PM due in Karachi; Altaf retracts decision to quit MQM leadership

Updated 30 Jan 2015

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -AFP/File
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif -AFP/File

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will pay a day-long visit to Karachi on Friday and chair a meeting on the law and order situation.

“Meeting on law & order is the only agenda item for the PM’s visit to Karachi,” a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told Dawn.

In the background of the current tension between the PPP government in Sindh and the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the prime minister’s visit has assumed added importance.

The spokesperson said the prime minister would try to play the role of a negotiator between the two former allies in the province.

The MQM gave a strike call for Thursday in protest against the killing of a party worker and held the Sindh government responsible for the incident.

According to media reports, the prime minister would meet relatives of the deceased MQM worker.

The spokesperson said the federal government was not happy over the pace of Karachi operation which was launched at the end of 2013.

“Except for initial few months, the Karachi operation has failed to achieve its desired results. The main objective behind the visit is to put the operation back on track,” he added.

In Karachi, MQM chief Altaf Hussain announced quitting his party, but took back the decision within a few hours. He accused the establishment, including the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence, of having never accepted him.

In his more than hour-long address to workers at the party’s headquarters Nine Zero, he said that the establishment had always wanted an ‘MQM minus Altaf Hussain’ and warned that if the killings of MQM workers continued, it could lead to the same consequences.

“That’s why I decided that because of me they are killing my people, I should quit,” he said in the last phase of his address which he made in English. “Let me speak tomorrow and please permit me to quit the party as I don’t want to see any further bloodshed. I want to create and establish a society of love and harmony and not a society of hatred.”

However, strong reaction from the workers who urged him to review his decision and stay as party chief by the time he concluded his address, he vowed to continue political struggle with the party.

Earlier, he condemned ‘extrajudicial’ killings of his workers and warned of the same consequences in retaliation. The MQM chief also criticised ‘certain’ elements in the armed forces, ISI and Pakistan Rangers for “deliberately targeting MQM workers”.

“If you keep killing them then they would kill you,” he said. “Let me tell the ISI and armed forces that we are true and patriotic Pakistanis. They should cleanse the force of biased people. We are loyal citizens and not enemies.”

He also blamed former president Asif Ali Zardari for appointing Dr Zulfiqar Mirza as Sindh home minister who established People’s Amn Committee and issued 100,000 arms licences to criminals so that they could kill MQM workers.

“It was me and my party who supported Asif Ali Zardari during five years of his government when he was faced with several challenges and his own party leaders had deserted him. But how he paid back? He created People’s Amn Committee which is a group of criminals,” he added.

Earlier in the day, life in Karachi remained completely suspended on ‘shutter-down strike’ call by the MQM against ‘extrajudicial killing’ of a senior worker. Schools, colleges and universities were closed and public transport remained off the road. Commercial activities were suspended and fuel stations kept shut.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2015

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