Govt’s placatory efforts cut no ice with estranged Muttahida

19 Jan 2020

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PTI and MQM-P leaders talking to media after their meeting on Saturday.
PTI and MQM-P leaders talking to media after their meeting on Saturday.

KARACHI: The federal government’s efforts to pacify its four disgruntled allies have so far borne no fruit as a high-level negotiating team of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) returned empty-handed after holding a meeting with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) leadership here on Saturday.

“We have discussed all points raised by the MQM-P and we reached a consensus on many issues. Soon a second session [of talks] will be held in Islamabad after which you [media] will hear good news,” Defence Minister Pervez Khattak told reporters after the meeting.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed a committee of his party’s leaders, headed by Mr Khattak, to meet and address the concerns of his four coalition partners — Sindh-based MQM-P and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Punjab-based Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal).

The four parties have openly expressed their grievances against the PTI government for failing to fulfil its promises with them. Except BNP-M, the MQM-P, GDA and PML-Q are part of the federal cabinet with two and one each federal ministry, respectively.

Khattak-led team returns empty-handed after holding talks with MQM-P leadership

On Jan 12, MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had announced his resignation as federal IT and telecom minister. Two days later, PML-Q’s lone federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema had skipped the cabinet meeting.

On Jan 15, the PTI committee held two meetings in Islamabad with the PML-Q and BNP-M in order to address their grievances. But, it appeared that the PTI allies were not ready to give any immediate concession to the government as the ruling party was expected to have a second round of talks with both the PML-Q and BNP-M.

Despite their reservations, none of the four parties have so far hinted at withdrawing their support to the government.

The collective strength of the four parties in the National Assembly is 24 — MQM has seven MNAs, PML-Q and BAP has five each, BNP-M four and GDA has three lawmakers — and the PTI government could fall the moment these parties left the coalition.

Visit to MQM headquarters

On Saturday, the PTI team headed by Mr Khattak and comprising PM’s point man Jahangir Tareen, Federal Minister Asad Umar, Arbab Shahzad and others arrived at the temporary headquarters of the MQM-P in Karachi’s Bahadurabad neighbourhood.

The delegation held talks behind closed doors with the MQM team comprising senior leaders Amir Khan, Kanwar Naveed, Nasreen Jalil and others for around two hours. Later, Mr Khattak and MQM-P convener Dr Siddiqui spoke to the media.

Mr Khattak said that the PTI team requested Dr Siddiqui to take back his resignation and return to federal cabinet.

“There is no disagreement between the federal government and the MQM. Some misunderstandings had been spread following Dr Siddiqui’s decision to quit the cabinet and we came here to have a discussion on different matters, including removing all confusions,” said the defence minister.

When asked as to why all of a sudden the coalition partners had started expressing their reservations and whether or not the government will survive till March, the defence minister replied: “Insha Allah it will.”

“I have been hearing from you [media] that our allies are angry with us...no one is angry [with the government]. We have no issues with the Q-League, have talked to the GDA and we have not separated from the MQM-P. They have reservations and these would be addressed,” he said.

Standing next to him was MQM-P’s Dr Siddiqui. He said that his party had informed the PTI delegation of all issues, which were all of urgent nature and needed immediate government’s attention.

He also said that it was a positive meeting in which progress was made on many issues.

An MQM-P leader told Dawn that the party asked the PTI delegation to take immediate concrete measures for providing funds to Karachi and Hyderabad, particularly implementation on Rs162 billion development package for the metropolis, start work on a university in Hyderabad, handing over sealed party offices to it, etc.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2020