KARACHI: Prime Minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif’s efforts to bridge differences between his key allies at the Centre — Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan and Pakistan Peoples Party — failed to meet the desired objective on Monday, after an hours-long meeting ended inconclusively, with the PPP-led Sindh government not convinced by the MQM-P’s demand to delay local bodies elections in Karachi and Hyderabad, pending fresh delimitation.

However, the two coalition partners agreed to hold more rounds of talks in the hopes of finding “a way out”.

The leaders of the two parties met at Bilawal House along with federal ministers, including federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and explored various options amid the deadlock between the two sides days before the Jan 15 LG elections.

However, sources privy to meeting said both the PPP and MQM-P stuck to their respective viewpoint and demand.

Unlike in the past, none of the participants interacted with the media after the meeting and drove away without sharing any details discussed in the hours-long huddle.

After inconclusive talks, both parties agree to meet again, hope to find ‘way out’

Chaired by former president Asif Ali Zardari, the meeting was briefed by both parties, but they failed to reach any consensus.

“The PPP clearly conveyed to the participants that fresh delimitation is a lengthy process and it may take four months to complete,” said a PPP source.

“It also refers to the opinion of legal experts who call it beyond the parameter of the provincial government to delay the elections as it’s only the mandate of the Election Commission of Pakistan to take such a decision. The provincial government has already sought the ECP’s opinion on this issue and a reply is awaited.”

A delegation of federal ministers landed in Karachi in the evening after PM Sharif decided on Sunday to send a team of troubleshooters to the city for placating the MQM-P after the party opposed the Sindh government’s decision to hold LG elections in the metropolis and Hyderabad under the existing delimitation.

It all began on Sunday evening when a hurriedly-called meeting of the MQM coordination committee discussed the development and chalked out a fresh line of action in case the local bodies elections are held as scheduled on Jan 15.

The coordination committee expressed fears that the LG elections in Karachi under the existing delimitation would be against the city’s mandate, vowing to approach court and the ECP for “justice”.

“The MQM-P’s stance remained unchanged at the meeting [at Bilawal House] and it stuck to its demand for fresh delimitation,” said another source.

“It made it clear about the options the party had discussed in its last coordination committee meeting if the situation remains unchanged. The party mainly mentioned 73 constituencies of local bodies in Karachi which badly needed review before the next elections.”

The MQM-P leaders, he said, expressed “serious disappointment” over response of the federal and provincial governments to the reservations it had been raising for the last eight months and now an impression is created that the party wanted the delay in LG elections.

The source, though admitting that there was no breakthrough in the meeting, ruled out any deadlock, saying: “The good thing is that all the allies decided to continue discussion and hold more rounds of talks on the issue before reaching any conclusion or decision.”

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2023

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