PAK Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal hugs Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan chief Dr Farooq Sattar during the joint news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday.—INP
PAK Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal hugs Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan chief Dr Farooq Sattar during the joint news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday.—INP

KARACHI: Following nightlong ‘negotiations’ at a Defence area safe house, the central leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) on Wednesday evening announced forging a ‘political alliance’ to contest the upcoming elections from the platform of a single party and on one symbol.

The announcement was made by MQM-P head Dr Farooq Sattar and PSP chairman Mustafa Kamal at a joint news conference at the Karachi Press Club. However, both remained silent as to who would lead the alliance that Dr Sattar said was aimed at “saving the vote bank from division”.

The gist of the presser suggested that the two parties would continue to exist as separate entities till they finalise all modalities through talks, including the name of the alliance, one election symbol and their manifesto.

Announce contesting next elections from platform of single party, on one symbol; Gen Musharraf congratulates ‘Mohajir community’

Interestingly, former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf — whose All Pakistan Muslim League’s leaders time and again expressed their desire that the former dictator lead a unified MQM — congratulated the Mohajir community on the alliance of the two parties.

“Today I am very happy that the unity of Mohair community is returning...meaning MQM and PSP are [going to be] united,” he said in a video statement released even before the MQM-PSP press conference.

The move came amid reports that certain lawmakers of the MQM-P were ready to join the Pakistan Peoples Party. Former president Asif Ali Zardari met MQM Senator Khushbakht Shujaat and MNAs Ali Rashid, Salman Mujahid Baloch and Dr Fauzia Hameed over the past couple of days and it was widely believed that the PPP was luring them into its fold.

Sources told Dawn that following Mr Kamal’s Tuesday night tirade in which he strongly criticised state institutions for “dry-cleaning” Dr Sattar on Aug 22 last year and vowed to “bury the MQM”, the central leadership of the two parties had been summoned by the powers that be for a late-night meeting at a Defence safe house.

Without mincing words, the sources said, both Mr Kamal and Dr Sattar were communicated that the powers that be could no longer tolerate their infighting and they should take practical steps leading to their amalgamation no matter how serious their differences were.

The sources said that the Tuesday night meeting was different from the ones held previously in which the establishment played the role of a mediator and urged the two parties to sort out their differences.

As the meeting ended late in the night, both parties held their separate meetings on Wednesday to take their respective cadres into confidence about the move. Many lawmakers and members of the MQM-P coordination committee openly expressed their unhappiness over what they called a unilateral decision taken by Dr Sattar and his little coterie of friends.

Dr Sattar’s second-in-command Amir Khan, who holds the position of senior deputy convener and is currently abroad, was informed about the developments by party leaders over the phone.

However, he expressed resentment over the decision while talking to private news channels. He said that whatever yielded from the meetings between the two parties was not the outcome of the “mandate given to Dr Farooq Sattar by the party”.

MQM-P MNA Ali Raza Abidi, who is in Iraq on a pilgrimage, announced his decision to quit the party. “Ladies n Gentlemen from the Holy land of Karbala, I announce to quit MQMP n resign from NA251 as this is not what I believed in n stood for,” he tweeted.

It appeared that the announcement did not go down well within the MQM circles as party leader Faisal Subzwari tweeted that Dr Sattar as the leader of MQM-P “talked about an alliance” and he would be “talking to other political parties as well”.

Unlike the MQM-P, there was no resentment in the PSP camp, but some leaders urged the party leadership not to move so fast.

At the press conference, Mr Kamal indicated that he would have no objection to disbanding the PSP for the sake of upcoming merger, but said he would not accept the name of ‘MQM’ since the MQM was and would remain the party of Altaf Hussain.

Both Mr Kamal and Dr Sattar said that a dialogue process between the two parties had been under way for the past six months.

Mr Kamal said the two parties talked “whole night” and finally agreed to contest the 2018 general election under one name, manifesto and symbol.

In a thinly-veiled reference to Mr Zardari, Dr Sattar said the “feudals of Sindh” exploited the impression of a division of Karachi’s vote bank by making political encroachments.

Mr Kamal, who is known for his harsh criticism of opponents, apologised if he ever hurt the sentiments of any MQM-P leader or worker.

Since the news of a possible merger was doing round the whole day, former Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, who lives in Dubai after he was removed from office last year by now disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif, also broke his silence.

Terming it a good omen for the country, he brushed aside reports that he would head the new party to be formed after the MQM-PSP merger. “I am not mentally ready to lead...there are good people on both sides who will collective lead the [Mohajir] nation,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2017