4 Balochistan ministers threaten to resign
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Four provincial ministers and a pro-government member of the Balochistan Assembly (BA) walked out of the house in protest on Saturday against not being allowed to debate the issue of a missing Baloch school teacher and warned to boycott the ongoing assembly session for an indefinite period.
A dramatic situation in Balochistan Assembly rose on Saturday when Sardar Mohammad Aslam Bizenjo, the parliamentary leader of the Independent Group and the provincial minister for irrigation, walked out of the assembly in protest over the lack of interest on the part of the official benches to debate the issue of Zarina Marri, a 23-year old young Baloch school teacher, who had been allegedly whisked away by the security forces two years ago.
When Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhoothani asked Bizenjo to speak on a totally different matter being discussed on the floor of the house, he said he would not talk about any other issue except for the disappearance of Zarina Marri who is believed to be in the custody of the intelligence agencies and being subjected to rape. He reminded the Speaker that he had demanded in the previous session of the assembly to fix a time for debating the matter but his request was not arrogantly spurned.
“Zarina Marri is a Baloch daughter being kept in the custody of the military and used as a sex-slave. Currently, this is the most burning issue and the Balochistan Assembly should firstly debate on this serous matter,” he demanded, to which the Speaker said it would be meaningless to discuss the matter on the floor of the assembly until the leader of the house, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, and the Home Minister Mir Zafarullah Zehri were present in the session. The Chief Minister, the house was informed, was presently on a trip to Islamabad to fight Balochistan’s case at Center.
Disillusioned over the Speaker’s ruling, Sardar Bizanjo walked out of the assembly in protest and was followed by three other ministers Mir Hamal Kalmati, Mir Zahoor Buledai and Mir Saleem Khosa while another pro-government MPA, Mir Zahoor Hussain Khosa, also joined the group of parliamentarians who walked out of the assembly.
Ironically, Speaker Bhoothani said: “How am I going to run the affairs of the house when the government ministers and the members of the treasury benches are themselves walking out in protest?” The Speaker had to adjourn the session for fifteen minutes and asked two other ministers, Mir Sadiq Umrani and Maulana Abdul Bari, to negotiate with the angry ministers and the MPA in order to bring them back to the house. However, the exasperated ministers refused to return to the assembly.
It was the first time in the parliamentary history of Balochistan when provincial ministers walked-out of the assembly in protest against their own government.
Addressing a press conference at the Chief Minister Chamber, Sardar Aslam Bizanjo said the parliamentary resolutions of the Balochistan Assembly had no significance and it would be futile to pass another resolution to demand the release of Zarina Marri. He emphasized that Chief Minister Raisani should urgently take a delegation of the members of the parliamentary parties to Islamabad to immediately meet with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani to raise the issue.
“Until top level action is taken in Zarina Marri case, we will continue boycotting the assembly session,” he warned adding that their protest could translate into a worse form in the future which included quitting the coalition government.
He said the Independent members of the assembly had decided to support Nawab Raisani’s government on the grounds of the assurances they had been give that the top priority of the provincial government would be to resurface all the missing Baloch people. “We are absolutely dissatisfied with the progress made so far regarding the release of the missing persons.”
On the other hand, Mir Asadullah Baloch of Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), who is also the provincial minister for agriculture, accused the annoyed ministers of playing “double standards” and flaunting their democratic credentials.
“It is unfair to simultaneously enjoy the provincial ministries and play the role of the opposition leaders,” he snapped at the angry ministers. However, the BNP leader assured that if a resolution was moved on the Balochistan Assembly floor in this case, his party would wholeheartedly support it because the issue of Zarina Mari concerned everyone in Balochistan irrespective of ethnic and political divide.
“We want all the matters to be addressed legally and constitutionally. The best way to raise the issue of Zarina Marri is to pass a resolution in order to send a message to the whole world that the demand for an inquiry has been made by the elected representatives of the country’s largest province,” he said, “boycotting or walking out of the assembly are simply meant to show-off one’s extra-commitment towards the province.”
Asad was also joined by Minister of Quetta Development Authority (QDA) Mr. Ismail Gujjar (PPPP) and Revenue Minister Zumurak Khan of the Awami National Party. When he was surrounded by limitless questions of the journalists then Asad remarked sarcastically that that the journalists should pose rest of the questions to Mr. Gujjar. After all, the latter came from the ruling party.
On his party, Gujjar claimed that the PPP government in Balochistan had taken several measures for the recovery of the missing persons and the release of the detained political workers. I hated this ‘white lie’ and interrupted that those who had been released by the Balochistan government only included the scions of leading tribal families. For instance, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Shahzain Bugti, the grandson of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, were exceptional cases.
” Can you name a single ordinary Baloch who went missing during the previous government and your government helped to release him?” I asked and the minister had no answer to my question.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan Assembly passed two resolutions on Saturday demanding the provision of TV boosters in the rural areas of Balochistan and shelter homes to the victims of last year’s earthquake.
I liked it when Sardar Bizanjo said that Balochistan’s issue was not that of TV boosters. While the Baloch women are being kept in the custody of the army and subjected to rape, it comes as a matter of disgrace for the Balochistan Assembly to address these issues of lesser importance.
The house will no meet on February 3rd.