Why the Opposition is not active in Balochistan

They can’t afford to challenge the government because their own track record is not good. If they question the ongoing corruption of the current government then it’s obvious that government would highlight corruption in their time

Bad governance and poor performance of provincial governments in Balochistan is a major cause of ongoing problems. Since 2008, the problem of bad governance has exacerbated and this has taken its toll on the people. There are several reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is the absence of a robust political and parliamentary opposition in Balochistan which can challenge the government on every issue.

During the government of infamous Nawab Aslam Raisani, from 2008 till 2013, there were two to three opposition members in an assembly of 65. During that period it was not possible for the opposition to be vocal and oppose the government. However, this is not the case with incumbent assembly, where there is a sizable number of the opposition. Still, the opposition is completely friendly when it comes to challenging the bad governance of government. The opposition only issue statements and highlight issues which serve their vested interests and they do not give tough time to the government like the way they are supposed to.

The silence of opposition has been systemically bought by the government using different means. The most effective method is that of development funds. The trend of allocating development funds to legislators started in Pakistan after 1985 elections when Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo needed to form his own party. This trend also destroyed the politics in Balochistan and money became the biggest motivating factor for the politicians.

When Nawab Aslam Raisani was the Chief Minister, he fixed annual development funds for the Members of Provincial Assembly (MPA). Every MPA got Rs. 250 million in initial years, which were increased to Rs. 350 million by the end of his government. This was a huge amount of money which was used by MPAs to not only benefit their home constituencies, but also make a huge amount for themselves in the form of commission. This made the MPAs a major beneficiary of the political government and they had no reason to question the bad governance of the Raisani regime. As a result, according to an unpublished report, over Rs. 360 billion were embezzled from the provincial exchequer during the five years when Nawab Raisani was at the helm.

When Dr. Malik Baloch came to power, he changed the formula of Nawab Raisani to give equal amount of funds to all MPAs. Under the government of Dr. Malik, every MPA was given as much development funds as he can forcibly receive from the government through lobbying and pressurizing. As a result, government MPAs got greater amount of funds as compared to opposition MPAs. Still, the opposition MPAs did not create much trouble for Dr. Malik in parliament because they were among the beneficiaries of development funds.

Secondly, in Balochistan MPAs are the all-in-all in their constituencies and treat them like their little kingdoms. They have the power and influence, given to them by the provincial government, to appoint the administrative officers of their choice. Not only the Deputy Commissioner is appointed with the consent of the MPA, but also district heads of other provincial departments. In that way, these MPAs rule the district without any accountability and also victimize their political opponents. This also applies to the opposition members, who despite being in opposition have full control over their constituencies and thus they have no interest in carrying out active opposition.

Moreover, those parties who are in opposition today, have been in government at some point in time. During their time in government they have also been part of bad governance and indulged in mega corruption. This applies to all those who were part of Nawab Raisani government and are now in opposition. They can’t afford to challenge the government because their own track record is not good. If they question the ongoing corruption of the current government then it’s obvious that government would highlight corruption in their time. Hence, they prefer to remain silent and look forward to getting in power in the next government.

There is another reason for the inactiveness of the opposition in Balochistan and it’s that they are not interested in public issues. Bad governance and corruption of government affects the public and not the members of opposition who are part of the elite. They do not care if the public suffers due to the wrong decisions of the government. They prefer to let the things remain the way they are if the government does not disturb them in anyway. The disregard, on the part of opposition members, for common public automatically translates in a friendly opposition for any government.

Due to the absence of an effective opposition, the government gets a clean chit for bad governance. It does not feel bound in any way to perform better and serve the people. In the absence of political opposition, media then becomes the main opposition, as one can see in case of federal government of Pakistan. Unluckily, in case of Balochistan electronic media is not interested in opposing bad governance of the provincial government. Print media of Balochistan is dependent upon the government for their advertisement revenue and thus it also can’t be an effective opposition.

In that context, the only hope for the people of Balochistan is civil society, online media and social media. Independent members of civil society are in no way influenced by government and thus they are opposing its bad governance. The same thing applies to social media and online journalism that question the governance of the government and have proved to be an alternative opposition.

Adnan Aamir is Editor of Balochistan Voices; Balochistan’s premier English-Language online newspaper. He is also a freelance journalist contributing for national newspapers. He can be reached at Adnan.Aamir@Live.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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