“All’s well that ends well…” but does it ap­ply to the lat­est MQM-PPP patch-up?

Southasia - - Contents - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

A strong coali­tion govern­ment is the need of the hour.

First the govern­ment held the elec­tions to the two con­stituen­cies of Azad Kash­mir leg­isla­tive assem­bly from Karachi which, as ex­pected, MQM nom­i­nees won. Then, the Sindh govern­ment re­vived the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem. These were the two bones of con­tention be­tween the PPP and Mut­tahida Qaumi Move­ment. Ap­pease­ment be­ing com­plete, the stage seems re­set for the MQM to walk into Pak­istan Peo­ples Party’s open em­brace. But why things were al­lowed to drift so far?

Trou­ble had been brew­ing be­tween the PPP and MQM since early this year. Tar­geted killings of po­lit­i­cal work­ers of MQM, ANP and PPP had be­come a daily rou­tine. Things took an uglier turn when Sindh Home Min­is­ter, Zul­fiqar Mirza, openly ac­cepted the Peo­ple’s Amn Com­mit­tee of Lyari as one of the PPP’s sub-or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Speak­ing at an event in Malir, or­ga­nized to com­mem­o­rate the strug­gle of slain PPP leader Ab­dul­lah Mu­rad, Mirza said: “I am an­nounc­ing to­day that the Peo­ple’s Amn Com­mit­tee is a sub-or­ga­ni­za­tion and a part of the PPP. If the Amn Com­mit­tee’s peo­ple are con­sid­ered crim­i­nal, then I am a crim­i­nal too! They are our chil­dren and soldiers of the PPP. The spilling of Amn Com­mit­tee ac­tivists’ blood means that the PPP’s blood has been spilled.”

His state­ment was the first time any PPP leader had of­fi­cially ac­cepted the Amn Com­mit­tee a part of their party. More­over, be­cause Zul­fiqar Mirza had pre­vi­ously de­nied any link be­tween the Amn Com­mit­tee and the PPP his state­ment came as a sur­prise to many.

The MQM on the other hand has long since held the Amn Com­mit­tee to be a ter­ror­ist group, with a num­ber of ac­tivists from both sides be­ing killed in armed skir­mishes be­tween the two groups in what is known as Lyari gang war. It also held the Amn Com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble for the Sher­shah car­nage ear­lier.

Un­der­stand­ably MQM re­sponded to Mirza’s state­ment with the threat to with­draw from the Sindh govern­ment. The sit­u­a­tion prompted Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari to take no­tice of Mirza’s state­ment. In con­se­quence Zul­fiqar Mirza was re­lieved of his port­fo­lio and went into hi­ber­na­tion.

But, just as nor­mal­ity in the PPPMQM re­la­tions was re­turn­ing, an­other dis­pute arose be­tween the two, when the govern­ment abruptly post­poned the elec­tions to two seats in the Azad Jammu and Kash­mir leg­isla­tive assem­bly from Karachi. Be­cause these seats are in­vari­ably won by MQM can­di­dates, the lat­ter treated it as a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to de­prive MQM of a voice out­side Karachi.

Re­act­ing an­grily, MQM de­cided to part ways with Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party govern­ment and to sit on op­po­si­tion benches in the National As- sem­bly, Se­nate and Sindh Assem­bly. The fed­eral and provin­cial min­is­ters of MQM as well as the gov­er­nor of Sindh, Dr. Ishratul Ebad im­me­di­ately re­signed their of­fices.

The PPP coun­tered the move by mak­ing over­tures to Pir Pa­gara’s Mus­lim League (Func­tional) and ML (Q), which it had ear­lier called the “Qatil” (mur­derer) league, in­duct­ing mem­bers from both par­ties as min­is­ters in the fed­eral and Sindh gov­ern­ments. Per­haps also to hurt the MQM fur­ther, the Sindh govern­ment

re­stored the sys­tem of ad­min­is­tra­tion with com­mis­sion­ers and deputy com­mis­sion­ers to which MQM was to­tally op­posed.

