Sharif’s 'oblivion' to Balochistan crisis raises eyebrows

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif’s decision to stay away from the unfolding political crisis in Balochistan and avoid visiting the provincial capital on the eve of the no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has raised many an eyebrow.

This gives impetus to the rumours that the developments related to the in-house change in the provincial assembly are taking place with the tacit approval of the ruling party’s top leadership.

Zehri reaches out to Sharif to prop up govt

In the last few days, Zehri made multiple attempts to convince the PML-N supremo to visit the provincial capital and put his weight to the efforts for resolving the crisis after a group of provincial lawmakers announced a no-confidence motion against the chief minister, The Express Tribune has learnt.

While the motion is expected to be taken up by the Balochistan Assembly today (Tuesday), Sharif’s reluctance to visit Quetta has given credence to reports that the top PML-N leadership appears onboard as far as the ongoing developments in Balochistan are concerned.

Informed sources in the PML-N government said some senior leaders of the PML-N’s Balochistan chapter, the National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl separately met the former premier and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to share their grievances against the chief minister.

The sources said Sharif was annoyed over Zehri’s style of governance in Balochistan soon after the latter took over as chief minister some two years back. After the move against the CM gained ground, Sharif decided not to step in and adopted a wait-and-see policy.

This, the sources said, explained why Sharif did not adopt a tough stance regarding the no-confidence motion against Zehri.

“You don’t expect a leader like Mian sahib to stay at a distance when so much has been happening in Balochistan against a chief minister that belongs to his party,” said a PML-N leader from Balochistan, requesting anonymity. “This is part of the plan.”

In the recent past, the former premier has hardly spared words to note that he smelled conspiracies against the democratic setup and the PML-N government. However, the former prime minister did not adopt a strong stance regarding the move against the Balochistan chief minister.

Even though Prime Minister Adbbasi landed in Quetta on Monday, sources said his decision to respond to the situation also came too late.

“It appears as if he [PM] landed in Quetta merely to show that the federal government is not oblivious to the developments taking place in Balochistan. But what goes behind the scene seems very different,” said the sources.

Earlier on Thursday, a low-profile visit paid by Abbasi to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at the latter’s residence in Islamabad fuelled a media hype that the government sought the JUI-F’s support in foiling the no-confidence motion.

However, well-placed sources in the PML-N said that the main purpose of Abbasi’s visit to Fazl’s residence was to get the viewpoint of the JUI-F chief in case of an in-house change in the Balochistan Assembly.

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

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

The party insiders said that Fazl too quietly favoured replacing Zehri due to his ‘hostile’ attitude towards opposition parties and even coalition partners.

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 at the earliest.

The sources said that in case of a successful no-trust move against Zehri, 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.

“This move is not against the PML-N government… it is against one individual who can be replaced by any party leader,” party sources said.

Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch is already in the provincial capital

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