Wasim Akhtar
Wasim Akhtar

KARACHI: While the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan has sent five names to the prime minister so that he can select one of them for the gubernatorial office, senior leader Nasreen Jalil and wealthy businessman Amir Chishti have emerged as top contenders for the post of next Sindh governor, it emerged on Thursday.

Background conversations with several MQM-P leaders, however, suggested that a majority of party leaders wanted to see Ms Jalil as the new governor because of her long-time association with the party and the fact that, if appointed, she would be the first woman in nearly five decades to occupy the top office after Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan who had become the governor of Sindh in 1973.

They told Dawn that the names of Ms Jalil, who is a deputy convener of the party’s coordination committee; senior deputy convener Amir Khan; deputy convener and former Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar; MNA Kishwar Zehra and businessman Amir Chishti had been forwarded to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Amir Khan
Amir Khan

As per the power-sharing agreement between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and MQM-P, the latter was given two federal ministries as well as the slot of Sindh governor.

MQM-P sends five options to PM Shehbaz; Nasreen Jalil would be first woman to hold top provincial office since Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan

While Senator Faisal Subzwari and MNA Aminul Haque took oath as federal ministers in the first batch of the federal cabinet, the MQM didn’t have a consensus candidate for many days due to an alleged tug of war between two senior leaders of the party who wanted to get the top slot.

The sources said that initially a majority of the MQM leaders and workers felt that the party should not take the ceremonial post of the governor since it lacked a consensus candidate.

Amir Chishti
Amir Chishti

But, when the name of Ms Jalil came under discussion, the sources said almost everyone in the decision-making process concurred to it since Ms Jalil possessed both the administrative and legislative experience being a two-time senator and deputy mayor of Karachi who headed the City Council between 2005 and 2010.

Ms Jalil along with her late husband M A Jalil stood by the MQM through thick and thin. She was always considered to be a moderate and sane voice even when the MQM was led by Altaf Hussain from London. Her father was the deputy commissioner of Lahore when Pakistan came into existence. Her sister Yasmeen Lari is a renowned architect.

Nasreen Jalil
Nasreen Jalil

However, insiders said there were some concerns expressed by the powers that be over her solo nomination and as a result MQM-P sent more names to the prime minister so that he could pick candidate best suited for the job.

“At first, there were only three names — Ms Jalil, Amir Khan and Wasim Akhtar — from our sides,” said an MQM official, requesting anonymity. “Later, names of Amir Chishti Bhai and Kishwar Zehra Baji were also added to the list.”

While the MQM-P officially remained tight-lipped about the issue, the insiders said that objections were also raised by powers that be on former Karachi mayor Akhtar and Amir Khan that they have been indicted in several terrorism-related cases.

Internally, they said, there were objections to the style of governance of Mr Akhtar during his mayorship while Mr Khan was still considered as an ‘outsider’ since he was the founding leaders of the MQM-Haqiqi and returned to the MQM fold not too long ago.

Kishwar Zehra
Kishwar Zehra

Same is the case with MNA Kishwar Zehra, who was among the founding members of the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO) back in late ‘70s, but became inactive for years following the June 1992 army operation against the MQM, then called Mohajir Qaumi Movement.

The insiders said that the fifth aspirant, Amir Chishti, was a brother of slain MQM leader Khalid Bin Waleed. He was also associated with the APMSO as the unit in-charge of Govt Premier College North Nazimabad in early ‘90s. However, he shifted his focus from politics to business. He had contested the 2018 general election and later a by-election on a National Assembly seat in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

According to his profile posted on the website of Shajar Capital Pakistan Ltd, Mr Chishti has been “successfully managing companies/entities in healthcare, education, financial brokerage, hospitality and most recently into oil marketing arena”. He is on the board of directors of Darul Shifa International Limited, Admore Gas and is also the chairman of the Board of Darul Sehat Hospital and Liaquat College of Medicine & Dentistry.

A source said that Mr Chishti “enjoys great rapport with the PML-N as well as establishment”. He is reportedly having business relations with two very senior members of the PML-N and PPP.

“I was among those who were against accepting the post of governor, but the party has decided to take the job. I think Nasreen Jalil and Amir Chishti are the best among all our candidates...I hope Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will make the right decision,” said a senior MQM-P leader, suggesting that the party might withdraw in favour of a PML-N candidate if the PM decided to reject all of them.

Another leader categorically said that Ms Jalil was the top candidate from “our side”.

“[Appointment of] any candidate except her [Ms Jalil] will result in internal chaos. We have not fully recovered from the Feb 5 2018 split as yet...we can’t afford another one,” he said, referring to the time when Dr Farooq Sattar left the MQM-P and formed his own PIB group.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2022

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