KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has found itself in a tough spot after its demand of a new province to be carved out of Sindh is going down like a lead balloon since it failed to garner support from other parties, including its major coalition partner Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
On April 27, the MQM-P held a public meeting in Karachi in which its convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui announced that his party would launch a struggle for an ‘urban Sindh’ province to end ‘injustices’ meted out to the people of urban areas. Later, the party named the proposed province as the ‘southern Sindh’ province.
Party sources said that there was a consensus within the party on the need for more provinces along administrative lines in the country, but there was a difference of opinion over raising the demand and launching of a struggle for a separate province for the people of urban areas of Sindh.
Naysayers opined that the MQM-P, if supported by the PTI and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), lacked even a simple majority as a resolution for a new province to be carved out of Sindh must get passed from the provincial assembly with a two-thirds majority and there was no chance that the MQM would get such numbers in the foreseeable future.
They wanted the party to inform people, especially Sindhis, to build a consensus by organising workshops, seminars, etc, for new provinces in the country, Sindh included.
But their voice was suppressed by hawkish elements who were of the view that the Pakistan Peoples Party during its around 11-year rule in Sindh had neglected the urban areas to the extent that urban population, regardless of their ethnic background, fels deprived and is ready to support the demand for a new province.
And as a result, the MQM-P had in the last week of April officially launched a movement for ‘urban Sindh’ province.
But in a mere five-week period, the party could not manage to get support from the PTI, GDA or any other party. It suffered a major setback when Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that his party was not in favour of a new province to be carved out of Sindh — it means the MQM will not get support of PTI’s 30 lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly whenever it tables a resolution for a new province.
Against the backdrop of the PM’s statement, senior party leader Amir Khan told an Iftar gathering in Hyderabad that the MQM-P “will table such a bill in the National Assembly irrespective of the fact if the PTI supports it or not”.
In a bid to avoid further embarrassment following PM Khan’s statement, MQM-P convener Dr Siddiqui clarified that his party did not call for a ‘Mohajir or Karachi’ province and it was demanding more administrative units across the country.
However, a source said that Amir Khan’s statement was not welcomed even within the MQM-P ranks since the party had only seven MNAs in the lower house of parliament and if a bill was tabled it would immediately be defeated.
Amid constant bickering, a party delegation flew to Islamabad on May 29 to meet the prime minister. The over 40-minute meeting went well except for the fact that the PM gave them a lecture as to why the division of Sindh was not in the interest of the country and that he was working hard to provide due rights to the people of urban areas in the existing framework.
Sources said that the PM’s response in the May 29 meeting forced the MQM-P to review its strategy.
They said that the hawkish elements were of the view that the party should withdraw its support to the PTI government if it would refuse to support their proposed bill to be presented in the National Assembly.
They said that the party should not support the PTI in the passage of the budget 2019-20 in case its major coalition partner not extend its support to the MQM-P cause.
However, saner elements pointed out that the party had been isolated on the demand of a new province to be carved out of Sindh and at this stage it was not appropriate to issue threats of quitting the coalition government at the Centre.
In what appeared to be a face-saving exercise, the party decided to table a bill on making new provinces, including the southern Sindh province, in the NA. It hoped that the bill, after submission, would be sent to the standing committee concerned instead of being killed at an early stage through voting.
“We have completed our deliberations from the level of coordination committee to our elected representatives and decided to meet all parliamentary parties to seek their support on our demand of the southern Sindh province,” MQM spokesperson MNA Aminul Haq told Dawn.
“We have met the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and will be meeting PTI representatives,” he said, adding that the party would also hold meetings with the opposition PML-N in the days to come. “We are hopeful that these parties will support our bill as we have supported the demand of Hazara province and southern Punjab province.”
He, however, evaded a direct reply when asked as to why the party was not approaching the right forum i.e. the Sindh Assembly, for its new province demand.
He said the MQM-P would hold seminars and consult think-tanks to discuss the pros and cons of the new province. “This will also help in creating awareness and dispel concerns of those against new administrative units in the country,” he added.
About any plan to quit the PTI-led coalition, he said both parties had signed a memorandum of understanding after the general elections and the “MQM is waiting for fulfilment of PTI’s promises”.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2019