December issue 2018

By | Newsbeat National | Published 6 months ago

Political pawns: Abdul Quddus Bizenjo (centre) and Jam Kamal (right).

On November 18, social media was abuzz with the news of the resignation of Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, the Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly. The news was soon picked up by TV channels and Bizenjo announced that he would tender his resignation in the next few days. This was the second time in the last three months that Bizenjo has threatened to resign on the grounds that he is excluded from the decision-making process by President of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Chief Minister (CM), Jam Kamal. Apparently, Bizenjo is the biggest threat to the Jam government in Balochistan.

Ever since Jam Kamal took oath as CM, on August 19, the Balochistan government has been unstable. From the outset, it has faced the threat of a non-confidence motion. The disgruntled elements within the ruling BAP and the 24-member opposition have created a scenario where a no-confidence motion can be filed anytime against the provincial government. It is believed that Bizenjo will lead the rebellion against Jam Kamal. A glance at the province’s recent past indicates that there may be some truth in this assertion.

In December 2017, Bizenjo tabled a no-confidence motion against then CM, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. Initially, it was thought that Quddus might be a lone wolf in that initiative, but with the passage of time, other members of PML-N joined him. Zehri resigned to avoid being toppled through the non-confidence motion as Bizenjo had managed to muster the support of the required number of MPAs. After Zehri’s resignation, Bizenjo was elected CM and remained in the post until the dissolution of the Balochistan Assembly, prior to the 2018 general election. Before vacating office, he ensured that his close friend, Allauddin Marri, was appointed caretaker CM.

Moreover, Quddus Bizenjo won the election from PB-44 (Awaran), under controversial circumstances. His opponents alleged that the state machinery was in full swing to ensure Quddus’ election in the constituency. 

The BAP emerged as the leading party after the elections. The standard procedure is that the party first selects the CM and then the speaker and deputy speaker. In this case however, Bizenjo was nominated Speaker by the BAP so that he would allow Jam Kamal to form a government. But even after becoming speaker, Quddus remains the main threat for the Jam government.

There are many reasons as to why there is an increasing likelihood of a no-confidence motion being brought against the provincial government. The first is that Bizenjo is not content with being Speaker and wants more power. He has been a major power-broker since December 2017 and does not want to remain confined to the chamber of the speaker. He wants to assert his influence and that poses a threat to the government. 

Additionally, Bizenjo has been unhappy with CM Jam’s recent decisions, such as the appointment of Ramen Mohammed Hassani as a Special Assistant. Ramen, a young graduate of the National Defence University, belongs to a family that has been a political rival of the Bizenjos. Ramen’s appointment has been perceived by Bizenjo as a threat to his own political survival. He wants to pressure the government to reverse the appointment. 

The way in which the BAP was established almost overnight in March this year, is partly responsible for the continuing political turbulence in Balochistan. All the electable candidates joined the BAP, reducing it to a coalition of opportunists, all of whom wanted power. Due to the limit placed by the 18th Amendment on the number of members in the provincial cabinet, Jam could not reward all members of the BAP. As a result, there are many disgruntled MPAs who have decided to side with Quddus in the hope of becoming ministers should the government be toppled.

Rasheed Baloch, a Quetta-based journalist who covers politics and hails from Quddus’s hometown of Awaran, is of the view that Bizenjo will make every possible attempt to oust the current provincial setup. “If the numbers are complete, then Quddus will topple the government and if not, then he will seek maximum benefits from Jam,” Baloch told Newsline. He said that opposition members in the Balochistan Assembly will also support the no-confidence motion if tabled by Quddus. “However, Quddus will not resign from the position of speaker and will try to influence the CM’s office, using his clout in the BAP,” he claims. 

Interestingly, there is no shortage of aspirants to the post of CM in the BAP, which poses a potential threat to the Jam government. Jam was accepted as a CM candidate half-heartedly by everyone in the BAP and attempts are underway to get rid of him. Political pundits believe that contenders for the next CM include Jan Jamali of Jaffarabad, Saleh Bhootani of Lasbela, Tariq Magsi of Jhal Magsi and, last but not least, Bizenjo himself. With four aspirants to the throne of CM, it is no surprise that threats of a no-confidence motion will loom.

Another cause of concern to the government is that the provincial leadership of the PTI is excluded from power in Balochistan. Although PTI is a coalition partner of the BAP, its provincial president, Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind was denied the portfolio of his choice by Jam Kamal. As a result, Rind is also unhappy with Jam and is susceptible to supporting any move to oust him.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, a senior analyst based in Quetta, believes that the Jam government will survive as long as those who brought him to power support him. “If Jam’s patrons [the establishment] withdraw their support, then his government will collapse like a house of cards,” says Zulfiqar. Commenting on the possible resignation of Bizenjo, he says that these are just pressure tactics to force him to do what Quddus wants. “I don’t think Quddus will resign anytime soon,” he says.

At the time of filing this report, Quddus Bizenjo had not resigned. Bushra Rind, the spokesperson of the BAP, told the media that her party has not received Bizenjo’s resignation. Nevertheless, uncertainty continues to loom as Quddus has refused to meet those members of the BAP who support Jam. He is telling journalists that he will announce his resignation soon, in a press conference. 

The biggest disadvantage of this political uncertainty is that the provincial government is failing to deliver on the promises made to the public. Instead, it is focusing its energies on its survival. The solution to Balochistan’s looming problems are being given short shrift. With the BAP MPAs
endless palace intrigues to gain power, the so-called Naya (new) Balochistan has failed to materialise, so far.