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A view of Balochistan Assembly. — Online Photo by Ahmad Kakar.

QUETTA: Balochistan was in turmoil over the issue of provincial caretaker set-up after 17 ministers resigned from the Nawab Aslam Raisani-led cabinet on Saturday and decided to sit on opposition benches in the assembly.

They have warned that they will not accept what they called an interim government which two political parties [JUI-F and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A)] want to impose on the province.

The ministers — belonging to the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q and independent group — have handed over their resignation to Mir Tariq Ali Magsi, leader of opposition in the assembly. National Party (NP) President Dr Malik Baloch has also opposed ‘attempts to impose’ a caretaker government ‘lacking consensus among political parties of the province’.

Tariq Magsi called a press conference at the residence of the provincial president of the PML-Q, Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, on Saturday.

Some resigning ministers were present.

The ministers who have resigned include Mir Saleem Khosa, Mir Amanullah Notaizai, Mir Habibur Rehman Mohammad Hasni, Babu Rahim Mengal, Sardar Masood Luni, Basant Lal Gulshan, Dr Ruqayya Hashmi and Ms Sobia Kiran Kibzai of the PML-Q, Sadiq Ali Umrani and Jan Ali Changezi of the PPP, Captain (Retd) Abdul Khaliq Achakzai of the PML-N and Aslam Bizenjo (Independent).

The PML-Q’s former speaker of the assembly Muhammad Aslam Bhootani and MPAs Mir Shoaib Nousherwani, Mir Tariq Masoori Bugti are also among those parliamentarians who want to join the opposition. Tariq Magsi said the resignations would be submitted to Governor of Balochistan Mir Zulfiqar Magsi on his arrival in Quetta from Islamabad.

“More ministers are going resign on Sunday to join opposition,” he said.

He said his group enjoyed support of more than 40 members of the assembly.

“We want a caretaker setup acceptable to all political parties in and outside the assembly,” Aslam Bizenjo and Sadiq Umrani said.

Joining the foray, minister and PML-N provincial chief Sardar Sanaullah Zehri also announced his decision to resign from the ministry and sit on the opposition benches along with four other ministers of the party — Ismail Gujjar, Rahila Durrani, Tahir Mehmood and Khaliq Achakzai.

Mr Zehri told a press conference that the PML-N ministers had submitted their resignation and claimed that over 40 members belonging to other parties were in contact with him. “We will prove our majority in the house,” he said.

He warned that they would not accept an “imposed” caretaker setup and would resist any move in this regard as it would amount to injustice with the people of the province and tampering with provincial autonomy.

Giving the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he stressed that an impartial caretaker government should be nominated in Balochistan through consensus and the people of the province should be given authority to decide about their future.

“Islamabad has always imposed its decisions on Balochistan and this attitude has brought the situation to an alarming stage,” he said. “Federal government has never demonstrated seriousness while dealing with Balochistan and has always imposed puppets on the province through conspiracies,” he retorted Also in the day, NP leader Dr Malik expressed concern over the thaw in relations between President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani and termed it a conspiracy to ‘keep the genuine representatives (of the people) away from the political scene’.

He appealed to the Supreme Court and the Chief Election Commissioner to take notice and said that ‘true representatives of the people have decided to wage a joint struggle to retain their democratic rights’.

He expressed these views at a news conference in the Quetta Press Club during which tribal elders Mir Gul Shahwani, Khairulah Bangulzai, Imran Bangulzai, Mir Shamsullah Lehri, Abdul Qadoos, Aziz Jan and dozens of others announced their decision to joint the NP.

Nawab Raisani will call session of the assembly on Monday to show his majority for electing new opposition leader, according to sources. It is learnt that the JUI-F, a coalition partner, will apply for opposition benches and its senior minister Maulana Wasey will be the candidate for the slot of opposition leader.

If he is elected opposition leader, it is expected that the leader of the house and he will suggest the name of Syed Ehsan Shah for the slot of caretaker chief minister. Mr Shah belongs to BNP-A and is minister of industry.