The attack on the Awami Tehreek rally in Karachi, which claimed 13 lives on Tuesday, has intensified divisions in the senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership.
Party ministers have not only demanded an explanation from the federal interior minister for his remarks regarding the involvement of people from Thatta in the violence, but have also asked the party to approach its coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and ask it to clarify its stance on a prospective Mohajir province.
Heated words were exchanged during the Sindh Cabinet meeting of PPP ministers on Wednesday, sources said. The situation became tense when the provincial culture minister, Sassui Palijo, started criticising Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the MQM.
Sassui, who belongs to Thatta, is the first cousin of Ayaz Palijo who held the Awami Tehreek rally.
A majority of PPP ministers, including Murad Ali Shah, Jam Saifullah Dharejo, Zahid Bhurgari, Ali Nawaz Shah and Ayaz Soomro, seconded Sassui and decided to lodge a complaint with President Asif Ali Zardari against Malik, sources added.
Senior minister Pir Mazharul Haq attempted to intervene and reiterated President Zardari’s reconciliation policy, in vain.
“We will not accept the reconciliation policy at the cost of killing our people. We have now arrived at a point where we make or break the alliance,” sources quoted Sassui as replying.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah tried to pacify Sassui and Haq and said he would talk to Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ebad and ask him to clarify his party (MQM’s) position on the Mohajir province.
“Today, I have received information from police and intelligence agencies that some elements belonging to his party (the MQM) are patronising the movement and are also involved in the attack on the rally. Let us get his version on it before taking any decision,” a lawmaker present at the meeting quoted the chief minister as saying.
Sindh Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, addressing the chief minister, said, “We should look into why the police and Rangers were getting directives from the Governor House, instead of you.”
The provincial cabinet decided to take action against police officials who were silent spectators when the rally was attacked.
The meeting also expressed concern over the non-compliance of the chief minister’s orders, by the district administration, to remove billboards and banners across the city calling for a Mohajir province.
A spokesperson for the chief minister, however, said that no heated arguments were exchanged between the ministers, who, according to him, demanded an impartial inquiry and action against the criminals.
In the name of reconciliation
Officials of intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces said they cannot be blamed for the deteriorating law and order situation.
“This has all happened in the name of reconciliation,” sources quoted the director-general Rangers as saying.
“We arrest people and hand them over to the police, but they are all released by the police on the directives of high-ups,” he added.
The Rangers chief sought the chief minister’s “full permission” for action against those suspected of being involved in violence but sources said the chief minister did not give him a direct response.
The meeting also sought to regulate rallies, processions and public gatherings and designate special days for holding them. No decisions, however, were arrived at.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.