• MQM parts ways with coalition, inks deals with PPP and PML-N
• Opposition asks PM to resign gracefully
• Over a dozen PTI dissidents attend opposition dinner at Sindh House
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday suffered a major setback that virtually cost his party its majority in the 342-member National Assembly, as the MQM-P announced its decision to exit the ruling coalition ahead of a crucial vote on the opposition-moved no-confidence resolution against him.
The urban Sindh-based MQM-P announced its decision to quit the government at a crowded news conference with top opposition leaders after reaching a broad-based understanding and solemnising it transpired in the form of written agreements that were finalised by the two sides after night-long hectic negotiations and consultations.
The joint opposition asked PM Khan to set new democratic traditions in the country and resign gracefully from the office after losing his majority.
Following the party’s decision, Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Minister for Information Technology Aminul Haq sent their resignations to the prime minister.
After pulling out the seven-member MQM-P, the opposition parties have now managed to cross the magical figure of 172 — the minimum number required to form the government at the Centre — and now enjoy the support of 177 members in the National Assembly even without nearly over a dozen dissidents of the ruling PTI, who had already publicly declared the withdrawal of their support to the prime minister.
“We had 26 seats in the previous assembly. Under a planning, these were reduced to seven. But now we have proved that that neither a government can be formed nor removed without these seven seats,” said MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui while formally making the announcement of the party’s decision which, he added, had been endorsed by the party’s decision-making Rabita Committee.
It was on the insistence of the MQM-P that the opposition leaders signed two agreements with it — one with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the other with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — in front of the media.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal and Khalid Magsi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) signed the agreements as witnesses.
The MQM-P’s agreement with the PPP — the ruling party in Sindh — carries 18 points, mostly regarding the administrative affairs of Karachi and Hyderabad, and relates to the province, whereas the 27-point agreement with the PML-N contains issues related to federation and national politics, including next elections on the basis of new census.
“We have joined you [the opposition] on this journey with these expectations. We have no individual or party benefits. Every clause of our agreement is for the common public of Pakistan and especially for those areas where we have been representing for the last 35 years,” said Dr Siddiqui.
He also expressed the hope that the opposition parties would also resolve the issue of missing persons.
New democratic traditions
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif praised PPP leaders Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for showing flexibility and sagacity by agreeing to the demands of the MQM-P and said they had initiated this journey of Pakistan’s prosperity and Karachi’s happiness. He declared that the agreements would be implemented in letter and spirit.
Mr Sharif asked the prime minister to set new democratic traditions and step down. He, however, said that he had no hope from the prime minister that he would do so.
Responding to a question as to what would be his priorities after becoming prime minister of the country, Mr Sharif said he would take smaller provinces along and make efforts to bring them on a par with the developed provinces which was a must for a strong federation. He said the PPP and MQM-P would be leading the federation as far as the issues of Sindh were concerned. He also vowed to work for the rights of the people of Balochistan.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the working relationship between the PPP and MQM-P had nothing to do with the no-confidence motion as the two parties had been engaged for the past many months.
“The PPP and MQM-P have to work together under any condition, if we want to work for Karachi and Pakistan’s prosperity,” he added.
He said the MQM had taken a historic decision by supporting the united opposition and prioritising the country. He said the PPP and MQM-P had been kept at a distance under a conspiracy which not only harmed Karachi but also the entire country.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said Imran Khan was not a prime minister anymore and he had no option left, but to resign. “The parliament session is tomorrow (Thursday). Let’s hold voting tomorrow and settle this matter. We can then start working on transparent elections and the journey towards restoration of democracy and an end to economic crisis can then begin,” he went on saying.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the MQM-P’s decision was an expression of national unity not only for Karachi and Sindh but also for the whole country.
BNP chief Akhtar Mengal said he had already predicted that Imran Khan would be out hit-wicket, adding that his own bat had now hit the wickets. He said they neither wanted a new Pakistan nor an old Pakistan, but a “different Pakistan” where “our children do not go missing”.
Later, the opposition leaders gathered at a dinner at Sindh House which was also attended by over a dozen dissidents of the ruling PTI.
Before MQM-P, BAP and Jamhoori Watan Party — the two other allies of the PTI government — had already announced their support to the opposition. Similarly, a dissident member of the PML-Q Tariq Bashir Cheema had also declared that he would vote against the prime minister. Besides them, two independents — Aslam Bhootani and Ali Nawaz Shah — had also formally joined the opposition.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022