July Issue 2013

By | Cover Story | Published 11 years ago

What are your plans for Balochistan?
The law and order situation is in bad shape and needs to be improved. Additionally, education has gone to the dogs and the health sector is in a similar position.

I have prioritised a list of concerns. This includes recovering dead bodies, missing persons and those abducted for ransom; stopping targeted killings and improving the state of education, health and agriculture.

To bring about improvement in law and order, the police and the Levies forces need complete restructuring. We have decided to set up two directorates for the Levies force, one in Quetta and the other in Khuzdar for training purposes, and additionally a police college for the Balochistan constabulary. We are also trying to develop human resources, improve the state of agriculture,
livestock, fisheries and small industries, and initiate border trade with both Afghanistan and Iran.

Also, we will take some harsh steps in order to ensure good governance and will appoint suitable persons to appropriate positions in the administration. We will try our best not to compromise on law and order and public safety.

After the bitter experience of the past five years, people have great expectations of you, particularly regarding the issue of missing persons and the dumping of the dead bodies of abducted persons.
It is a very complex problem and not so easy that it can be resolved overnight. We have asked the PML-N to arrange a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the issue in detail and find a durable solution for it in a peaceful manner. Unless and until all stakeholders are on the same page, this complicated problem cannot be resolved. However, we are trying our best to manage it.

How much time is needed to tackle these issues?

We have been busy with the budget for 2013-14 and the budget’s assembly sessions during the entire month of June and now we expect some initiatives to be taken by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and his government. However, as I said, we are sincerely trying our best to work out these issues. God alone knows what the outcome of our efforts will be.

You must be under tremendous pressure from the Baloch population and the political parties due to the frequent recovery of bullet-riddled bodies.

Yes, we are. We think it is a conspiracy from both sides [the Baloch militants as well as the intelligence agencies] against our government. We need support from all political parties, particularly the Baloch parties, the civil society and the insurgents. No doubt the pressure on us is building up due to the recovery of such bodies and the missing persons’ issue. The killing of missing persons should be stopped first, only then will the National Party government be able to build pressure on the insurgents to stop their actions.

Have you received any cooperation from the federal government or PML-N in resolving these issues?
Of course. We found the PML-N leaders to be very cooperative, even before the formation of the Balochistan coalition government. Mian Nawaz Sharif assured us that he would pursue all measures to help with this difficult task.

Are you hopeful about solving these problems?

I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist; rather I am a realist. It is premature to say anything in this regard. One should hope for the best not for the worst.
It is the first time that a common man has been the made chief minister of Balochistan. Do you feel any pressure from the tribal elders within or outside the assembly?

“No doubt the pressure on us is building up due to the recovery of bodies and the missing persons’ issue. The killing of missing persons should be stopped first, only then will the National Party government be able to build pressure on the insurgents to stop their actions.”

Not really, but of course the tribal set-up does create hurdles in the way of development, progress and law and order.

Some politicians are concerned that a massive military operation is being planned in the wake of the failure of your government to negotiate with Baloch separatists, who have already announced a one-point agenda for negotiations: liberation.

It is really a very difficult and important task. We will do our best to convince the Baloch militants to come to the table. [ If we manage to persuade them] it will be a big victory on our part. In case we fail, before we take any decision in this regard, we will seek guidance from the central committee of our party, besides consulting with politicians, the media and civil society.
Why was there so much delay in the formation of the cabinet, then its expansion and then allotment of portfolios to the ministers?
[Lightheartedly] It was part of our strategy.

Will you continue the controversial policy of the previous chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani’s government of placing the entire Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) at the discretion of MPAs, under which each assembly member was entitled to spend Rs 350 million a year for development activities, without any accountability whatsoever?

On the very first day, I announced that I would surrender my secret fund, which is the biggest means of indulging in corrupt practices. There were 250 employees working with, or attached to, the chief minister’s secretariat. I decided to send back 50% of them to their parent departments. The daily expenditure of the chief minister’s secretariat has been slashed down sharply from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 7000 only. The issue of the development schemes being run by MPAs will also be looked into and decided accordingly.

The writer is a journalist based in Quetta and is President of Quetta Press Club (QPC).