KARACHI: Troubleshooters within the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Tuesday rushed into a series of meetings with the single aim of repairing badly frayed ties with its estranged ally – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – in the centre and the Sindh province.
The meetings, which were held at a frenzied pace and involved several major political actors, came barely half a day after the MQM had quit the federal cabinet.
MQM leaders insist that action should be taken against Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, who mounted a full-throated tirade against the MQM on Dec. 14, enflaming political tensions with the PPP.
As one of the junior partners in the coalition, the MQM had questioned both the style of governance and the decisions being taken by the ruling party.
On Tuesday, federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik called Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad and discussed MQM’s qualms over the party’s decision to quit the federal cabinet.
Later, the interior minister held a meeting with the chief minister and took part in the first meeting of the committee formed by the president to remove MQM’s reservations.
Subsequently, the interior minister and the chief minister visited Bilawal House and discussed with President Asif Ali Zardari the situation emerging after the MQM’s decision.
Interestingly, even 24 hours after the MQM’s announcement to leave the cabinet, neither the PPP nor the MQM has made any concrete step to resolve their differences or presented a practicable formula in this regard.
Sources in the PPP said that during the meeting at the Bilawal House, Zardari reiterated the commitment to respect mandates of all political parties and said that his party has resolved to take along all political parties on all matters.
According to sources, the president said that MQM and the Fazlur Rehman faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam were “still government allies and there is no threat to the government”.
PPP sources said that President Zardari has instructed the committee formed for removing MQM’s objections to “immediately contact the MQM team and remove their reservations”. They quoted Zardari as saying that his party was following a policy of reconciliation and it would continue to do so.
Meanwhile, the MQM is learnt to have clearly indicated to the federal interior minister that the only way the party will enter into any kind of negotiations with the government is if the government takes action against Mirza.
Sources quoted the party leaders as having told the interior minister: “First, we want to see action being taken against the home minister, who has a tendency of playing up the ethnic urban-rural divide”.
Later, the sources said, the president set up a two-member committee, comprising Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and federal interior minister, for resolving the matter.
The committee held its first meeting at the Chief Minister House on Tuesday to review the situation and formulate a strategy to address MQM’s grievances.
According to an official handout, members of the committee discussed the issue and devised a strategy in this regard. The meeting’s recommendations will be forwarded to the president and the prime minister.
Later, Rehman Malik told reporters that there was no “deadlock” between the MQM and the PPP. “Both JUI-F and MQM will rejoin the federal cabinet,” he said, adding that the MQM’s reservations would be addressed.
Meanwhile, Sindh home minister, who is at the centre of the maelstrom, told reporters from Badin, his hometown, that he was “ready to render a sacrifice for the sake of democracy”.
Published in The Express tribune, December 29th, 2010.
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