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Karachi literature festival:Speakers discuss three structural issues of Balochistan

KarachiZia Ur RehmanMarch 02, 2020
Discussing the three structural issues that Balochistan faces, policy development expert Rafiullah Kakar said on Sunday that Pakistan’s current federal design and its majoritarian structure do...

Discussing the three structural issues that Balochistan faces, policy development expert Rafiullah Kakar said on Sunday that Pakistan’s current federal design and its majoritarian structure do not offer an incentive for the country’s major political parties to invest in the province.

He added that this is the reason that political parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party, which want to rule Islamabad, have no proper organisational structure in the province.

He was addressing a session titled ‘Balochistan: Engaging the Twain’ during the Karachi Literature Festival. Hafeez Jamali, a scholar and civil servant, moderated the session.

Kakar said that the second structural issue is the internal fragmentation in the province mainly because of the Baloch-Pashtun ethnic divide and tribalism in some parts of the province. He said that the biggest constraint in the development of Balochistan is coalition politics.

“The first factor behind it is ethnic divide, and unfortunately, there is not a single political party in Balochistan that enjoys its support base among all ethnicities living in the province,” he added. He also said the chief minister of Balochistan always works in a difficult situation because of the coalition partners and the ethnic divide.

“The chief minister of Balochistan is elected with the support of five of the six political groups having two to five provincial assembly seats, and because of it, the head of every coalition group behaves like a chief minister. Unlike Sindh or Punjab, five or six chief ministers work simultaneously in Balochistan.”

He said that from the allocation of funds to installing a water supply system and from the recruitment of a peon to that of grade-17 officers, every decision has to be taken through the ethnic lens.

According to Kakar, the third and main issue is that in Balochistan there is a system of military-led authoritarianism, which, unfortunately, is the power that is calling the shots in every successive government, whether they are democratic or military.

“Because the military’s viewpoint on Balochistan is narrow and based on the suspicion that the residents of the province should not be trusted to rule the province, there will inevitably be problems there.”

He said that Balochistan’s own political parties had always struggled for democracy in Pakistan, and it is because democracy is the only way for the province to tie itself with the federation.

In response to a question, he pointed out that half of the province is not ruled by the Sardari system, as is popularly claimed. Except for three Sardars — the late Khair Bakhsh Marri, the late Akbar Bugti and Ataullah Mengal — the vast majority of the tribal chieftains who do rule have been installed and are supported by the state.

“The state should be asked why they are supporting them.”


Eminent economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, who was also the adviser to former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, pointed out the lack of effective decision-making power given to the representatives from the province.

“If you treat a province as if it is redundant, how do you expect them to be willing members of your federation?” He also stressed giving budgetary powers to the Senate, where there’s equal representation of provinces.

He said that one of the issues with Balochistan is the appointment of federal officers answerable to the federal government on higher posts in the province and half of the secretaries in Balochistan are outside the province. “Because of the quota in government jobs, Balochistan has few officers that cannot be appointed in other provinces.”


Yasmin Lehri, who is affiliated with the National Party and is a former MPA, claimed that the trust of Balochistan’s residents has been violated repeatedly.

“Before coming into power in the Centre, every political party offers an apology to Balochistan for the atrocities and injustices committed in the province in the past, but later, they completely forget it.”

She stressed that the issue of Balochistan was of a political nature and, therefore, it should be resolved politically instead of using power. Syed Khawar Mehdi, an analyst associated with the Commonwealth Karachi think tank, also spoke on the occasion.

BM Kutty

In another session titled ‘BM Kutty: Life And Struggle’, the speakers paid tributes to noted trade unionist, political activist and author Biyyothil Mohyuddin Kutty, popularly known as BM Kutty, who passed away this past August in Karachi.

The speakers included former chief minister and National Party Central President Abdul Malik Baloch, Awami Workers Party central leader Yousaf Masti Khan, former director of the University of Karachi’s Pakistan Study Centre Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali. Veteran journalist Mujahid Barelvi moderated the session.

They paid rich tributes to Kutty for his services to Pakistan and particularly to Balochistan, saying that the veteran leftist legend had made as many contributions to Baloch politics as any Baloch leader.


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