ISLAMABAD, Nov 4: While the beleaguered Chief Minister of Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, is virtually running from pillar to post to save his job, the top PPP leadership is maintaining an uncanny silence over what appears to be an internecine warfare.
Neither President Asif Ali Zardari, who is the final authority in affairs of the ruling party, nor other office-bearers of the PPP, including General Secretary Senator Jahangir Badar, has said anything about the crisis which the PPP in Balochistan is facing. There was no answer to repeated telephone calls and text messages left on the cellphone of Mr Badar.
“I cannot comment until I discuss the issue with the party leadership,” Qamar Zaman Kaira, who besides holding the portfolio of Information Minister is also the party’s chief spokesperson, responded on Sunday. “I was away in my home constituency over the weekend, hence couldn’t get the chance to talk to the party chief,” he added.
Farhatullah Babar, who handles the media for the president, told Dawn that it was an internal party matter which would be dealt with in accordance with laid down procedures. He didn’t say anything when asked if President Zardari, who is also co-chairman of the PPP, had taken any action or appointed any party leader to settle the dispute.
On Saturday, Chief Minister Raisani dashed to Lahore where he met his counterpart in Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, reportedly to seek his political support.
Although the PML-N lacks representation in the 65-member Balochistan Assembly, reports suggest that many among the PML-Q’s present 19 MPAs want to contest the next elections with the N-League.
On the other hand, Sadiq Umrani, PPP’s Balochistan president, continued to target Mr Raisani and accused him of bringing a bad name to the party for his alleged involvement in corruption and for misgoverning the province.
Mr Umrani said on Sunday he had presented every minor detail of party’s provincial affairs before the top leadership which, he claimed, fully agreed that it was a mistake to appoint Mr Raisani as chief minister.
“Our chief minister is more interested in releasing nearly one billion rupees as compensation to his family and buying a luxury plane for his personal travel. He has no time for people dying in the province,” Mr Umrani said.
Interestingly though, Mr Umrani worked under Mr Raisani as minister for communications and works until May this year when his portfolio was withdrawn by the chief minister. Mr Umrani said it was a party decision, but squarely put the blame for his sacking in September on Mr Raisani.
Asked if the party leadership had endorsed disciplinary action against the chief minister, he said the decision had been taken by the district and division leadership. “The party leaders in district Mastung and Kalat division have genuine ground on the basis of which they have suspended the basic membership of Mr Raisani,” Mr Umrani said and claimed that there was complete lawlessness in Kalat.
As per the PPP’s constitution, he said, Mr Raisani’s membership would remain suspended till he filed an appeal against his suspension at the party’s higher forum.
“I don’t know if the party leadership was onboard as far as his (Raisani’s) suspension is concerned. Of late, both Mr Umrani and Mr Raisani have developed serious differences between themselves,” said a PPP member of the National Assembly from Quetta.
Senator Laskhari Raisani, younger brother of the chief minister, was PPP’s Balochistan president until March 2010 when he was replaced by Mr Umrani. Laskhari Raisani quit his Senate seat in March this year because of his differences with the party leadership, but the party is yet to accept his resignation.
Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani wasn’t available for comment, but Mr Umrani quoted him as saying that he would not call the Balochistan Assembly session until the governor determined the legal status of the Raisani government after the Supreme Court interim order issued on Oct 12.
The order stated that the Balochistan government had failed to discharge its constitutional duties and the chief minister lost the authority to govern the province constitutionally.
CM Raisani has called a cabinet meeting on Nov 9 and Mr Umrani said it was against the Constitution and those attending the meeting would commit contempt of court in view of the interim order.
On Friday, the federal government challenged the court’s interim order and made it clear that it found the order flawed and that only the president had the right to intervene in affairs of provinces.
Observers closely watching the development believe that those who matter in the party must have given a go-ahead against Mr Raisani.
A source close to PPP circles said it appeared that the party leadership was hoping that Mr Raisani would meet the same fate as former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did at the hands of the Supreme Court. He said that until last days the entire PPP leadership was standing behind Mr Gilani over the issue of Swiss letter against the president, but it took an about-turn after the SC sacked Mr Gilani.
Except for issuing a few statements against the SC verdict, the PPP accepted it smoothly and moved ahead with the election of Raja Pervez Ashraf as new prime minister.
In the case of Mr Raisani, the federal government has so far supported him, but if tomorrow the SC orders the federal government to sack the chief minister or impose governor rule, President Zardari would follow the order quite happily, the source said.