In a strategic manoeuvre ahead of the February 8 general elections, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday secured backing from over two dozen influential figures in Balochistan, notably former chief minister Jam Kamal Khan – a political handshake that will potentially ensure the PML-N receiving the lion’s share in the polls.
The development came as political manoeuvres have intensified, with the PML-N attempting to court regional players in a bid to create a formidable alliance against the PPP in the province. Nawaz has taken strides towards building strategic partnerships across provinces ahead of the polls.
The former premier held meetings with the leaders of the National Party (NP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to gain their support.
Nawaz arrived in Quetta on a two-day visit after the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari advised the PML-N supremo to focus on Lahore instead of visiting Quetta.
All mainstream political parties have been testing their muscles to gain support from Balochistan. However, the PML N got the lion’s share of the electables in the province.
While the PML N could emerge as the primary parliamentary party in Balochistan with the inclusion of key electables, the party had held sway in the province after the 2013 general elections.
Notably, significant figures from the former ruling party BAP, including Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran, Muhammad Khan Lehri, Mir Ghafoor Lehri, Noor Muhammad Dumar, Toor Uthmankhail, Sardar Masood Luni, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani, Mir Mujeeb ur Rehman Muhammad Hassani, Saleem Khan Khoso, Mir Shoaib Nowsherwani, Dostain Khan Domki, Rameen Muhammad Hassani and others, announced their allegiance to the PML-N.
The PML N’s engagement with JUI F, NP, PKMAP, and BAP, coupled with support from key electables, positions the party favourably to secure significant backing in the forthcoming general elections.
The NP and PKMAP, two nationalist parties, had previously formed an alliance with the PML-N post the 2013 elections, solidifying their association during Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s tenure as Balochistan chief minister.
Despite having a majority in the house, the PML-N decided to appoint Dr Baloch as the chief minister of Balochistan.
However, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri was elected as the CM for the remaining period. Later, Zehri was removed through a vote of no confidence by Mir Quddus Bizenjo and the BAP was established inflicting serious harm to the PML-N.
No delegation from the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) called on the former premier till the filing of this report. These meetings clearly indicate party positions in the upcoming general elections in Balochistan.
‘PML-N’s achievements in Balochistan’
Meanwhile, expressing his dedication to the province’s progress, Nawaz Sharif emphasised, “Development of Balochistan has always been dear to us.”
He highlighted ongoing infrastructure initiatives, such as the extensive road network spanning thousands of kilometres, aimed at alleviating poverty and backwardness in the region.
Nawaz particularly lauded the completion of the 650-kilometre road from Gwadar to Quetta, which significantly reduced travel time from two days to a mere eight hours.
He acknowledged the sacrifices made during the road’s construction, with more than 40 people reportedly killed in the process.
The former prime minister also reminisced about the foundation-laying of key roads connecting southern Balochistan with Sindh in 1998-1999.
He credited his government for initiating projects like Hakla and DI Khan Road, which experienced a four-year stall before being resumed by former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif highlighted the ongoing efforts to enhance the York-Sago Zhob Highway, connecting it with N-50.
He also detailed various road projects, including those from Basima to Khuzdar and Kharan, as well as the collaboration with Japan for the Rakhi Gaj to Bewata road, linking northern Balochistan with south Punjab.
Speaking about the delayed Kalat, Quetta, Chaman, Khuzdar, and Karachi Dorvia (N-25) project, Nawaz Sharif expressed confidence in its completion within the next two to three years, provided the work continues.
The former prime minister drew attention to his government’s role in constructing the coastal highway in 1998-1999 and the Gilgit-Skardu highway, completed at a cost of Rs62 billion.
Nawaz Sharif also asserted that the journey of development initiated during his tenure was unfortunately interrupted after his removal.
Touching upon broader achievements, the PML-N supremo claimed the successful elimination of terrorism, eradication of load-shedding, and the initiation of over 400 small dams in Balochistan.
He cited educational advancements, with thousands of students from Balochistan and former tribal areas receiving scholarships, and the establishment of university campuses in various cities.
Despite acknowledging the challenges, Nawaz reiterated his commitment to unity and inclusivity, pledging to strengthen relationships and cooperate with all stakeholders for the betterment of the region.
Political leaders in Balochistan expressed gratitude for Nawaz Sharif’s visit, with a consensus to foster political cooperation in the future.