Pakistan Reader# 210, 22 September 2021
Inherent fault lines in Baloch politics, weak foundations of the provincial assembly, and intervention from Islamabad continue to keep political stability at bay in BalochistanD. Suba Chandran
On 14 September 2021, a group of opposition members had approached the secretary of the Balochistan provincial assembly, calling for a no-confidence motion against the chief minister. Subsequently, the Secretariat forwarded the request from the opposition members to the Governor so that the latter could convene the provincial assembly to have the motion initiated. On 19 September, the Governor’s office returned the request, refusing to allow the motion on technical grounds. The opposition has reported filing a new request, addressing the “technicalities” in the motion.
Why is the opposition angry with Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani? What is the case against him? Why did the Governor’s office refuse the request? And what does the above mean?
The curious case of Baloch provincial assembly
Though Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan, in terms of the strength of the provincial assemblies, Balochistan is the smallest. It has only 65 members; Punjab has 371, followed by Sindh (168) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (145). Unlike the Baloch provincial assembly, the other three assemblies are politically stable, with the ruling party having a majority (PTI in Punjab and KP and PPP in Sidh). In Balochistan, the government is led by a coalition led by the BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) and the PTI. The ruling coalition has only 35 seats; the opposition led by the MMA and Balochistan National Party (Mengal) has 22 seats.
The nature of the Baloch provincial assembly and the Baloch politics ensured that the former always remained weak internally. When compared with the other three provincial assemblies, the Baloch assembly has been the weakest, in terms of absence of a strong regional political party with an ethnic base, like the PML-N, PPP and ANP. If internal politics between the various Baloch politics played a role in keeping the Baloch assembly weak, constant external interventions from Islamabad and Rawalpindi made it worse.
The curious case of BAP and Jam Kamal Khan Alyani
The Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), was formed only in 2018. There was political engineering just before the elections, and the BAP was “formed” on the eve of the 2018 elections. Many suspect the role played by the Deep State, giving the political space for the BAP to form the government in Balochistan provincial assembly following the 2018 elections.
Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, the current chief minister of Balochistan, who heads the BAP alliance, comes from Lasbela, and belong to the Jam family. In the 2013 general elections, he won a seat for the National Assembly; and served as a minister in the PML-N cabinet. In 2018, he quit the PML-N, one month before the elections, became the President of the newly formed BAP, and the chief minister of Balochistan subsequently.
Jam Kamal Khan Alyani comes from an influential family but does not have the support base of a cadre-based political party, as the case of other parties in the province – the Balochistan National Party (BNP), National Party (NP) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP). While the above has been factionalized, there is still strong cadre support based on Baloch and Pashtun tribal loyalties. Some have ideological support ranging from left (there is a strong left-leaning base within the Baloch) and right (the MMA, especially the JUI-F). When compared to the above Baloch, Pashtun and religious parties, Jam Kamal Khan’s BAP remains a “King’s party” assembled just before the elections. As a result, Jam Kamal has to look at Islamabad and Rawalpindi, than his party and the cadres.
The political case against the Chief Minister
According to the opposition members in Balochistan, who want to have a no-confidence motion against the chief minister, there is bad governance in the province. Dawn, in a report, has mentioned that the opposition wants to file the motion against the chief minister for violating “Article 37 (promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils) and 38 (promotion of social and economic well-being of the people) of the Constitution and passed budgets due to which poverty, deprivation and unrest had increased in areas of Balochistan.”
The opposition has a point. Bad governance has always been an issue in Balochistan. However, the trigger for the opposition should have been what happened in June 2021, when the government presented its annual budget. Violence followed when the police used force to open the gates of the provincial assembly building. The opposition led by the BNP-M, JUI-F, and PkMAP blocked the Assembly gates, preventing the ruling party members from entering the building. In August, a sessions court in Quetta ordered the police to file an FIR against the Chief Minister regarding the June incident. Ever since, the difference between the Chief Minister and the opposition has been simmering, leading to the latest push for a no-confidence motion.
Besides the above, the opposition should have also got boldened with support from a few, including ministers belonging to the ruling coalition. The opposition does not have the required numbers on its own to pass a no-confidence motion against Jam Kamal. A section from the ruling coalition should have indicated their support to the opposition. Unfortunately, a section of the elected leaders – both for the provincial and national assemblies, from Balochistan keep their individual interests primary than that of the party. This has been intentional and even encouraged by the Deep State and by Islamabad.
In the current case, the Governor’s office has disallowed the no-confidence motion, mainly to buy time. A team from Islamabad is likely to use the time to engage in backroom politics and rework the individual equations. Despite the differences between the PPP, PML-N and the PTI, there is a convergence in Islamabad when it comes to dealing with Baloch political leadership.
The Deep State either influence the above or exploits it. Political engineering has been the norm in Balochistan.