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June 4, 2018
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London faction’s election boycott can dent MQM’s vote bank, says Sattar

Karachi

June 4, 2018

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Dr Farooq Sattar, who heads the PIB Colony faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, said on Sunday that they have nothing to do with the MQM-London boycotting the general elections. However, he added, given their own circumstances, they are yet to decide if they will participate in the polls.

Sattar told The News that the MQM-L’s poll boycott can dent the party’s vote bank as much as by 15 per cent because the faction, predominantly its chief Altaf Hussain, ran the party from the UK for around three decades and, despite a crackdown, still has a following.

Earlier, speaking at a ration distribution programme in Baldia Town, he said that the way the MQM-P has disintegrated into the PIB Colony and Bahadurabad groups seems an attempt to divide the party’s vote bank to make room for the Pakistan Peoples Party and others that traditionally do not fit in urban Sindh’s political landscape.

Things have changed drastically for the MQM since the 2013 general elections. Now the party is divided into four factions, if you count the independent Pak Sarzameen Party that is led by former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal.

If the PIB Colony and Bahadurabad groups do not reconcile, they will primarily compete against each other as well as against the PSP on the mandate in the urban parts of Sindh. The MQM-L, which faces a blanket ban, is not contesting the polls.

“[Just to clarify,] neither are we connected with the MQM-L nor do we have anything to do with its boycott,” Sattar said. “However, the conspiracies that have been spun against us and the way we have been handled, we need to contemplate whether to run in the election or not.”

He added that his party should be given fair political space and their offices that have been sealed by the authorities should be returned to them so they can carry out their campaigns and other activities.

Several MQM offices have been shut down and bulldozed across the country since August 22, 2016, when the party’s founder delivered a provocative speech. The party had set up several of its offices illegally on amenity and encroached plots, but some of them have been returned to them after the land documents were verified.

Commenting on the current political scenario, Sattar said it seems the PPP has been given a free hand to “buy” as many seats it can in Karachi and Hyderabad. He said the controversial 2017 population census and the subsequent delimitations amounted to pre-poll rigging, adding that their concerns should be addressed before the elections or else there will be no transparency.

The MQM-P seems to be facing a difficult situation since February 5, when it publicly split into two factions. The party’s strength, which was considerably reduced after the disavowal of Altaf Hussain and a crackdown, shrank even more when it divided.

Neither of them has been able to demonstrate a convincing power show through their public meetings alone, but together they did on May 5 in Liaquatabad. While they are yet to sort out their differences, the approach from both sides does not seem serious.

A day earlier, Sattar told the media that it is fair to extend the date of submission of nomination papers for the general elections. He said the constituencies should be revised because a seat was eliminated in his area.

He rejected the stance of MQM-P Bahadurabad group chief Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, saying that he was not invited to Bahadurabad on Friday. He claimed that Siddiqui lied about the invitation.

He said he has visited Bahadurabad five times, but the conditions put forth by his faction as of February 5 have not been taken into account. He added that he is willing to go back if the conditions are accepted.

Responding to a question, Sattar said that other leaders and workers are free to submit their nomination papers for the polls and they will be discussed in consultation with the Bahadurabad leadership.

Bahadurabad faction’s Amir Khan also spoke to the media on the differences between the two groups. He held Sattar responsible for the situation that ensued after February 5. He claimed that the PIB Colony chief has political motives and wished to singlehandedly control the party, which is impossible.

Replying to a query, Khan said Siddiqui has been empowered to issue party tickets on behalf of the MQM-P. He added that those who want to boycott the elections are free to do so because it will not result in a crisis within the party.

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