ISLAMABAD, June 6: The upper house was stunned on Friday when Balochistan National Party (Mengal) Senator Sanaullah Baloch suddenly announced his resignation from the house in accordance with what he called his party’s policy.

The nationalist senator, who had returned to the house only a couple of days ago after ending his 18 months of exile, handed over his resignation to the Senate secretary in the presence of Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro.

He said he should have resigned along with other colleagues of his party following the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, but since he was abroad he could not do it.

Later he told journalists that his decision was final.He said that it was the right of the Baloch people to have control over their resources.

Taking the floor after Mr Sanaullah’s announcement, Leader of the House Mian Raza Rabbani offered an unqualified apology to the Baloch people for the excesses committed by the outgoing military-led government and made a passionate appeal to the Senator to withdraw his resignation.

He conceded that the road to addressing genuine concerns of Balochistan was long, but the government had already taken a step forward. “We don’t believe in the politics of gun. We believe in the politics of reconciliation. We want to bring Baloch people to mainstream politics and to make sure that all the provinces are treated equally,” Mr Rabbani said in a voice choked with emotions.

He said that there was a proposal that people who had gone to Balochistan from other provinces and settled there would not have the right of vote in that province.

He asserted the government would need some time to stop secret agencies from playing a political role and such matters could be addressed by evolving a broad alliance of genuine democratic forces.

He pointed out that Gen (retd) Musharraf had no justification to remain president after a clear mandate given against him by the people on February 18.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Rahman Malik said he hoped Mr Sanaullah would take back his decision and he would soon visit Balochistan to meet BNP president Akhtar Mengal for the purpose.

Senators from all parties paid tribute to Mr Sanaullah and appealed to him to withdraw his resignation. They said he was a strong voice in the Senate of the people of his province.

They also requested the Senate chairman not to accept his resignation, at least for a week, so that he and his party could be persuaded to revise the decision.

Mr Sanaullah said that the Baloch people had lost trust in Islamabad and, therefore, steps should be taken to end this feeling of distrust.

He said the presence of military and paramilitary forces had aggravated the crisis in the province. He said that about 250,000 people had fled their homes and they should be compensated and persuaded to return.

He demanded cancellation of allotment of land in his province made since 2002 and an end to the political role of secret agencies. “For a healthy society, the rule of law was important.”

Prof Khurshid Ahmad, Ghafoor Haideri, Azam Swati, Ilyas Bilour, Abdur Rahim Mandokhail, Haji Adeel, Dr Abdul Malik, Ismail Buledi, Kamran Murtaza and Tahir Hussain Mashhadi appealed to Mr Sanaullah to reconsider his decision.

Mr Sanaullah said: “We always wanted an end to our problems through dialogue, but gun was used to teach us a lesson and to crush our voice for our legitimate rights.”

He called for effective measures to strengthen the federation and said that democracy alone was not enough to address grievances of the Baloch people.

He claimed that 90 per cent of the problems in his province could be solved with an executive order. “Baloch parties announced the boycott of the Feb 18 election after their mainstream leaders were detained or confined.”

Mr Sanaullah said that after the deployment of 47,000 forces from other provinces in Balochistan, youths had no option but to move to the mountains.

He challenged the establishment to justify the setting up of a network of cantonments and said his people desperately needed educational institutions and other basic amenities.

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