As far as alliances go, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Muttahida Qaumi Movement may seem like chalk and cheese but even the oddest partnerships have thrived in the world of politics.
On Friday, the two parties pledged to set aside their differences as the MQM announced its unconditional support for PML-N candidate Mamnoon Hussain in the upcoming presidential election.
Sources have said that in return, the PML-N has offered the Karachi-based party a place in the federal government, which has yet to be accepted or refused by the party.
A PML-N delegation headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, which included Hussain and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, flew to Karachi to elicit MQM’s support.
The delegation, which also included local PML-N leaders, first met with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Senator Babur Ghauri at the Governor House, after which they escorted them to MQM headquarters Nine Zero.
PML-N’s visits to Nine Zero are rare. Their leaders came in 1997 for a political alliance while in September 2010, Dar visited to express condolences on the murder of Dr Imran Farooq in London.
The two sides met for more than half an hour and MQM chief Altaf Hussain had a telephonic conversation with them.
“For the eradication of terrorism, we will offer unconditional support to the PML-N,” announced Altaf.
He said he considered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif as his brothers, adding that misunderstandings were created between them.
“Let’s have a new beginning and lead the country to prosperity and development,” he said. After the meeting, Dar held a brief press conference, thanking the MQM for supporting Mamnoon Hussain.
He pointed out that Prime Minister Nawaz had always underscored the need for working with all political parties.
“To revive the economy and resolve the energy crisis, poverty, load-shedding and other major issues, the prime minister believes that everyone should work together.”
On the other hand, Hussain said, “If I am elected as the president, I won’t represent one party only. I would be the president of every party, every person.”
He confessed that since he hailed from Karachi, he would always pay special attention to it.
MQM Deputy Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that though the party offered unconditional support, it also expected the president and the PML-N to offer good governance and curb religious extremism and terrorism in the country.
“Altaf Hussain has zero tolerance for corruption. We hope that the new government addresses issues of missing people in Balochistan along with other issues.”
Before proceeding to Nine Zero, the Dar-led PML-N delegation had a meeting with Governor Ishratul Ebad.
Sources said the two sides held discussions on the presidential election. Prime Minister Nawaz also called up Ebad to request that his party support the PML-N candidate.
Sources in the PML-N said that MQM would be accommodated in the federal government and get portfolios in the cabinet.
It is yet to be confirmed how many ministries and portfolios will be given to MQM, but the leadership of both parties have finally agreed on it, said a source adding that the investigation against Altaf in London has driven MQM to support the federal government.
However, it has been learnt that PML-N has not withdrawn its decision to install a new governor in Sindh.
“After the presidential election the federal government will appoint the governor and remove Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan. The party may appoint Ghous Ali Shah for this office,” said a senior PML N leader.
JUI-F still undecided
Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl is still undecided on whether to throw its weight behind Mamnoon for the election.
Fazl’s spokesperson Jan Achakzai said the decision was to be taken by the party’s central executive committee.
“The committee for some reasons could not meet on Friday thus the decision was delayed,” said Achakzai. He said the committee would meet today to finalise if the party will support Hussain.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.
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