KARACHI: A war of words between the Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, the two former coalition partners, intensified on Tuesday as both sides traded serious allegations and held each other responsible for the miseries of Karachi and its people.

The first salvo was fired by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday while addressing a big public meeting in Liaquatabad’s Tanki Ground in which he called the MQM ‘Mustaqil Qaumi Museebat’ (permanent national disaster) and promised that if the people of Karachi voted for his party, he would rid them of the MQM for good.

And on Tuesday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari briefly spoke against the MQM at a press conference held in connection with May Day only when reporters persistently sought his opinion on the latter’s plan to hold a public meeting at the same venue where his party organised a show of strength on April 29.

Factions of Muttahida may hold joint public meeting, dare Bilawal to hold a rally in Lyari

“In connection with Labour Day, I would ask the MQM to first answer about the Baldia Town factory carnage that killed hundreds of poor labourers,” he said. “I love the people of Karachi and I will stage a rally in every district of my city. The MQM should not worry about me. There is a visible tilt in politics of Karachi, and the PPP is leading this [trend.]”

It appears that after Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s verbal onslaught on the fragmented MQM-P, its PIB and Bahadurabad groups — which had earlier announced that they would hold public meetings in Liaquatabad on May 4 and May 5, respectively — will sit together to formulate a united strategy to hold one public meeting against the PPP.

On Tuesday evening, MQM’s PIB group leader Ali Raza Abidi tweeted that Dr Farooq Sattar had announced holding a joint press conference on Wednesday with Bahadurabad group’s Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui “in order to hold One Muttahid Jalsa at the same location in reply to Bilawal’s Jalsi”.

Bahadurabad group slams PPP

Earlier on Tuesday, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, who is the convener of the Bahadurabad group, held a press conference in which he directed his criticism at Mr Bhutto-Zardari and said that the PPP would be given a befitting reply at Liaquatabad’s Tanki Ground, where his party would hold a public meeting on May 5.

He said his party hoped that the PPP would have tried to win the hearts and minds of the people by announcing a big hospital or a medical college at their public meeting in Liaquatabad, but it did no such thing and only spread venom and hatred.

He said the PPP held its public meeting in a traditional MQM stronghold after 44 years only because its leader knew he was completely safe there. “But what fear is stopping you from holding such a public meeting in Lyari,” said Dr Siddiqui.

Terming the gangs in Lyari the “militant wing of the PPP”, he asked Mr Bhutto-Zardari to hold a public meeting in that neighbourhood to show that he had no fear there.

Responding to Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s taunt that the MQM-P had betrayed its leader Altaf Hussain, Dr Siddiqui said the whole party had stood by Mr Hussain for long, but dissociated itself from him only for Pakistan. “We can leave anyone for the sake of Pakistan.”

Sattar visits Liaquatabad

Also on Tuesday, MQM-P’s PIB group head Dr Farooq Sattar visited the Liaquatabad area and met people there.

He said the area people told him they wanted unity of different groups and they had to hold one public meeting.

He said on their demand he now left the issue of finalising date and day for holding one public meeting in Liaquatabad to Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.

He said he was thankful to Mr Bhutto-Zardari as his party was going to hold one public meeting, and not two, because of the PPP leader.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018