Nawab Sanaullah Zehri resigned as Balochistan chief minister on Tuesday after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi remained unable to contain a mushrooming political crisis in the province. His resignation was promptly accepted by Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai, DawnNews reported.
Opposition lawmakers were to table a no-confidence motion against CM Zehri in the provincial assembly the same day, but Zehri was reportedly asked to resign ahead of the session to spare his party — the PML-N — further embarrassment on the matter.
The session had been called after 14 members of the assembly on opposition benches had filed a motion of no-confidence against Zehri. The province's lawmakers had expressed a lack of confidence in Zehri citing "unfulfilled commitments", and important ministers and advisers had recently turned dissidents, sparking a series of resignations and sackings.
PM Abbasi advised Zehri to resign after the dissenting leaders rejected his invitations to discuss outstanding issues, sources within the PML-N told DawnNews.
"We have decided not to meet the prime minister," Leader of the Opposition Maulana Abdul Wasey had told DawnNews, explaining that he and his followers could not "ride two boats."
Read more: A political crisis brews in Balochistan
"We are at the point of no return," Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, the former home minister for Balochistan, had said. He added, "I have a good relationship with the prime minister, but this is a political decision."
A well-thought-out power manoeuvre
The move to oust Zehri is not simple happenstance, but a well-thought-out power manoeuvre undertaken with one eye on the upcoming Senate elections, according to political pundits.
With 11 senators from Balochistan set to retire in March, there is an opportunity for the ruling PML-N to increase its Senate membership, where it currently only has 21 legislators out of the total 65.
To do so, however, it is imperative that the party retain its strength in the Balochistan Assembly, which will elect senators to the upper house.
This is why recent reports of cracks forming within the party — to which Zehri himself belonged — is a major blow for the PML-N.
So far, the turmoil in the Balochistan Assembly has seen former home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Sardar Sarfaraz Domki and Prince Ahmed Ali tender their resignations, with Bugti claiming on Wednesday that more will follow in days to come.
Judging by the mood setting in, it appeared Zehri found it challenging to keep his parliamentary party united. He had, however, started playing his own cards with the sacking of PML-Q's Mir Amanullah Notezai as his special assistant on excise and taxation.