Friday, November 2, 2012

Daily Timews editorial Nov 3, 2012

Raisani in trouble A state of suspended animation and constitutional deadlock has gripped Balochistan’s government. At the centre of the storm is Chief Minister (CM) Nawab Aslam Raisani. The ‘suspended animation’ flows from the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) October 12, 2012 interim order, in which the SC held that the Raisani-led Balochistan government had failed to run the province according to the constitution. Whereas a defiant Raisani told a press conference in Islamabad that he would appear before the SC and defend the record of his government, the hearing on Friday failed to move the impasse out of the dead end it has landed in. The hearing was postponed amidst reports that Raisani had decided to move a review petition against the SC’s October 12 order. Be that as it may, while still reeling from the apex court’s pronouncement, Raisani has now been assailed from an unexpected source. His own party, the PPP in Balochistan, has found a voice of dissent in the provincial chief Sadiq Umrani, who has suspended the party membership of the CM for three months. In addition, the speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, Aslam Bhootani, has refused to call a session of the assembly in Gwadar on November 9-10, as requested by the CM. The Speaker is of the view that after the SC’s order, summoning a session of the assembly on the CM’s request would be tantamount to contempt of court. He has asked the Governor to ascertain from the SC the legal/constitutional status of the Raisani government. This stance of the Speaker has given rise to a constitutional deadlock in the province. Raisani has tried hard to refute his critics and defend his government’s record, but the sceptics outweigh by miles those who may still be inclined to support the ‘absent’ CM, who has spent most of the last five years in Islamabad rather than in his troubled province. Sadiq Umrani has accused the CM of all sorts of violations of party policies. Despite he says, notices being sent to Raisani, he had failed to mend his ways. Umrani even went so far as to accuse Raisani of being involved in doctors’ kidnappings for ransom in Balochistan. Currently, the whole public health sector in the province has shut down after the doctors’ community went on strike in protest against the latest incident of the kidnapping of a senior doctor who has yet to be recovered. Umrani has asked the party’s high command to dismiss the Raisani government, given that the CM is damaging the image of the PPP in the province and in the country. To add to his woes, Raisani’s boast in his press conference that his coalition allies would accompany him to the SC had cold water poured over it when the ANP indicated its minister would not accompany the CM to the apex court hearing. Clearly, with this distancing from the embattled CM by the ANP, the ‘coalition’ shows signs of crumbling from within. (It needs saying that this coalition had all but one opposition member of the assembly, who has just been arrested on the orders of the SC, as either ministers or advisers or parliamentary committee heads, i.e. in positions to make hay while the sun shines without a care for the situation of the province.) Reports say the PPP is contemplating either an in-house change or the imposition of governor’s rule in the province. The former option is preferred, given that it may only be a few months until the general elections. However, whatever change of face is implemented through either an in-house manoeuvre or governor’s rule, it will make little or no difference to the ground situation in the insurgency-wracked province. The reason, which has been reiterated constantly in this space, is that the provincial government installed in 2008 has never been more than a government in name only. The real ‘rulers’ in Balochistan are the military, its intelligence arms, and the paramilitary Frontier Corps. Since this reality is unlikely to yield to either the SC’s repeated strictures in the missing persons and law and order cases of the province, or any hidden desire (so far conspicuous by its absence) on the part of the federal government or PPP high command to seriously tackle the problem of Balochistan, Raisani’s seemingly inevitable removal will not change things in the province one jot.

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