It is a famously attributed to Makhdoom Sajjad Hussain Qureshi, father of PTI’s central leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi and then governor of Punjab. Whenever someone from Multan would go to the governor house for any work and make his request, Mr. Qureshi would raise his hands in the air and say (in a Seraiki dialect)‘Allah Karesi’, meaning Allah shall do it.
Mr. Qureshi knew very well that as a governor, his role is symbolic and the source of real power was the bureaucracy. And so, he would pray to Allah to help the applicant instead of assuring him or making any promise that his work would be done.
The people of Balochistan nowadays have to face somewhat similar situation. But this happens in the chief minister house in Quetta, instead of the governor house. A well-known source says that during the tenure of former chief minister Jam Muhammad Yousuf, people would come to Quetta from farflung areas, particularly Lasbela. At the chief minister house, they would tell Mr. Yousuf about their problems. Mr. Yousuf would listen for some time and then bring out his mobile phone and start playing games. He would continue playing until the applicant was assured by his staff of his problem solved, and send him back.
The purpose of this preface is that similar to the symbolic nature of the governor in Punjab, the chief minister role in Balochistan is symbolic too. He doesn’t have much power similar to the Punjab governor. If they, then the former chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, wouldn’t have had frequently traveled Lahore and Islamabad; and Jam Yousuf (late) wouldn’t have been playing games on his mobile phones. They would have instead addressed the issues of applicants. Former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani used to often say that even Balochistan’s chief secretary wouldn’t pay heed to him, let alone the IG of FC. It is also famous among people that the actual government in Balochistan is that of the IG FC and a brigadier-level officer of a sensitive institution. These two would make arbitrary transfers of officers in the provincial administration and police, even to the SHO level.
The condition of Balochistan isn’t any different today. Before coming to power, the central leaders of National Party including Chief Minister Dr Malik and Senator Hasil Bizenjo had made many promises. However, no promises have yet been fulfilled. The series of forced disappearances of students and political activists and discovery of mutilated bodies of missing people is still continuing. Military operations are conducted in various parts of the province in the name of action. Almost all departments, including education, health, fisheries and irrigation are in bad conditions. Agreed that political governments in the province never had powers related to security matters, but no one has stopped them from improving matters related to education, health and other departments. The present provincial government can open scores of closed schools and enroll 2.3 million children if it wants to. It can also improve the condition of hospitals and provide facilities, staff and medicines.
Theoretically, Pakistan is considered to be a federal unit with four provinces; but when it comes to powers then only Punjab has them. All the other three provincial chief ministers have to frequent Islamabad or its twin city of Rawalpindi; or the circumambulation of Rawaind becomes an obligation.
A talk of the town also goes says that the country nowadays gives the view of the kingdom of ‘Sharifs’ – where General Raheel Sharif, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and company are the real powers. Whether is the NFC award, projects for other provinces, appointment of chief secretaries or transfer of IGs of police, the other provincial governments and chief ministers (of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa and Balochistan) have to rely on Rawalpindi and Lahore.
The extent of the bias is evident from the fact that even the Pak-China Economic Corridor, which links the Chinese province of Xinjiang with Gwadar via Khanjrab is being routed first through Rawalpindi and then Lahore. And the shifting of the corridor from what was originally planned to the existing routes and nepotism has raised serious objections the other three provinces, who are sarcastically called it the “development of Punjab scheme” or GT Road – Part Two. They say Punjab will get all the fruits while all the other provinces will only receive symbolic shares. So now who will ask the country’s policy makers if the only route to Gwadar is through Rawalpindi and Lahore only? Since Punjab already has a motorway and GT Road, this economic corridor should be built from Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa to Gwadar via Sindh so these three deprived provinces can enjoy economic bounties too. Areas from these provinces deprived of much needed services like road and railway should have been given priority. There is also news that those building projects, part of the economic corridor, that are in Punjab are being given priority. And it’s unfortunate that people of the area of the Gwadar port, which is the focus of this $45-billion economic corridor, might never get to benefit from its ‘fruits or might taste them much later than everybody else. As such, the apprehensions of the smaller provinces appears to be true who says Punjab will be a 90-percent beneficiary of the corridor and remaining provinces will only get 10 percent.