Having failed to make any tangible progress in the endeavour to bring peace in Karachi, parties of Sindh’s coalition government on Wednesday ‘authorised’ President Asif Ali Zardari to handle the matter.
The president will now directly spearhead reconciliation efforts with all political forces – including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – and has also been ‘authorised’ to take administrative measures deemed necessary to bring normalcy to the violence hit city.
The first sign of the new efforts was already on display on Wednesday night, with an unannounced and secretive meeting between Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad, Senator Babar Awan of the PPP, and the president’s chief associates. Reports suggest that an alteration in the recently-(re)imposed commissionerate system in Karachi – a system the MQM is deeply opposed to – was discussed in the meeting.
(Read: Let’s do it commissionery style)
Earlier, three back-to-back meetings were held at the Presidency to analyse the situation in Karachi where hundreds of people have been killed over the past month.
President’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the decision authorising the president to hold political negotiations was taken at the first meeting of the Sindh cabinet, comprising provincial ministers belonging to the PPP, ANP, PML-Q and PML-F, co-chaired by the president and the prime minister.
“The PPP is sensitive about the situation in Karachi – which has been used as one of the pretexts to topple our governments in the past,” said a participant of the meeting.
Sources said the PPP leadership opposed a military operation in the city and decided to strengthen the police force and Rangers by providing them more powers and equipment.
“The president also directed party leaders...to not issue controversial statements,” another participant said. The ruling party has decided to contact top MQM leaders about its genuine grievances. Sources said the meeting decided that ruling coalition would consider bringing some minor amendments in the new system which replaced the local government system in the province, but would not scrap it.
President’s spokesman Babar said that, after being authorised by all coalition partners, the president is expected to act swiftly to tackle the worsening situation. “The coalition partners in the Sindh government also authorised Zardari to take any appropriate administrative measures to bring normalcy,” said Babar. He said that it is not clear if the president will talk to MQM chief Altaf Hussain himself.
According to Babar, the larger meeting of coalition partners was followed by another meeting of the president with PPP’s Sindh ministers. Aside from the Karachi situation, this meeting also reviewed the performance of the ministers.
Another meeting was held soon thereafter to further fine tune the proposals discussed in previous meetings.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned Senator Babar Awan as a member of the MQM. The correction has been made.
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