What Nawaz Sharif did for Balochistan

Nawaz Sharif, the three-time Prime Minister of Pakistan, was sent packing on 28th July after a court verdict. Since his ouster there have been lengthy and thought provoking debates on the legal standings of the verdict against him. However, there is also need to debate and analyze what four years rule of elder Sharif brought for Pakistan and its fragile province – Balochistan.

After the general elections of May 2013, PML-N emerged as the largest political party in Balochistan Assembly. This is nothing to do with the popularity of the party. The political dynamics of Balochistan are such that majority of electable join the party which is expected to conquer Islamabad in general elections. Anyhow, provincial chapter of PML-N was ready to form government with support of right wing JUI-F. This did not materialize due to intervention of Nawaz Sharif in political matters of Balochistan through the infamous Murree Accord.

Just after the elections, leaders of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), a left-wing Pashtun nationalist party and National Party (NP) a left-leaning Baloch nationalist party, rushed to Murree. Based on their insistence, Nawaz Sharif over-ruled the decision of provincial chapter pf PML-N to form government with JUI-F and ordered his party men in Balochistan to form government with NP and PKMAP.

In peak season, the electricity demand in Balochistan is around 1,800 MW but the province’s electric grid can only carry 650 MW of electricity. This means that even if there is surplus electricity available in the country — Balochistan can’t get more than 650 MW

This Murree Accord was a blatant interference in the political matters of a province. This was not only undemocratic but also against the spirit of provincial autonomy. Leaders of PKMAP and NP, who are otherwise champions of provincial autonomy, accepted thisviolation because they were getting a share in government.

Furthermore, the interference of Nawaz Sharif didn’t end with Murree Accord. In fact, the process of cabinet formation in Balochistan took more than four months just because Nawaz Sharif did not approve the names of cabinet ministers. Even so, in early 2015, Nawaz Sharif again interfered in the elections of Mayor Quetta and ordered PML-N councilors to vote of candidate of PKMAP rather than PML-Ns own candidate. So, it can be said that under Nawaz Sharif Balochistan lost the gains in provincial autonomy which it had made after the passing of 18th amendment.

Likewise, Balochistan is still going a low-intensity conflict and the sense of deprivation still prevails. Last PPP government took some steps to placate people of Balochistan in the form of Aghaz e Haqooq Balochistan Package and increased share of province in NFC award. However, PML-N government under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif didn’t take any such step and completely ignored Balochistan.

Moreover, Balochistan government was supposed to get the control and ownership of the copper-gold project in Saindak after Aghaz e Haqooq Balochistan Package. PML-N government did not make any headway in this regard and this issue is still unresolved. Similarly, Balochistan government signed an unfavorable agreement to extend lease of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) in 2016, under pressure from federal government. A well-placed source present in the negotiations of Balochistan government with PPL told this scribe that Balochistan government didn’t take a strong line fearing that Nawaz Sharif will get angry.

Furthermore, the term of 7th NFC award expired on 30th June 2015 and since then incumbent government is exerting it through presidential orders, which is considered unconstitutional by experts. Balochistan is again the victim of the delay in formulation of new NFC award. The reason is that 7th NFC award uses obsolete and manipulated figures of poverty which downplays poverty in Balochistan. As a result Balochistan is losing up to Rs. 30 billion. However, PML-N government under Nawaz Sharif didn’t show any interest in new and just NFC award.

Another area where Balochistan was ignored by government of Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was electricity. Since coming into power, ending load shedding and producing the required amount of electricity has been the lead slogan of PML-N. In fact, a major chunk of CPEC projects is being used to produce electricity. Former Federal Minister for Water and Power, Khawja Asif, claims regularly about solving electricity problem. However the situation of electricity supply in Balochistan is same as it was in 2013 when PML-N assumed power.

In peak season, the electricity demand in Balochistan is around 1,800 MW but the electric grid in Balochistan can only carry 650 MW of electricity. This means that even if there is surplus electricity available in country Balochistan can’t get more than 650 MW. Unfortunately, not a single penny was spent by incumbent federal government to improve the capacity of national grid. As a result, all districts of Balochistan, except the capital Quetta, face load shedding of more than 12 hours per day.

Lastly, Nawaz Sharif could not complete his constitutionally mandated tenure which is not a good omen for democracy. The flimsy ground on which He has been dismissed are also subject to debate. However, this fact needs to be accepted that Nawaz Sharif being the democrat that he completely let down people of Balochistan. He chose the old fashioned way of rewarding opportunistic political leaders from Balochistan at the cost of larger issues of the people of Balochistan.


Writer is a freelance journalist and columnist based in Quetta, Balochistan. He is also the Founder and Editor of Balochistan Voices, a community based English-language online newspaper. He can be reached on twitter @iAdnanAamir



Published in Daily Times, August 5th 2017.