Anti-Corruption drive in Balochistan started last month when six Army officers, who had served in Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan, were dismissed from service on charges of corruption. This was followed by the Bollywood film like recovery of over Rs 650 million from the home of Secretary Finance Mushtaq Raisani. Khalid Lango, who had the charge of finance ministry, was forced to resign and the crackdown against all accused persons is in full swing or at least it seems to be.
The massive corruption case in finance ministry of Balochistan at least dates back to the year 2013 when Mushtaq Raisani was appointed as Secretary Finance by then Chief Minister (CM) Dr. Malik Baloch. This corruption episode has once again exposed the incompetence of Dr. Malik Baloch as CM who used to claim that there was no mega corruption during his government. Now, he says that all of this happened and he was not aware of any of it, which is hard to believe. He was either complicit in this corruption or totally incompetent that he could not prevent it from happening.
Moreover, any anti-corruption drive in Balochistan would be incomplete if it does not take into account the black period of Nawab Aslam Raisani. Government of Nawab Raisani from 2008 to 2013 was arguably the most corrupt in the history of the province. According to an unpublished report by a local group, over Rs. 360 billion were embezzled in that period. So, it’s incumbent upon National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to look into the corruption of that period as well and take action against all those involved, be it politicians or bureaucrats. Cut off year for that should be 2008 because it would not be practicable to conduct anti-corruption drive prior to that period.
In this context, another thing which needs to be debated is the capacity of the NAB to conduct anti-corruption drives. It’s a fact that NAB was created by former dictator General Pervez Musharraf to force his political opponents into submission. NAB was instrumental in formation of Patriot group of PPP and also in PML-Q. Today NAB carries the same legacy and there is an element of persecution of political class embedded in the structure of NAB. Inaction of NAB in Balochistan on cases of mega corruption during last few years speaks volumes about the capacity of the NAB. At the same time NAB had not left any stone unturned to block procurement of different departments and creating bureaucratic hurdles in the name of accountability. So, NAB must be overhauled to make it capable of carrying out meaningful anti-corruption drive in Balochistan without victimizing anyone.
The Mushtaq Raisani corruption episode has generated another debate that people of Balochistan are responsible for the plight of their province. This debate is based on the assumption that people of Balochistan are looting the resources of Balochistan and hence they are responsible for the deprivation of Balochistan and not the federal government or Punjab for that matter. This assertion is only partly true and requires further and thoroughly informed debate.
Balochistan has received more than Rs 1,200 billion from the federal government since 2008. It’s obvious that either this huge amount of money has gone into pockets of the crooked politicians or bureaucrats or the amount has been spent in an ill-mannered way. It’s obvious because there has been no improvement in the living standards of people since 2008 despite pouring of Rs 1.2 trillion. So, there is no doubt that the corrupt elite of Balochistan are responsible for the plight of the province or at least in the period starting from 2008 to today.
However, there are certain other facts which can’t be ignored at the same time. Both political setups since 2008 have been controlled to some extent. In 2008 most of the parties in Balochistan, that mattered, boycotted the elections and a non-representative assembly came into existence which did not represent people of Balochistan. Similarly, it’s an open secret that 2013 election in Balochistan was massively rigged and this assembly also has certain members could not have won without rigging. So, how can people of Balochistan be entirely blamed for corruption carried out by a couple of controlled setups?
The fact of the matter is that 67 years of deprivation of Balochistan at the hands of federal government is the primary reason for the plight of the Balochistan. The current corruption episode can’t be used to exonerate federal government from its role in the plight of Balochistan. At the same time, the elite class belonging from Balochistan is also corrupt to the core and also responsible for the problems.
The way forward is a ruthless, and across the board, anti-corruption drive against all those who have looted resources of Balochistan. There is a perception that the ongoing anti-corruption drive is against just one political party and people from one ethnic background. These perceptions must be negated by cracking down against all corrupt ministers, MPAs and secretaries belonging to all sorts of background. If this anti-corruption drive is restricted to Mushtaq Raisani and only small level officers are arrested then it will be another addition in the already rich history of NAB’s failures.