The grand opposition alliance seems to have met its match: The grand iftar party.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has embarked on a fresh effort to woo back estranged coalition ally the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The first step in this effort was executed on Friday. The bait: Samosas, and a host of other tasty treats.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah hosted a grand iftar at CM House on Friday, which was attended by all political parties - most notably by members of the MQM. Prominent names from religious parties were also invited. The women legislators of the MQM and PPP chatted, teased each other, exchanged jokes.
The CM’s media adviser Sharmila Farooqi, special assistant Waqar Mehdi, and other PPP leaders were at the gate to welcome the guests. PML-Q, PML-F, PPP, MQM, everyone hugged and almost kissed and made up.
For any outside observer, it would be hard to believe that these very parties were uneasy bedfellows. They sat at the same table, broke bread.
And it was a feast, from chicken curry to chicken karai, daal, different vegetables, including spinach. On the menu were barbecued items such as chicken tikka, chicken boti and seekh kebabs. Dessert was mango ice cream and soft drinks made the rounds.
The chief minister and his team were personally seen going up to different people at their tables. The media kept trying to speak to the CM but just got a soundbyte: “We are trying our best to improve the law and order situation. The reconciliation policy initiated by President Asif Ali Zardari, MQM chief Altaf Hussain will continue. We have to work in the best interest of the province.” He was not in the mood to rock the boat. When asked about the MQM’s decision to return to the ministries it had resigned from, he said: “They are our brothers. You should ask the MQM leaders about it.” With these words, he turned on his heels to leave, saying, “This is an Iftar party and I am here to meet other friends.”
MQM leaders including Raza Haroon, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Syed Sardar Ahmed, Haseeb Khan, Rauf Siddiqui came. They chatted amiably with PPP leaders Agha Siraj Durrani, Jam Mehtab Dahar, Murad Ali Shah, Sharjeel Inam Memon.
But Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, the senior vice president of the PPP, whose statements have often created friction between the coalition partners, dominated the iftar party. Around half of a dozen party MPAs tagged along with him as he kept meeting different people. The guests kept looking at him and whispering to each other. Earlier, as Dr Mirza entered the hall, the media rushed to him with questions on their faces. But Mirza would have none of it and kept his peace. He did not speak a single word on either relations between the PPP and MQM or the worsening law and order situation in Karachi. When prodded and pressed, he replied: “Look, this is the holy month of Ramazan and I would prefer to remain silent the entire month. I am fasting, therefore, I cannot speak.” He then smiled and walked away. An irritated information minister, Sharjeel Inam Memon, snapped: “He said he doesn’t want to talk. That’s enough.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.