PTI engages BNP-M ahead of vote on budget

Updated June 13, 2019

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The members of the committee, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, met BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal here on Wednesday and discussed with the latter coalition-related matters. — Photo courtesy Akhtar Mengal Twitter/File
The members of the committee, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, met BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal here on Wednesday and discussed with the latter coalition-related matters. — Photo courtesy Akhtar Mengal Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday constituted a three-member committee to oversee the implementation of the six-point agreement reached with the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) at the time of the formation of the federal government in August last year after the latter’s covert threat to abstain from vote on the federal budget.

A spokesman for the PTI told Dawn that Prime Minister Imran Khan had “empowered” the committee to hold talks with the BNP-M leaders and devise a short- and long-term strategy for the implementation of the accord.

The members of the committee, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, met BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal here on Wednesday and discussed with the latter coalition-related matters.

The other two members of the committee, Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Establishment Arbab Shehzad, were also present in the meeting. Mr Mengal was assisted by Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini and MNA Agha Hassan.

PM forms committee to oversee implementation of six-point accord

The PTI spokesman said that the meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere and the two sides had agreed to continue meetings on a regular basis. He said Mr Mengal was scheduled to visit Balochistan to condole with National Party chief Hasil Bizenjo over the death of his mother and the next meeting of the committee would be held when he would return to Islamabad.

Speaking at a news conference last week, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said that the passage of the federal budget would be a tough task for the government as Mr Mengal had told him that they might not vote for it.

On the other hand, the PTI spokesman claimed that the issue of the vote on the federal budget did not come up under discussion during the meeting at all. He dispelled the impression that the BNP-M might not vote for the budget.

In response to a question about the participation of the BNP-M members in the meetings of the opposition leaders, the spokesman said the BNP-M legislators had voted for the prime minister and the government-nominated candidates for the offices of the speaker and the deputy speaker, but they had decided to maintain their special status inside parliament and declined to accept the cabinet post.

He said the BNP-M was a partner of the PTI in the ruling coalition.

He said that during the meeting the PTI leaders admitted that there was a need for maintaining a better liaison with the BNP-M so that their grievances could be removed.

The BNP chief had met Prime Minister Khan on March 26 and formally complained about the non-implementation of the six-point agreement.

The six-point memorandum of understanding had been signed by the representatives of the two parties after a marathon session between Mr Mengal and PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi after which the BNP had agreed to support PTI candidates for the positions of prime minister and speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly after last year’s elections.

The six points included recovery of missing persons, implementation of the National Action Plan, implementation of six per cent quota for Balochistan in the federal government, immediate repatriation of Afghan refugees and the construction of dams in the province to resolve the acute water crisis.

Speaking at that time, Mr Mengal had said the promises made with the people of Balochistan, which had not been met over the past 70 years, were presented to the PTI. He had said the alliance with the PTI was only at the Centre, while the BNP’s alliance with the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl in Balochistan would continue at the provincial level.

Later, Mr Mengal on a number of occasions publicly complained that the PTI was not implementing the agreement. The BNP members sit on the treasury benches in the National Assembly, but on a number of occasions they have given tough time to the government by supporting the opposition parties on various issues, including the issue of the issuance of the production orders of jailed opposition members and the alleged one-sided accountability process in the country.

The differences between the two parties had come to the surface in September last year when Prime Minister Imran Khan made an announcement that he wanted to grant citizenship to people of Bengali and Afghan parentage who were born in Pakistan.

The statement sparked a fiery debate in the National Assembly and Mr Mengal had even staged a walkout in the presence of the prime minister.

Mr Mengal had lamented that the government was considering granting citizenship to Bengali and Afghan refugees on humanitarian grounds, while the Baloch people were not even treated as human beings in their own country.

He regretted that illegal immigrants could continue to live in the country “by simply paying Rs500 in fine” and go on to accumulate property worth millions of rupees.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019