ISLAMABAD: While the acrimony between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its former coalition ally seems to be subsiding, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) does not appear to be ready to join the government just yet: party leader Altaf Hussain announced on Friday that the MQM would stick to its decision to join the opposition benches in parliament.
“Hussain assured President Asif Ali Zardari that the MQM would... support the government and all democratic forces by remaining in the opposition,” said a statement released by the party on Friday evening.
President Zardari had earlier called the MQM leader to express his regret over what he described as the “uncalled for and unacceptable remarks” by Sindh Senior Minister Zulfiqar Mirza.
Yet even as the party has joined the opposition, the MQM appears to be signalling that it will not be part of any ‘grand opposition alliance’ to topple the current administration. The six MQM members of the Senate submitted an application to the Senate chairman on Friday announcing their support for Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) for the position of opposition leader in the upper house.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) had been counting on the MQM’s support for its own candidate, Senator Ishaq Dar, as part of a wider cooperation between the two parties that may ultimately have threatened the Gilani administration. The two parties had recently agreed to become part of a joint opposition in parliament, but the MQM does not appear willing to support the PML-N’s agenda.
However, Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, the MQM’s leader in the upper house, told The Express Tribune that he did not expect the move to damage the party’s ties with the PML-N.
Senate Chairman Farooq Naek had earlier accepted Haideri’s nomination, but then postponed a final decision on the matter until July 6, a deadline he has now missed. His decision is expected to be announced around July 21, when the new session of parliament begins.
President reprimands Mirza
Zulfiqar Mirza flew to Islamabad on Friday for a meeting with President Zardari, where he was reportedly reprimanded for his behaviour and told to refrain from making such politically incorrect remarks in the future.
“The president asked him to be careful in issuing public statements and said that neither the PPP nor the government will condone offensive remarks,” said Farhatullah Babar, the president’s spokesperson.
Mirza had called Mohajirs “hungry and naked” refugees who had arrived destitute to Sindh after Partition in 1947, a remark that sparked outrage and violent protests that left at least 11 people dead in Karachi.
The president, however, in no uncertain terms repudiated that sentiment as having anything to do with party or government policy.
“All Mohajirs, whether in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtu- nkhwa, Punjab or any other part of the country are Pakistanis and sons of the soil.
“Any suggestion or insinuation to the contrary that seeks to undermine their status or question their patriotism is abhorrent,” Babar quoted the president as saying.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2011.
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