Kanwar Naveed Jameel, the veteran Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader, has served as a Hyderabad mayor. Currently, he is a member of the Sindh Assembly. Jamil was part of the MQM-P delegation that held negotiation with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders before the no-confidence motion. The News on Sunday spoke to him at the party’s Bahadurabad office. Excerpts:
The News on Sunday (TNS): Please tell us about the discussions you had with the PTI and the then opposition alliance and why you chose to side with the latter?
Kanwar Naveed Jameel (KNJ): After national interest, our politics centres on resolving the problems faced by our workers, especially the problems resulting from operations carried out against them by various state agencies. Our primary demands focused on recovery of the missing persons from amongst our workers, re-opening of the sealed offices and removal of false cases against our workers. These same demands had been addressed in the nine-point agreement we earlier had with the PTI. The remaining points were about the issues faced by residents of urban Sindh. We were compelled to negotiate with the so-called opposition alliance as we were unable to resolve the issues while being represented in the PTI cabinet. Allow me to say that they had a non-serious attitude towards us. Former prime minister Imran Khan never visited us for three and a half years. When he announced that he planned to come, the Rabita Committee decided to hear him out first then put forward our demands for the implementation of the agreement we had had.
TNS: What was discussed in the meeting with Khan?
KNJ: Everything except politics. He did not talk about the no-confidence motion and did not request for the MQM-P support. His team, comprising Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Pervaiz Khattak, Ali Zaidi and Imran Ismail visited us in Islamabad. We put forward our sole demand: an assurance that the sealed offices of the MQM-P will be opened and its missing workers recovered. They promised to return in 24 hours but did not do so. Seeing the situation, we consulted with our core team and realised that there was no reason not to trust Shahbaz Sharif’s promises.
TNS: Tell us about your agreement with the new government?
KNJ: We have signed two agreements: one with the federal government and the other with the Sindh government. In the past, we have had fractious relations with the PPP hence the agreement we have now with PPP has the signature of Bilawal Bhutto and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui – with Shahbaz, Maulana Fazl and Akhtar Mengal bearing witness. The agreement acknowledges the problems of the people of urban Sindh and promises to resolve them.
TNS: Why hasn’t the agreement been made public so far? What timeframe does it envisage for implementation?
KNJ: The timeframe for the implementation of local government bill is 30 days. For the rest, our understanding is that immediate actions will be taken.
TNS: The MQM-P had held a series of meetings with the Chaudhris of Gujrat before the no-confidence vote. How did those go?
KNJ: They came up with the proposal for an alliance between the MQM-P and the PML-Q to jointly decide on the offers made by the PTI and the (then) opposition alliance. They had five MNAs and we have seven. We had no objection to it. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi was with us at the parliament lodges before he went to Bani Gala. But he never told us about it. Once there, he reached an agreement with the PTI. He withdrew from the agreement with us he had himself proposed. I think he acted in haste and took a bad decision.
“We have signed two agreements: one with the federal government and the other with the Sindh government. The agreement acknowledges the problems faced by the people of urban Sindh and promises to resolve them.”
TNS: How do you see your working relationship with the PTI over the last three and a half years as coalition partners?
KNJ: The PTI never resolved our concerns. Instead, from time to time it used federal institutions to arrest our workers. We had to stay with them and wait for some relief for our workers. These things cannot be forgotten. We always remembered how our popular mandate was snatched and we were forced to stay in the government alliance. The Karachi leadership of the PTI aimed to capture the political space that belonged to us. We were the ultimate losers but we went along for the sake of our suffering workers. When we saw a political opportunity to break the impasse, the decision was taken.
TNS: Many people wonder why maritime affairs is always the MQM’s first choice among federal ministries. Will you explain the reason?
KNJ: A number of people Karachi are employed in sectors affiliated with sea. We always want ministries that can help address the problems faced by our voters. For the law ministry, Imran Khan himself chose Farogh Naseem. It was his decision. Many of the issues related to the government and the state were linked with that ministry but not the MQM’s issues.
TNS: Some of the MQM’s past agreements with the PPP were not implemented. Is the MQM-P prepared for a backlash?
KNJ: A political party can only do what is in its reach. We can only take a political way and try to find ways of working with other political parties.
TNS: A few weeks ago, the MQM-P announced its plan to file an FIR against the Sindh chief minister for an attack on its workers that unfortunately resulted in a death. Now, you have reached an agreement with the same PPP. Are your critics right in calling this unprincipled politics?
KNJ: The agreement has been reached to resolve the issues that are relevant to the people of Karachi. Negotiation is the only option after every fight. Today the very people who had attacked us are listening to our concerns on not only one issue but 26-27 of those and promising to help. Why shouldn’t we talk to them?
TNS: Any plans of taking back the former MQM-P leaders who went over to the Pak Sarzameen Party?
KNS: Political engineering has never worked in Karachi. It had an impact for a while but artificially crafted parties have a way of shrinking and wasting away. Nonetheless, we will warmly welcome those who want to return.
TNS: The PTI jalsa in Karachi was huge. Why is the MQM-P unable attract Muhajir urban professionals?
KNS: If people want to hear Imran Khan speak, we cannot stop them. Karachi is short on opportunities for entertainment as it is. If some people see an opportunity to enjoy themselves, so be it. We remain confident that in a free election they will vote for us. We are not worried about their public rallies.
TNS: What kind of results do you expect in the next polls in Karachi if the establishment remains neutral?
KNS: We will regain the seats that were snatched from us.
TNS: How do you see the MQM-P’s relations with the establishment right now?
KNS: We have cordial relations with them. We don’t think that they are disgruntled with us. We try to ensure that our grassroots leaders do not do anything that will create any misunderstandings.
The writer is a student of politics and literature based in Karachi