—Mengal presents list in NA containing names of nearly 500 people who have allegedly gone missing after signing agreements with PTI
–Says people of Balochistan ‘are not slaves’, questions why a Balochistan peace conference has not been convened
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was caught off-guard on Wednesday after the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), one of the eight political parties who either support the federal government or are part of the coalition, announced to end its alliance with the ruling party.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly during the budget session, BNP-M President Sardar Akhtar Mengal said: “I am officially announcing that our party is separating itself from the government. We will stay in parliament and will keep talking about issues.”
The two parties had signed a six-point memorandum of understanding in August 2018, for an alliance at the Centre. The six points included recovery of allegedly missing persons, implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), implementation of six per cent quota for Balochistan in the federal government, immediate repatriation of Afghan refugees and the construction of dams in the province to resolve the acute water crisis.
However, recalling that the PTI had signed two agreements with the party, first at the time of government formation after the 2018 elections and second during the presidential elections the same year, Mengal said that “not a single point of the accord was implemented”.
“If our demands were illegal and unconstitutional then we are ready to face even death. But then all those who have put their signatures on these accords should also face the same,” he said.
Mengal presented two separate lists of allegedly missing persons before the House. According to him, one of the lists contained the names of 18 people who have been recovered so far while the other contained the names of nearly 500 people who had allegedly gone missing after signing the agreements with the PTI.
He said the decision to come out of the ruling coalition was made after many meetings of the party’s central executive committee. “The law and order situation is worsening in Balochistan, death squads have been reactivated,” he claimed.
He added that the people of the province “were not slaves” and questioned why a Balochistan peace conference could not be convened similar to the conference held for the Afghanistan peace process.
“[The government] is worried about Kashmir more than Balochistan. [The government] is constituting committees on Kashmir which is not with it, but is not worried about losing what it already has. This House can discuss issues of wheat, sugar and tomatoes, but not the blood of the Baloch people.
“The allocations which have been made in the budget for projects in Balochistan shows [the government’s] seriousness. The prime minister has no time to visit the camps of missing persons. He has no time to meet the fishermen facing problems,” he thundered.
“We have simply demanded that the missing persons be recovered and the National Action Plan against terrorism be implemented in letter and spirit. Through the other agreement, we have demanded projects for Balochistan and Gwadar.”
Mengal said that agreements made with the people of the province were “openly violated in the past too”. He also criticised the government for cutting shares of the provinces in the National Finance Commission (NFC).
He added that the government, despite “repeated warnings” did not take steps to stop locust attacks. “[The government] has aircraft for the chief minister and it can buy F-16s, but there is no aircraft for aerial spray.”
He held the federal and Balochistan governments responsible for the spread of Covid-19 in the country by allowing pilgrims from Iran to enter Taftan without making any arrangements. “A first information report (FIR) should be registered against whoever is responsible for the deaths in the country due to coronavirus,” he said.
“The Parliament has been turned into a Hyde Park corner where the members are free to vent their frustration through speeches but no one is there to listen to them seriously,” he alleged.
Pointing towards the empty treasury benches, he said that no one was there to take notes. “These benches were full on the budget presentation day and they will again be full when it will be voted upon.”
In January this year, BNP-M leaders including MP Khalid Magsi, Ahsan Ullah Reki, Israr Tareen, Senator Manzoor Kakar, Naseeb Ullah Badini, Rubina Irfan and Sana Jamali participated in talks with the government as it started efforts to appease its “annoyed” allies. However, the BNP-M president did not participate in the talks.
The government side had assured the party leaders that it would address all grievances of the party and would include them in “development-oriented” decision making.
ZARDARI DISCUSSES POLITICAL SITUATION WITH MENGAL:
Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned the BNP-M chief of discussed the political situation with him.
Mengal also inquired about the health of the former president and prayed for his early recovery and said the country needed Zardari’s political sagacity, said a press release issued by the party secretariat.
“PPP always strives to strengthen the country, democracy and the poor, and will continue to play its leading role in saving the country and its people,” Zardari said.
After BNP-M’s withdrawal from the coalition government, parliamentary numbers once again came into focus.
To form the government, a party needs at least 172 seats. Even after losing Mengal’s support, the PTI and coalition parties have 180 seats in the National Assembly (NA).
PM Imran’s PTI has 156 seats in the assembly, while it has the support of seven members of Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).
The PTI’s coalition partners Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have five seats each in the lower house, while Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) has three seats in the assembly.
Sheikh Rashid, an MNA of his Awami Muslim League (AML) party and two other independent MNAs are also supporting PM Imran’s government.
Mengal has left the PTI coalition but he has not joined the opposition’s alliance, which has 157 members in the assembly.
The PML-N has 84 MNAs, the PPP has 55 MNAs, the MMA has 15 MNAs and the ANP has one MNA in the lower house of the parliament.
Two independent MNAs are also sitting on the opposition benches. The opposition parties will have 161 seats in the assembly if Mengal decides to join them but it would not be enough to topple PM Imran’s government.