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QUETTA/LAHORE: Ousted prime minister and chief of his Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Sharif swung into action on Sunday to save his party’s government in Balochistan by defeating a no-trust motion against Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri.

As the political crisis deepened in the province amid reports that more lawmakers put their weight behind the no-trust motion to be tabled in the house on Jan 9, CM Zehri contacted Mr Sharif, his party chief, and met Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Jam of Lasbela and Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir to discuss ways and means to defeat the motion.

Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch of the PML-N is already in the provincial capital.

More members join opposition camp; crucial session of Balochistan PA tomorrow

CM Zehri made a phone call to Mr Sharif, who is at his Jati Umra Raiwind residence, and “desperately” sought his help to meet required minimum strength in the Balochistan Assembly to defeat the motion.

“Mr Zehri has apprised Mr Sharif of the situation after tabling of the no-trust motion against him and resignation of some cabinet members in Balochistan,” Federal Climate Change Minister and PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn. “We are positive that the PML-N along with its allies will defeat the no-confidence motion against Mr Zehri with a margin of one or two votes.”

To a question as to how Mr Sharif would help the beleaguered CM in defeating the motion, the minister said: “Mian sahib is the party head and he will take measures to help the party chief minister.”

While the provincial leadership of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — whose eight MPAs sit on the opposition benches in Balochistan Assembly — made it clear that it would not support CM Zehri, it appeared that the PML-N was relying on party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for defeating the no-trust move.

In Lahore, a senior PML-N leader told Dawn that Mr Sharif would talk to the JUI-F chief and seek his help in defeating the no-trust motion.

“Maulana Fazlur Rehman may agree to convince his legislators there to vote for Mr Zehri if Mian sahib manages to take him on board,” the leader said.

However, Leader of the Opposition in the Balochistan Assembly Maulana Abdul Wasey of the JUI-F said that his party sat on the opposition benches and how could it back the government or save a CM which it opposed throughout his tenure.

He said the JUI-F chief was approached, but he plainly said that it was a provincial matter and he would be the last person to interfere in the provincial affairs of the party.

Talking to newsmen, Defence Minister Dastagir, who arrived in Quetta to express condolence with Senator Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar on his sister’s death and to receive Tabuk Governor at Dalbandin, said: “I am here not to rescue the chief minister of Balochistan but the entire political and democratic system in the province.”

CM Zehri himself is said to be quite confident that he would defeat the no-trust motion. He said he was still enjoying majority as the National Party (NP) and PkMAP — his coalition partners — were standing with him. However, the matter of concern for him was the revolt by more PML-N MPAs who joined hand with the movers of the no-confidence motion against him.

As CM’s opponents claimed that some members of the NP and PkMAP would support their motion, both maintained that their alliance with Mr Zehri was intact.

“We are with Nawab Zehri as a coalition partner,” NP information secretary Jan Buledi said.

However, Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo, who was playing a key role in the move against the CM, had claimed that the parliamentary party leader of the PML-Q, Sheikh Jaffar Khan Mandokhel who also holds the portfolio of revenue and transport, had resigned from his office.

“Mandokhel is currently in Saudi Arabia for Umra...he faxed his resignation to the Balochistan governor,” Mr Bizenjo said, adding that he would return to Quetta on Jan 10.

There are reports that a former CM and deputy chairman Senate, Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali, had also joined hand with the opposition.

Meanwhile, an official announcement from the Balochistan Assembly secretariat said that all the passes issued to the guests of ministers/advisers had been cancelled for security reasons. There will be limited number of journalists covering the sessions and the Assembly Secretariat to issued limited passes to them.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2018