ISLAMABAD, July 29: The PML-N says it has serious reservations over the MQM plan to convene a roundtable conference and is not even keen to have a meeting with MQM leaders on the issue.
Sources in the party told Dawn that Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were not interested in meeting MQM leaders who are currently meeting leaders of various political parties to invite them to the conference on national security issues.
The sources said a majority of senior PML-N members did not want the Sharif brothers to accept the MQM request for a meeting.
“We have serious reservations about the MQM’s move because so far it has failed to convince the nation and the political leadership about their claim that the country is facing serious external threats,” PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan said. He expressed his surprise over a claim made by MQM chief Altaf Hussain about threats being faced by the country and questioned government’s silence over the issue.
“While the MQM is warning us that there is a serious threat to national security, the government, the army, the Foreign Office, ISPR and security and intelligence agencies are keeping quiet,” he said.
Mr Khan said he personally believed that the motive behind the MQM’s move was to delay the general elections which were only a few months away. He asserted that the move was destined to fail.
About the possibility of a meeting between the leadership of the two parties, Mr Khan said he did not see any reason for such a meeting. He, however, said that so far the PML-N had not rejected the MQM’s request for a meeting.
When contacted, MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi said his party had taken the initiative of uniting the country’s political leadership because it believed that it was the right time to do so. Otherwise, “tomorrow no party will have the courage to take such an initiative”.
“This is the time for every party to rise to the occasion and think about national security and the clear danger,” Mr Rizvi said, adding that if the MQM failed in its efforts this time it would be to the detriment of the nation and the country. He said the MQM had been meeting the country’s political parties keeping political differences aside only for the sake of national security.
He rejected a perception that the MQM’s initiative was aimed at delaying the general elections. Rather, he said, if political parties once again wasted their time as they did in the past and did not sit together the “political tension” in the country would definitely rise before elections.
When asked to specify the threats the country faced, he said it was “Afghanistan beyond 2014”. When asked why the government and its agencies were keeping quiet about it, he said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the Foreign Office had already briefed the Parliamentary Committee on National Security which had representation of all parties, including the PML-N.
Mr Rizvi said the MQM had started contacting the political parties with a meeting in Karachi with President Asif Ali Zardari who directed the prime minister to help the MQM arrange the conference.
Besides meeting President Zardari, MQM leaders have met leaders of Jamaat-i-Islami, Awami National Party, PML-Q, Sunni Tehrik and JUI-F.
The MQM has received a positive response from the ANP and PML-Q.
Two religious parties in the opposition, the JI and the JUI-F, have welcomed the move. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the MQM delegation on Saturday that a decision about participation in the proposed conference could only be taken by the party’s Majlis-i-Shoora.