The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has for the first time ever hinted at ‘joining’ a proposed grand opposition alliance led by Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif, indicating tough times ahead for the struggling government.
Acknowledging the PML-N’s stature among opposition parties, an MQM spokesperson Wasay Jaleel told The Express Tribune: “The PML-N is a major opposition party…we are in a process of looking into the prospects of cooperating with it for a shared objective.”
The comments came on the heels of Nawaz Sharif’s weekend statement in which he said his party would be “willing to include the MQM” in the alliance to rid the country of “a corrupt and discredited administration”.
Nawaz Sharif’s highly indicative ‘desire’ and Wasay Jaleel’s statement coincided, indicating a ‘change of hearts’ on both sides.
Also on early Sunday morning, Nawaz’s younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif flew to London from Islamabad and some reports suggested he might hold a meeting with MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
There were reports last week that Sharif’s PML-N had decided to gather all political groups hostile to the government, including the MQM on a ‘minimum common agenda’ of dislodging the government.
In recent years, the PML-N and MQM leaders have engaged in bitter verbal duels.
According to a report in this newspaper, Nawaz had assigned Shahbaz to establish direct contacts with Altaf.
Before his departure, Shahbaz himself, however, ruled out the possibility of a meeting with Altaf.
But things are appearing to be changing since the MQM quit the coalition led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Jaleel said: “We will announce our policy in this regard in next two or three days,” he added.
The MQM had recently quit the coalition governments in Sindh and at the centre over the postponement of elections on two seats of the AJK Legislative Assembly.
Governor Sindh Dr Ishartul Ebad, federal ministers along with 13 provincial ministers and an adviser have also tendered their resignations.
However, no decision had been taken so far over the resignations of the MQM since PPP is hopeful that it would be able to persuade the MQM to return as a coalition partner.
“MQM ministers [federal and provincial] have tendered resignations, but it is the prerogative of the government to accept or reject them,” said Jaleel.
Responding to a question whether MQM chief Altaf Hussain and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were scheduled to meet in London, Jaleel said: “They are not going to meet.”
MQM leaders Waseem Akhtar and Mustafa Azizabadi have said that their party was still in contact with the government, with Zardari having telephoned MQM chief Altaf Hussain. “Political dialogue is (still) possible. We will not become part of any effort to dislodge the government,” they said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2011.