ISLAMABAD: Expres­sing serious concerns over the revolt within his party’s lawmakers from Balochistan, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has convened a meeting to discuss the prevailing situation in the province.

Talking to mediapersons outside an accountability court, where he appeared in connection with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references against him, Mr Sharif termed the recent in-house change in the Balochistan government “a practical joke perpetrated on the people of province”.

Separately, chairing a party meeting at Punjab House, he warned that political chaos in Balochistan could harm projects under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), adding that political stability was a prerequisite for development.

Mr Sharif was also bitter over the fact that Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was ousted and replaced with someone who secured just over 500 votes in the 2013 general elections.

“The Balochistan issue is very serious and the nation should take this seriously,” he said.

Regarding the motive behind the Balochistan CM’s ouster, Mr Sharif was guarded: “If you know the background, you can easily understand why it happened”.

Although, the ousted prime minister did not mention the reasons behind the regime change in Balochistan, but a few days ago – when the no-confidence motion was moved against Mr Zehri – Mr Sharif had claimed that this was because certain quarters wanted to delay the Senate elections.

Talking about tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) upcoming party meeting, the ex-premier said that he had also invited the leadership of Balochistan to examine all aspects of the regime change.

Mr Sharif also expressed surprise over the Pakistan Awami Tehreek-led anti-government movement, which had been joined by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and others, asking what the purpose of such a protest was at a time when the incumbent government only had four to five months left.

“Why has Maulana [Tahirul Qadri] arrived from Canada at this point in time? What are the reasons behind their call for a movement against us? Maulana sahib should wait another four to five months and let the people decide for themselves,” Mr Sharif said.

The Punjab House meeting was attended by PML-N allies in Balochistan, including National Party President Mir Hasil Bizenjo and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, as well as federal ministers and central leaders from the ruling party.

During NAB court proceedings on Tuesday, two prosecution witnesses recorded their statements, while another witness, Afaq Ahmed, could not testify since the original record of the Panama Papers case and the JIT report was still with the Supreme Court, and NAB has yet to produce it before the accountability court. NAB officials told the court that they have already requisitioned the record, but had yet to receive it.

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahmed produced documents pertaining to the ‘Qatari letter’, which he had sent to JIT head Wajid Zia. The court will now resume the hearing on Jan 23.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018

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