ISLAMABAD: The ruling party bigwigs gathered at the Punjab House on Tuesday to discuss a replacement for Nawab Sanaullah Zehri who tendered his resignation as Balochistan chief minister hours before a no-confidence motion was to be tabled against him in the provincial assembly.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior leaders of the party decided to adopt a flexible approach whereby any candidates from coalition parties would also be considered for the post of CM, in case of no consensus on a PML-N member for the top job, according to sources.
The names of Sarfraz Bugti from the PML-N and Dr Abdul Malik Baloch from the National Party (NP) have also been considered for the leader of the house in the provincial assembly, besides Jan Muhammad Jamali and Saleh Bhutani, both from the PML-N.
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Bugti, the former provincial interior minister, was among the leaders who revolted against Zehri and moved the no-confidence motion that forced him to resign. However, Bugti had made it clear that his differences and those of other party members were with Zehri and not with the PML-N.
Malik Baloch served as chief minister for two and a half years before Zehri took over according to a power-sharing agreement between the PML-N and the NP. Zehri was to stay as CM for the remaining tenure of the provincial assembly, but the no-trust motion plans forced him to step down.
According to some party sources, the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) is also lobbying to get its candidate elected to the top executive post in the province but the PML-N leadership and other parties are unlikely to accept anyone from PkMAP as leader of the house.
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Majeed Achazkai, who could be the PkMAP’s potential candidate for the CM’s slot, is facing cases – one of which involves the killing of a traffic warden due to reckless driving.
Since Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai also hails from the PkMAP – something that diminishes chances of a CM from the same party.
The party sources said the PML-N chief was expected to visit Quetta soon to hold consultations with the provincial leadership before finalising a candidate for the coveted post.
“Zehri would not be removed as PML-N president in the province, but he has been instructed not to take any action against party members who revolted against him,” said the sources.
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“The PML-N leadership has decided to appoint a new leader of the house in Balochistan Assembly as early as possible to clear the uncertainty involving the fate of provincial legislative house,” added the sources.
According to reports, the Balochistan chief minister was not willing to step down till Tuesday afternoon despite being asked by the prime minister by phone.
Zehri had decided to face the no-confidence motion but Abbasi, who returned from the provincial capital on Tuesday after an overnight stay, did not sound optimistic about Zehri’s future as provincial head of government.
Opposition parties refused to meet the prime minister during his stay in Quetta. Zehri changed his mind only after PM Abbasi briefed Sharif about the situation in Balochistan which prompted the former PM to intervene and direct Zehri to step down, a senior PML-N leader said, requesting anonymity.
Sharif conveyed to Zehri that he would continue to perform duties as party’s provincial chief, according to the party leader.