Sunday, June 9, 2013

Balochistan conundrum: Dr Malik seeks help on ‘Everest’ challenge

By Mohammad Zafar

Published: June 10, 2013
PML-N’s provincial chief Nawab Sanaullah Zehri congratulates Dr Abdul Malik Baloch following his election as leader of the house in Balochistan Assembly. PHOTO: APP
QUETTA: Conceding that the challenges faced by Balochistan are “more imposing than Mount Everest”, the new provincial chief minister, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, has made an impassioned plea to politicians and tribal elders to help steer the province away from the brink of ruin.
“My office is a challenge for me and my administration. We have to tackle myriad problems, including enforced disappearances, targeted killings, sectarian violence, kidnapping for ransom and internally displaced Baloch people,” Dr Malik said in a policy speech on the floor of the Balochistan Assembly following his election to the slot of chief minister.
“The problems rise to the heights of Mount Everest,” he said. The chief minister, however, added that he would approach provincial politicians and tribal elders and request them to help the government resolve these problems.
Dr Malik will also seek help from religious scholars and clerics in an effort to restore peace in the province.  “We will restore peace in the provincial capital and make it the Quetta of yesteryear when we used to discuss local politics sitting on the city’s sidewalks,” he added.
Today the province is plagued by ethnic, sectarian and militant violence. A separatist insurgency has added to the volatility of the situation since the killing of Jamhoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in August 2006.
The chief minister said his administration would invite separatist groups and politicians to sit across the table to resolve the Balochistan conundrum. “If the federal government and militant organisations help the provincial administration, there will be no difficulty in finding a solution to all festering issues of the province,” he said.
Soon after his nomination by a three-party alliance in Balochistan Assembly, Dr Malik had said that he would rather step down than become a ‘toothless chief minister’. On Sunday, he reiterated that he would exercise the powers transferred to the provinces under the 18th constitutional amendment.
The chief minister announced that he would not use ‘secret funds’ which, according to him, has been abolished today. He promised austerity as part of his administration’s efforts to put an end to the VIP culture in the province.
Speaking about rampant poverty in Balochistan, Dr Malik said that people in all but one district of the province were living below the poverty line. He promised clean drinking water and better health and education facilities for all without any discrimination. He called upon all provincial lawmakers to make a pledge that they would not support any ghost teacher or doctor.
He took serious notice of the alleged sale of state land to ministers and influential people in Pasni and Gwadar at throwaway prices and said that he would take complacent officials to task. He vowed to weed out mafias in land and mineral sectors as part of his administration’s efforts to eliminate corruption in the province.
About the debilitating electricity crisis, the chief minister said that his government would try to establish 50 megawatt power plants in Loralai, Khuzdar and Washuk to overcome the power shortfall.
Earlier, all 55 members present in the house unanimously voted for Dr Malik – and Speaker Mir Jan Mohammad Jamali declared him elected unopposed. Dr Malik was the unanimous candidate of the three-party ruling alliance that comprises Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and National Party.
Interestingly, the legislators from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) also voted for Dr Malik, even though their party is not part of the ruling coalition. The PML-N’s parliamentary leader Nawab Sanaulah Zehri was the first to congratulate the new chief minister.
Later in the day, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was formally sworn in at the Governor House in Quetta. Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi administered the oath at a simple ceremony which was attended by senior bureaucrats, politicians and tribal elders.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2013.

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