Since the formation of Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) government in August 2018, Speaker Quddus Bizenjo has been at loggerheads with Chief Minister Jam Kamal. In the last 18 months, Quddus Bizenjo has made multiple attempts to dethrone CM Kamal but has not yet been successful. The last such attempt was made in January this year.
It started with a bombshell statement by Quddus Bizenjo that Kamal had failed to perform as chief minister. He hinted at de-seating the CM through an in-house change in the Balochistan Assembly. CM Kamal responded with his own criticism against the speaker. As a result, Bizenjo moved a privilege motion against CM Kamal for criticising the speaker of the assembly.
Subsequently, a meeting of BAP and its allies was held in Islamabad to deliberate over the matter. Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani said after the meeting that Kamal would continue to serve as CM of Balochistan. Bizenjo, who was also in the meeting, half-heatedly accepted the decision by elders of the ruling alliance in Balochistan. However, this will unlikely to deter him from attempting to topple Jam Kamal’s government again.
The genesis of this crisis dates back to January 2018. Back then Bizenjo had led an in-house revolt against then CM Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. Later, he went on to become chief minister of the province for five months till assemblies were dissolved for the 2018 general elections. He was an unlikely candidate for CM and got the position in the most unexpected circumstances. After the 2018 elections, he continued aspiring to become CM again and has been looking for opportunities to strike against Kamal whenever possible.
This time, however, Jam Kamal was also fully prepared with his counter moves. First he inducted Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind of PTI in the provincial cabinet as education minister. Sardar Rind is the leader of PTI in Balochistan Assembly and hence his induction in the cabinet secured support of the PTI for Jam’s government. After solidifying his government, Jam Kamal is apparently planning a coup of his own against Bizenjo. Reportedly, Kamal is planning to move a no-confidence motion against the speaker. He may succeed in removing Bizenjo from the office of speaker because he has got the numbers.
In short, the cat and mouse game between Jam and Quddus will continue for the remaining tenure of this assembly till 2023. It is yet to be seen who will be successful in out-manoeuvring the other but this will certainly fuel political uncertainty in the province. This instability will not benefit the people of Balochistan, who rely on the government to resolve their numerous woes.
Balochistan is marred by many problems, such as poverty, mass unemployment, lack of basic amenities such as water and power, and poor governance. The government of Balochistan has to be capable, attentive to these problems and determined to resolve them. However, when the government has to fight for its survival all the time it cannot deliver effectively for the people.
This is the case with Jam’s government in Balochistan. It has to spend its time countering Bizenjo’s moves and cannot perform its actual tasks.
Another issue with Jam and Bizenjo’s rivalry is that it results in a lot of undesirable compromises by the government. Since assuming office, Jam Kamal has appointed and retained some people in his cabinet who are clearly not suitable for the job. These included a former advisor on education who could not even speak proper Urdu, let alone run the Education Department. These appointees affect the quality of governance in the province and Kamal has to accept them as bitter pills to retain their support. Such arrangements will continue to remain in place because Jam’s government will continue to be under threat, thanks to speaker Bizenjo.
Jam’s government is on the defensive. It is always watching out for moves by Speaker Bizenjo and his allies. As a result, the government has become weak and it is not in a position to take strong decisions. The problems of the province require the government to take strong decisions.
The government needs to take strong decisions on local governments, education and health reforms, and creating employment in the province. These issued can be addressed by taking strong decisions, which will hurt the interests of many powerful groups. In this scenario, when Jam’s government is in survival and compromising mode, it is in no position to take any of the aforementioned tough decisions. Therefore, eventually, it will compromise and let the status quo continue.
The on-going feud between Jam and Bizenjo is also hindering development in their own districts. Lasbela and Awaran, home districts of Jam and Bizenjo respectively, are very poor. Yet no major initiative has been taken to develop both these districts since the BAP government took over in August 2019. Both of these political heavyweights should channel their energies towards sustainable development in their constituencies so that the people who voted for them can benefit from their place in the office.
Balochistan has seldom seen political stability in the last 50 years. All successive governments have been weak and unable to perform. The same is the case with the incumbent government where Jam and Bizenjo are battling for the seat of Quetta. History proves that such rivalries have done nothing good for the people of the province and only exacerbated the situation. Still, lust for power cannot be quenched and the current feud is a testament to that.
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