The Pakistan faction of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), after a dramatic turn of events which led to a brief resignation stint by MQM chief Farooq Sattar, announced on Thursday that the decision to form an alliance with Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) was still intact. However, MQM would contest the 2018 general elections under its own symbol and manifesto.
Earlier in the day, MQM leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel had announced that the party would contest the 2018 elections under its own symbol in the constituencies where it had won in 2013.
MQM leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel announced this decision while addressing a press conference, flanked by senior party leaders Nasreen Jalil and Faisal Sabzwari, following an emergency huddle of the party's Rabita Committee to discuss the prevailing political situation.
Dr Farooq Sattar, who did not attend the party meeting due to "personal reasons", called an "urgent" press conference later in the evening to "make an important announcement". While speaking to the media at his PIB Colony residence, he admitted that he wasn't at the meeting because he was upset with the Rabita Committee.
"I don’t want my own people to convey their messages through social media; if there is an issue or any confusion, come talk to me in person."
Lamenting that his own party members did not respect his words or have trust in him, Sattar announced his resignation from politics during the press conference. His announcement was immediately followed by chants of "not accepted".
A commotion ensued following the announcement of Sattar's resignation from the party as well as politics with MQM members, including Sabzwari and Waseem Akhtar, and supporters appealing to Sattar to take back his resignation.
However, after hours of deliberation and persuasions, Sattar announced to take back his resignation while addressing another urgently called press conference in the early hours of Friday morning.
Accompanied by his mother, Sattar credited her for changing his mind about resigning from politics.
Sattar announced that he will visit the martyrs’ graveyard in Azizabad on Saturday to pay his respects and that the "people of Karachi will accompany him".
Sources close to Sattar told Dawn that he faced tremendous pressure from certain quarters at a meeting held at a DHA safe house on Tuesday night for entering into an alliance with the PSP and then gradually dissolving the MQM-P.
Championing Muhajir's rights
"MQM is the voice of Muhajirs; it was the voice before August 22 and will remain to be so," Sattar said earlier during the press conference, referring to the day that led to him sidelining party founder Altaf Hussain.
"Don’t go so far in spreading hatred against Altaf Hussain that you harm your own people. The tone used by Mustafa Kamal yesterday was not of unity and reconciliation," said Sattar, before adding that he could "have said all of this yesterday, but didn’t want to grab the mic from Mustafa Kamal bhai". "MQM is a reality, MQM is here to stay."
On Wednesday, Kamal had made it clear that “it [the alliance] 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 had maintained. “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.”
Referring to Kamal's comments, Sattar said: "You [Kamal] were saying that you can’t negotiate with MQM, yet you were sitting right next to me when saying this. I am part of MQM."
He also dismissed the notion that MQM and PSP were in negotiations for the past six months. "I have not met Mustafa Kamal alone; we've only interacted socially."
"I challenge you to win only one seat from Lahore," Sattar said, addressing Kamal. "If you win one seat from Lahore on KPK, we will bury the MQM flag with our own hands."
Championing rights of the Muhajir community, he said MQM was fighting a war for the survival of Pakistan in Karachi. "Kamal and his colleagues are saying that they want to bury the MQM. I request them to stop saying this — you are hurting the cause of the Muhajir community."
Sattar said that he would not have criticised Kamal, but was forced to as his "feelings were hurt".
"I'd decided to take the negotiations with PSP forward; I had even drafted an agenda [...] but Kamal tried to teach me the way forward, he asked me to let go of my struggle for the Muhajir community and think about national politics," he said, lashing out at the PSP leader.
"Our struggle is against the mistreatment suffered by the Muhajir community. We are against the quota system, the very system which technically ended after 2013 but is still followed by the government," claimed the MQM leader. "Yet, no court or institution has bothered to take action against this illegal practice."
"No political party is bad; however, there are some people who bring a bad name to it. I ask Kamal to join hands with us and help remove these elements from MQM."
"We wanted to make an alliance for a joint political struggle, but it was portrayed in a way as if we were abandoning MQM. How can we part ways with our own people who have sacrificed their lives for the betterment of this city and country?"
MQM to stick to its own electoral symbol
The leaders of MQM and PSP had 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."
However, Jameel made it clear on Thursday that MQM will stick with its own electoral symbol and manifesto, despite a political coalition with Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP).
"Some confusions had emerged following yesterday's press conference," said Naveed.
"Farooq Sattar had referred towards forming a political coalition just like the Islami Jamhuri Ittehad and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal," Jameel said, clarifying that the party will remain intact.
The party leaders during the meeting expressed complete trust in Dr Farooq Sattar, he maintained.
"Our voters and supporters should not get confused with the statements of political personalities and TV persons," he concluded.