Back from the brink

Published: January 11, 2018

The immediate crisis in Balochistan political life has been averted with the resignation of chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. He was hours away from facing a no-confidence motion that was to be tabled against him in the provincial assembly that he was certain to have lost. He had been under intense pressure on all sides and resisted until the eleventh hour. Had the no-confidence motion been tabled and succeeded there was the potential consequently to derail the run-up to the forthcoming general election.

Balochistan now needs a new chief minister and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) huddled together in Punjab House on Tuesday 9th January to discuss possible candidates. It is reported that PM Abbasi along with other senior party members decided to adopt what was described as a ‘flexible approach’ and that any candidates from the coalition that runs Balochistan should be considered for the post of CM — a decision that reflects the urgency with which this latest crisis is being addressed. Several of those that revolted against Zehri are in the frame, including Sarfraz Bugti, the former provincial home minister, as well as Dr Abdul Maloch from the National Party.

‘All politics are local’ goes the saying, and that could not be more true for Balochistan, an area almost the size of France, thinly populated, resource rich and ruinously poor. It is home to the most active and deadly nationalist group in the country, and politically is a tense network of tribal groupings and alliances that make a quiet political life bounded by circumspection and due deference a virtual impossibility. The ousting of Zehri was personal as made clear by some of those that saw him off, saying that they were not in any way against the ruling PML-N but against the man himself. Personal rifts and schisms brought Zehri down rather than any clash of political ideology. Confusingly, he is likely to retain his leadership of the PML-N in the province and he has been directed to take no action against those that unseated him — hardly a recipe for political equanimity down the line. Crisis averted, the malaise persists.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2018.

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