The Pakistan Peoples Party’s efforts to yet again woo back erstwhile coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have begun in earnest.
President Asif Ali Zardari, during a one-on-one meeting with recently returned Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad at Bilawal House on Tuesday, called up MQM chief Altaf Hussain and ensured him that all of his party’s reservations would be assuaged.
He also thanked Hussain for allowing the Sindh governor, an MQM nominee, to resume his office for the sake of continuity and the stability of the province.
In his meeting with Ebad, the president discussed the issue of running matters according to the formula agreed upon earlier between PPP and MQM.
According to sources, the one-on-one meeting that lasted for more than one-and-a-half hours also discussed issues relating to the restoration of the commissionerate system by the government of Sindh, and restoration of Karachi and Hyderabad to their former statuses.
President Zardari insisted that Ebad coordinate with the Sindh chief minister to put an end to the ongoing tension between MQM and PPP and directly monitor the issues between the two parties, as well as play a role in the development of the province.
The president met with the governor at Bilawal House after his return from Kabul late Tuesday night.
According to the president’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, the governor thanked the president for having confidence in him.
Sources said the return of the governor paves the way for further dialogue with the MQM since the governor would act as the mediator.
Treasury or opposition?
Sources privy to backstage developments told The Express Tribune that both parties have reached a consensus to make amendments in the commissionerate system bill which was recently passed by the Sindh assembly.
The MQM would return to the treasury benches, and the government has assured it that all their grievances would be resolved, sources added.
The MQM leaders, however, denied these reports saying they will continue to sit on opposition benches. “If the MQM decides to stay in opposition, it would be a friendly opposition,” sources added.
Brought to the negotiating table
A senior PPP leader requesting anonymity said the MQM was not even willing to negotiate with the government, but the PPP played its cards well by passing three important ordinances – restoration of the commissionerate system, local government ordinance 1979 and police act 1861.
“Along with this, the government’s decision to release MQM’s rival Afaq Ahmed compelled MQM to come to the negotiation table,” he said.
Under the new deal, the PPP has assured the MQM that amendments would be made in the ordinances passed earlier and Afaq Ahmed would not be released.
Sources added that MQM would be given a share in the new setup to appoint commissioners, municipal commissioners and administrators in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.
“After the revival of the commissionerate system, the fate of community police hangs in balance – the PPP has also assured the MQM that community police would be adjusted,” sources said. Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, however, said there would be no drastic amendment in the basic structure of the commissionerate system.
The governor, however, returns to an emasculated office.
During the sweeping changes that were made in the aftermath of MQM’s departure, the control of Intermediate and Secondary boards of education was transferred from the governor to the chief minister.
“The government has now prepared a bill to transfer the powers of universities from the governor to the CM,” said sources in the law department.
“The bill is supposed to be tabled in the upcoming session but after the recent developments, we are waiting for new directives to be issued by higher authorities,” sources added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.
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