Mengal’s complaints raise questions about governor, CM’s performance

Parting of ways is a blow delivered at a wrong time

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:05 PM, 18 Jun, 2020
Mengal’s complaints raise questions about governor, CM’s performance

BNP-Mengal chief Akhtar Mengal’s announcement in the National Assembly on Wednesday to part ways with the PTI after about two years of alliance raises many a question about the rationality of the decision, its timing, likely consequences and people responsible for the situation.

The decision came only a day after a PTI delegation headed by Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar on the instructions of the prime minister met the leaders of the BNP-M.

Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri and MNA Muhammad Jamali also represented the ruling PTI.

While Akhtar Mengal, BNP-M Secretary General Dr Jahanzaib Jamaldini, Central Secretary Information and MNA Agha Hassan Baloch and Hashim Notezai represented their party.

When the two parties had become allies after the 2018 elections, they had signed a six-point agreement for the recovery of missing persons, implementation of National Action Plan, observance of six percent quota for Balochistan in federal government departments, immediate repatriation of Afghan refugees and construction of dams in the province to resolve the acute water crisis.

The agreements had been signed by important PTI leaders, including its vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former secretary general Jehangir Tareen, Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind and Dr Arif Alvi, now the country’s president.

In his speech before the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, the BNP-M chief said none of the points in the agreements was illegal or unconstitutional. He said they had simply demanded that the missing persons be recovered and the NAP be implemented in letter and spirit. Through the other agreement, he said, they had demanded allocations for various development projects for Balochistan.

“If our demands are illegal and unconstitutional, then we are ready to face even death. But then all those who had put their signatures on these accords should also face the same,” he argued.

At the end of his speech, the BNP-M chief presented two “separate lists of missing persons” before the National Assembly for making them part of the official record.

Mr Mengal alleged that law and order situation in Balochistan had worsened and “death squads have been reactivated there”.

Going into the history, he said in the past all agreements that had been reached with various Baloch leaders were violated and some of the leaders were arrested or killed through deception. He said the people of Balochistan were not “slaves”.

The BNP chief alleged that the government was more concerned about Kashmir and peace process in Afghanistan, but had no time to look into the Balochistan issues.

“Why a Balochistan peace conference could not be convened similar to the conference held for the Afghanistan peace process?” he asked.

“You [the government] are constituting committees on Kashmir which is not with us, but you are not worried about losing what you already have,” he said.

“This house can discuss issues of wheat, sugar and tomatoes, but not the blood of the Baloch people.”

Mr Mengal also took the government to task over “cutting” provincial shares from the National Finance Commission Award, and said the allocations made in the budget for projects in Balochistan showed the government’s (non)seriousness.

Although the BNP-Mengal’s “goodbye” decision will not immediately lead to the fall of the PTI government, that has the support of only 180 legislators in a house of 372 members it will certainly divert attention from other important national issues. It may also give a temptation to the opposition parties to win the support of some other parties to be able to oust the Imran government.

Also, the possibility of the smaller coalition allies’ making new demands to exploit the vulnerability of the PTI government cannot be ruled out.

No doubt political parties have the right to take their decisions to safeguard their interests, but this one coming from the BNP-M appears like a blow delivered at a wrong time.

There is no justification for the Baloch leader to raise a finger at the initiatives being taken by the government with regard to Kashmir and Afghanistan to highlight the grievances of his province.

He must bear in mind that being the head of only a tiny party, he has no right to speak in the tone he did on Wednesday.

Although as MNA he can speak about the problems facing Balochistan, the chief minister and governor of Balochistan are more competent authorities to discuss the provincial problems with federal government.

It is just not thinkable that the constitutional head and the chief executive of Balochistan are unaware of the issues raised by Mr Mengal, who himself is a former chief minister and is the son of a former chief minister.

The international situation demands that Pakistan should have a very strong and stable government in Islamabad. An unstable government will not be able to take right decisions to meet the requirements of a situation.

The BNP-M decision will only destabilise the government, although it will stay in power as long as long it enjoys the backing of powers that be.

Let's see what turn the situation takes in the weeks ahead.