KARACHI: Politically isolated and chastened by surprise government moves to scrap the local government system and initiate contact with nemesis Afaq Ahmed, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement on Monday decided to allow Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad to resume office.
However, it announced that it was in no hurry to rejoin the treasury benches in Islamabad and Karachi.
In Islamabad, the President’s spokesman confirmed the apparent change of heart on both sides. “Mr Ibad is returning to the country from Dubai by Monday midnight and will withdraw his resignation he had sent to President Asif Ali Zardari,” said Farhatullah Babar.
Sources in the presidency said a special plane had been flown to London on the orders of Mr Zardari to bring back Mr Ibad to Karachi.
Dr Ibad tendered his resignation on June 27 hours after the MQM pulled out of the ruling coalition in the province and the centre in protest against the postponement of election on two Karachi seats of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
According to an MQM press release, Muttahida chief Altaf Hussain directed Dr Ibad to resume his gubernatorial responsibilities at the suggestion of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Dr Ibad — who was uncharitably described by senior Sindh minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza as an absconder in the venomous outburst last week — was set to fly back to Karachi from the United Arab Emirates in the early hours of Tuesday.
According to a source in the Governor’s House, the President specially sent his aircraft to bring back Dr Ibad at the earliest.
“This decision was taken in a telephonic conversation between Mr Hussain and President Zardari in view of the political situation of the country and province,” the MQM press release said.
Dr Ibad was directed to work with the federal and provincial governments in the light of directives issued by the President, the Urdu-language press release said.
It added that Dr Ibad would play an “effective role for stability” in the province and a “proactive role for a change and betterment in ties”.
While the MQM’s decision to let Dr Ibad go back to the Governor’s House predictably incurred the opprobrium of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, most political parties, notably the Awami National Party, hailed the move and said it augured well for peace in the city.
The Sindh chief minister and the home minister also appreciated the move.
However, MQM leader Faisal Subzwari told a television channel that his party would not rejoin the government. He sought to reject the widely held view that the decision to quit the government had been taken by ‘hardliners’ among the MQM.
He said that there were no groupings in the party, adding that crucial decisions in the party were taken by the coordination committee.
Syed Irfan Raza adds from Islamabad: Insiders in Islamabad told Dawn that Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who was sent by President Zardari to Karachi last week for negotiating with the Muttahida, played a key role in restoring ties between MQM and the People’s Party.
Chaudhry Shujaat met the president on Friday to apprise him about the MQM’s point of view.
The Q-League chief had agreed to concede to the MQM two provincial ministries and two posts of advisers in the Sindh cabinet that it had recently obtained, a source told Dawn..
“All the slots given to the Q-League were held by MQM before it parted ways with the ruling coalition. Therefore MQM sought all these posts back as one of the conditions to rejoin the government,” the source said.
The Q-League has now asked President Zardari for alternative portfolios in the Sindh cabinet, the source added.
A spokesman for the Muttahida, however, denied any understanding to this effect.
Political circles felt the Muttahida would eventually join the federal and Sindh cabinets, but the decision to remain in opposition had been taken for now in order to pre-empt criticism.
President Zardari has welcomed the statement of Altaf Hussain asking Ishratul Ibad to resume work as governor, terming it a good omen for harmony and reconciliation not only in the province but also throughout the country.
“The President expressed the hope that it will mark a new era of peace and stability in Sindh,” said Farhatullah Babar, his spokesman.
Raza Haroon, the MQM’s Rabita Committee chief, said Altaf Hussain had asked Mr Ibad to work in harmony with the federal and provincial governments under the guidance of President Zardari.
The decision on the governor’s return was purely made in the “larger national” interest because the party was under immense pressure to at least ask Mr Ibad to retain the office of Governor.
“The pressure was exerted by Ulema, diplomats, lawyers, journalists, business community and scholars who were of the view that the office of governor should be kept above partisan politics,” he said.Mr Haroon said his party believed that Mr Ibad would play his role in restoration of peace in Karachi because he was “impartial and all groups respect him”.
Mr Haroon denied any deal between the PPP and his party on re-joining the government, saying Chaudhry Shujaat had not offered anything when he met MQM leaders last week.
In reply to a question about the restoration of commissioner and the old local bodies systems in the province, the MQM leader said his party would welcome any decision of the government if these laws were withdrawn or amended again, as desired by the MQM.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement had left the federal cabinet twice before the latest separation, The Sindh governor and the party’s ministers in Sindh cabinet figured in both decisions.