28 June 2015

Two years with Dr Malik

Courtesy: The News


After the May 2013 general elections, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was elected as chief minister of the insurgency-torn Balochistan. Dubbed as the first ‘middle class’ chief minister of Balochistan, Dr Malik had the huge responsibility to provide much-needed relief to people of Balochistan. On June 9 this year, Dr Malik Baloch completed two years as chief minister; the performance of his government has unfortunately been far from satisfactory.

Dr Abdul Malik Baloch of the National Party is a Baloch nationalist – or at least claims to be so. Nawaz Sharif supported his nomination for chief minister due to his nationalist credentials. It was believed that Dr Malik would bring the insurgents on to the negotiating table and broker a deal between them and the establishment. Initially, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch made some tall claims about being on the right track to solve the insurgency problem in Balochistan. However, after two years in the office as chief minister, he has made zero progress in negotiating with insurgents. There is no hope at the moment of reconciliation between Baloch insurgents and the state of Pakistan – and Dr Malik shares the blame for this failure.

Nawab Aslam Raisani, Dr Malik Baloch’s predecessor, had to face governor’s rule in December 2013 due to law and order problems in Balochistan. When Dr Malik Baloch came to power he claimed he would bring the law and order situation back to normalcy. There has definitely been some improvement as compared to the last government but the law and order situation in Balochistan is still abysmal. On June 7, Dr Malik was addressing a National Party convention in Lahore and claimed there that those days were gone when Hazaras were gunned down in the streets of Quetta. An hour later, five Hazaras were killed in Quetta and Dr Malik Baloch had to rush down to Quetta to pacify Hazara protestors. 

Education has been the single biggest source of political point-scoring for the current government. The incumbent Balochistan government imposed a so-called education emergency in the province in January 2014. The size of the education budget was increased significantly and different campaigns were started to persuade parents to send their children to school. Not only that but a huge fortune was spent by the government on promoting this education emergency through television and newspaper advertisements. After spending billions on the flawed education emergency the results were disappointing to say the least. According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the literacy rate in Balochistan dropped by three percent in the year 2013-14. 

The University of Balochistan is the oldest and largest university in province. It was not in a good condition when Dr Malik Baloch took over as CM but now its situation has worsened. For more than two weeks, the majority of students have boycotted classes in the university in protest against the vice-chancellor appointed by Dr Malik Baloch and his allies. Similarly, Bolan Medical College (BMC), the only medical college in Balochistan, is suffering heavily due to the incompetence of the current government. Recently over 75 Baloch students of BMC were arrested when they protested against the lack of basic facilities at the college. Rather than establishing any new institutes of higher education, the current government in Balochistan has facilitated the deterioration of existing institutes.

After the 7th NFC Award billions of rupees were poured into Balochistan but there has not been any trickledown effect. When Dr Malik Baloch came to power he announced he would end corruption, and reiterated his commitment to transparency in development projects. The reality is that development projects under Dr Malik’s regime in Balochistan are also marred by corruption and poor management. Development funds of opposition members of the assembly have been blocked and only meagre funds have been allocated to local governments. Not a single development project has been started in the last two years which has brought a meaningful change in the lives of the common people of Balochistan.

Moreover, the Balochistan Development Forum (BDF) was a three-day seminar conducted by the Balochistan government in January this year. This seminar portrayed the development vision of the Balochistan government. Tens of millions of rupees of the Balochistan were spent on this event and 200 out of 300 participants were National Party workers. That reflects the level of seriousness of Dr Malik Baloch when it comes to the development of Balochistan.

One of the reasons Balochistan is facing so many problems is that the state apparatus has completely collapsed in the province. Almost all government departments are infected by corruption. Commission on contracts is a way of life for the bureaucrats of Balochistan. Funds approved by the government are not released without major bribes to the concerned officials and so on. Dr Malik Baloch inherited this system but he didn’t do anything to change it. He and his allies have failed to bring a single bureaucratic improvement that can discourage corruption and improve governance in the province. Most chief ministers in Balochistan have not challenged the corrupt bureaucracy and Dr Malik Baloch didn’t prove to be any different. 

Many analysts, due to ignorance, compare performance of Dr Malik’s government with that of Nawab Aslam Raisani’s government and laud the former. During Nawab Raisani’ tenure, 60 out of 65 members of the assembly, at a time, were a part of cabinet. That government was worse than any government in the history of Pakistan and cannot be used as a benchmark to evaluate Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s performance.

Dr Malik Baloch has let down the people of Balochistan. In just two years he has proved his nomination as chief minister was a huge mistake. In accordance with the Muree Accord signed between the National Party, the PML-N and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Dr Malik has to quit the office of chief minister in December this year. He still has six months which he can use to partially restore his credibility by reversing all his flawed decisions and changing his attitude from self-serving to people-serving.

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