Former CM Jam Kamal holds incumbent CM Quddus Bizenjo responsible for plight of people
As floods wreak havoc in Balochistan, former Chief Minister, Jam Kamal Alyani, has plunged into a no-holds-barred campaign against his political rival, Chief Minister Mir Qudoos Bezenjo, accusing his government of failing to provide timely relief to flood affected people.
He was on a trip to London when the floods hit Balochistan. He rushed back immediately and has since been camping in his home district of Lasbela, running a social media campaign and entertaining television crews that come visiting the flood-hit areas.
The Alyani-Bizenjo rivalry dates back to the 2018 general elections when locked horns over the slot of chief minister. The tiff started despite the fact that Bizenjo’s father, the late Mir Abdul Majeed, a native of Awaran district, remained politically loyal to both Alyani’s father, Jam Mohammad Yousaf, and his grandfather Jam Ghulam Qadir. He was a minister in Ghulam Qadir’s provincial cabinet.
Qudoos stepped into his father’s shoes when military ruler General Musharaf put college graduation as a precondition for those aspiring to contest parliamentary elections. That condition was waived later, but Mir Majeed never returned to electoral politics, allowing Qudoos to lead the constituency.
Qudoos won the election in 2008 and was elected deputy speaker of the provincial parliament. Since then, his profile has expanded and, as a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid (PML-Q) party, he has served twice as the provincial chief minister, a distinction he shares with only two other politicians – the late Jam Ghulam Qadir (1973 and 1985), and Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi (May 1993 and Oct 1993).
The Alyani-Bizenjo rivalry began in the post-2018 elections in which Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted into power. Balochistan, however, was won by a staunch PTI rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Conspiracies to unseat the PML-N Chief Minister, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, kicked off when he hosted PML-N chief’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, at a public meeting in Quetta. Sensing the shifting mood among the parliamentarians, Zehri resigned in December 2018.
This opened the doors for Bezenjo to get into the race for the chief minister’s office. The other contender was then home minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, now a member of the Senate. Since the provincial assemblies were expected to be dissolved ahead of the March 2018 Senate elections, Bugti withdrew from the race in Bizenjo’s favour, with the condition that he will be the party’s candidate for this office after fresh elections. Bizenjo, who was willing to hold the office even for a brief tenure, agreed.
Bizenjo remained in office for around five months – from 13 Jan to 7 June, 2018. Bugti meanwhile lost the provincial seat in subsequent elections, and thus fell out of the race. Bezenjo was confident, as was his patron, Senator Sadiq Sanjrani, that no other candidate could snatch the chief minister’s office away from his grip. Both were disappointed when the parliament voted in favour of Jam Kamal.
Jam Kamal Alyani’s political career began with local bodies politics, and he served as the District Nazim of Lasbela during the Musharraf era. He was the first to introduce the electronic filing system (computer storage of data and filers) in government offices and won an award for being the best performing Nazim.
He stepped into national politics in 2013, after the death of his father. He contested as an independent candidate and won election to both a national and a provincial assembly seat from his home district that year. He chose to join the national parliament and was appointed a minister of state by the PML-N government. In April 2018, he resigned from the cabinet amid a rising wave of protests by the opposition PTI party against the PML-N government, and started to work on fielding his own party, BAP.
He is considered to be a good administrator, but someone who lacks flexibility, especially while dealing with opposing opinions both within the party and among the opposition ranks. Faced with a no-trust motion in the parliament, he resigned his office last year.
According to observers, Alyani was harsh and unaccepting with officials and members of his cabinet, but he would often get things done. Bizenjo, on the other hand, is seen as someone pretty polite and accommodating, but his directives are rarely implemented.
The latest development in the Bizenjo-Alyani tiff is one in which Alyani has extended his support to what some observers describe as the “enemy of his enemy”. The “enemy” in this case is said to be Sardar Salah Bhotani, the minister for Local Bodies in the Bizenjo government. Bhotani’s “enemy” is said to be a female Karachi resident and Senator, Sameena Mumtaz Zahri.
According to reports, Sameena started relief activities such as food distribution among needy families in the Lasbela region with funding organized by her husband, Ali Hasan Zahri, who is a real estate dealer based in the industrial town of Hub. Mr Zahri is said to have been instrumental in creating an unintended rift between Chief Minister Bizenjo and his cabinet minister Bhotani. He has done this by using his influence to get one of his favourite bureaucrats, Murad Kasi, posted as Deputy Commissioner Lasbela, replacing Iftikhar Bugti who was said to be a Bhutani appointee. Zahri’s motive was said to be to protect his business interests in the area.
Bhotani tried to get the orders canceled, but failed. He has for long been trying to rid his constituency of Alyani’s influence and has been pushing for a bifurcation of Lasbela district to create a separate district of Hub. He even threatened to resign from the cabinet if the chief minister failed to meet his demand. The demand was finally met and a new district, Hub, was notified. But the deputy commissioner of the new district is more likely to be a favourite of Mr Zahri.
Taking advantage of this Bhotani-Zahri rivalry, Alyani is trying to create more fissures among the BAP ranks as well as within the ruling coalition as part of his plans to prepare for new elections. His aggressive campaign on social media, and his interviews on the electronic media, are fully focused on the absence of Chief Minister Bizenjo and his ministers from flood devastated areas. Many see this as the start of his campaign for next elections that may probably take place next year.
In the meantime, the Balochistan ruling alliance stands badly exposed due to the poor performance of the chief minister and his cabinet in terms of the rescue and relief operations in the province which has been badly hit by recent rains and floods.
Chief Minister Bezenjo told the media he avoided visiting the flood-hit areas because of the customary protocols may cause disruption in relief efforts. But he did not explain the absence of his ministers, whose visits may not cause such disruptions. He did accompany Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif during his tour of Balochistan, but avoided a similar visit by President Arif Alavi and army chief General Javed Qamar Bajwa.