Amidst straining relations between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its estranged coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the military brass is learnt to have opposed a series of moves that could have adversely affected an already tense situation – including any move to launch an operation in Karachi.
The military brass had also expressed displeasure over the possible induction of controversial former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza on a sensitive post in the federal or provincial cabinet, The Express Tribune has learnt.
“Mishandling Karachi’s situation, or using coercive means against the MQM, is not something the country can afford at this point in time,” brass as telling top civilian authorities. The military has advised the government against launching any operation against the MQM, which pulled of the ruling coalition last month.
However, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government was not planning any operation against the MQM. But at the same time, he added, “I don’t think the military would stop the government from taking action against the law breakers in Karachi.”
Sources said that the PPP was planning either to make Mirza governor of Sindh or to assign him a portfolio in the federal cabinet after getting him elected to the Senate. Reports of such a move had earlier begun appearing in the media. But the military is said to have precluded such a move.
Sources said that the PPP had planned an operation against the MQM, particularly against it supporters among the Kacchi community in Malir. And Mirza, who has good relations with the Sindh police, had alerted the police officials belonging to interior Sindh but serving elsewhere in the country. Mirza’s plan envisaged an operation against the Urdu-speaking people in order to coerce the MQM into compliance. Mirza’s recent meeting with Afaq Ahmad, the chief of MQM-Haqiqi, was actually a message to the MQM.
When contacted by The Express Tribune, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar refused to comment on the issue and instead switched off his cell phone when pressed hard.
Sources said that the military brass contacted MQM chief Altaf Hussain and assured him that the government would not launch any operation in Karachi. Following the assurance, Altaf cancelled a scheduled address to a general party workers meeting on Monday.
Babar Ghauri is said to have contacted PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar to seek support against any operation in Karachi. And PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, in return, held out an assurance that his party would oppose any operation against the MQM in Karachi. Sources said that the two parties would soon start a movement against the PPP-led government from the platform of a grand opposition alliance.
The Express Tribune has learnt that, following its failure to muster military support against the MQM in Karachi, the government’s top leaders took a ‘U-turn’ and decided to send PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to Nine-Zero to assure the MQM on behalf of the president that the government would not launch an operation in Karachi. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government’s coalition partner might have endorsed Shujaat’s trip to Karachi.
However, the MQM said the Chaudhry was in Karachi to attend a wedding ceremony and not to reconcile the MQM with the PPP. “Shujaat visited Nine-Zero to sympathise with the MQM over the atrocities the party has been facing in the city,” MQM’s Joint Incharge Information Secretary Qamar Mansoor told The Express Tribune.
He claimed that the PPP has made the PML-Q a coalition partner at ‘gunpoint’. And the day Moonis Elahi, son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, was released, the Chaudhrys would pull out of the ruling coalition. Moonis has been in police custody for his alleged involvement in the multi-billion -rupee land scam in the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL).
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2011.