‘Stars not aligned’ for MQM announcement
KARACHI: A late night meeting between opposition leaders and the government-allied MQM-P created quite a stir in the capital.
While the combined opposition tried with all its might to prevail upon the party to announce a decision there and then, MQM-P avoided making a definitive statement at such a late hour and announced that it would make its decision public the next day.
An MQM-P spokesperson said that while the draft agreement had been finalised, the party would only announce its decision once the same was ratified by the coordination committee.
Initially, an opposition delegation consisting of Khawaja Asif, Sherry Rehman, Naveed Qamar, Ayaz Sadiq, Akhtar Mengal, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and others reached Parliament Lodges a little before midnight.
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They held talks with MQM convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and other leaders, which continued well into the early hours of Wednesday.
Later, the main cohort of opposition leaders – Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Shehbaz Sharif – also reached the venue around 2:00am in a bid to persuade the government ally to switch sides.
TV channels were inundated with news about the possible outcome of the meeting throughout the night. While multiple outlets reported that opposition sources claimed the MQM-P had all but agreed to join them, some channels quoted Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Waeem Akhtar as saying that nothing had been decided.
Sources privy to the meeting said that the sitting discussed certain clauses about a future agreement between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and MQM-P regarding Sindh’s administrative and local government issues in the presence of senior leadership of other opposition parties.
The draft agreement is not only with the PPP, but with the whole opposition, a source said, adding that Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Shehbaz Sharif would ensure implementation on the agreement if it was approved by the coordination committee.
If MQM-P were to throw its weight behind the opposition, it would drastically tilt the scales in the their favour. According to some estimates, the ruling coalition has a strength of 171 members, since the lone Jamaat lawmaker has elected to stay neutral in the no-confidence vote.
The opposition, on the other hand, seems to have 169 members on its side after the Balochistan Awami Party joined its ranks.
This precarious balance could easily be tilted if the MQM-P’s seven members cross over to the opposition’s side.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022