Balochistan minister stripped of portfolio

Published May 3, 2021
Minister for Local Gove­rnment and Rural Dev­e­lopment Sardar Muh­ammad Saleh Bhootani. — Photo courtesy Balochistan Assembly website/File
Minister for Local Gove­rnment and Rural Dev­e­lopment Sardar Muh­ammad Saleh Bhootani. — Photo courtesy Balochistan Assembly website/File

QUETTA: Differences within the provincial cabinet have intensified despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Quetta and his talks with Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani and head of parliamentary party of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the Balochistan Assembly Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind.

The chief minister, who has been facing criticism from Education Minister Sardar Rind, in his latest move withdrew portfolio of local government and rural development from Minister Sardar Mohammad Saleh Bhootani.

This is the second change made by the chief minister in his cabinet. Last year Health Minister Naseebullah Marri of the PTI was removed from cabinet.

A notification was issued to announce the withdrawal of local government portfolio from Mr Bhootani. The notification said the portfolio would now be held by the chief minister. Mr Bhootani has not been allotted any new portfolio so far. No reason was mentioned in the notification about the withdrawal of the portfolio from Mr Bhootani.

No end to tug of war between CM Kamal and Sardar Rind

However, sources said, since the formation of the cabinet, there have been differences between the chief minister and Mr Bhootani over funds for local government and reshuffling of administration officials in Lasbela district, from where both hail.

Mr Bhootani had not been attending cabinet meetings for a long time.

When contacted, Mr Bhootani said the chief minister had not consulted him about the development. “I am consulting my friends, senior colleagues and parliamentary party members of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and after these consultations I will announce my future line of action,” he said.

However, sources close to Mr Bhootani said he had decided to quit the cabinet as the chief minister was “interfering” in his constituency and making transfer and postings of administration officers without consulting him.

Meanwhile, differences between the chief minister and Sardar Rind have also intensified. During the visit of the prime minister to Quetta, Mr Rind and other members of the PTI held a meeting with him and told him that the chief minister was not taking the party and its parliamentary leader into confidence before taking important decisions.

The premier also met Mr Alyani and asked federal Minister Asad Umar to resolve differences between the coalition partners. However, no progress has been made in this regard.

In a development the other day, the provincial ministers, senators, MNAs and MPAs of the ruling BAP held a meeting with its president Alyani. In a statement issued after the meeting, they recalled that BAP was a coalition partner of the PTI in the federal government. They warned that if problems were created for the Balochistan government, BAP “can do a lot at the federal government level”. They said: “The presence of a large number of armed guards and vehicles (accompanying Mr Rind) in the Civil Secretariat is creating an atmosphere of unrest.”

A spokesman for the PTI parliamentary party expressed surprise and regret over the “baseless and fabricated statement” issued by the Chief Minister Secretariat.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2021

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