Sunday, November 20, 2011
QUETTA: As Balochistan continues to face multiple challenges of disturbed borders, the ever increasing crime, smuggling, religious extremism and a virtual insurgency, the buck stops at one remedy which should be more essential than others — governance.
And it is on this count that Balochistan dithers the most. In the absence of any debate as to how this troubled province should be run, it’s a colossal administrative mess. Bureaucrats have got back the colonial powers through the revival of the Commissionerate system. The tier of local bodies has been wiped off and is not likely to be revived in near future.
A big portion of legislature dominated by tribal Sardars is happy to pocket their share of development money sleaze though mostly self-appointed commissioners and their deputies. Police high-ups sulk as their wings have been clipped by the new Police Act of 2011 and their power reduced to just five per cent of urban Balochistan.
Police has nominal power even in the five per cent jurisdiction as every politician wants to have a free will in his area through his chosen officer. Four Inspectors Generals (IGs) have been changed in the last three years — one of them leaving on holiday but never to return — and it is yet to be seen how long the fifth one will survive.
The biggest issue is that the British system of levies to run the province through local tribes has been revived again. Much more is at stake here than the reversal of over 40-year progression of turning the archaic tribal structures into a modern police system — ironically initiated by the mentor of the PPP government, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Bhutto envisaged a phased transformation of 99 percent of ‘B’ area into a regular police and judicial jurisdiction in a phased manner. He could accomplish only four per cent conversion in his tenure.
While the Pashtun nationalists, backed by other political forces, are fighting to end the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Baloch nationalists dominated here by Sardars are either quiet or party to the reversal here.
This also means the wastage of over Rs10 billion spent on the merger of police with levies announced by former President Pervaiz Musharraf. The reversal has left a chaotic situation. The old system is gone and the new system is yet to form. All those vehicles and infrastructure created to convert the levies into police are deteriorating fast. The future of the levies merged and promoted in police is not clear.
The bureaucrats and Sardars behind the move are having a field day. Many more billions will be spent and made when the new structures and resources will be created at the ruins of the older one.
In each of the 30 Balochistan districts, 60 to 100 levies will be employed in the first phase. This goes without saying that in most cases the servants and private guards will be hired. Basically, the government will pay for a private force of servants of the elected lot dominated by Sardars. A more dangerous concern is that some of the newly hired may also have criminal background since there will be little verification of the political appointments.
A retired Balochistan IG who did not wish to be named said the levies have developed an increasing nexus with criminals. “They simply are not useful in this day and age as they do not have training to investigate or have procedures for hiring or promotions, he remarked.
The primary beneficiary of this reversal will be the dying breed of Sardars as this is the only way they can perpetuate. They take their cut from their salaries and control the area through them. This makes them the law, jury and judge — all put into one. In the areas where Sardari system is strong, the Sardars decide even the murder cases.
Most people feared that it will lead to not just more crime in Balochistan but will also have an impact on other provinces. “It will become a haven for car thieves from Karachi and Punjab,” said PML-N leader Rauf Khan Sasoli.
Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai admitted that this is the first time that the crime in ‘B’ area has increased from that of ‘A’ area. This may not be true as most crimes are not filed by the levies.
“The levies are supposed to file FIR of only those people approved by the local influential or their Sardar,” said the former IG, adding,” anybody who dares to file an FIR is hounded and fined.”
Among the proponents of the levies, some have a definite vested interest. The more levy’s check posts means more money from the smuggling of oil, goods and arms worth billions of rupees. Already, the home department is vying to have the control over the transfer and posting of police officials instead of the IG.
Others have a romantic notion of the good old days when life was simpler, politicians cleaner and bureaucrats abler than today. A levy jawan could jail a person in a circle drawn on ground, which was considered as prison. But then those were different times. Balochistan did not have a war across its borders; Afghan refugees and Taliban had not set in; the Baloch insurgents and criminals were not well-equipped with arms; sectarian violence was non-existent; Balochistan was not the theatre of proxy wars as it is today.
In sum, the stakes were quite small in those days. For instance, the height of ambition for one of the biggest Nawabs of his times, Ghous Bux Raisani for his son who was also his heir and future Nawab of Sarawan, was to get him appointed as Deputy Superintendent of Police — a mere DSP. That he is now chief minister of Balochistan should not make him forget the utility of his former service.