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ISLAMABAD: In a new head-on challenge to the government, the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Wednesday announced its resignation from both houses of parliament and the Sindh provincial assembly, saying the party had been “forced to the wall” by the authorities in the garb of an anti-crime crackdown and found justice nowhere.

The party is the fourth largest in the 342-seat National Assembly with 24 members, third in the 104-seat Senate with eight members and second in the 168-seat Sindh Assembly with 51 members.

The resignations were submitted in the three chambers after the decision was first announced in the lower house in an emotional speech by the party’s parliamentary leader there, Farooq Sattar.

The resignations, which came while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was visiting Belarus, would likely give a new headache to the government. This challenge has come only six days after both the MQM and the government-allied Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) withdrew their motions to deseat 28 National Assembly members of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for their absence from the house for more than 40 days during a four-month protest sit-in outside the Parliament House.

Mr Sattar said in his speech that it was in lengthy overnight consultations among the party’s coordination committee, members of parliament and the provincial assembly that the decision to resign was taken, which he later told reporters was approved by the party’s self-exiled London-based leader, Altaf Hussain.

Mr Sattar said his party had repeatedly raised its grievances with the prime minister, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and his home minister but to no avail, and that it found no justice even when it “knocked on the judiciary’s doors”.

His requests for meetings with the Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and the army corps commander in Karachi were also not granted, he said.

“We are being forced to the wall,” he said after citing the interior minister’s remarks in the National Assembly on Monday that the MQM chief’s outbursts attacking the armed forces and inviting foreign intervention were the real problem.

He also complained about what he called non-fulfilment of the government’s own promise to set up an impartial committee to monitor the anti-crime and anti- terrorism crackdown in Karachi led by paramilitary Rangers.

Although Mr Sattar flaunted what he called a 19-point charge-sheet as reasons for the resignations, the party’s main grievances related to allegations that it was made the main target of the crackdown, which was preventing it from playing its political and social role.

The party also says that over 40 extrajudicial killings of its workers have taken place during the crackdown and even more arrested and disappeared.

Other points included an “unconstitutional ban” on the live telecast of Mr Hussain’s speeches, hundreds of “false cases” registered against him and MQM parliamentarians and workers, the judiciary’s failure to stop “unlawful acts and illegal raids” by Rangers and police, their operation being turned “exclusively” against “Mohajirs and their elected party”, the law-enforcement agencies, particularly Rangers, “clearly seen” supporting the PTI’s activities with the aim of “imposing” that party on Karachi by marginalising the MQM, and “political victimisation on the basis of ethnicity” in the registration of hundreds of cases, including for treason, against Mr Hussain for his criticism of the Rangers’ actions while no action was taken against a number of prominent politicians, religious clerics and journalists who criticised the armed forces and army generals.

It was during a flurry of the government’s legislative business when MQM members came into the house carrying files, probably containing their resignations, in their hands.

But Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who chaired the proceedings, made Mr Sattar wait until the house almost finished its long agenda, including the passage of six government bills without much discussion.

After their leader’s speech, MQM lawmakers stormed out of the house, chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” and “Jiye Altaf”, to deliver their resignations to Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq at his chamber.

As the MQM members were going out, a PTI member from Karachi, Arif Alvi, rejected the MQM allegation that law-enforcement agencies were backing his party.

As the Senate was also in session on Wednesday, the issue of resignations was raised there as well. Chairman Raza Rabbani, replying to a question from JUI-F Senator Maulana Ataur Rehman, said the MQM senators’ resignations had been received by his secretariat and that “legal requirements will be fulfilled”.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2015

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