Pakistan’s Baluchistan region elects new chief minister amid turmoil

Abdul Qudoos Bezenjo. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Pakistan’s Baluchistan region elects new chief minister amid turmoil

QUETTA: Pakistan’s volatile Baluchistan province elected a new chief minister on Saturday, days after the previous leader was ousted in a blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party ahead of the 2018 polls.
Abdul Qudoos Bezenjo, former deputy speaker of the provincial assembly and member of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) party, was sworn in as third chief minister in four years in the restive southwestern province.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is plagued by violence, perpetrated by both Islamist militants and nationalist insurgents fighting to keep a greater share of the revenues from gas and minerals in the province. Security has improved in recent years, though militants still carry out attacks.
The province also forms an important leg of the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor of energy and infrastructure projects that China hopes to build as part of its belt and road initiative.
Bezenjo’s ascent to power follows weeks of political infighting which saw provincial lawmakers from the ruling PML-N party rebel to help the opposition call for a vote of no confidence in PML-N’s Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, prompting him to resign in a bitter blow to his party.
The political crisis had been intensified by speculation, widely circulated in media, that elements of Pakistan’s powerful military were behind efforts to destabilize the region and possibly dissolve the assembly ahead of the senate elections due around March, and the general elections in mid-2018.
“This assembly will complete its constitutional term,” Bezenjo said after being sworn in. “And if somebody made any attempt (to dissolve the parliament) I will fully resist.”
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history since independence in 1947, denies meddling in civilian politics.
Bezenjo’s election is seen hurting PML-N’s chances at the nationwide senate elections, with analysts saying the ruling party is now expected to get fewer senators from Baluchistan. In 2015, the vote for members of the upper house Senate was done through secret ballots of provincial lawmakers.


Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

Updated 11 December 2018
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Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

MADRID: Spain’s interior minister said he would send national police to Catalonia if local authorities did not do more to stop protests like the one that shut down major highways over the weekend.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the local Catalan police of doing nothing to prevent pro-independence protesters blocking the AP-7 toll road, which runs up Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for more than 15 hours on Saturday.
The involvement of national police would be a contentious issue in the northeastern region which has its own administration and where polls suggest almost half the population wants to split away from Spain.
It would also stir memories of Madrid’s decision to send in a large contingent of national police in September last year after the Catalan government called an illegal independence referendum.
“Serious disruptions of public order and traffic security, such as those seen in the last few days, need to be dealt with by the regional police,” the minister wrote to his regional counterpart in an open letter late on Monday.
“If this does not happen ... the government will order an intervention by the state police,” he added.
Catalonia’s government would respond to the questions raised in the letter, spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said on Tuesday, without saying when or going into further detail. She repeated calls for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain’s previous conservative government took control of the region when the regional administration unilaterally declared independence following the Oct. 1, 2017 referendum.
Many of the Catalan politicians that took part in the declaration are in prison awaiting trial for rebellion or in exile.
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — who came to power in June — has said he is open to a referendum on greater autonomy and has promised to lay out detailed plans in parliament on Wednesday.
But Grande-Marlaska said the local authorities had to show they could keep order and prevent a repeat of Saturday’s protests.
“It was observed that there was no intervention (by the regional police) ... a reality that is difficult to deny,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.