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June 19, 2020

Coalition matters: Pervez Khattak to act as prime firefighter

National

June 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Who is the main firefighter of the government to persuade Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal into changing his mind, with the principal go-between, Jahangir Tareen, being out of the loop?

Tareen was one of the three signatories of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), representing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), inked with the BNP-M ten days before Imran Khan was sworn in as the prime minister on Aug 18, 2018. In pursuance of this agreement, the BNP-M voted for him. However, it decided to sit on the opposition benches in the Balochistan Assembly.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is now the Foreign Minister, and party’s Balochistan chief Sardar Yar Rindh had also signed the document. From the BNP-M, besides Mengal, Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini and Agha Hassan Baloch had inked the MoU.

It said that the issue of missing persons should be resolved expeditiously with firm commitment and future occurrences should be avoided. The National Action Plan (NAP) should be implemented in letter and spirit. Demographic identity of Balochistan should be protected in consultation with all political parties and necessary legislation should be enacted to safeguard the rights of Balochistan.

Six percent quota of Balochistan in federal services should be honoured and Balochistan quota in foreign services should be adopted regularly. Share of mineral resources will be renegotiated to the benefit of the respective province with full transparency. Refinery of copper/gold and other minerals should be built in Balochistan. Major dams should be constructed in Balochistan so that underground water reserves may be replenished to avoid the risk of migration. All Afghan refugees should be repatriated honourably to their country.

Before being detached from the job of removing the irritants projected by smaller coalition partners, Tareen used to do the firefighting when any ally publicly voiced exasperation. This assignment was taken away from him sometime back.

Consequently, the prime minister nominated Defence Minister Pervez Khattak as his main point man to liaise with the alliance partners. He was made chairman of three committees to talk to different allied parties. One of them was supposed to deal with the BNP-M, Balochistan National Party (BNP) and Jamhoori Wattan Party (JWP). It included National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and Mir Khan Muhammad Jamali. It is known that the body has not held even a single meeting with BNP-M since its creation.

The PTI’s relationship with the BAP and JWP has been smooth and hassle-free. However, Mengal has off and on been airing his reservations, articulating that the promises made with the BNP-M have not been fulfilled.

After the signing of the MoU, Tareen always jumped in whenever Mengal ventilated his objections and resentment. Qureshi has never associated himself with this process. His only involvement was the working out of the MoU.

Two days before Mengal made public severing of his party’s partnership with the PTI, he was contacted by the government emissaries not to do so. But he stood his ground saying that the BNP-M central committee has taken this decision that he can’t reverse.

However, the government representatives including Pervez Khattak sprang into action more vigorously after Mengal’s announcement. They have been mandated by the prime minister to prevail upon the BNP-M chief. In the past, Tareen had been handling the situation single-handed once he had been given the assignment.

The vote of each and every member matters in a precarious numbers’ game in the National Assembly. The BNP-M has four votes of Mengal Agha Hassan Baloch, Hashim Notezai and Prof. Dr. Shahnaz Baloch while it has one senator. After the split, the BNP-M chief has kept his doors open to hold discussions with opposition parties. Considering that it was an opportune time, some opposition stalwarts have already approached Mengal.