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Mustafa Kamal and Farooq Sattar shake hands as they announce the formation of a political alliance. —PPI
Mustafa Kamal and Farooq Sattar shake hands as they announce the formation of a political alliance. —PPI
Dr Farooq Sattar addresses a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday. —PPI
Dr Farooq Sattar addresses a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday. —PPI

The leaders of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) set aside their bitter rivalry on Wednesday to announce that they were gearing up for the eventual consolidation of their political forces and that they would contest the 2018 general elections under "one name, one manifesto, one symbol and one party."

"The modalities of this alliance will be decided in the days to come," MQM Pakistan chief Dr Farooq Sattar said while addressing a much-hyped press conference at the Karachi Press Club with PSP chairman Mustafa Kamal by his side.

"It is our job — the leaders of both parties — to convey to our workers that we are doing this because we want a better future for the city. We want our due share in the development of this city. We want to be counted. We want jobs for our youth," he explained.

Mustafa Kamal tries to calm PSP supporters before the joint press conference. —PPI
Mustafa Kamal tries to calm PSP supporters before the joint press conference. —PPI

"We should ensure that Karachi never faces the kind of political violence it witnessed in the past.

"We seek a good working relationship and a political alliance with each other, and this is what we wanted to talk to you all about.

"PSP and MQM had been deliberating these points in the recent past. We need good statesmanship at this juncture. To this end, we decided we need a positive and combined effort," Sattar explained.

The MQM chief stressed that a united Karachi was necessary for Pakistan.

"Farooq Sattar Bhai, all the people who are here with him — I greet and welcome you all here," began PSP chief Mustafa Kamal.

"On behalf of the Pak Sarzameen Party, I endorse Farooq Sattar Bhai's position when he says that we want to continue our struggle under one symbol and one party," Kamal said.

"The gist of Farooq Bhai's speech is that we need one manifesto, one symbol and one party to continue our struggle for the people of Pakistan," he asserted.

The PSP chief said that if a Muhajir leader is not ready to embrace other ethnicities, he will only encourage more hatred against the Muhajir community. This has been the reason why Karachi has been so wracked by violence in the past, he said.

"It is for the sake of Pakistan; for the sake of the Muhajir community that I do not want my politics to be solely about Muhajirs. There should be no areas in the city that are inaccessible to members of one ethnic group or the other.

"I appreciate that Farooq Bhai took such a major step; that he set his ego aside to see eye to eye with us on this. We took this decision (to merge) not because of how much we would individually gain or lose, but how much our people would gain or lose," explained Kamal.

Without naming the MQM founder, Kamal said that one man had been pushing the Muhajirs into an abyss.

"Drunk out of his senses, he would demand the splitting of a province. The Muhajir community was the one suffering, they would be the one who would face the embarrassment of his speeches."

"Today, we are entering this historic agreement. I thank the workers of both parties for enabling this," Kamal said, adding that the two leaders "have left our personal liking and disliking far behind; now, we are focused on the people of this city".

Anything but MQM

Though the modalities of the newly envisioned political alliance will be announced later, Kamal made it clear that “it would be anything but MQM”.

"I am not backing down from what I stand for — we came to bring down Altaf Hussain and destroy his toxic legacy,” he maintained.

The PSP chief said, “Farooq Sattar may not be comfortable with PSP at this moment, but we have categorically decided that we will not unite under the name of MQM.”

Appeal to security forces

During his press conference, Kamal asked the security forces to forgive the youth and people of Karachi just as they had announced an amnesty for the youth of Balochistan who had previously fought against the state.

The PSP leader said that the youth of Karachi should also be given a choice to join the mainstream. "Give them a chance to reform. If they step out of line even once again, we will hand them over to law enforcers ourselves," Kamal promised.

He hoped that the announcement of the two parties to form a political alliance for the betterment of the country would also put a stop to the politically motivated arrests of MQM and PSP workers.

Meanwhile, Farooq Sattar also demanded that they should be allowed a level playing field to carry out political activities. "We hope that our political offices that are legal, but have been sealed, will be returned to us."

Both the leaders said they wanted to salvage the Muhajir community and make sure that they are not left "uncounted or unrepresented".

At the end of the press conference, Kamal said: "If I have ever offended or hurt any member of the MQM with anything I said in the past, I apologise profusely for it."

However, as Sattar and Kamal were announcing their joint political ambitions, MQM leader and lawmaker Ali Raza Abidi announced that he would part ways from the party and resign from his National Assembly seat.

Earlier, the press conference had faced continued delays as reporters and party workers filled the Karachi Press Club beyond capacity.


The lead-up

Soon after news broke that the two parties would address the press together, MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui had asked the media not to speculate, assuring reporters that whatever decision the party takes will be communicated.

"Pakistan needs unity right now," he had said.

"Look at how the global situation is changing every moment," Siddiqui said, adding that all parties should "choose their words carefully" and "be on the same page" to enable peace in the country.

"We want to serve the people better," party chief Sattar had said as he arrived later at the party's Bahadurabad office, where he met party leaders for last minute consultations.

He had remained tight-lipped about the press conference scheduled for later that evening.

"We want all political parties to work together on a minimum common agenda. We also called a conference on this earlier. Be it the mayor of Karachi or others, we have always vowed to continue to work together," MQM leader Faisal Subzwari said.

"Farooq Sattar is going nowhere. We are going nowhere. We are here with our people," he clarified when asked about rumours that Sattar will step down as MQM chief.

"As far as I know, MQM Pakistan has called a press conference. We will go there, and you should come too," he told reporters.

"If there is a decision for the city's improvement which encourages unity, I personally think it is good for the country," MQM's Khawaja Izharul Hasan had said.

"Farooq Sattar will give a briefing in the party meeting and we will then make a final decision," he had said.

The MQM had severed ties with its founder, Altaf Hussain, after he referred to Pakistan as “a cancer for the entire world” in a vitriolic speech that sent shock waves throughout the country last year.

The party has since seen many defections to the PSP, with the latest being the city's Deputy Mayor, Arshad Vohra.