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2018, a troubled year for Balochistan's politics

Updated December 31, 2018

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Amidst a political crisis Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was forced to resign as the provincial chief minister as most of his own party's legislators abandoned him. — File photo
Amidst a political crisis Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was forced to resign as the provincial chief minister as most of his own party's legislators abandoned him. — File photo

The year 2018 turned out to be a politically challenging year for the PML-N, especially in Balochistan, where its provincial government was toppled by its own legislators earlier this year.

Troubles started for the PML-N when Quddus Bizenjo, a former deputy speaker of the Balochistan Assembly — who later became the chief minister of Balochistan — initiated a no-confidence motion against then chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri on January 2.

The motion was signed by dissidents within the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP) and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM). The dissidents also enjoyed the support of two members from the National Party.

Read more: PML-N defeated: Opposition candidates Sanjrani, Mandviwalla take Senate's top slots

Though then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi traveled to Quetta to shore up support for Zehri, he failed to muster any support. Some PML-N legislators even refused to attend invitations made by the premier for a meeting at Governor House in Balochistan.

Amidst the political crisis, Zehri was forced to resign. Subsequently, Bizenjo — who belonged to the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) at the time — was sworn in as the chief minister.

The PML-N suffered another major blow in March when it failed to secure a single Senate seat from Balochistan. Instead, six senators backed by PML-N dissidents were elected as senators from Balochistan, from among which Sadiq Sanjrani was even elected Senate chairman.

In March, after Bizenjo had sworn in as the chief minister, provincial lawmakers announced the launch of a new Balochistan-based political party comprising the political and tribal elite of Balochistan.

Later, all the dissident parliamentarians joined the newly-established Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), led by the incumbent chief minister, Jam Kamal Khan.

PPP stalwart Dr Abdul Qayyum Soomro repeatedly visited Quetta to muster support for PPP from the newly elected senators but failed in doing so. Subsequently, the PPP, which had supported the no-confidence motion against the Zehri government, had to leave Balochistan empty-handed.

The emergence of BAP was accompanied by much hue and cry from the PML-N and Baloch and Pashtun nationalist parties which labelled the hastily-cobbled alliance of the province’s electables “a move of the establishment”.

Former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani termed BAP a conspiracy against Balochistan. It’s interesting that many of the ‘electables’ who joined BAP were once ministers in the Raisani-led coalition government in 2008, under PPP.

The newly-formed party performed reasonably well in the July 25 general elections and Jam Kamal went on to become the chief minister. However, the PPP which had endorsed the no-confidence motion against Nawab Zehri could not win a single seat in Balochistan during the general elections.