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JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, the third largest party in the Balochistan Assembly after the PML-Q and PPP, has offered its unconditional support for the ruling coalition to elect a new chief minister.

The JUI-F has urged coalition partners to nominate a new chief minister or let Maulana Fazlur Rehman make a choice to enable Balochistan to move ahead with other provinces in democratic transition.

Talking to Dawn, senior JUI-F leader Senator Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani said the sooner the government heeded to his party’s advice the better it would be for continuation of the political process in the crisis-ridden province and for the rest of the country.

Maulana Sherani, who is also chairman of the Islamic Ideology Council, said his party had asked the PPP to immediately lift governor’s rule and let the political process take its due course in Balochistan.

He said JUI-F would support any move to replace deposed chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. “I assure the ruling PPP leadership that Nawab Raisani will resign within seven days after his reinstatement and the parliamentary parties in the provincial assembly can unanimously elect a new leader of the house,” he said.

At present the PML-Q has 19 MPAs, PPP 14, JUI-F nine, BNP seven and ANP four. There are 10 independent MPAs in the 65-member assembly.

Explaining his party’s formula to resolve the political crisis, Maulana Sherani said the PPP, PML-Q and ANP should nominate a new chief minister or leave it to the JUI-F and BNP. He said his party and the BNP were ready to sit on opposition benches if the other parties wanted their own chief minister.

He said Maulana Fazlur Rehman had discussed the issue of lifting governor’s rule with all parties in the ruling coalition, but their response was still awaited.

“Our concern at the moment is to proceed smoothly towards the general election which is possible only in the presence of a working chief minister and leader of opposition in the Balochistan Assembly after the passage of the 20th Amendment,” Maulana Sherani said.

He said that after the dismissal of the Raisani government last month, JUI-F had offered a similar democratic recourse under which a new provincial government without Mr Raisani could have been formed, but the government didn’t pay heed to it.

Constitutional experts are also of the opinion that after the constitutional amendments the federal government has no other option but to either reinstate Mr Raisani or replace him with someone else to move towards the general election.

They said only the chief minister could recommend dissolution of the assembly if the PPP wanted to do so before April 6 when it would complete its five-year constitutional term. Secondly, positions of the chief minister and leader of the opposition are mandatory for the formation of a caretaker set-up.

A senior PML-Q leader confirmed the talks between his party and the JUI-F leadership on the issue of ending governor’s rule and replacement of Nawab Raisani and suggestions given by the JUI-F. “The PML-Q leadership will hold a meeting with the PPP in a day or two and discuss the Balochistan issue,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said a JUI-F delegation had met his party’s leadership with a set of proposals for political arrangement in Balochistan. But he said he was not aware of any recent development because he had been in his home constituency for a couple of days.

But another PPP leader said the JUI-F proposals would be discussed at a party meeting after the return of President Asif Ali Zardari from the UK next week.

Responding to an unprecedented sit-in held by the Shia Hazaras who had refused to burry the 86 victims of twin bomb blast in Quetta till the dismissal of the Raiani government, the centre had imposed governor’s rule in Balochistan Jan 14.

The JUI-F and BNP have since been protesting against the governor’s rule in sessions of the Senate and National Assembly and in Balochistan and demanding reinstatement of the elected government.

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