July issue 2018

By | Cover Story | Published 1 year ago

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, addressing a public meeting.

The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), a Pakhtun nationalist force in Balochistan, rose to power in 2013, after forging an alliance with the Baloch nationalist National Party (NP). Its four-and-a half years in office lasted till January 2018, when a no-confidence vote brought down the coalition government.

Both the ANP and the PMAP are offshoots of the National Awami Party (NAP), a broad-based left-leaning party of the 1960s and ’70s, with leadership and support across Pakistan, including former East Pakistan. The NAP couldn’t survive the political turmoil of the 1970s, the hostility of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-led PPP government and the military operation in Balochistan, breaking up into many factions. 

The PMAP leadership parted ways with the NAP and its head, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, when differences emerged after the dissolution of the One Unit. At the time, the Pakhtun districts of Balochistan were joined to the former princely states to constitute Balochistan province. Khan Abdus Samad Khan, also known as Khan Shaheed, and other Pakhtun nationalists from those parts termed the move a denial of their identity and an act of betrayal by Wali Khan. Samad Khan parted ways with NAP and formed his own party to contest elections in the 1970s. That breakaway faction became the present PMAP in later years. Samad Khan Shaheed’s son, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, is the party head at present.

The historical assertion of a separate identity in Balochistan province still dominates party rhetoric. When Achakzai came out of political hibernation in 2012, after boycotting the 2008 general elections, to address a huge public meeting in Quetta, he demanded equal rights in the province and a share in the resources, or the formation of a separate province comprising the Pakhtun districts of the province.

After rising to power following the 2013 general elections, the party that had engaged in the politics of agitation for decades, seemed to have very little understanding of how to form or run a government. It was faced with internal differences and rivals indulged in mudslinging when it came to assigning political offices. Sceptical of everyone, Achakzai gave the office of the governor to his elder brother, a former bureaucrat, Muhammad Khan Achakzai, and the lucrative Planning & Development Ministry to his younger brother, Dr Hamid Khan Achakzai. 

There is a mixed response to the PMAP’s performance in the four-and-a half years of the coalition government. Party enthusiasts term it satisfactory, and say it could have done better if it had not faced organisational issues and internal rifts. A student of Development Studies and a resident of Quetta says, “In the PMAP government, family connections, nepotism and personal favourites were given preference, over loyalty to the party.”

The party is structured more like a left-leaning organisation than a democratic force, thanks to the influence of ideologues like the late Abdul Rahim Mandokhail and his predecessors; it has always been at the forefront of speaking up on issues of constitutional rights, federalism, rights of nationalities and relationships with neighbouring countries, especially Afghanistan. But apart from political rhetoric, it has accorded little space for internal criticism and evaluation of its own performance as part of the government. And much time was wasted in squabbles for personal gain. 

A development professional says that while the education sector has witnessed some improvement, borne out by the annual report of Alif Ailaan, it was actually the coalition partners that did good work in Baloch territories. University campuses were established in Turbat and Loralai, the former a Baloch district and the latter Pakhtun territory, and he says that classes commenced in Turbat University even before the building was completed, and it already has more than 2,000 students. Meanwhile, the Loralai University has just a couple of hundred students enrolled as disputes continue after jobs.

Another observer adds, “The PMAP should be grateful to their Baloch counterparts whose performance was a saving grace for them in their term of office.”

Ali Arqam main domain is Karachi: Its politics, security and law and order