KARACHI: The resignations by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement parliamentarians did not just take Islamabad by surprise.
A last-minute decision, it was not planned or well-thought out by those who turned up in the speaker’s office yesterday afternoon.
In fact, none of the National or Sindh assembly members had even discussed the option in private.
On late Tuesday night the national and provincial level parliamentarians (in Karachi and in Islamabad) gathered for a meeting along with members of the coordination committee and some participants from the US. In their various locations, they were addressed by the party chief from London.
Some senior MQM leaders joined the meeting from the US while the MQM members of the National Assembly and the Senate were listening from the Parliament Lodges in Islamabad. Members of the coordination committee were present in Karachi and London.
And a severe dressing down followed.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain lashed out at them for their cowardice and betrayal. Unclear on how to placate their party leader, the elected members offered to resign and to the shock and surprise of some of them, he agreed before banging the phone on them.
Sources said Mr Hussain was fuming because he felt that his parliamentarians had failed to defend him in the National Assembly. In a speech on August 10, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had described Altaf Hussain as the root cause of the problem.
During his address on Tuesday night Mr Hussain especially criticised Senator Dr Faroogh Nasim, Rauf Siddiqui and Faisal Sabzwari for “deceiving” him; he named them individually.
He repeatedly told the legislators that they were of no use if they could not raise their voice against the “oppression and atrocities being carried out against the MQM”.
More than one MQM activist, who is privy to the development, told Dawn that at this point a participant of the meeting, who is not an elected representative, said that the MQM lawmakers should resign from NA, the Senate and the Sindh Assembly.
Dr Farooq Sattar seconded the view.
Mr Hussain who had worked himself up into a state of rage by then said that the parliamentarians could do whatever they wanted and hung up.
The MQM parliamentarians were left with no choice but to draft their resignation letters, while members of the coordination committee in Karachi, London and the US began an emergency session to review their options in case the resignations were accepted.
On Wednesday morning, Mr Hussain endorsed the decision to hand in the resignations and instructed the MQM parliamentarians to submit them.
However, several MQM leaders privately believed that quitting the parliament is not a right decision at the moment, especially because Mr Hussain had himself conceded that he should have not boycotted the 1993 general elections.
Even Farooq Sattar’s statement on Wednesday was seen by some as reflecting this reluctance – after some news channels reported that the MQM resignations had been accepted, he is quoted to have said that the government had a different policy to deal with the PTI resignations compared to how it handled the MQM’s.
However, it is important to note that this was an interpretation because publicly, Mr Sattar as well as others stood by the resignations.
“He [Mr Hussain] took the decision and everyone now owns it,” said a senior MQM lawmaker who had attended the meeting on Tuesday night.
“There was talk of a minus-Altaf formula and that we would not be allowed to contest the local government election,” the MQM leader said.
Now, he said, the local government elections would have to be delayed if the resignations were accepted and by-elections held.
“For Altaf Bhai this is a win-win situation...he told them [the establishment] that he is still in control,” said another MQM leader, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, Mr Hussain paid rich tributes to the MQM parliamentarians for submitting their resignations.
“You have made the whole nation proud,” he told them over phone from London, according to a press release issued on Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2015