of the Balochistan cabinet. He would support anybody and anything just to get into the cabinet. The new member to the club is Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti. He and his father Ghulam Qadir (Maisuri) Bugti draw their strength as a counter balance to Nawab Akbar Bugti’s clan in Dera Bugti. He is accused of using Home Ministry firepower not just against the insurgents but against his tribal rivals. The self-styled desperado Shafiq Mengal, who ran his pro-establishment gang to kill Baloch suspects, has fallen apart from his creators now. Mengal is out but Sarfraz has all the potential to take his place.

The induction of Sarfraz Bugti in the cabinet also shows the limits of Dr Malik and even Nawaz Sharif in Balochistan. Sarfraz likes to flaunt his khaki connections and rubs it even on the chief minister and the prime minister. Yet Dr Malik had to take him in his cabinet and Nawaz Sharif in his party. The problem is that while the job of the Home Ministry is crucial but Sarfraz Bugti makes it very difficult for Dr Malik to try any rapprochement, particularly with the Bugti rebels. Sarfraz is anathema to them and leaves no possibility for Malik to extend a hand of reconciliation. The use of force has to be coupled with a reconciliation plan if the idea is to bring about peace at some stage. For that Sarfraz is not the face that Malik can flaunt while attempting peace. And nor should anybody expect Malik to do that under the circumstances.

For the time being, Dr Malik pampers them as much as he can but then handles them through Nawaz Sharif. He knows that the most important issue for Nawaz Sharif in Balochistan is peace and stability that his own party can’t deliver. But this will not stop the rabble-rousers for creating one crisis after another.

The News

December 19, 2014