Smelly pudding

If PMLN cabinet member in Balochistan Sarfaraz Bugti’s move of a no-confidence motion against his own party’s chief minister and his subsequent sacking, Usman Kakar’s account of about a week ago of his PkMAP’s MPAs being threatened into voting against the then chief minister Sanaullah Zehri, and then Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi’s account of his trip to Balochistan to attempt to save the provincial government were not enough evidence of a conspiracy in Balochistan, the election of Abdul Qudus Bizenjo of the PMLQ as the Chief Minister should be proof of the pudding cooked in Balochistan.

As Abbas Nasir wrote recently, Sarfarz Bugti is long seen as a civilian spokesman of the military led security apparatus dominant in the province. PM Abbasi gave a fairly detailed account of what he saw and was told on his Balochistan trip. All of a sudden, after serving for four and a half years with the PMLN as legislators, fifteen out of twenty one rebelled and would not even meet the Prime Minister, and almost the same number were ready to vote against their own party’s chief minister; Abbasi divulged that MPA’s told him of the pressure of intelligence agencies on them, and of the Frontier Corps’ threatening and coercive presence at every venue the legislators met, including at the provincial assembly, to pressurise legislators into voting a certain way.

Whether Sanaullah Zehri’s performance was satisfactory or not is a bit of a moot point, given that his government’s tenure was almost over with barely four months left. The timing of the revolt alone suggests undemocratic shenanigans to manipulate and engineer the political canvas at the national level because of the simple fact that without the engineering, the PMLN was set to achieve a simple majority in the upcoming national senate election in March 2018. With this upset, that expected majority is now at risk. Add to this the revelations of MPAs from Balochistan and the sudden NAB cases against those who refused to participate in the revolt. It is worth a mention here that NAB Balochistan is headed by Naeem Mangi of the infamous Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Leaks case against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, earlier this year. The dossier prepared by the JIT and its resultant reputation is an open book – so no surprises that cases were instituted against certain members of the provincial assemblies.

Setting aside all of the above, the smelliest proof in the pudding is the election of Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo as Chief Minister of Balochistan after the revolt. Bizenjo has been a member of the king’s party from the start of his career, having won a provincial assembly seat for the first time in 2002 and served as minister till 2007 in General Musharraf’s government. In 2008 he got re-elected on a PML-Q ticket.

In the last general election in 2013, the gent won the provincial assembly seat having gotten a total of 544 votes in the insurgency hit Awaran constituency. Because of the insurgency and the resultant call for boycott of elections in the area by Baloch separatist leaders, the voter turnout in Awaran in 2013 was a shocking historic low of 1.18 percent. In a constituency of 57,666 registered voters, only 672 total votes were cast. The turnout was similar in many other mainly Baloch constituencies of the province.

Normally, with such low voter turnout, the Election Commission of Pakistan nullifies the result and makes arrangements for fresh polls in such constituencies. Indeed, obtaining less than about five thousand votes also normally causes the candidate to have their deposit money confiscated to discourage frivolous candidates.

But surprisingly, none of these polls were cancelled and unrepresentative persons reached the Balochistan Assembly as ‘representatives’ of their people. Now the black joke is that someone who could not obtain 600 votes in a population of over 57,000, is lording over the entire Balochistan province of over 12 million people.

To digest the scale of the robbery of representation, it is worth remembering that Balochistan’s overall voter turnout was over 49% in 2013, indicating the genuine unhappiness of the constituencies where turnout was as low as 1.18%.

If making a 500 vote puppet the chief minister of a province of 12 million people does not provide the proof in the stinky pudding, I’d be at a loss to figure out what would; this act alone lends the strongest support to Baloch nationalists’ and separatists’ stance: that the Pakistani deep state is an occupying force in Balochistan, which neither cares for their interests nor their votes.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter 

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