Despite another meeting on Saturday with their Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) allies in Karachi, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has yet to convince MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to rejoin the federal cabinet.
Last Sunday, Siddiqui had announced his resignation as Minister for Information Technology. A day later, a meeting between the two parties was held, giving rise to rumours that the MQM leader may take back his resignation. However, all such talk was rubbished by Siddiqui as well as Asad Umar, who had been part of the government delegation.
Today's meeting — although culminated in Siddiqui being invited to return — failed to make inroads as Siddiqui has yet to agree.
'Close to finding a solution'
Following the meeting, a press conference was held by PTI leaders Pervez Khattak and Jahangir Tareen alongside Siddiqui.
Khattak, while briefing the media, confirmed that a committee had been formed comprising Jahangir Tareen, Asad Umar, Arbab Shehzad and himself who are reaching out to various allied parties and are in touch with them.
"This was already ongoing since the last 3-4 months when it comes to MQM and in that same vein we came here today because some misunderstandings had developed," said the defence minister.
Khattak said a "very positive discussion" was held today, "and we are very close (to finding a final solution)".
The PTI leader asserted that both parties "were partners before, are still partners and will remain partners". "We will give some good news soon. We will never part ways," he added.
"So our entire delegation came here to assure them. InshaAllah we will meet again in Islamabad and whatever (issue) is left will be ironed out."
Khattak expressed confidence that the gesture "will be accepted wholeheartedly (by MQM-P)" and said that the party has invited Siddiqui to return to the cabinet.
"He will decide in good time. There are some issues which still need to be discussed," he said, adding: "There is no major issue remaining, just some small points which need to be fine tuned and those will be sorted."
The defence minister said there was no need for the hue and cry raised in the country over MQM having "parted ways with the PTI". "They have not left us. They have just left the cabinet but remain our partner and will always be."
He said that discussions with all the allied parties had been held "and no one is leaving us and we will remain united for this entire five-year period".
'Fought the people's case'
Siddiqui, during his briefing, reminded the media that when the PTI government had to be formed, "MQM-P had announced our unconditional support for them".
"We recently held a press conference and reiterated this promise of ours. But alongside, we made them aware of all the issues which pertain to Sindh and Karachi. And of those issues as well which the entire country faces.
"We had presented this standpoint before joining hands with PTI," he said, adding that in the charter of demands, there is no point which brings personal benefit to any individual or party.
"We were worried due to the economic terrorism faced by Sindh over the last 11 years and over the way the people were cheated in the name of the 18th Amendment. The devolution of power that was supposed to occur resulted in accumulation of power," said Siddiqui,
"We have told them the issues in Sindh are of an urgent nature and require immediate attention."
He said the MQM-P want the whole of Pakistan to walk shoulder to shoulder with the government to lead the country towards progress.
"At least [provide the rightful dues] to those cities whose traders and shopkeepers and industrialists are fulfilling their responsibility and are paying more than 65 per cent tax to run our economy. For them, you will not need to ask for aid from anyone; you need only give them what they are owed in their share," said Siddiqui.
"Even education has suffered. Such democracy whose benefit does not reach the very doorsteps of the people, is one for which we will all have to be answerable."
The MQM-P convener said that the PTI had provided them "a lot of encouragement" in today's sitting and that progress had been made on many fronts.
"While there is no point on which we are cross with them, we have said again that the things that have been decided today need immediate implementation for the relief of the people.
"These schemes need to emerge from the papers they are penned on and need to be seen on the streets and our neighbourhoods," asserted the MQM leader.
"We have fought your case and have taken your issues to the table," he said, addressing the people of Sindh.
According to a source within the MQM-P, a major complaint by the party pertains to an earlier demand of being provided two ministries in the federal cabinet. The source told Dawn that prior to the formation of the PTI coalition government, MQM-P had been promised that this would be done.
The source confirmed that the PTI, in an attempt to resolve differences, extended an invitation to Siddiqui to rejoin the cabinet.
Tareen, while inviting Siddiqui to return, said: "MQM's issues are important, but everything can not be sorted all at once. We wish that you remain with us and serve the country and Karachi."
Khattak said that the government delegation had come on special directives from Prime Minister Imran Khan and seeks to resolve all differences.
Meanwhile, Siddiqui, on the occasion, said: "Rejoining the cabinet is not a big problem. Sindh's issues are of extreme importance."
During the meeting, the MQM-P put forth four demands, namely, the formation of a university in Hyderabad, the allocation of a development budget for Hyderabad, the implementation of the Rs162 billion package for Karachi, and the re-opening of the closed MQM offices.