Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi yesterday arrived in the provincial capital to try to save PML-N-led coalition government, which appeared to be slipping through the fingers of the ruling party.
Balochistan Assembly is meeting today to take up the no-trust motion filed against Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, whose government has been battered by a number of desertions.
Constitutionally, the house is to vote on the opposition motion within a week, but extraordinary steps ordered by the speaker suggest that voting could take place even today.
At least 33 votes are required in the 65-member house to topple the government and both sides are claiming of having enough support to serve their respective causes.
At least 27 MPAs have publically announced their support for the no-trust motion signed by 14 lawmakers, while opposition quarters claim they now have around 40 votes in their pocket.
Landing of the prime minister and three other central PML-N figures in Quetta shows that Zehri is in deep trouble.
In fact, Zehri himself believes the number of his opponents is higher than was being publically admitted by the ruling side. Even two days ago, on Sunday, he reportedly told Nawaz Sharif on phone that some 30 to 31 lawmakers were going to vote against him.
One of the four coalition partners of PML-N in Balochistan –Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid – is supporting the opposition move but the other two allies – National Party and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party – have vowed to stand by Zehri.
The Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam-Fazl, which is a coalition partner of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz at centre but part of opposition in Balochistan , has refused Nawaz Sharif’s request for a rescue.
Accompanied by federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Methab Abbasi and Zahid Hamid, PM Abbasi held marathon meetings with governor, CM and political leaders at Governor House. But he had to face embarrassment when both opposition members and PML-N rebels refused to meet him.
Probably this was why the premier has reportedly decided to extend his visit and also attend today’s assembly session, which would start at 4pm today with Speaker Raheela Hamid Khan Durrani in the chair.
The opposition and dissident lawmakers said on Monday they won’t meet the PM and federal government reps on the issue of motion against CM.
“We will tender an apology if governor or chief minister phoned (us) for a meeting with prime minister or members of central government,” a rebel legislator said.
“The Balochistan Assembly speaker has banned direct media coverage of Tuesday’s session. Live media coverage and use of mobile phone has also been barred for the session. Guest cards have been cancelled while special passes will be issued to media owners,” said Moulana Abdul Wasay of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
Flanked by former speaker Jan Jamali, ex-deputy speaker Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo and former home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Zmarak Khan Achakzai, Tahir Mehmood, Mufti Gulab and other lawmakers at opposition chamber, Wasay lashed out at Zehri-led government.
“Lawmakers from all parties, even from the treasury benches are on the same page. We want to topple the corrupt regime. The toppling is imminent as coalition partners compelled the treasury lawmakers to support the vote of no-trust against their chief minister,” he claimed.
The opposition and PML-N rebel legislators reiterated their resolve to refuse meeting with ‘prime minister’ over motion matter.
Mir Sarfaraz Bugti alleged both the chief ministers (Dr Abdul Malik Baloch of NP and Zehri of PML-N) spent most of their times abroad as they have no interest in public problems of the province.
“Another key resign will come today,” Bugti said and claimed that 40 MPAs will back opposition against the Zehri.
“No prime minister cared to talk (to us) in the last four years (of PML-N) tenure, but today a phone rang from the PM House and (the caller) said that prime minister wants to meet with ANP leaders in Balochistan ,” ANP’s Zmarak Khan said.
“We have clearly rejected the invitation of PM as we all have assumed a principled and democratic stance,” he maintained.
Criticising the assembly procedures, former deputy speaker Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo – who was one of the two lawmakers who submitted the no-trust motion, said the assembly has been running without the deputy speaker for last two years that was unconstitutional.
He said the former home minister had told the chief minister not to make foreign visits as something wrong was happening. “Even Chengez Merri, a provincial minister, did not resign, but he is with us and the number of our supporters has reached 40, while more MPAs are in contacts,” Bizenjo claimed. “These are baseless allegations. No PML-N and JUI-F meeting took place last day,” Janan Agha of JUI-F replied to a question about reports of the JUI-F demand for Rs25 billion funds per lawmaker to back Zehri.
The no-trust motion against CM is as per the constitution, says Balochistan National Party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal in an interview to private TV channel. “PML-N had toppled our government in 1998,” reminded Mengal.
Foolproof security arrangements had been undertaken for today’s session. It has been reportedly learnt that Speaker Raheela, on the request of lawmakers for allowing the participation of imprisoned legislators Mir Khalid Langov (National Party) and Sardar Abdul Rehman Kethran (JUI-F) in the session – issued protection order for both of the detained members to take part in voting on no-trust motion.
