If it hadn’t been for the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif, the launch of Imran Khan’s long march and the subsequent attempt on his life, the various factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement may have announced a merger that has been long in works.

Behind-the-scenes efforts by powerful quarters to bring the different MQM factions under the MQM-Pakistan umbrella have been underway for some time and Dawn has learnt that final touches are being given to a merger deal between the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and MQM-P.

In background conversations, multiple sources from the different factions of the party revealed that while a fragmented MQM was more suited to the establishment until April of this year, it now needed to field a unified party in urban Sindh ahead of next year’s general elections.

For this purpose, the powers that be had, directly or indirectly, approached every MQM faction — based in the country and outside.

After 2017’s ‘failed experiment’, it seems the powers that be are now readying a united front to field in urban Sindh ahead of the next general election

Insiders say that although no side has so far opposed the idea, many leaders fear differences may surface over organisational control, as they have in the past.

In Nov 2017, the PSP and MQM-P announced a merger at a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club. But due to differences within the MQM-P, the establishment-brokered deal did not even last one full day as both sides traded allegations and named key establishment figures as being behind the move.

This time around, however, even those associated with the Altaf Hussain-led MQM-London — thought to be the most hard line of all the factions — are emphasising on their supporters and sympathisers the importance of “forgiving” those behind the split and working together for a fresh start.

Also read: Yet another attempt at reconciliation between warring MQM factions

However, London-based MQM leader Mustafa Azizabadi, in a brief statement to Dawn, denied any knowledge of a plan to merge all MQM factions.

The MQM-P also chose not to respond when approached for comment.

Sources said that last month, a senior establishment figure flew down to Karachi and met with senior leaders from both, MQM-P and PSP, separately.

The two parties were told that urban Sindh could not afford their petty rivalries, which was the main reason why they had failed to fill the vacuum created after the ouster of MQM founder Altaf Hussain.

Insiders said that PSP wanted to make it clear that they were not to blame for the fiasco that unfolded the last time the two parties tried to merge, insisting that the failure of the move was down to some senior MQM-P figures. The PSP leadership in the meeting assured the powers that be of their full cooperation, provided the other side guaranteed it would control a few “hostile figures”.

The MQM-P leadership, although reluctant at first, came on board after “a carrot-and-stick policy” was adopted. However, sources said that only a handful of people within the party’s inner sanctum were privy to the plan, which has not even been shared with all members of the coordination committee.

Sources claim the establishment has also promised governance incentives so that the unified party could work for the people in urban Sindh to minimise a growing sense of deprivation there.

The incentives include “convincing” the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party to forge a coalition with the MQM-P at the provincial level, give it some urban-centric ministries, as well as the posts of Karachi and Hyderabad administrators, amend the local government law to empower these administrators and ensure the provision of funds from the provincial government.

In return, the MQM-P will be given back access to its Azizabad headquarters and even groups based outside the country would be allowed to send their representatives to Pakistan, so they can be included in the coordination committee, or whatever organisational structure the groups decide to adopt.

However, not everyone in the establishment is happy with these plans. Citing the example of the appointment of Kamran Tessori as governor of Sindh, one insider said that all those within the MQM-P who had raised their voice against him had been “successfully tackled” to the extent that, recently, two-thirds of the coordination committee bestowed him with the power to take any decision for the party.

But at the same time, there seems to be friction between the establishment and the governor, which can be gauged from the fact that two key personalities from among the former’s ranks had yet to pay a courtesy call on Mr Tessori, who is the constitutional head of the province.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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