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January 14, 2020

Trouble brewing?

Editorial

 
January 14, 2020

The bickering that has been flaring up between the PTI and its most important ally, the MQM-P, took a new turn this past Sunday when MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui resigned as federal minister for information and technology. Like other MQM leaders before him, he complained that the PTI had failed to deliver on promises made to his party. Since last year, the MQM has been complaining that not enough money is being provided to Karachi, and that the amounts it needs for urgent works are not being handed over. However, the other MQM-P minister in the cabinet Farrogh Naseem will not be stepping down and the party will continue to support the ruling party in government.

This is important for the PTI. The MQM-P holds seven seats in the National Assembly, five in the Senate and 20 in the Sindh Assembly. Without these seats, notably in the NA, the PTI would struggle even harder to survive. The friction with this important ally has however added to the political instability in the country. The MQM has also opposed some PTI policy moves and showed reluctance over supporting the ruling party on some key decisions. It is a well known reality that alliances with the MQM have often failed to survive in Pakistan’s political history. Are we seeing another parting of ways? It may be too early to say but in the long run it may become harder for the PTI and MQM-P to function together.

Other parties have been taking advantage of this problem, with Bilawal Bhutto a few weeks ago offering the MQM-P ministries in the Sindh cabinet if it parted ways with the PTI. PM Imran Khan has asked party members to placate the MQM-P, and a delegation led by Asad Umar arrived at the MQM-P headquarters in Karachi as part of an attempt to end the estrangement. Asad Umar has said that dialogue would help solve the problems. The MQM-P does not as yet appear convinced. It has however said it will not damage the interest of Pakistan and Farrogh Naseem will continue in the cabinet given the need for legal expertise. Other parties before the PTI have faced difficulties in maintaining relationships with the MQM. Will there be a new rift this time around? Will it have important political consequences? This is certainly possible but on the other hand if the PTI does announce a special package for Karachi and Hyderabad, things could be put on the backburner at least for a short period of time.

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