National Assembly: Govt, opposition jostle for MQM’s support

PML-N supports MQM over Kashmir polls, Karachi and walkout; PPP keeps mum after former ally’s outburst.

Zia Khan/umer Nangiana July 22, 2011


While it was the Muttahida Qaumi Movement that was on the offensive in Thursday’s National Assembly session, the real proxy battle was being fought between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – both of whom were eager to please a party whose support, it seems, is up for grabs.

In the first parliamentary session since it left the government, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) called for re-elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and warned against Karachi drifting deeper into deadly violence by becoming a ‘new hub’ for terrorists fleeing military operations in tribal areas.

Speaking during Thursday evening’s session, a top MQM party leader threatened to challenge the results of the recently held elections in AJK in the state’s Supreme Court.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) backed the MQM demand and shared its fears about Karachi in what was an early but concrete sign of both parties agreeing to work together as a joint parliamentary opposition, though they hold conflicting positions on a number of issues.

While both the parties were in complete unison on last month’s controversial elections in Azad Kashmir and resurging political violence in Karachi, the PML-N remained mum on MQM’s call for reviving the scrapped local government system.

Most MQM lawmakers appeared to be adopting a cautious approach in their criticism of the government, avoiding any antagonistic remarks against the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

And, seemingly in return, PPP lawmakers, who responded to opposition’s speeches, also tended to let the MQM’s hostile outbursts slide and directed their criticism on the failures of the Punjab government.

Earlier, both the MQM and PML-N staged a token walkout to preempt a government move to take up its own agenda in the session, which was summoned on the request of the opposition to discuss its own agenda.

MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi who set the ball rolling in the house by demanding re-elections in AJK, accusing the government of using the state apparatus to rig the polls held in late June.

“Kashmir’s mandate should be clear once again,” said Rizvi, whose party initially boycotted the state’s elections because the government postponed polling on two refugee constituencies in Karachi. The MQM later contested two Karachi-centric AJK seats, and won both.

Rizvi termed the results of AJK elections surprising and shocking and threatened to challenge them in the state’s highest court.

PML-N’s Saud Majeed Chaudhry backed MQM’s demand for fresh polls in Azad Kashmir after correcting ‘bogus’ electoral rolls. He asked the government in Islamabad to desist from forming a ‘puppet’ dispensation in Kashmir.

Rizvi also castigated government inaction when violence was perpetrated by terrorists in the Kati Pahari and Qasba localities of Karachi.

“I want to ask why did it take the government five days to call in Rangers when people were being fired upon from left, right and centre…it was criminal negligence and somebody should be responsible for that,” Haider added, without specifically blaming anyone for the violence.

He then warned that the war on terror was entering Karachi as the city was increasingly becoming a ‘safe heaven’ for terrorists from the country’s tribal areas. Earlier, parliamentary parties of PML-N and MQM decided to work together at least in the parliament and firm up their cooperation on issue to issue basis.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.


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