QUETTA, April 8: Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani of the PPP was elected unopposed chief minister of Balochistan on Tuesday because no other nomination papers had been filed for the post.

Nawab Raisani had filed nine nomination papers which were proposed and seconded by parliamentary leaders of all parties allied with the PPP.

Balochistan assembly Secretary Mohammad Khan Mengal, who acted as the presiding officer, announced that Mr Raisani had no competitor.

He told reporters that the formal result of the election would be announced in the assembly by Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani on Wednesday. Mr Raisani would be sworn in the afternoon.

The chief minister-designate enjoys the support of 61 of the 63 members belonging to the PPP, Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party (Awami), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, PML (like-minded) and independents.

Mr Raisani would seek a vote of confidence in a special session of the assembly to be held in the evening.

He told reporters that his government would strive to bring normality in Balochistan by initiating talks with militants.

Outgoing Speaker Jamal Shah Kakar, who chaired the proceedings on Tuesday, announced that Mohammad Aslam Bhootani of the PML-Q and Syed Mutiullah Agha of the MMA had won the posts of speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.

Mr Kakar administered the oath of office to Mr Bhootani and Mr Agha.

The chief minister-designate congratulated the new speaker and hoped that he and the deputy speaker would run the house in an impartial manner.

Mr Raisani said serious problems confronting Balochistan could be overcome with sincere efforts, adding that political issues should be settled through dialogue.

Maulana Wasay, parliamentary leader of the MMA, said that his party’s provincial Amir Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani and President Pervez Musharraf had agreed to set up a committee to initiate talks with the late Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, to remove misunderstandings, but that attempt was sabotaged. He urged the speaker to form a committee to expose the elements opposing a political solution to various issues.

He claimed that the MMA had resisted PML-Q’s attempts to adopt a resolution in favour of President Musharraf holding the office of the chief of army staff. He said that the MMA had opposed the military operation in Balochistan despite being a coalition partner in the provincial government. “But our stand on protecting sensitive installations was clear in the cabinet meetings.”

Shafique Ahmed Khan of the PPP said that there could be no peace in the province unless law and order was maintained, issues like unemployment were addressed, negotiations were held with militants and Balochistan’s share in the NFC award was assured.

Syed Ehsan Shah, the parliamentary leader of the BNP (Awami), said that the coalition government faced the task of resolving several serious issues.

Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, the parliamentary leader of the National Party, accused President Pervez Musharraf of launching the military operation that led to the killing of Nawab Bugti, Nawabzada Balaach Marri and hundreds of other innocent people.

He demanded that President Musharraf’s name should be included in the ‘Exit Control List’.

Zamarak Khan Piralizai, parliamentary leader of the ANP, called for ending the military operation immediately and urged the government to release all political detainees.

Sardar Aslam Bizenjo, the leader of the group of independent lawmakers, stressed the need for concentrating on people’s problems and said that the people of Balochistan knew who had supported the military operation and who had opposed it.

Khaliq Khan Achakzai, parliamentary of the PML-N, said that by keeping oneself confined to the past would not help to solve the present problems, adding that lawmakers should devise policies for a bright future for the people.

The parliamentary leader of the PML-Q, Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, said that tribal chieftains and Ulema should help bring normality in the province. He said that without reaching a settlement with the militants there could be no peace in Balochistan.

JUI (Ideological)’s parliamentary leader in the Balochistan Assembly Abdul Khaliq Basharyar said that enforcement of Islamic laws was the only way to tide over the crisis confronting the province.

Asad Baloch, Sadiq Umrani, Habibur Rehman Mohammad Hasni, Amanullah Notezai, Maulvi Ghulam Sarwar, Ainuddin Kakar, Agha Irfan, Amal Kalmati, Zahoor Hussain Khoso, Ruqiya Hashimi, Ghazala Gola, Shama Parveen Magsi, Rehila Durani, Rubina Irfan and Samina Tariq also spoke.

Mr Bhootani assured the house that he would allow all members to express their views on people’s issues.

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