ISLAMABAD: It was like stirring a hornet’s nest that Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai, an ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, did in the National Assembly on Wednesday by suggesting a Lebanon-type remedy to Karachi’s violence and to the electoral domination of the city by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
This idea, which appeared to be only a loud thinking of the veteran Pashtun nationalist leader from Balochistan, and somewhat more seriously pleaded demand by him for a government inquiry into a May 12, 2007 massacre by gunmen to block a visit to Karachi by then-suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, provoked a storm of criticism from MQM lawmakers who linked the move to what they saw as conspiracies to undermine the mandate of their party of mainly the majority Urdu-speaking population.
Mr Achakzai, who sat relaxed in his front-row seat after his speech to hear speaker after speaker from MQM denounce his thoughts, had wondered why members of other linguistic or ethnic groups in Karachi like Sindhis, Pashtuns, Punjabis and Balochis could not be elected to either the Sindh provincial assembly or National Assembly in proportion to their populations.
In his main speech of the day in an unfinished discussion on former president Asif Ali Zardari’s address to a June 10 joint sitting of parliament as then-president, the PkMAP leader estimated the minimum strength of non-Urdu-speaking communities in Karachi’s population of about 20 million at 1m to 1.5m Sindhis, about as many Punjabis and Balochis separately and 3m to 4m Pashtuns, and said “they should get their rightful representation (in the assemblies)”.
He cited the example of Lebanon, whose constitution provides for a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni prime minister and a Shia speaker of the chamber of deputies as a means to ensure inter-communal harmony.
With no support from any other party in the house and some milder finger-pointing from some members of the Pakistan People’s Party and at least one from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N during the debate, MQM members seemed much angered by Mr Achakzai’s description of Karachi as the “city of terrorists” but their demand for an apology from him went unheeded after the apparently unguarded remark was ordered to be expunged from the house record.
Another suggestion from Mr Achakzai for creating a “separate parliament” for the seven administrative agencies of Fata elected on the one-man-one-vote basis and for having an elected governor there was overshadowed by his observations about Karachi, which included an offer by him to lodge an FIR about the May 12, 2007 incident, in which more than 40 people were killed by gunfire, and a challenge to the government that if failed to hold an inquiry “you will not be able to run the country”.