KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari publicly offered the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan partnership in the Sindh government provided the latter quit the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government — a move the MQM-P did not reject outright, but described it as a “non-serious attempt”.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari surprised everyone when he while speaking at a programme to inaugurate four development projects in Karachi addressed Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, who is also a central leader of the MQM-P, and offered him PPP’s full support if the MQM-P broke off its alliance with the PTI to oust the federal government.
“Bring down, bring down...bring Imran’s government down and save Karachi,” he said.
Amid loud cheering from the audience, he continued: “We will support you one hundred per cent. For the sake of the people of Karachi, we are ready to provide an equal number of ministries [in Sindh] to the MQM but the [only] condition is that it sends Imran packing.”
PPP chief promises Karachi-based party ministries in return for support for move to send PTI govt packing
The PTI does not enjoy a simple majority in the 342-strong National Assembly. For attaining the required number — 172 — for government formation it had to take the MQM-P and some other parties on board as its coalition partners.
The MQM-P has the largest number of MNAs compared to any other coalition partner of the PTI. According to the NA website, the PTI has 156 MNAs, seven of the MQM-P, five each of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and the Balochistan Awami Party, four of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, three of the Grand Democratic Alliance and one each of Shaikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League and Jamhoori Watan Party.
The total strength of the PTI-led coalition in the lower house reached 182 and the number game suggests that the PTI government will not fall even if the MQM decides to quit the federal government. The MQM-P has been given two federal ministries in return for its support for Prime Minister Imran Khan-led set-up.
Later in the evening, the MQM-P issued a carefully-worded statement in which it chose not to reject the PPP chairman’s offer in clear term and said: “We are not satisfied with the one-and-a-half-year performance of the federal government, but we will not take the decision to part ways with the government on someone’s desire.”
However, MQM-P leader MNA Aminul Haque told Dawn that his party considered Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s offer a non-serious attempt as “invitation for government formation and alliances are not extended public meetings”.
“It seems it’s more of an invitation to bring down the government instead of government formation,” he added.
The MQM-P statement said that the party made an alliance with PTI for the sake of Karachi and not for the sake of ministries.
It said that instead of offering ministries to the MQM, Mr Bhutto-Zardari should empower the local government system by asking his party to bring an amendment bill in the Sindh Assembly where his party enjoys a clear majority.
It said that the PPP must devolve all civic organisations such as water board, building control authority, etc to the local government if it was really serious in compensating for the injustices to urban areas.
Of late, the PPP and the MQM-P, despite their strong views against each others, are getting closer in the Sindh Assembly. Recently, the PPP supported the MQM in the house when it tabled resolutions against the provisional census results as well as an act of vandalism at its Yadgar-i-Shuhda, or Martyrs’ Monument, in Azizabad’s Jinnah Ground.
However, Mr Haque claimed that there was no tacit understanding between the two parties and the PPP must take concrete steps if it was really serious in solving problems of Karachi and Sindh’s urban areas.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2019