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QUETTA: More than a week has passed since the election of Nawab Sanaullah Zehri as chief minister of Balochistan but he is yet to form his cabinet and is ‘running the government’ without ministers and advisers.

The provincial assembly elected Mr Zehri unopposed as leader of the house on Dec 24, after his predecessor Dr Abdul Malik Baloch resigned. Mr Zehri took the oath of his office the same day.

Dr Malik had tendered his resignation under the Murree Accord reached between his National Party (NP), the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and PML-N soon after the general election held in May 2013.

The agreement provided for a power-sharing formula under which the three parties formed a provincial coalition government. Interestingly, despite having a majority in the assembly, the PML-N offered the post of chief minister to the nationalist NP — for half of the five-year term.

This period ended in December after which the office of chief minister, under the accord, came to the PML-N.

The members of the provincial assembly (MPAs) were expecting that Nawab Zehri would pick members of his cabinet within a week but this has not happened.

Under the Murree Accord, the coalition is to remain intact and the NP, PkMAP and PML-N are to retain portfolios allocated to them in Dr Malik-led government.

The central leadership of NP has decided that its ministers will remain the same, according to sources in the party. This has been publicly indicated by the party’s president Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo. “There will be no change in our ministers and portfolios in the next cabinet,” he said while talking to reporters the other day.

But, the leadership of PkMAP and PML-N are facing problems in choosing ministers, insiders say. Those MPAs of the two parties who were not part of the previous cabinet are putting pressure on their leaders to offer them ministries.

Sources said that ‘new ministers for old portfolios’ from the PkMAP could not be ruled out. “The party will introduce at least three new faces in the new cabinet.

“The stumbling block in the formation of the new cabinet is none other than the PML-N,” revealed party members privy to developments.

They said that Chief Minister Zehri is finding it too difficult to choose ministers and advisers from his own party.

That’s why he has visited Islamabad twice in a week to consult the PML-N’s high command on the issue.

“All PML-N MPAs want to become ministers and are putting pressure on Nawab Zehri for the purpose,” sources in the party said.

It is not possible for the chief minister to meet the demand of all or most of the MPAs. He can accommodate only a few of them because he cannot induct more than 15 ministers and five advisers into the cabinet as stipulated in the 18th Amendment.

To make the matter more complicated, women lawmakers of PML-N are also demanding their representation in the new cabinet though one of them — Reheela Durrani — has already been elected speaker of the assembly.

The party has 22 MPAs in the 65-member house and also enjoys the support of five PML-Q members. Though under the Murree Accord the Balochistan government was to comprise three parties, the PML-N’s provincial leadership had given one ministry and the office of deputy speaker to the PML-Q from its quota during Dr Malik’s tenure.

Now the PML-Q’ expectations have increased as it wants at least two ministries. Party MPA Mir Abdul Quddoos Bizenjo resigned last week from the post of the assembly’s deputy speaker in the hope of getting a ministry.

Mr Zehri requested him to withdraw his resignation but he refused and the governor accepted his resignation.

Political observers believe that the perplexing situation might further delay formation of the cabinet.

However, PML-N sources are claiming that the new cabinet will be formed in a few days. The central leadership of PML-N will make a final decision regarding induction of PML-N ministers into the cabinet in a couple of days, they say.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2016