Zul­fikar Mirza was also brought back, el­e­vated as se­nior min­is­ter and given the port­fo­lio of jails. Seething with anger against MQM be­cause it had been in­stru­men­tal in depriv­ing him of the home port­fo­lio, his first act af­ter as­sum­ing the charge was to meet MQM-Haqiqi leader Afaq Ah­mad in jail. Later, in a vit­ri­olic speech, at a din­ner by ANP lo­cal chief Shahi Syed, he praised Afaq, re­viled Altaf and the Mo­ha­jirs in the most deroga­tory lan­guage.

Dr. Mirza con­firmed that he had twice met MQM (Haqiqi) chief Afaq Ahmed and said that “If Mr. Ahmed was a crim­i­nal then Altaf Hus­sain was an even big­ger crim­i­nal,” adding, “In my view, the real leader of the Mo­ha­jir na­tion is Afaq Ahmed who has been in prison for eight years and not a sin­gle case against him has been proved. In fact next to Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari he is the big­gest po­lit­i­cal pris­oner of the coun­try.”

At the same time the Fri­day Times re­ported that there was spec­u­la­tion about Afaq Ah­mad be­ing made “gov­er­nor, or given some other key of­fice in the Sindh govern­ment.” It was also ru­mored that Afaq Ahmed has been “pro­vided with cell­phones and is said to be re-or­ga­niz­ing his party from the jail.”

Maybe these ac­tions were taken and ru­mors floated to out the fear of God into MQM’s heart. But if so, the moves back­fired. Mirza’s speech trig­gered may­hem. Graf­fiti ap­peared all over the place de­mand­ing sep­a­rate prov­ince for Mo­ha­jirs. And at least 15 peo­ple were killed as Haqiqi cadres em­bold­ened by the change in the govern­ment’s mood to­wards the party, at­tacked MQM sup­port­ers in Landhi and Ko­rangi.

Altaf Hus­sain re­acted by ad­vis­ing peo­ple to store ra­tions for one month, which trig­gered a gen­eral im­pres­sion that in the com­ing days the city might plunge into more chaos.

Tak­ing no­tice of the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion the pres­i­dent sent Chaudhry Shu­jaat as his per­sonal en­voy to Nine Zero to ne­go­ti­ate fence-mend­ing with MQM and also tele­phoned Altaf Hus­sain. Mean­while, the stalled elec­tions to the AJK assem­bly from Karachi were held and as ex­pected, won by MQM can­di­dates.

As a re­sult a thaw en­sued. Gov­er­nor Ishratul Ebad was brought back from Dubai on a spe­cial plane and he re­sumed the charge of his of­fice on July 19 af­ter three weeks’ ab­sence. Later he met with the pres­i­dent to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion in Karachi af­ter which the govern­ment agreed to ac­com­mo­date MQM’s de­mand to re­vert to the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem.

Ac­cord­ingly, an or­di­nance was pro­mul­gated. But, it re­vived the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem only in Karachi and Hy­der­abad. This was an egre­gious er­ror as it amounted to di­vid­ing the prov­ince into two dif­fer­ent sys­tems of ad­min­is­tra­tion; one for the MQM dom­i­nated ar­eas and the other for the rest of the prov­ince. Pre­dictably, there was strong op­po­si­tion to this de­ci­sion from Sindhi na­tion­al­ists. Re­al­iz­ing its er­ror, Sindh govern­ment pro­mul­gated an­other or­di­nance within two days of the first, ex­tend­ing the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem to the en­tire prov­ince.

MQM has thus got all it had asked for. It may soon re­turn to the fed­eral and Sindh gov­ern­ments as well. But the govern­ment is un­der fire not only from ANP but also from fed­eral min­is­ters, who strongly ob­jected the re­vival of the lo­cal govern­ment sys­tem.

The mother of all ques­tions there­fore is how is MQM go­ing to re­pay the PPP’s friendly ges­ture?

MQM and PPP in a war of words.

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