Perpetually hungry for power, a majority of Balochistan politicians are forever willing to switch loyalties
The fate of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) once again hangs in the balance after it came to light that the many electables in their ranks are ready to switch the loyalties to the party which has the brightest chances of forming the government, both at the Center and in Balochistan.
Although a majority of the politicians in Pakistan are always willing to switch loyalties whenever a key election or shift in power is imminent, the electables in Balochistan remain the biggest opportunists in this regard. There are a lot of politicians in the province whose forefathers have been doing power politics over the past many decades and are never shy of joining every government whether elected, non-elected or that of a dictator or of a technocrat.
At the time of creation of Balochistan as province in 1970, there were two camps – one comprising the nationalists and the other comprising the pro-federation forces, while there was a tiny group called the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam which has now blossomed into a major party in Balochistan.
The pro-federation elements having full support of “Islamabad” have always been ready to join the party that forms the government at the Center. They were with late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto during his tenure but later sided with General Zia-ul-Haq when he took over the reins as the Martial Law Administrator.
When the IJI was formed against Benazir Bhutto in 1989, this band of politicians quickly joined the alliance led by Mian Nawaz Sharif. They have since been changing loyalties quite frequently, though their main allegiance has been with the establishment.
And that is the reason that they have survived in the longer run, successfully managing to keep away the nationalists, particularly the Baloch, from the assemblies and the corridors of power.
Although late Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Akbar Bugti and even Sardar Akhtar Mengal – all proponents of Baloch Nationalism, remained in power for a substantial period, their governments were either removed by then Federal set ups, their assemblies were dissolved or a vote of no confidence was moved against them within a brief period nine to 18 months.
The PPP only once got the legitimate right to form the government in the province in the 2008 general elections whereas the party also managed to form its ruling coalition in 1974 by buying the loyalties of the defunct NAP and JUI members after the abrupt dismissal of the NAP government.
There is a long standing joke about the three ‘J’ families — the Jams, the Jamalis and the Jogezais – that they can’t survive without being in power. However, with the passage of time, many families have emerged in the province now who have mastered the art to thrive by siding with the government in power.
Even, the tribal sardars, who extract their power from the establishment, survive by being the part and parcel of government in the saddle, regardless of its manifesto and policies.
The Sardari system, which is otherwise on crutches, would have faded away long ago had the establishment not provided support.
It is also strange that PML(Q) got a majority by capturing 22 out of 65 seats in 2008 in Balochistan, but then all of its members started joining the PPP alliance that originally comprised just eight MPAs. Later, they again jumped ship to join the PML(N) when the Nawaz Sharif party emerged as the favourite to form the government in the center in 2013.
However, true to their character, the electables sensing the wind wind direction, soon started leaving the PML(N) and were instrumental in turning the tables on Nawab Sanaullah Zahri to replace him with Chief Minister Qudoos Bezenjo.
Qudoos, even before the political change here, started exploring the ways to create understanding with the PPP leaders and that was why Senator Qayum Sumro, the political aid of Zardari, got himself stationed in Balochistan in 2017 to supervise the change. He indulged in lavish spending and got his way through sharp wheeling and dealing in the political and influential circles of Balochistan.
Sumro also had the audacity to claim in the media that Qudoos Bizenjo is a PPP man. However, later the establishment changed its mind and aided the formation of a Balochistan-based party with a saleable narrative of protecting the rights of the Balochs in the province. Hence, the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) was formed and all the well-known turncoat elements joined it.
“Such elements in Balochistan are in fact like black sheep who know on which track they have to tread and where they will find food and drinking water,” said a senior journalist while describing the turncoats. BAP soon formed the government by joining hands with the PTI and some local parties, with Jam Kamal as its head.
After three and half years, a majority of the BAP members, with the backing of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sunjrani and few other elements of Islamabad, brought in Qudoos Bizenjo as the new CM just because Jam Kamal proved to be a hard nut to crack for them.
Qudoos Bezenjo has a key tact up his sleeve, not to say ‘No’to anyone and say ‘Yes’ to everyone. Jam Kamal, of course, did not have this quality and suffered.
In the present set up, the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) has been distributed among all the 65 members, whether in the government or in opposition, and declared that every assembly member is empowered in his constituency in respect of posting and transfer of all the government officers, particularly those in the administrative set-up and in the police.
All the opposition parties and strong personalities like JUI-F, BNP-Mengal, PKMAP and two former Chief Ministers Nawab Aslam Raisani and Nawab Sanaullah Zahri were very vocal over the provincial rights and the way BAP was formed and its government. Jamiat, BNP, PKMAP and Nawab Aslam have been accusing the BAP for bartering the interests of Balochistan and its people like the Rekodiq’project copper gold project while the BNP has been championing the cause of the missing Balochs.
But after getting their shares from the public fund for the fiscal year 2022-23, all kept their mum. Nobody is questioning the ‘Rekodiq’ agreement reached between Chief Minister Qudoos Bezenjo with Canadian company Barrick Gold. BNP’s members look disregard of its issue of missing persons. The families of the missing Balochs have set up a protest camp in the red zone, right in front of the Governor House and the IGP house for the last 14 days, demanding the safe release of their members.
Unlike the past, none of the BNP members ever visited the camp for expressing solidarity with the families. That shows that there is no opposition in Balochistan as Bezenjo has literally bought over all the opposition members.
Despite poor administration and governance and the debilitating law and order situation in Balochistan, Chief Minister Qudoos is lucky that he enjoys the support of all the assembly members except some of the BAP members.
Chief Minister Qudoos along with his like-minded party members again started exploring the ways to re-establish contact with PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari. For the purpose, Bezenjo hired Ali Hassan Zahri, who acts as front man of Zardari for business purposes in real estate in Hub area (Balochistan). Zahri is the husband of Senator Sameena Mumtaz Zahri, a BAP party member.
The majority BAP members, under the leadership of Bezenjo, are considering the option of joining the PPP for their better perspective of emerging a majority party in the next general elections probably to be held in 2023. And in that way, again Qudoos would be the Chief Minister with the support of JUI, BNP and tiny allies.
Apart from that Sana Zahri, the former PML(N) Chief Minister who has already joined the PPP along with Gen Qadir Baloch while Nawab Aslam Raisani announced to join JUI-F with the expectation to become the next Chief Minister. Now limited options are available for Sardar Akhtar Mangal the prospective candidate for the top slot of the province as being the ally of JUI-F what course of action he will take for being fit-in in the future set up.
BNP had to take losses politically by supporting Qudoos Benzenjo and showing confidence in his leadership and keeping mum over the missing person issue as well as that of Rek-Dig project. But it has to make extra efforts to bag a good number of seats in the general elections. Jam Kamal, another candidate for the chief ministership, has not shown his cards yet future plan of Islamabad in Balochistan.