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KARACHI, July 26: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced on Friday ‘unconditional’ support for PML-N candidate Mamnoon Hussain in the presidential election after a delegation of the ruling party visited its Nine Zero headquarters to seek its support.

The support strengthened the position of the PML-N because of the number of legislators of Muttahida in the parliament and Sindh Assembly. The development provided the beleaguered MQM with a political respite because, according to sources, in return for its support the ruling party invited it to join the federal government.

It was the first visit of a high-level PML-N delegation to the MQM headquarters since the parting of ways between Nawaz Sharif and the MQM after the assassination of former Sindh governor Hakim Muhammad Said in 1998 and imposition of governor’s rule in the province.

Although the MQM had unconditionally supported Mr Sharif during the election for prime minister, relations between the two parties remained uneasy because of the bitter past. But the enthusiastic welcome given to the PML-N delegation and the subsequent announcement about MQM’s support for Mr Hussain made it clear that the two parties had decided to bury the hatchet and make a fresh start.

Both parties insisted that the support was ‘unconditional’ and the sources said the PML-N had made an offer to the MQM to join the federal government. Modalities in this regard would be sorted out after the presidential election.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad accompanied the PML-N delegation comprising Mamnoon Hussain, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Pervez Rashid, Nihal Hashmi and others. Earlier, the delegation held a meeting with Dr Ibad at the Governor’s House which was also attended by Senator Babar Ghori of the MQM.

MQM workers garlanded the PML-N leaders on their arrival at the Nine Zero. They held a meeting with members of the MQM coordination committee in the presence of Governor Ibad. MQM chief Altaf Hussain also spoke to the PML-N leaders on phone from London.

According to a press release issued by the MQM, Mr Hussain told the PML-N leaders that he had forgotten the bitter past and wanted them to convey his message to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif that both sides should forget the past and make a new beginning.

He said he considered the Sharifs as his brothers. “There were some misunderstanding (between us)...Altaf Hussain is also a human being and not an angel...Let’s start a new journey and work together to steer the country out of crises and solve the problems of power, gas and water and other public issues.”

Senator Dar told Mr Hussain that there was no difference between his thinking and PML-N’s policies. Later, leaders of the two parties came out of the Nine Zero and briefly spoke to reporters.

Mr Dar said the MQM had announced its ‘unconditional’ support for PML-N candidate Mamnoon Hussain and his party was grateful for this.

As MQM workers raised slogans, Mamnoon Hussain reiterated that if elected he would act as president of the entire country and not of one party. He said he himself belonged to Karachi and would try to solve problems of Karachi and Sindh.

MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said his party had decided to unconditionally support Mr Hussain for the sake of democracy. He said that although the support was unconditional, the MQM hoped that the PML-N government would play an effective role for ending illiteracy and poverty and eradication of terrorism.

The MQM has 22 members in the National Assembly, seven in Senate and 48 in the Sindh Assembly -- 47.60 electoral votes.

The PML-N delegation was also scheduled to meet PML-Functional chief Pir Pagara, but it was informed that the meeting could not take place because of the latter’s pressing engagements.

Earlier, Senator Dar expressed displeasure over the PPP’s decision to boycott the presidential election.

Talking to reporters at the Karachi Airport, he said: “Let me say that PPP has set a very bad precedence as it is against the spirit of democratic norms. The PML-N has always moved to strengthen democracy whether we are in the government or in the opposition. The issue raised by the PPP for boycotting the election is not justified.”

He said the candidates did not need to approach their members and other parties since the presidential election din not require any massive campaigning.