In one fell swoop, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) found itself virtually eliminated from Balochistan.
Twenty-two senior- and mid-level PPP leaders — including the party’s former provincial chief Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani — jumped ship on Tuesday to join the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
They announced the decision following a meeting with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. The defectors included MNA Humayoun Aziz Kurd, MPAs Muhammad Ismail Gujjar, Tahir Mehmood Khan and Muhmmad Younis Mullazai and other third-tier leaders of the PPP. A woman lawmaker from the PML-Q, Rahila Hameed Khan Durrani, also switched political loyalties.
Lashkari Raisani, brother of disgraced Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, was the face of the PPP in the province. In the wake of his defection, the PPP is left with two senior leaders: the party’s provincial president Sadiq Umrani and general secretary Ayatullah Khan Durrani.
Lashkari Raisani told journalists after the meeting that his defection to the PML-N was not without preconditions. However, he refused to share the “terms and conditions” under which the move was made.
At the same time, he said that Baloch politicians had decided to give another chance to the federation to steer the province out of uncertainty and despair – explaining why he had chosen to join hands with the PML-N.
Though Raisani refused to disclose his conditions, sources said the PML-N has agreed to give him a free hand to award party tickets in Balochistan for the upcoming parliamentary elections. He has also been empowered to negotiate with disgruntled Baloch leaders and insurgents on behalf of the PML-N.
However, some sources said that Nawaz’s acquiescence to all of Raisani’s demands might jeopardise the PML-N’s negotiations with nationalist parties — including Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamhoori Watan Party — for seat adjustments.
Nawaz laments ‘Hazara genocide’
Welcoming Raisani into the PML-N fold, Nawaz also elaborated his party’s position on the unabated, targeted attacks on the Shia community in Quetta and Karachi. He hit out at the PPP-led central government for its failure to stem the tide of sectarian violence in the country. From Khyber to Karachi, he said, Shia community members are being killed, while the rulers are busy looting the nation’s money.
Nawaz said the Supreme Court has clearly ordered the dismantling of militant wings of all political parties – but no one bothered to implement the court ruling. He promised a terrorism-free Pakistan, if his party was voted to power.
Raisani pointed out that only democracy and a popularly elected government could resolve the festering issues of Balochistan. He added that he decided to part ways with the PPP because it has failed to alleviate the sense of deprivation and alienation from Balochistan. At the same time, it has failed to steer the country out of a series of crisis.
Raisani ducked a question about the possibility of his brother, Nawab Aslam Raisani, joining the PML-N. “He is independent to make his decisions,” he added.
Punjab govt links with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif used the media interaction to make a scathing rejoinder to the accusation made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik against the Punjab government. Calling Malik the ‘biggest liar’, Shahbaz said that Shia community members were being killed, because Sindh and Balochistan governments had issued arms licences to sectarian killers.
Malik has routinely blamed the Punjab government for maintaining ties with outlawed sectarian extremist groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Shahbaz claimed that his administration has not issued a single arms licence to sectarian killers during its entire tenure.
Also on Tuesday, PPP’s former lawmaker from Kohistan district, Malik Saeed Ahmed Khan and his son Misri Khan also joined the PML-N. The defection was made possible due to the efforts of senior PML-N leader Engineer Amir Muqam.
Speaking to the media on the occasion, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the PML-N has consulted all opposition parties during the last four months and picked two names for the office of interim prime minister. He added that his party would forward its nominees to the government after more brainstorming over the next few days.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2013.