Saturday, January 6, 2018

Balochistan crisis unlikely to impact FATA reforms

By Sardar Sikander

Published: January 6, 2018

Powerful players favour an in-house change. PHOTO: NNI

ISLAMABADThe Fata reforms process may not be affected by the crisis concerning the Balochistan Assembly as powerful stakeholders in the province quietly approve of an in-house change and their apparent opposition is mere eyewash, it has been learnt.

The bill on Fata reforms is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly sometime during the session starting from Friday, January 12.

Initially, following the submission of a no-confidence motion in the Balochistan Assembly against Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri of the PML-N, it looked as if Fata reforms bill may see further delay in landing in the National Assembly.

More deliberations on FATA reforms unlikely

In this connection, a low-profile visit by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to the residence of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday night was seen as a move on the part of the government to seek the party’s support in foiling the no-confidence motion. The JUI-F is opposed to Fata’s merger with KP.

However, well-placed sources in the PML-N say that the party’s top leadership silently endorses the in-house change in Balochistan given the controversies attached with Zehri’s stint as chief minister.

The main purpose of Abbasi’s visit to Fazl’s residence was to get the viewpoint of the JUI-F over an in-house change in Balochistan Assembly, said the sources.

“This is a unique situation. The leadership of a party is in silent agreement with other parties over the removal of its chief minister in a province. The apparent opposition to no-confidence move [by the PML-N government] appears nothing more than eyewash,” said the source.

Army throws weight behind FATA reforms

Moreover, provincial leaderships of the National Party and the JUI-F are on the same page regarding the removal of the chief minister of Balochistan even though the NP also publicly opposes the no-confidence motion.

According to party insiders, Fazl too quietly favoured replacing Zehri due to the latter’s ‘hostile’ attitude towards coalition partners as well as opposition parties.

Reportedly, the JUI-F chief is said to have conveyed to PM Abbasi that steps needed to be taken to immediately elevate a candidate as chief minister in case Zehri gets removed — in order to make sure that the provincial assembly becomes functional again at the earliest.

The JUI-F chief, when approached by phone, confirmed that the prime minister visited him at his residence on Thursday. He said the issues related to the Balochistan situation and Fata reforms were discussed.

Fata reforms: Govt to withdraw Rewaj Act, Senate told

Answering a query, the JUI-F chief avoided sharing the specifics but said that he sought time from the prime minister to discuss the matters at the party level.

“These issues would be discussed in our party’s Majlis-e-Shura. Then we would come up with a definite strategy regarding both Balochistan Assembly crisis and Fata reforms,” he told The Express Tribune.

A JUI-F senator, requesting anonymity, said, “Apparently, the PML-N may be active to save its CM. But, what goes on behind the scene, far removed from the public eye, is very different.

“Our party chief [Fazl] is among the politicians who are annoyed by Zehri for not including the opposition parties in any kind of decision-making concerning Balochistan where our party [JUI-F] is in opposition.”

National security policy — the Baloch perspective

The sources said that in case Zehri was replaced, the PML-N might elevate Sarfraz Bugti or any other leader as chief minister.

Bugti has already made it clear that his differences are with the chief minister and not with the party.

The sources said, “This move is not against the PML-N government, but against one individual who can be replaced by any leader of the party. There is hardly any chance that this will affect the conduct of Senate elections in March.”

The JUI-F has eight seats in Balochistan Assembly where Leader of the Opposition Maulana Abdul Wasay belongs to it. The PML-N has 21 seats and the NP 11 .

The bloc against Zehri, led by Bugti, claims to have support of more than 40 members while 33 are required to make the no-trust move against the chief minister successful in the 65-member Balochistan Assembly.

The story on differences between the Balochistan coalition government on account of the ‘hostile’ attitude of CM Zehri first appeared in The Express Tribune on April 6, 2017 under the headline ‘Rifts in Balochistan government stir PML-N concern

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