27 January 2014

A Unique Protest

Courtesy: The Baloch Hal

A unique protest took place outside the National Assembly of Pakistan on 20th January. This protest comprised of members of the Balochistan Assembly and other politicians from the restive province. The primary reason of the protest was the abduction of Nawab Abdul Zahir Kasi, who is chief of the Kasi tribe and the provincial president of the Balochistan chapter of the Awami National Party. Apart from that, this protest was also a manifestation of anger and displeasure over the fact that Balochistan government is still not autonomous and it has to plea Islamabad for almost everything. 

Nawab Abdul Zahir Kasi was kidnapped in broad daylight from the centre of Quetta allegedly by bearded man who resembled Taliban. No one is certain about the whereabouts of Nawab Kasi but it’s believed that He is kept in Fata just like other high profile Abductees such as Shebaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gillani. It’s a Massive failure on the part of law enforcement agencies in Quetta who have failed to protect a respected Tribal leader. Quetta is under control of Frontier Corp (FC) which has been given Policing powers. FC is under federal control so there is nothing Balochistan government can do about it. After contacting Islamabad many times to play a role in release of Nawab Kasi, Balochistan MPAs decided to protest against this abduction. They reached Islamabad and conducted a symbolic protest outside national assembly of Pakistan. Their protest rang bells nowhere and they were only granted an audience with Prime minister who gave them a conventional assurance.

It happens rarely that parliamentarians protest due to powerlessness outside a parliament. This unique protest not only shows that Balochistan government has no control over FC but it also shows that 18th Amendment has not been implemented in its essence. This amendment was based on provincial autonomy and many governance subjects including law and order were transferred to provinces. However, Balochistan government has failed to get any such powers. Provincial autonomy would only be a myth as long as federally controlled security forces control a province.

Balochistan is undergoing an insurgency and it can be vaguely argued that presence of federally controlled security forces is justified. But that’s not all; other federal institutions operating in Balochistan have similar attitudes towards this unfortunate province. Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) promised to increase Gas pressure in Balochistan in presence of Dr. Malik and Jam Kamal who are Chief Minister Balochistan and State minister for oil and Gas respectively. However that assurance proved to be an empty promise and pressure was never increased. Same is the attitude of WAPDA and its subsidiary NTDC who is delaying the installation of two transmission lines that will increase the electricity supply to Balochistan. The attitude of National Highway Authority (NHA) is not much different either. Despite repeated assurances NHA has not started any major highway project in Balochistan citing security reasons. In recent past a road project was transferred by NHA from Balochistan to FATA due to security reasons. Even Dr. Malik was compelled to complain about NHA and called their behavior anti-Balochistan.

There is 6% quota of Balochistan in federal government jobs. This quota is only followed in CSS exams and in other departments people of Balochistan are deprived from their due rights. According to a newspapers report only 1% employees in foreign mission of Pakistan belong from Balochistan against its quota of 6%. There is only one Federal secretary from Balochistan and there is no representation of Balochistan in Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and SSGC at highest level. Universities of Islamabad only are getting more funds for Scholarships then all universities of Balochistan from HEC. Unjust treatment meted out to people of Balochistan by Federal institutions is due to the fact that there are not many officers from balochistan in them who could protect the rights of Balochistan.

The problems of Balochistan are incalculable and mostly due to the apathy of federal government towards this province. However it doesn’t absolve the MPAs of Balochistan who get 100s of Billions of rupees annually. Rather than using it for the development of people they pocket the money in form of kickbacks. This was the practice in PPP government whereas Dr. Malik has withheld 20 Billion rupees of Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) and it’s feared that these funds will be lapsed and transferred back to federal government. The point that I want to make is that MPAs of Balochistan which are selected rather than elected are in part responsible for the plight of Balochistan. However the Lion’s share of responsibility falls on Federal government who is not doing what should be done for the province. The unique protest in Islamabad was not only a protest against abductions but also against role of federal government in depriving Balochistan from its rights.

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