ISLAMABAD/ KARACHI: In a volte-face from the party’s statements until a couple of days ago, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has asked Ishratul Ebad to take back his resignation and resume his duties as Sindh Governor, in a move seen as a rapprochement with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Despite unconfirmed reports to this effect, the decision to put Ebad back in the governor’s seat was unexpected – at least in the short timeframe in which it happened. The two parties were at extreme odds just a few days ago.
In a statement released on Monday, the MQM said that President Asif Ali Zardari had called Altaf Hussain and requested him to allow Ebad back as governor, to which Hussain agreed. Yet sources claim that there were several intermediaries who helped broker the deal – which included US diplomats. “The decision was taken after a meeting of the MQM with US Ambassador Cameron Munter late last week. They [the MQM] were told either to support the government or keep mum,” a PPP leader told The Express Tribune.
Among other persons said to be critical in helping the two parties come together was Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is said to have been instrumental in persuading the MQM to side with the government’s favoured nominee for Senate opposition leader, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam.
The move has led to renewed speculation as to whether the MQM will rejoin the PPP in the ruling coalition. MQM spokesperson Wasay Jalil has said that the party will remain in the opposition benches.
“We will play our role as the opposition party in all houses in the fullest sense,” said Jalil. However, Jalil was also quoted by the media just a day ago as saying, emphatically, that Ebad would not come back as Sindh governor.
Sources familiar with the matter say that the MQM will rejoin the government and withdraw its resignations from the federal and Sindh cabinets. The resignations have still not been accepted, despite having been tendered more than three weeks ago.
The MQM’s seats in the National Assembly, meanwhile, are those typically reserved for independent parliamentarians. This has resulted in the unique situation where, regardless of whether they are in government or opposition, MQM legislators keep the same seats.
The party most frustrated by the announcement of Ebad’s return is likely to be the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) which had been hoping to persuade the MQM to join a ‘grand opposition alliance’ that would seek to oust the current PPP-led administration from office. The PML-N has made no secret of its disappointment.
“The decision that the MQM has taken today regarding sending Ebad back to resume his office as Sindh Governor has discredited the MQM a lot in Punjab,” said Ahsan Iqbal, the party’s spokesperson and a member of the National Assembly.
On the other hand, the Awami National Party (ANP), often considered a rival of the MQM for electoral dominance over the party’s political base in Karachi, has welcomed the MQM’s decision.
“Since the day MQM first parted its ways, we were assuming that Governor Ebad and all MQM members and ministers would come back and rejoin the government. This is not surprising for us,” said Qadir Khan, Sindh spokesperson for the ANP.
The MQM, however, seems keen to take ownership of the decision. Jalil, the party spokesperson, said that the decision was taken by the party alone. And a delegation of senior MQM leaders has been sent to Karachi Airport to receive the Sindh governor on his arrival back from Dubai, an unusual move that political observers suggests that the MQM wants to signal that it alone was responsible for Ebad moving back to his post. Ebad is due to return on a specially chartered plane from Dubai.
Yet some MQM leaders hinted at being pressured to allow Ebad to come back, though they described it at least partially as ‘public’ pressure.
“There was immense pressure by different political parties, people and civil society members who were demanding the return of Ishratul Ebad Khan as Governor Sindh,” said Raza Haroon, a member of the party’s central coordination committee.
‘I had a dream’
Meanwhile, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan is overjoyed at Governor Ebad’s return, albeit for a different reason entirely. Wassan had just a few days ago claimed to have seen Ebad returning to his post in a dream, which he likened to a prophetic vision, and claims that he has also dreamt that the MQM would rejoin the treasury benches.
“Not only one time, but I had a dream twice that Governor Ebad would come and resume his job,” Wassan told The Express Tribune.
He said that people had mocked him but he had been proven right. “I can clarify here that my earlier dream will also come true and MQM will join the treasury benches,” he added. (Additional reporting by Hafeez Tunio in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.
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