Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The sudden political drama in Balochistan, and why it matters for the upcoming Senate elections

https://www.dawn.com/news/1380561

Syed Ali ShahUpdated January 03, 2018

For months, Balochistan's political scene had been uncharacteristically placid. Then, all hell broke loose on Tuesday.

Here is what has been happening, and why the nation should take note.

Fourteen MPAs from the Balochistan Assembly recently filed a no-confidence motion against the province's Chief Minister, Sanaullah Zehri — a move some political pundits consider not simple happenstance, but a well-thought-out power maneuver undertaken with one eye on the upcoming Senate elections.

"These political developments in Balochistan will have a far-reaching impact on national-level politics," Ayub Tareen, a seasoned journalist working with Radio Free Europe, told DawnNews.

"The timing of these resignations is important."

With 11 Senators from Balochistan set to retire in March, there is an opportunity for the ruling PML-N to increase its Senate membership, where it currently only has 21 legislators out of the total 65. To do so, however, it is imperative that the party retain its strength in the Balochistan Assembly, which will elect Senators to the upper house.

This is why recent reports of cracks forming within the party — to which CM Zehri himself belongs — is a major blow for the PML-N.

So far, the turmoil in the Balochistan Assembly has seen former home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Sardar Sarfaraz Domki and Prince Ahmed Ali tender their resignations, with Bugti claiming on Wednesday that more will follow in days to come.

Judging by the mood setting in, it seems the CM will find it difficult to keep his parliamentary party united in these crucial times. He has, however, started playing his own cards, with the sacking of PML-Q's Mir Amanullah Notezai as his special assistant on excise and taxation being his first counter-move.

It is expected that he will appoint replacements soon.

In the midst of this crisis, Zehri did heave a sigh of relief when two of his government's coalition partners — the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and the National Party (NP) — publicly offered him some words of support.

"We stand by political principles and will support Nawab Zehri", Mehmood Achakzai, the chairman of PKMAP, told a crowded press conference soon after the vote of no-confidence.

NP President Mir Hasil Bizenjo, whose party and PKMAP has 25 legislators in the Balochistan Assembly, also lent Zehri a helping hand while also promising to find out why his own party's MPA, Khalid Langove, is one of the 14 signatories on the motion against Zehri.

"We will ask Mr. Langove about the signature", Bizenjo said.

But more surprisingly, the said motion also has the names of four JUI-Fazl MPAs — half of the religious party's eight-member representation in the house. Sources within the PML-N, however, say that the high command of their party is likely to contact Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a longtime ally of the ruling party, to have the quartet withdraw their names from the list.

Also among the 14 dissidents are BNP Chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, ANP parliamentary leader Zamarak Achakzai and Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen legislator Aga Raza.

The PML-N has, in the past, claimed that it is the largest parliamentary group in Balochistan.

It seems that claim and keeping all of its 21 Balochistan Assembly legislators intact are both under severe threat

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