Balochistan's New All-Male Cabinet Paints A Dreary Photo Of The Province

Balochistan's New All-Male Cabinet Paints A Dreary Photo Of The Province
Balochistan’s new cabinet with 14 ministers and five advisers took oath on Sunday, November 7, 2021. The province’s former Chief Minister Jam Kamal was tainted by his bad performance and the members of his cabinet took a resolution of no confidence against him. But despite all the efforts for change, it seems that the only thing that altered about the cabinet was the Chief Minister. All the other faces are the same.

According to Baloch writer Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi, the majority of the 14 ministers and five advisers are Sardars and Mirs. A handful of Hajis are also in the cabinet. This has sparked a debate about why Balochistan’s cabinet is all male. The daily Dawn titled the news piece about the new cabinet as “All-men Balochistan cabinet takes oath”.

Feminists say that the all-male cabinet paints a dreary photo of Pakistan and more specifically, Balochistan. Kulsoom Baloch, an activist with the Raji Baloch Women's Forum, an organization working for women's rights, says that is a signal for women to understand that they have no space in politics. On social media, she wrote: “The reason why I said that Male Dominate Political Structure is the hurdle is that Patriachy is deep-rooted here and where Women exploitation is at peak. Political Women should realize that they need to be independent on their Women Stance. Otherwise, in Politics especially in Pakistan, we have a history of mishandling women positions by male colleagues and Political workers. There should be a debate on the reasons, and on the future of women in Politics in Balochistan. This is the Monopoly and clear intention of excluding Women in politics.”

In a similar vein, Anila Yousaf a women’s rights activist and teacher, believes that feminism touted by male leaders in Balochistan is just empty promises. On social media, she wrote, “This is what they do with women in Balochistan. And no one will support them because they don't like them. This is how limited their feminism is," Bushra Rind, the 'Baloch Sher Zal' says

Female members of Balochistan’s Assembly also called out the all-male cabinet. “Congratulations to a male cabinet," Bushra Rind, a former adviser in Jam Kamal’s cabinet, tweeted. She continued sarcastically, “Congratulations to the most dominating cabinet of Pakistan. These men only talk about women empowerment and this was the year in the whole world of women empowerment. Balochistan will flourish in this man dominating society.”

It should be noted that when disagreements first began inside the Jam cabinet, Bushra Rind was a supporter of former Chief Minister Jam Kamal. Towards the end, perhaps sensing where the majority lay, Bushra Rind along with three other women announced her support for Qudus Bizenjo. After receiving her support, Zahoor Buledi, a minister in Qudus Bizenjo group, described Bushra Rind a “Baloch Sher Zal,” which means a brave Baloch woman.

And so when Bushra Rind then spoke out against Bizenjo’s all-male cabinet, several Twitter users reminded her that she once supported Bizenjo. They shared photos of her congratulating Chief Minister Bizenjo. They said suddenly she has taken a second U-turn.

Does Men-Only Cabinet Represent Balochistan? 

The question however remains if a 19-member all-male cabinet reflects Baloch society?

Journalist Malik Siraj Akbar writes that this event has clarified Islamabad's meddling in Balochistan, rather than painting an accurate picture of Baloch society. “Imagine how the Balochistan Assembly would look if its female members could roar like the late Karima Baloch or the tireless campaigner Farzana Majeed. It is not as if Balochistan has not produced these immensely articulate female activists. It’s just that Islamabad has been able to silence and quickly replace Balochistan’s authentic female voices,” he wrote in The Baluch Hal on November 8.

On one end of the political spectrum in Balochistan are the women on reserved seats. They reflect the tribal society, where Sardars, Mirs, and religious figures loyal to Islamabad, appear in politics and assemblies. These women are only seen in reserved seats. Progressive and nationalist parties award women these meaningless titles only to fill the quota on reserve seats.

On the other end lies the general politics and ground realities of Balochistan. Baloch women play active roles in Baloch students’ politics. They are part of press clubs. They partake in protests and political activities for the recovery of Baloch Missing Persons. They are not only leading this organization, but make up the majority of the Baloch Missing Persons.

The Women Who Represent Baloch Society  

A Baloch Sardar and a sitting minister of Balochistan’s Assemnly angrily stated during the Bolan Medical protest: “What are Baloch women doing in the protest? They should stay at home.” His statement was openly condemned by everyone. During this protest Baloch women and girls were arrested, they were taken to jail, and they succeeded in passing the Bolan medical collage act.

Women who sit on the reserved seats of the Balochistan Assembly are placed there so that a formality can be completed. To include them in the cabinet, to give them ministries and to appoint them as advisers would also be a formality. Completing these formalities will not make these women independent. Balochistan will still not be appropriately represented.

For genuine representation, we need to stop bringing forth widows of party members or sisters of Sardars, Mirs. We need to stop giving reserved seats to those women who resign from other duties just before an election to be nominated for a reserve seat.

Those that deserve space in the assembly as the student activists, the human rights defenders and brave women leaders in our society. They represent the real Balochistan, and have the gall to raise their voices as loudly as the Sardars and Mirs. It is these women who will make us proud.

The author hails from Gwadar, Balochistan, and is a student of journalism.