On June 26, Mastung Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mehboob Ahmed took an unprecedented step. He cancelled domiciles of 400 people who had obtained jobs in the federal government departments on Balochistan’s quota. This is the first decision of its kind and received a lot of appreciation on social media.
This story dates back to March 2019, when the office of Governor Balochistan sent lists of people employed in the federal government against Balochistan’s quota to all DCs of the province. The DCs were asked to verify the authenticity of the domicile certificates issued to the employees. Ahmed received a list of 744 employees who had Mastung domiciles and acquired federal government jobs on Balochistan’s quota. He issued four newspaper notices, one after the other, asking these employees to visit his office and prove the authenticity of their documents. After waiting more than a year, only 344 out of 744 employees came for verification. Eventually, DC Mastung cancelled the domiciles of the remaining 400 employees who did not show up for verification.
There are a few thousand employees in the federal government on Balochistan’s quota. If 400 of them from a small district like Mastung are not bona fide residents of the province, then it hints towards the scale of the problem across Balochistan. The figure of 400 domiciles cancelled from Mastung alone is just a tip of the iceberg because there are 33 districts in total in Balochistan.
The government must also outline clear rules for issuing domiciles to avoid problems in the future
The problem of fake domiciles is very old in Balochistan. In the past bureaucrats from other provinces posted in Balochistan as DCs issued domiciles to their relatives at their will. As a result, thousands of people residing in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have domiciles of Balochistan, issued to them due to the privileged exercised by their influential relatives. Likewise, some tribal elders in Balochistan also helped people from outside of Balochistan to get domiciles in return for monetary or benefits in kind.
Holders of these bogus domiciles used these documents to apply for jobs and scholarships on the Balochistan quota. It is easier for them to get a job on Balochistan’s quota as opposed to the Punjab, for instance. While these people enjoyed privileges of federal government jobs or foreign scholarships, the underprivileged youth in Balochistan was trying unsuccessfully to earn the same privileges.
This problem had existed for decades but awareness around it started developing in Balochistan over the last five years. Largely spurred by social media, civil society in Balochistan began actively raising their voices against this injustice in the last few years. Following the lead of civil society, National Party Senator Kabir Muhammad Shahi raised this issue in Senate. Upon his demand, the federal government began probing the matter. Recently, a group of youngsters in Balochistan started a social media campaign #BalochistanRejectsBogusDomiciles to put pressure on the administration to take action against fake domiciles. The action taken by DC Mastung is the fruit of such campaigns.
Moreover, due to the on-going pressure built by the civil society and political parties, Prime Minister Imran Khan also took notice of this matter. His office wrote a letter last week to federal government departments to ensure that a six percent job quota for Balochistan is strictly observed in all government departments. This step of the PM was commended by the civil society of Balochistan. But it will not bear fruit until all fake domiciles are cancelled.
All DCs of Balochistan should follow in the footsteps of DC Mastung and expedite the process of domicile verification. It should not take them more than a month to complete this process because it started in March 2019. Once all the DCs release details about cancelled domiciles then it will provide a better picture of magnitude of this problem. The civil society of Balochistan is eagerly waiting for the conclusion of the verification process. Hence, the government should also deal with it on a priority basis, unlike the usual government response of long delays.
The government must also outline clear rules for issuing domiciles to avoid problems in the future. It needs to digitize the entire database and the process of issuance of domicile certificates. Currently, some districts have digitized the issuance of domicile certificates but not the databases. The provincial government under Jam Kamal is expected to allocate resources for this purpose and ensure that all districts digitize their domicile records on a priority basis.
With the cancellation of 400 domiciles by DC Mastung and other districts following suit, the ball is in the court of the federal government. Now Islamabad knows the exact names of its employees who got jobs using fake domiciles of Balochistan. It is time that the government takes uncompromising action against them.
The civil society of Balochistan not only expects these fake domicile holders to be sacked but they should be made to pay back all the remuneration they received since taking over their jobs. These posts should be advertised and the federal government must ensure that only genuine domicile holders of Balochistan are recruited on them.
The writer is a journalist and researcher. He can be reached on Twitter: @iAdnanAamir