The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Monday formally quit the coalition by submitting an application in the National Assembly to sit on the opposition benches. Senator Tahir Mashadi of the MQM also submitted an application to the Senate Chairman for the allotment of opposition benches .
Talking to Express News, MQM leader Babar Ghauri asserted that MQM does not have the intentions to remove Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani nor does it want to resort to political blackmailing.
Updated from print edition (below)
MQM drops bombshell: PPP loses ally, majority
In the final act of its long impending divorce from the coalition government, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Sunday announced its defection to the opposition benches in the Senate and the National Assembly — a decision that has stripped the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of its already slender majority in parliament.
As the junior partner in the coalition, the MQM officials quit the alliance with the Pakistan Peoples Party on December 27 but left the door ajar for rapprochement if its grievances were properly addressed.
Exactly a week later MQM lawmaker Haider Abbas Rizvi told the media after a three-hour long Rabita Committee session that the decision to sit in the opposition had become inevitable for the party after the government increased petroleum prices — a move that it said would directly hurt the common people from whom the MQM draws its vote bank. State Youth Minister Faisal Sabzwari said the poor law and order situation in the province, especially Sindh, was also one of the main factors behind the announcement.
Another lawmaker of the party, Waseem Akhtar, told The Express Tribune that he saw no irony in the fact that the MQM would now be sitting alongside the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with whose leaders he had only recently had a slanging match. “Such things happen in a democracy and there’s nothing out of the ordinary in that,” he said. The party will file a formal request to sit on the opposition benches before the speaker at Monday’s National Assembly session. Akhtar said that his party had taken a principled stand against inflation in the country. “This has nothing to do with the ongoing talks (with the PPP) or with President Asif Zardari.”
Despite pulling out of the government, Rizvi said the MQM is neither destabilising the government nor derailing democracy.
Asked where his party would stand in case of a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Akhtar said, “When the time comes, the party will decide after consulting with the Rabita Committee.” However, Rabita Committee member Wasay Jalil could not resist dropping a hint. “Doesn’t sitting on the opposition benches give an indication where things are heading?” asked Jalil.
Also, MQM chief Altaf Hussain telephoned PML-Q chairperson Chaudhry Shujaat, PML-F chief Pir Pagara, JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman and Ejazul Haq, and took them into confidence about his party’s decision.
PPP leaders continued to put on a brave face, with its leaders insisting there was nothing to worry about. Even though the party’s chief troubleshooter Rehman Malik was in town, he was nowhere to be seen. No emergency session was held either at Bilawal House where the president was staying or at the Chief Minister House.
Fauzia Wahab, the party’s information secretary, said the president was deliberately quiet because he was genuinely interested in reconciling with the MQM. When asked whether the PPP had lost its majority in parliament and would be forced to call mid-term elections, she dismissed the assertions as immature at this point. “Have the MQM and PML-N become friends? Are the PML-N and PML-Q on good terms?” she shot back. She insisted that her party didn’t need to show its strength in parliament. “Why should we prove that we have a majority in parliament? They should come and prove on the floor of the house that we don’t have a majority,” she said.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the president was watching the developments very closely. “We sincerely hope that the MQM will reconsider its decision as the president believes that all differences can be sorted out,” he said. However, sources say that there are a few hurdles blocking a PPP- MQM rapprochement, including the fate of Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza.
PPP leaders do not view its shrunken numerical strength in parliament as a problem. They claim that the PML-Q like-minded group is ready to join them on the treasury benches. However, MQM’s departure would mean that it would become harder to keep a handle on Karachi’s law and order breakdown. Meanwhile, Nine Zero issued a statement late in the night: “MQM founder and leader Altaf Hussain has ratified the decision of the coordination committee. The meeting condemned the stupendous increase in petrol, diesel, and kerosene oil prices and noted with concern that the poor and middle-class people were already faced with misery and hardship.
About the decision, it said pressure was mounting on the elected representatives because of the increase in POL prices. “In these situations MQM considers it a travesty to sit on the treasury benches hence we would sit on the opposition benches in the Senate and National Assembly. Nonetheless we will continue to support positive steps of the government and openly oppose all those steps that go against the interest of the people.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2011.