President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his displeasure over the “uncalled for remarks” made by the senior provincial minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and warned him to be careful in future.
The President, who is also the Co-Chairman PPP, had summoned Dr Mirza on Thursday to seek an explanation over his controversial remarks.
Zardari said that all Muhajirs, whether in Sindh, KPK, Punjab or any other part of the country, were Pakistanis and sons of the soil. “Any suggestion to the contrary or any insinuation that tended to undermine their status as Pakistani nationals or patriotism is abhorrent,” a statement issued from the President House quoted Zardari.
Statement said that the President had also telephoned the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain early Friday morning to convey his regrets over the uncalled for and unacceptable remarks of Mirza.
The President asked Dr Mirza to be careful in making public statements and said that neither the party nor the government would condone offensive remarks.
MQM welcome President's steps against Mirza, continue to stay in opposition
MQM chief Altaf Hussain issued a statement on Friday welcoming President Zardari's measures taken against Mirza. He also extended his support to the government in all their positive steps, while staying in the opposition.
Altaf Hussain assured the President of MQM's support to the government in strengthening democracy, eliminating extremism, restoring peace and uplifting the economy.
On the other hand MQM spokesman Wasay Jalil said reports of MQM's reconciliation with the government were baseless as well as denying reports of Dr. Ishratul Ibad resuming his post as Governor Sindh.
Karachi pulled back from the brink
After almost 24 hours of mayhem and bloodshed, sanity appeared to prevail at last as the top leaders of both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) sought to calm matters and urged restraint on the part of the hotheads within their own respective parties.
Sources said that President Asif Ali Zardari in particular seemed to be incensed at Sindh Senior Minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s remarks about the Mohajir ethnic group and order him to apologise on camera on Thursday evening, even though a written apology statement had already been issued on his behalf by the Sindh Press Information Department earlier in the day.
“The president had already asked him not to issue such statements, which can cause trouble between both former coalition partners,” a senior leader of PPP said.
In the video released late on Thursday, Mirza appeared visibly distraught as he apologised for his remarks from the night before: “The statement issued by me was my personal opinion. It was not my party’s policy. I apologise if I have hurt to any Urdu-speaking people who have been, are, and always will be my brothers.”
Despite the apology, however, the president may order Mirza to suspend his political activities, according to sources familiar with the matter. Mirza has been summoned by the president to Islamabad in order to make “an important decision”.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik thanked MQM leader Altaf Hussain for his appeal for calm from the MQM’s supporters.
Hussain had earlier made the appeal after violent protests broke out on Wednesday night in response to Mirza’s statements, forcing all of Karachi to shut down for most of Thursday.
“Altaf Hussain has proven that he is a great leader and a patriotic Pakistani,” said Malik, adding that “We still look forward to the MQM rejoining us in government. We will continue our reconciliation policy with the party.”
Malik also apologised on behalf of Mirza and the party, saying that such “emotional statements” should not be issued. At least 11 people were killed and 28 people suffered serious gunshot wounds on Thursday in Karachi in the violence that engulfed the entire city in the aftermath of Mirza’s controversial statements.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wasan met with senior police officials on Thursday to discuss the law and order situation in the province.
Wasan was appointed earlier this month to the home minister position.
Addressing a press conference after his meeting, Wasan said that the police had arrested 161 suspects who were allegedly involved in Thursday’s violence. “I want only one month to bring peace to the city,” he added.
Wasan also called upon MQM leaders to also apologise for some of the remarks made by MQM activists against President Zardari.
Early on Thursday morning, several MQM activists were shown on several news channels chanting slogans that referred to the president as a dog.
There were protests both in support and against Mirza’s remarks throughout Sindh. The MQM held protests in several parts of the province, including Sukkur and Ghotki. MQM activists had protested late on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning in Karachi and Hyderabad as well.
ANP distances itself
The Awami National Party (ANP), meanwhile, also sought to distance itself from Mirza’s remarks, which were made at a dinner hosted by ANP Sindh leader Shahi Syed at his house in Karachi.
The dinner had been organised to celebrate the return of the commissionerate system in Sindh, which the MQM has vehemently opposed.
“The fact that Mirza made the comments at our party does not reflect Pakhtun sentiments or those of the ANP, but his personal views,” said Qadir Khan, the party’s spokesperson.
(With additional reporting by Sarfaraz Memon in Sukkur and Salman Siddiqui in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.
The Express Tribune has obtained a copy of Zulfiqar Mirza’s apology letter. Click here to read it.