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LAHORE: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will wait for the ‘rebel faction’ of 15 or so MPAs to make their move before deciding which candidate to support as the next chief minister of Balochistan.

Former home minister Sarfaraz Bugti, former chief minister Saleh Bhootani and Nawabzada Changez Marri are being tipped to succeed Mr Zehri, who resigned on Tuesday. Mr Bugti appears to be the favourite for both the PML-N ‘rebels’ and the National Party.

Jan Achakzai, a PML-N leader from Balochistan, told Dawn that a decision on whether to support a candidate for the CM slot, or to sit in opposition, was yet to be made. “Abhi toh party shuru hui hai” (this is just the beginning), he said, adding that the party would sit down with its allies before making a decision on whether to field a consensus candidate or sit on the opposition benches.

He said his party wanted to continue the development of Balochistan and build on the successes achieved in the war against terrorism, so the province could be rid of the menace.

Jan Jamali-led rebels say Sharif more interested in Punjab; vow to decide who next CM will be

Federal minister and PML-N Information Secre­tary Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn that the party was keeping a close eye on the situation in Balochistan.

When asked if the party would initiate any disciplinary action against the rebel MPAs, he said: “We will have to see what violation of party discipline has been committed by the legislators. If they voted against the party CM (Zehri), only then would the question of violating party discipline arise? We are monitoring the situation and will make our decisions accordingly.”

Former information minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid said that the ‘rebel’ legislators should have come to the party leadership with their grievances, but they did not do so. “We will wait and see what the people with 15 or 16 votes do in the days to come, and will plan our moves accordingly,” he said.

Although the party insists that the outcome of the leadership crisis in Balochistan would not affect the results of the upcoming Senate elections, Mr Rashid said the next 10 days would be extremely important in determining whether ‘other elements’ were behind the move to unseat Sanaullah Zehri.

Led by Jan Mohammad Jamali, the group of PML-N ‘rebels’ has claimed that it would find Sanaullah Zehri’s successor in a few days.

“The next chief minister of Balochistan will be of our choosing. We have the support of more than 15 PML-N lawmakers and consultations are under way between the party and its allies,” Mr Jamali told Geo News on Tuesday night.

He revealed that he was not on the same page with party chief Nawaz Sharif. “Mr Sharif is more interested in the affairs of Punjab, not Balochistan. I will remain in the Muslim League, since my family has been associated with the party since 1933, but the chief minister will not be chosen in Lahore,” he added.

Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, president of the National Party, which has 11 seats in the Balochistan Assembly, put his weight behind former home minister Sarfaraz Bugti.

In the 65-seat Balochistan Assembly, a candidate for CM needs 35 votes.

The party position is currently as follows: PML-N (21), PkMAP (14), National Party (11), JUI-F (8), PML-Q (5), Balochistan National Party (2), while the Awami National Party, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, BNP-Awami, and independents have one seat each.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2018