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April 18, 2019

MQM offices can’t be reopened, PM told

Top Story

April 18, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-Pakistan) are facing a difficult situation in getting their ‘accord’ implemented, as powerful quarters handling the Karachi operation have strongly opposed the demand for reopening of their offices even if they were legal or lawful.

This has led to an uneasy situation and the latter is now holding a public meeting onApril 27, as they are not happy with the situation despite premier's recent praise of their ministers. So, for all practical purposes, the MQM demand has been 'vetoed'.

A well-informed source told me that during his recent visit to Karachi, the PM was told by these quarters that they were against the return of any kind of old MQM organisational structure, including opening of offices or even formation of sectors or units.

"The ball is now in the PM's court, but as things stand today, no party will be allowed to open their offices or sectors because in the past they had been used for terror and strikes in the city. We have also communicated our reservations to the PM if any decision is taken and hope that the MQM would not insist," an unimpeachable source told me.

This is not confined to the MQM alone, as other parties or groups, including Pak Sarzameen Party, PSP, Sunni Tehreek and others, would also be not allowed, he added. But, surely the MQM is the main target and this position clearly indicates that even the new version of MQM-P is still not fully cleared and acceptable.

Last week, the PM laid the foundation of the Hyderabad University in a ceremony held at the PM House and assured that all demands of MQM would be implemented. In fact, he went to the extent of seeing a possible PTI-MQM electoral alliance in future.

"To be honest, I had misconceptions about them when we decided to take them in the cabinet and feared they would pull guns in case we raised any objection to their demands. But, I found them more decent ministers of my cabinet."

Within a few days things changed dramatically, as the MQM-Pakistan was reportedly told that their demand for opening offices may not be accepted because of opposition by certain quarters.

However, these quarters have no objection if the MQM carries out its political activities through its elected councilors in their offices. MQM key leader and Federal Law Minister Farogh Nasim, sources said, was trying to bridge the gap between the PM, MQM and relevant quarters. He is the one who had suggested to the premier that he could use his constitutional power for addressing the Karachi issue.

But as the situation stands today, it appears the MQM has to drop its demand and re-structure its organizational network. It was a setback for the MQM, as on the one hand they are facing acute financial problems and their political activities are quite restricted, on the other hand their key demand has not been accepted.

The MQM strongly reacted to the government’s failure to accept their demands and also condemned the Sindh government for allegedly doing injustice to Muhajirs by not giving them jobs and announced a public meeting at the Jinnah Ground opposite to the Mazar-e-Quaid on April 27.

This will be its first show of strength since 2018 general elections when it lost almost 70 per cent of seats, which a united MQM had won in 2013. The PTI emerged as single largest party in Karachi with 14 out of 20 NA seats.

While the powerful quarters are convinced that the MQM-P has no links with the MQM (London), they are not ready for any revival of the latter's style of organisational structure and thus completely sealed the MQM founder’s house, Nine Zero and even decided that in future no public meeting could be held at the nearby park.

"We still have strong suspicions about many houses near Nine Zero. Only a week back tonnes of arms and ammunition, including rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, KK, were recovered on the pointation of MQM London militants," according to a senior Rangers official.

Reports suggest that some of the pending cases involving some MQM and PSP leaders would also gather pace like the Baldia factory fire, May 12, August 22, 2016 and Dr Imran Farooq murder cases.

Despite having six key NA seats, the MQM (Pakistan) is not in a position to leave the government. On the contrary, they are asking the premier to enforce the 'federal rule' in Karachi under Article 149.

They have also asked the Sindh government to return powers of the local government. The MQM has also supported the PTI on making changes to the 18th Amendment creating tension with the PPP-led Sindh government. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has warned the MQM of more fractions in its rank and file.

The MQM's public meeting would be its first launch pad for the next year's local bodies’ elections, as they fear politics will take a new shape in coming months and they could face more problems.

Similarly, the MQM's financial difficulties may also increase, as neither the party nor its Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation is getting the much-needed support. Many of its traditional donors have been told not to provide funds to them.

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, who has been trying to assert himself with limited powers, is also trying to push the PM to use Article 149, but at the same time agrees with the powerful quarters that the MQM should not be given too much space for its revival as the single largest party in the urban Sindh.

So, the politics of Sindh is likely to take an interesting turn in few months.

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

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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