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National

August 5, 2018

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Significance of PTI-MQM accord

There are reasons to believe as why the MQM-P preferred PTI over PPP in a bid to recover from the loss it suffered in the July 25 elections, in which the MQM was restricted to six National Assembly seats (four from Karachi and two from Hyderabad) and 16 of provincial assembly from 25 and 50 respectively in 2013.

On the contrary, the PTI, which had one national and three provincial seats from Karachi, now has 14 and 20 seats respectively in what looks like a complete turned around. And for all practical purposes, it replaced the MQM in Karachi, with a slight difference and that very difference led to this MoU between the two parties.

Despite a surprise result in which PTI emerged as a strong party in Karachi, it has no major clash of interest with MQM-P, which is also reflected in the MoU. Their politics and approach are different. While the MQM-P knows its limitations, they by signing an accord at least got the PTI and Imran Khan on board. The PTI leadership by signing the MoU also endorsed the views expressed by the MQM. This could be a way forward despite some reservations of the PTI Karachi over the dead.

The MQM-P decided to join hands with the PTI because the PPP was not interested in extending any invitation to them to join the coalition as they intend to form the government without any ally. Secondly, the PPP leadership after 2013 elections had taken the decision that they would control the city and try to win it over through development work. First, they introduced Local Government Act 2013 in which the powers of mayor and local governments were curtailed and then they launched development projects.

The MQM-P, which was already passing through the most difficult period, looked towards the Centre and since the PTI needed their six MNAs, not only for the PM's election but also in September's presidential poll, it responded in affirmative.

The MQM-P knew that most of the points in the accord had much to do with the Sindh government, particularly the issue of empowering local government, but the future PM and Centre can use their influence to address its grievances regarding the Karachi operation – particularly when it comes to opening of their sealed offices and the cases of missing persons.

The MQM-P wants that it should be seen as a post-August 22, 2016 entity which had buried the past. They have their own serious problems and internal conflict and unless they are able to recover from their organisational mess and factions, they may not be able to get much out of this MoU.

For the PTI, it is a federal party and the first national party which is forming the government at the Centre and also has a majority from Karachi. While they will treat MQM as a junior partner but Imran believes that they should not be ignored just because of their controversial past.

Politically, the PPP should have been MQM's natural ally for more than one reason. Both of them represent Sindh despite being a representative of rural and urban Sindh respectively. The PPP always gets majority from rural Sindh and never performed well in the urban centres. On the other hand, the MQM remained confined to cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur. So there was no clash of interest in case of constituency politics. But when it comes to power sharing, they always had a clash of interest with an element of distrust which always led to breakup of accord. Secondly, there were also some 'hidden hands' which never wanted bridging the rural-urban gap. They were the one who created a conflict when the MQM and Jeaye Sindh came close to each other in 1986-87.

In 1988, when the PPP despite enjoying a comfortable majority signed an accord with MQM and laid the foundation to bridge the gap, the same hands first used MQM to support the then IJI in the vote of no confidence against former PM Benazir Bhutto and when it was defeated, the party was used by the same element to destabilise her government, ultimately leading to dissolution of assemblies. The rest is a history as how the MQM's alleged militancy was used for sacking the PPP government and later the MQM was also cut to size after the PPP had been confined to interior Sindh.

Together PPP and MQM could have developed the province and bridge the gap by removing the misunderstandings. Another reason as to why they always had a love and hate relationship was they never tried to bridge the gap at the workers’ level and restricted their accord to the government.

The PPP-MQM problems persist when it come to sharing resources, giving jobs and on issues like quota system.

As PTI central leader Dr Arif Alvi, who has signed the MoU on behalf of his party, told me, “We have to look towards MQM as the birth of a new party after August 22 and give them a chance as they are a Karachi-based party.”

Once the governments are formed at the Centre and the provinces, the PTI would also engage the Sindh government and can also reconstitute the apex committee to address grievances, if any, about the Karachi operation.

However, some of the critics of the MoU believe that the PTI might not have sought MQM support, had they been in a comfortable position and seeking MQM-P’s support also became a necessity just like the independents, BAP and PML-Q.

Another senior PTI leader Naeemul Haq is also optimistic about the accord. “A lot is common between the two. We have to bury the past to move forward," he said. “Karachi is Pakistan's economic and commercial hub and had been ignored by the PPP government in the past. We have to rebuild the city,” he added.

The MQM-P is facing serious dilemma but the July 25 results gave them some breathing space and if they manage to get something out from this MoU, and more importantly reorganised themselves by ending their differences and by reforming in their politics, they can improve their position before the by-elections and future local government elections.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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