Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Farooq Sattar on Wednesday said that President Asif Ali Zardari has promised to address MQM’s reservations and take corrective measures.
Speaking to media at the airport after a meeting with the president to resolve differences, Sattar said criminals are kidnapping traders’ children and openly extorting them.
The MQM leader further informed that the president has scheduled another meeting, which is expected to include Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah as well.
Sattar also said that at the moment the country is in a fragile state and squabbling can have detrimental effects on the progress of the nation.
Updated from print edition (below)
President buys time: After hectic talks, MQM stays
The immediate threat to the government coalition seemed to have receded for now after President Asif Ali Zardari managed to assuage the concerns of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), assuring the key coalition partner that its reservations regarding the situation in Karachi would be handled at all levels.
After more than two hours of talks with an MQM delegation that lasted past midnight and included a telephone call to MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London, the president appeared to have calmed his coalition partner’s anger at comments made by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza on Sunday night.
Zardari told the delegation that he would convene a meeting of the Sindh governor, chief minister and provincial leaders within a week to thrash out the issues raised by the MQM, according to a press release issued after the meeting.
However, there was no official word from the offices of the MQM regarding the talks till the filing of this report. Reports suggested that the MQM would continue with its stand of boycotting the Sindh Assembly and staying out of the coalition government in Sindh till the outcome of the upcoming talks.
The MQM had quit the provincial government after the Sindh home minister declared Lyari’s Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) an affiliate of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The MQM characterises the PAC as a criminal gang that is behind extortion and kidnapping cases in Karachi.
“We conveyed to President Zardari that he must make a choice. The choice is between the so-called Peoples Amn Committee and the MQM,” an MQM leader who was part of his party’s delegation told The Express Tribune.
“He also assured [the delegation] that criminal elements will be curbed with an iron hand ... [and] that no criminal would be allowed to seek shelter behind a political façade of any sort,” said a press release from the President House.
The president is also quoted to have said that political forces should “guard against elements seeking to drive a wedge between them and creating conditions of anarchy”.
The MQM delegation included Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghauri, Raza Haroon and Dr Saghir Ahmed. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Farhatullah Babar, the president’s spokesman, were also present.
While the delegation held talks with the president and his associates, the Rabita Committee of the MQM held simultaneous meetings in Karachi and London.
According to sources, the party’s leaders, including ministers in the Sindh cabinet, were summoned to Nine Zero while the Rabita Committee and the talks with the president were ongoing. The ministers had earlier submitted written resignations to the committee, in case the party decided to withdraw from the Sindh government.
Meanwhile, adding to the milieu of uncertainty while the talks at the President House were still ongoing, the chief minister and PPP ministers and senior leaders gathered at the residence of Sindh Local Government Minister Aga Siraj Durrani to discuss the developing political situation.
The MQM-PPP relationship has seen many hiccups since they joined hands in the centre and Sindh. At one point the MQM quit the coalition government in Islamabad and decided to sit on the opposition benches, leaving Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government without a simple majority in the National Assembly.
But after hectic deliberations and the intervention of their top leaderships, the MQM rescinded its decision to sit on the opposition benches, though its ministers declined to return to the federal cabinet.
Their coalition in Sindh appeared to be at risk after the minister’s comments on Sunday night. Sources in the PPP said the president had told the minister not to further antagonise the MQM and stop making political statements.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.
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