January 9, 2018 / 1:27 PM / a year ago

Chief minister of Pakistan's volatile Baluchistan resigns

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The chief minister of Pakistan’s Baluchistan resigned on Tuesday to end “instability” in the gas-rich province, his spokesman said, amid opposition efforts to remove him through a vote of no confidence.

Nawab Sanaullah Zehri quit shortly before a provincial assembly session in which lawmakers were expected to table a motion to demand a vote to oust him.

“I can confirm CM Baluchistan tendered resignation following the spirit of democratic principles,” Jan Achakzai, Zehri’s spokesman, said on Twitter.

Resource-rich Baluchistan is plagued by violence, perpetrated by both Islamist militants and nationalist insurgents, who are fighting to keep a greater share of the revenues from gas and minerals in the province.

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.

Zehri had vowed to fight his political opponents to the end, but resigned to “bring an end to instability” in the province, which borders both Afghanistan and Iran, Achakzai said.

Mir Abdul Qudoos Bezenjo, a former deputy speaker of the provincial assembly and one of the main instigators behind Zehri’s removal, told Reuters lawmakers sought to oust Zehri because of his “massive corruption” and “ignoring coalition partners”.

Zehri, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), rejected accusations of corruption.

Some political analysts saw the campaign to oust him as another example of the military interfering in civilian politics.

The military, which has ruled the country for about half its history since independence in 1947, denies meddling in civilian politics.

A general election is due later this year.

The upheaval in Baluchistan had led to speculation that the opposition might use the crisis to delay a national vote for members of the upper house Senate, due in March.

Zahid Hussain, a political analyst, said in the short term, Zehri’s departure was likely to have quelled speculation about a dissolution of the Baluchistan assembly.

Additional reporting and writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel

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