There is something eerily familiar about what is happening in Balochistan. That is why fears of some old-timers, that Jam Kamal could’ve been the first brick to fall out of the wall that is holding up the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) government at the centre, might not be completely without merit. BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) was cobbled together practically overnight, after all, and all the official spin only reinforced the belief that it was done to give the new, establishment-friendly, government a valuable foothold in the south. That is why not too many people were surprised to see the smile on Kamal’s face as his job profile changed from state minister in the previous PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) government to Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan in the new setup.
But then, as time passed, what has almost always happened started happening again. Strains in BAP and hence the diverse interests and conflicts within the provincial setup started spilling out into the open and there were complaints, as always, that the CM was not very hands-on, that he could control nothing from terrorism to prices, and that no one lent an ear to genuine concerns of cabinet members, etc. And now that he’s chosen to fall on his sword, faced with the or-else option, the theory that something happens in the third or fourth year of any given democratic dispensation in this country, and it usually starts in Balochistan and snowballs all the way to the capital and usually doesn’t end very well for the incumbent government, is gaining currency in the local press; with good reason.
Such things are only to be expected when such an unnatural alliance is given the task of running an important province at short notice and in difficult circumstances. And, as if right on cue, no sooner had the federal government felt the heat, the provincial coalition partners began to strain at the leash, so to speak, with Balochistan increasingly being seen as the first to crack under the pressure. Now, even though Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak are on the scene to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts, the provincial cabinet still stands dissolved. And it remains to be seen how well all the king’s men can put it back together again.
There’s more. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has found fresh wind for its sails and has upped its game; this time finally taking to the streets after threatening to do just that for the longest time. And, let’s not forget, there’s also the completely needless confrontation with the establishment over the matter of senior and sensitive transfers and postings in the army. Like too many Pakistani heads of state before him, Prime Minister Imran Khan also seems to have the twin qualities of hubris and a Napoleonic failing of opening too many fronts at the same time. And now that his administration must face the fallout rushed policies for short-term gains, it’s having a hard time finding a fitting narrative. Yet it will have to answer to people who voted for it but never got to see the economic and social revolutions, affordable housing and food, or even the kind of respect promised to them.
If things don’t change very quickly for the ruling party, it will have to wriggle very well to avoid the axe at the next election. Perhaps there is more weight in the theory about Jam Kamal and the domino effect than most people, especially those in government, would like to admit.