QUETTA: The old mantra of blaming Islamabad for everything that goes wrong in Balochistan may not be valid any more, not after the 18th Amendment in the Constitution and the last National Finance Commission Award that returned most of the powers to the provinces.
The crisis of governance in Balochistan is now largely internal. Surely, Balochistan still needs more money and resources to be compensated for past injustices and to match other provinces in development.
“But it needs to put its house in order first,” said former National Reconstruction Bureau chairman, Danial Aziz Chaudhary. “Even if you pour down billions of dollars, nothing will change because of the administrative mess that exists in the province. This will make only a few people richer and more oppressive.”
The Balochistan police face a double jeopardy. First, the restoration of the levies strips it of the 95 percent area of its jurisdiction. The controversial restoration of the commissionerate system renders it another blow.
The Sardars in the Balochistan government are trying to run the province as it was governed during the Raj but even the British had a problem with combining revenue, magistracy and police in one office.
Former Balochistan Inspector General Afzal Shigri points out that the torture commission set up by the British in 1855 to look into the atrocities committed against the ‘unwilling natives’ condemned the executive magistracy.
“It recommended a distinct police force independent from revenue collectors that resulted into the independent command of the police,” he wrote in an op-ed recently. “Now a dead and oppressive system of law enforcement is being resurrected.”
The issue has already been challenged in the courts. The Balochistan judiciary had time and again asked for the police to be given the powers to control crime in ‘B’ area that are now being run by the levies.
The judiciary has also taken cognisance of parallel systems of private jirgas where Sardars decide even the murder cases. In more than half of the cases nobody reports murders. Some like Mr Shigri also believe that the Police Act 2002, which makes the police independent of the district management group, is a federal law and the provincial legislature cannot override it.
Many believe the abolishment of the ‘B’ area that merged the tribal levies into police in 2003 was perhaps too drastic a step. It should have been phased gradually as envisaged by former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But then the restoration of the levies after eight years was even more drastic.
“The levies have been corrupted in the last ten years,” says former deputy chairman of the National Assembly, Nawab Wazir Jogezai. “They cannot handle the security in the changing times.”
He suggested a middle ground where the community should be involved in its security. “We could have a combination of police and the community force under the directly elected nazims or mayors; if we have to have a community force it should be under elected people and not the sardars or maliks.”
Danial Chaudhary concurs that if there is one place where the local bodies is needed more than others, it is Balochistan. “This is the only way we could break the oppressive ways of tribal sardars and also introduce local empowerment.”
He has already approached the Supreme Court against the undoing of the Local Bodies Ordinance and the Police Act. “If the courts have separation of the judiciary at the top how could we deny the same principal at lower tiers,” he said.
Obviously, the issue requires marathon discussion among the stakeholders involving political, legal and administrative expertise. The question is: How will this happen and who is going to decide what kind of system should be introduced in Balochistan? Ideally, it is the Balochistan Assembly which represents the public will.
It took the Balochistan Assembly a few minutes to bulldoze the legislation over the restoration of levies, without sharing its reasons for doing that with the public.
Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani was asked why he did not let a discussion take place in the Assembly over this most crucial issue. “Why did not you let the media and the public know your reasons for doing so,” he was questioned in his office.
“We discussed it amply in the Cabinet”, pat came his reply. It was pointed out to him that the Cabinet was not a substitute for the Assembly. “But here in Balochistan, the entire Assembly is the Cabinet, you see,” he insisted.
He was not wrong there. Where in the world we would have the entire Assembly as the Cabinet? The only person who is not a minister, Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, has not returned to the Assembly after taking oath as an MPA. He has a feud of blood running with the person who is supposed to be his guardian. He is on record having said that he fears that the chief minister will have him killed if he ventures into the Assembly.
He was told again that the Cabinet discussion was not open to the public, unlike the Assembly where the representatives of the public and the media are also present to understand the issue.
“But my media spokesman was there to represent the public,” the chief minister insisted while his audience of about two dozens guests found it quiet amusing. “Well, your media spokesman does not represent the media, nor the public,” was the last thing that could be said to the chief minister.
The incident should explain how grave issues like this one are discussed in Balochistan and by its top person. The issue of the Balochistan Assembly being the public representative may be questionable here, says Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Chief, Mahmood Khan Achakzai “because the last elections were boycotted by a major chunk of political parties, particularly nationalists.”
While the police has been restricted to just five per cent of the province; the levies are unable to handle the ever restive situation; the mafias of drugs, arms, oil and goods smuggling have a vested interest in exaggerating the volatile conditions; the paramilitary Frontier Corps will continue to dominate life in Balochistan. And this just may be the real problem.
November 21, 2011