The plea submitted was signed by Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo, Sarfaraz Bugti, Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali, Tahir Mehmood, and Abdul Majid Abro.
The PML-Q, can’t vote under the law. However, sources close to the speaker said Raheela backed Zehri to let democratic government complete its term. PkMAP also stood by the government.
One of ally NP’s lawmaker had signed the motion. The PML-N has support of 6 lawmakers while position of the seven members of the treasury bench is unclear.
PML-N has 21 members while its Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali supported no-trust motion and Mir Abdul Majid Abro and Princess Ahmed Ali Ahmed Zai resigned as advisers and Mir Sarfraz Chakar Domki Rahat Jamali and Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti resigned as ministers.
Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party with 14 members stand by PML-N and as party NP too is an ally with 11 members but its one member Mir Khalid Humayun Langov is also signatory of the no-trust motion.
The PML-Q has five including Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Mir Abdul Karim Nousherwani, Mir Amanullah Notezai, Ruqia Saeed Hashmi (support reportedly Zehri), Sheikh Jaffar Khan Mandokhail,
The JUI-F that has tabled the move has eight members including Abdul Wasey, Haji Abdul Malik Kakar, Husan Bano, Khalilur Rehman, Mazaullah Musakhail, Mufti Gulab Khan, Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran, Shahida Rauf.
The Balochistan National Party that too supported no-trust motion has two members – Mir Hamal Kalmati and Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal while Awami National Party, also against Zehri, has one member Zmrak Khan Achakzai
One from Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (unclear) Syed Muhammad Raza and an independent Nawabzada Tariq Magsi who sports no-trust motion.
The forces are out to oust the CM were unflinchingly sticking to their point of view and were not prepared to show any flexibility in their stance. This is the reason the PML-N dissidents in Balochistan Assembly refused to meet PM.
Wasay also refused to meet PM Abbasi, saying they could not board two boats at the same time and preferred continuing with no-trust motion to such a meeting.
The arrest of CM’s Secretary Ayub Qureshi on charges of corruption by anti-graft authorities on Monday and recovery of huge amount of cash from his residence was also taken as a big blow to Zehri and some political analysts dubbed it as a last straw on the camel’s back.
Former home minister Sarfraz Bugti made it loud and clear that they would not budge an inch from their stance even if they are ousted from the party. “We will not accept anything less than removal of incumbent chief minister,” he added.
Some insiders in the party said PM met Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, who is also from Balochistan and Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan and other senior party leaders from Balochistan , including Senator Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir to weighing various options including that of replacement of Zehri with some other party leader.
On the other hand, the dissidents and other parties supporting no-trust move have not announced their candidate for the slot of chief minister. However, Wasay said the name would be announced at an ‘appropriate time’.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also held meeting with heads of coalition partners – NP’s Mir Hasil Bizenjo and PkMAP’s Mahmood Khan Achakzai – who were standing by Zehri. But some insiders said that it was unclear whether both these parties would manage to bring all their MPs to the house today (Monday) to defeat the no-trust move.
Political analysts said that the ouster of Zehri would not endanger the BalochistanAssembly, as neither the ruling PML-N nor the coalition partners wanted its dissolution and the move would remain confine to change of guards.
Former deputy speaker Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo alleged that government offered Rs22 billion, eight ministers and the slot of governship to his colleagues for backing Zehri. But the government denied any wrongdoings.
Talking to a private TV channel, opposition lawmakers and dissident members said up to Rs22 billion were offered for standing by the government.
Wasay, Bizenjo, Zmarak Khan, and MWM’s Raza Agha said Abbasi is too late to visit Balochistan
“Offer of eight ministries and the office of governor has been extended to JUI-F from the government but the party rejected it,” Qadus Bizenjo claimed.
Wasay said he had heard so but no contact in this prospect had been made with anyone.
On the other hand, CM’s spokesman Jan Achakzai took swipe at the coalition partners –PPP and PML-Q – for cashing in on the situation.
“Pakistan People’s Party and PML-Q were plotting against the government,” he told a private TV channel.
He rejected the allegation of bribe offer to save the government, saying the prime minister was in queta to resolve the issue. “No-confidence motion is the beauty of democracy,’ he added.
“Provincial Minister Mir Izhar Khoso had promised to resign but he was missing from last day,” claimed Sarfaraz Bugti at a TV show.