KARACHI: At long last, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has decided to rejoin the treasury benches at both the national and provincial levels.
The decision was made by the party leadership after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called MQM chief Altaf Hussain to invite his party back into the Pakistan Peoples Party-led ruling coalition.
Sources within the MQM and the PPP told The Express Tribune that the party is expected to join the treasury benches within a week. They added that the party would also rejoin the federal and Sindh cabinets.
Earlier on Sunday, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan had hinted that the MQM might rejoin the coalition soon, during his visit to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum to mark the nation’s 64th Independence Day.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon had also said that PPP would welcome the MQM ministers back into the provincial cabinet, highlighting the fact that their resignations have never been accepted by the chief minister.
Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the MQM’s central coordination committee was held in Karachi and London simultaneously on Sunday. Members of the committee also hinted that the MQM would rejoin the cabinet soon, though there did not seem to be any indication of a specific timeline.
Members of the committee also examined the country’s economic situation and discussed ways to address what they view as the most pressing challenges.
The MQM has adopted a largely populist stance on economic policy matters, often insisting that the government continue to subsidise electricity and oil even when the finance ministry says that the continuation of those subsidies is unsustainable.
The MQM has quit the ruling coalition at least three times now, though the most recent spat with the ruling party appeared to be the most severe and certainly the longest that the MQM has spent on the opposition benches since the February 2008 elections.
While the most recent dispute was ostensibly over the PPP’s alleged request for a seat-adjustment arrangement in Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, political analysts say that the MQM was not happy with the PPP’s constant delays over the reintroduction of the elected local government system in Sindh.
This observation was vindicated when the deal struck between the MQM and the PPP that ultimately paved the way for the MQM’s return to the ruling coalition dealt almost exclusively with the local government issue.
However, the ruling party has now gotten into trouble with its own members and supporters, many of whom view the reintroduction of the system first enacted under the Musharraf administration as a bid to divide the province of Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.