GILGIT: Even though an opposition leader has already been appointed, opposition parties are still embroiled in a tug of war over who will lead the opposition in the newly-formed Gilgit-Baltistan legislative Assembly.
According to insiders, Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP) and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) are vying for the coveted post. ITP has staked a claim to lead the opposition as it is the second largest party with four members in the assembly. However, MWM and other parties believe ITP should not be given the opportunity as it is much too close to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government in the region to be trusted.
Opposing the opposition
The battle for supremacy still continues even though MWM-backed Shah Baig has already been appointed as the opposition leader.
Baig is a lawmaker from JUI-F and became leader of the opposition after winning a draw. The lucky draw was arranged unanimously by MWM, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party and Balawaristan National Front’s Nawaz Naji last week — ITP was not invited. Following the announcement, ITP raised objections over the decision to appoint Baig as the opposition leader as they had not been consulted.
“Baig has been appointed only to keep us at bay,” said ITP lawmaker Captain (retd) Sikandar while addressing a news conference in Gilgit on Friday. “We aren’t against Baig but are against MWM.” When Speaker Fida Nashad announced Baig as leader of the opposition, ITP refused to sit with other opposition parties, demanding separate seats for its members.
“We have been cheated. Leadership of the opposition is our right,” ITP leader Captain (retd) Muhammad Shafie told The Express Tribune on Saturday. “We refuse to sit in the same place at MWM lawmkaers.
We need separate benches in a different place. We would not even like to go to heaven with the people of this party.” Earlier, MWM and other parties accused ITP of being a pro-government party.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, MWM’s Rizwan Hussain accused ITP leaders of trying to appease the chief minister. “Our lawmakers were not happy with the party’s approach,” he added.
Amid the ongoing tussle between both parties, political analysts believe the government will have a free rein to implement its policies in the absence of an actual opposition. Opposition leader Baig is believed to have been caught in the middle as the rivalry between ITP and MWM reached a flashpoint during the legislative assembly polls.
PML-N bagged 22 seats during the legislative assembly elections on June 8.
On the other hand, ITP is the second largest party in the assembly while MWM has three seats in the 33-member assembly.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.
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