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Monday April 15, 2024

Cold-shouldered and sidelined, has MQM-Pakistan already outlived its utility?

General elections in Pakistan Feb 8, MQM-P secured 17 National Assembly seats from Karachi and Hyderabad

By Kiran Khan
February 28, 2024
Cold-shouldered and sidelined, has MQM-Pakistan already outlived its utility?

It wasn’t long ago when on April 10, 2022, the MQM-Pakistan sided with the opposition to bring the no-confidence motion against the PTI government it was part of. Following this, not only was an alliance formed between the MQM-P and the PML-N, but also a written agreement was made. The story of this alliance gained momentum when Nawaz Sharif arrived in Pakistan from London and then met with a delegation from the MQM-P. In this meeting, both parties not only announced an electoral alliance once again but also pledged to maintain this alliance even after the elections.

The general elections in Pakistan were held on February 8, 2024. The MQM-P secured 17 National Assembly seats from Karachi and Hyderabad. As the results unfolded, it became clear that the government this time would be a coalition. Therefore, the MQM’s 17 seats became crucial, and negotiations between the PML-N and the MQM-P continued positively until the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) made a final decision to form a government with the PML-N.

While the PML-N was negotiating with the PPP on one side, it was negotiating separately with the MQM-P. However, according to reliable sources, suddenly the PML-N’s attitude towards the MQM-P changed. The day before the final negotiations between the PPP and the PML-N were to take place, a meeting was held with the MQM-P delegation late at night. According to sources, MQM-P’s committee members felt that when their delegation went for the meeting, it seemed as if nobody was prepared for the meeting and they were not invited as they usually would be. MQM-P sources revealed that the PML-N delegation did meet them for about 40 to 45 minutes and informed them that after their delegation, they were to meet with the PPP again. According to sources, when the MQM-P asked what had been agreed upon with the PPP, the PML-N responded that everything was confidential and being communicated in writing so they couldn’t disclose it.

However, the MQM-P was informed of two confidential matters: first, the PPP claimed that the MQM’s mandate was fake, and secondly that the Muslim League-N and the PPP had enough numbers to form a government together, so the MQM-P’s alliance wasn’t necessary. It was told that the PPP insisted they didn’t need the MQM-P. The MQM-P did not respond, and the demands made by it were conveyed to the PML-N in writing.

According to sources, during this meeting, the PML-N told the MQM-P that they should wait and not leave yet because it might be necessary for them to meet with Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Sources say that MQM-P members stayed in Islamabad that night, and the next day, they awaited a call from the PML-N and the PPP all day, but no call came. Instead, at midnight, they saw a joint press conference by the Muslim League-N and the PPP announcing their decision to form a coalition government. According to sources, the MQM-P initially thought they hadn’t been informed until some committee members checked their messages late and found out that a PML-N member had informed them of the press conference beforehand. Therefore, the plan for immediate departure to Karachi, as was planned by the MQM, was cancelled.

According to sources, the same night a message came from the PML-N committee for a meeting at 11:30 the next morning, and the MQM-P went to meet them.

In that meeting, the MQM-P complained to the PML-N that in the previous meeting, they were told that their mandate was not legitimate and they weren’t needed. They said they were hurt by such things.

The MQM-P said that they were in an ideal position at the moment, and once the PML-N set it free, it would announce its decision to immediately step out and join the opposition because who would want to sit with such this government. According to sources, the MQM-P delegation said that if they joined the opposition with the PTI, they would gain popularity within 24 hours because if Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the PTI could come together, then the MQM-P could also join hands with the PTI, and that would be no issue.

Sources said that issues regarding Sindh’s governorship arose before the MQM’s meeting with Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore. The MQM-Pakistan thought there was no debate on the matter as it was already decided. Then, the MQM-Pakistan went to Lahore, but according to sources, the first meeting with the PML-N did not go well. Although the PML-N did not verbally express anything, their demeanor and attitude gave the impression to the MQM delegation that they wanted the Muttahida to blindly support the PML-N without any commitment.

Sources suggest that during this meeting, the PML-N was not willing to listen to any of the MQM-Pakistan’s demands. Later, when the MQM committee began to leave, they were stopped by the PML-N, and the MQM-Pakistan’s committee members’ flights were cancelled. However, both parties met again at 9pm on the same day. Sources say that the MQM-P considers this meeting positive compared to previous ones because they believe their points were heard, and PML-N agreed to several fundamental points raised by them. The MQM-P delegation made it clear during the meeting that their first demand is a constitutional amendment. Secondly, they said, they do not want ministries where they cannot deliver anything to the people of Karachi and other cities of Sindh. Furthermore, the MQM-Pakistan demanded to be given control over departments based in Karachi, such as DS Railways, PWD, Wapda, and around 22 to 23 other departments. The party wants the PML-N to join them on constitutional amendments and start lobbying in the National Assembly for their approval. They also plan to approach Tehreek-e-Insaf and other parties in this regard. According to sources, during the meeting with the PML-N, the MQM-Pakistan reminded them that it had supported them in the past when the PTI was in power and PML-N and PPP leaders were in jail. The MQM-Pakistan emphasised that they supported the PML-N with their seven votes at that time. During the meeting, the MQM-P stated that they now have 17 seats and if the PML-N forces them to sit with the PPP with hands folded, it is not appropriate. They expressed displeasure when its mandate was called fake.

The MQM-Pakistan said that the PPP is pressuring the PML-N not to give the governorship to it, and if it does, then the name should be someone acceptable to the PPP. In this regard, the name of Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui was also conveyed. The MQM-Pakistan has decided not to follow the dictation of these parties and believes that becoming part of a government which people are already expressing dissatisfaction with, and then not being able to deliver anything to them, would be very detrimental. A meeting of Rabita Committee under the leadership of Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the convener of MQM-Pakistan, was held a few days ago. After the meeting, an MQM-P spokesperson said that the current political situation of the country and the province, as well as negotiations held with the PML-N, was discussed, and various suggestions were made by the members of the committee. According to the spokesperson, an agreement was reached to continue efforts for the strengthening of democracy and obtaining basic democratic rights in the country.