The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided not to participate in a national unity roundtable of all political parties planned by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), terming it part of ‘an ugly ploy’ to postpone parliamentary elections.
“We also want national unity, but what the MQM is doing looks very suspicious. It is groundwork for delaying elections. We will probably stay away from it,” a top PML-N leader told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
Not only the PML-N would snub the proposed roundtable, but its chief Nawaz Sharif might also skip a meeting with a delegation of MQM when it approaches him this week with a formal invitation for the event.
A top MQM associate said some of party leaders, led by Federal Ports and Shipping Minister Babar Ghauri, would seek time for a meeting with Nawaz sometime this week.
Wasey Jalil told The Express Tribune that if the PML-N chief agreed for the meeting, a delegation led by MQM deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar would travel to his residence in Raiwind.
The MQM has held a series of meetings with political parties, including ANP. The exercise is being carried out in pursuance of a statement by MQM chief Altaf Hussain, warning that the country faces some ‘unseen’ external threats to its existence and all political parties, military leadership and other stakeholders must sit together to decide how to cope with them.
Almost all groups except the PML-N and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have agreed to participate in the proposed gathering for which no date has so far been set. While some leaders like Maulana Fazulr Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam have listed them for participation but are unsure of its outcome.
PML-N voices its own fears
The party leader said there was thinking in the group that the MQM was part and parcel of an ‘ugly conspiracy’ being architected by President Asif Ali Zardari to spread confusion and fear to delay the upcoming parliamentary polls.
“Even if we share Altaf’s worries that Pakistan might be attacked from Afghanistan, what political parties have to do? What the military is doing? How the government is preparing to respond?” said a close associate of Nawaz Sharif, who did not want to be named.
“The MQM has been bailing out Zardari in the past and they are doing the same now when he wants to shy away from polls out of fears of a defeat.”
The fresh parliamentary elections are scheduled after March next when the incumbent coalition government led by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) expires its term but could be held earlier as well.
There have, however, been some consistent reports in the media that Zardari wants to postpone polls at least until September next year to get him reelected as president from the current assemblies—a scenario in which another term for him is guaranteed.
His associates including Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira denied PPP had any such plan, saying: “It is a conspiracy theory and not worth commenting on.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2012.