In a bid to calm the political waters and woo an estranged ally of the government, Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday apologised to Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain over what he called a ‘misunderstanding’.
“I apologise for the misunderstanding that might have hurt Altaf Bhai,”’ said Malik without elaborating on the nature of the misunderstanding that caused the MQM to leave the coalition in both the federal and Sindh governments.
Malik said that he had telephoned MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar to discuss the elections for the two seats representing the Kashmiri diaspora in Karachi in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislature. The MQM parted ways with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party after Malik reportedly asked them not to contest one of the seats, both of which had been won by the MQM in 2006.
The interior minister did not confirm nor deny such reports. “Political parties talk with each other on various issues and if something has created misunderstanding with MQM, it would be removed,” said Malik.
Malik denied that the government had any role in postponing the elections in Kashmir, claiming the decision was made by the AJK Election Commission.
The charm offensive by the PPP was not limited to just the interior minister, however. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, long used to playing the role of political mediator, referred to the MQM as “an old friend” of the PPP during remarks he gave to the press after attending the graduation ceremony of the Civil Service Academy in Lahore.
The reconciliation efforts by the PPP leadership came in the wake of reports that several opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) were interested in forming a coalition with the MQM and might form a joint opposition whose sole aim would be to call for early elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2011.