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May 4, 2008

MQM-PPP coalition: what we have learnt


May 4, 2008


With the induction of 13 ministers, one adviser and one special assistant of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the MQM have joined hands for the second time. There was a similar alliance in 1988 when the PPP came into power after an 11-year long struggle against General Ziaul Haq.

The incident marked the first time MQM formed a political alliance and coalition government. Interestingly enough, the party was young at the time with a leadership that had no prior experience with regard to such political agreements.

The agreement ended after 11 months and the MQM backed out from supporting the PPP government after both parties accused each other of unethical practices. The situation reached a point of no return when the student wings of both parties exchanged their kidnapped workers under the supervision of the corps commander.

Though the MQM had other complaints, a primary factor that forced the MQM to withdraw their support and breach the agreement was the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Aslam Baig. It was Gen. Baig who was the mastermind behind the formation of Islamai Jamhori Ittehad (IJ) headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, and who coerced the MQM to join the IJI as its component.

The petition of the Chief of Tehreek-e-Istaqlal Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan is still pending in the Supreme Court (SC) in which Asghar Khan pleaded that it was Gen. Aslam Baig who provided Rs140million through the ISI to the IJI to launch a movement against the PPP.

After the removal of Benazir Bhutto’s first government, MQM became an ally of Mian Nawaz Sharif in Sindh with the 1990 elections.

However, this alliance also ended due to differences and the MQM was blamed for involvement in terrorist activities. Gen. Asif Nawaz, the then COAS launched a crackdown against the MQM due to which several of its workers were killed and a large number of party leaders and workers were forced

to live in hiding.

Later, General Asif Nawaz was died under mysterious circumstances and the Nawaz government was dismissed by the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the charges of corruption. Benazir Bhutto came into power once again after the 1993 elections.

The MQM, on the other hand, was forced to stay away from elections but after two days of the National Assembly election, the MQM was allowed to contest the Provincial Assembly elections, thus becoming a part of the plan of the establishment as the PPP secured majority seats in the National Assembly.

It was the establishment-President-COAS combination and the civil bureaucracy that allowed the MQM to come back into the political arena. Though the talks were held between the PPP and MQM in 1993 for a coalition, however, this time the PPP was advised not to negotiate with the latter as the leadership of the party had still not cleared itself from the serious charges levelled by the Sharif government.

The MQM decided to sit in the opposition and a clash-like situation remained during the three years that the PPP was in power. Finally, an operation was initiated against the MQM after the killing of the Sindh Home Secretary Shahid Hamid. General Naseerullah Babar was the Interior Minister and Shoaib Suddle DIG Karachi when the operation was launched against MQM, after a large number of killings had been reported in Karachi.

More than 40 strikes were observed in Karachi to protest against the PPP government, thus destroying the economy of the country.

The PPP elected President Farooq Leghari and Nawaz Sharif shook hands against Benazir Bhutto and the PPP government ended after the murder of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, brother of the Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The brother of Altaf Husain and his nephew as well as the brother of Chief Minister Abdullah Shah was also killed and the PPP held Leghari responsible for hatching conspiracy against BB’s government. [s1]

Nawaz Sharif once again came into power in 1997 and he joined hands with the MQM. Both parties formed a coalition government in Sindh but this friendship ended after the murder of the ex-Sindh governor Hakim Said. Another crackdown was launched against the MQM which continued till the end of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government toppled by the General Pervez Musharraf.

A new party PML-Q was formed and a majority of the Sharif’s party men joined it. A coalition government was formed after the 2002 elections — MQM was the coalition partner. This time MQM received a major share and its nominee was appointed as Sindh governor with powers of the Chief Minister.

Crises unravelled many times during the five-year government and the MQM threatened more than thrice to quit the government after the differences with the chief ministers, Ali Muhammad Maher and Arbab Rahim. However, it was President Pervez Musharraf who backed the MQM. Despite reservations among the PPP and the MQM leaders, it was President Musharraf who agreed that the MQM should shake hands with the PPP.

Both the parties have experienced alliance as well as opposition and have understood how the establishment has pushed them into a clash. They have also realised that compromise and tolerance is the only option for their survival.

The MQM showed goodwill gestures on the return of Benazir Bhutto. The MQM leadership also called on BB and expressed sympathy over the October 18 bomb blast. Asif Zardari told the MQM leaders while visiting the headquarters that it was BB’s will to shake hands with the MQM.

The United States and United Arab Emirates (UAE) also advised the leaders of both parties to shake hands as both parties are liberal minded.

Asif Zardari has also expressed his wish to develop Karachi into a city like Dubai. Without peace, this cannot happen. Now it is the responsibility of the leadership of both parties to make the people happy.

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