KARACHI: While the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led federal government is bracing itself for a showdown when the Supreme Court resumes hearing of the provincial elections case on Monday (today), cracks within the ruling coalition appeared visible on Sunday when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan dissociated itself from the ongoing saga by declaring it an “issue of two parties within the PDM”.

Although MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had attended Saturday’s huddle of the ruling coalition parties in Lahore via video link from Karachi, he had left the meeting early to attend a Meet the Press programme at the Karachi Press Club.

The Saturday meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended via video link by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz and other representatives of the ruling coalition parties also took part in the meeting.

A statement issued by PML-N after the meeting said: “A complete distrust had been shown in the three-member bench of the SC comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar. The huddle demands wrapping up [of] the three-member bench’s proceedings regarding delay in elections to the Punjab Assembly forthwith and acceptance of the four-member majority decision in the suo motu case.”

When asked whether the MQM-P supported the ruling coalition’s stance against the three-member SC bench, a spokesperson for the MQM-P stated: “We believe this is an issue of two parties within the PDM. We neither support nor oppose it.”

The party spokesperson categorically maintained that PDM did not contact the MQM-P in this regard.

He said Dr Siddiqui was not part of the decisions reportedly taken in the Saturday huddle in Lahore as he had left the meeting much before its conclusion due to his pressing engagements.

The MQM-P’s latest stance came amid speculations that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan had sent party’s vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Karachi in a bid to re-establish contacts with the former. With former Punjab chief minister and PTI president Parvez Elahi is reported to have made contacts with certain MQM-P leaders, senior MQM-P leadership remained tight-lipped about any such development.

A party official said that the MQM-P was part of the ruling coalition at the centre but it was not a component party of the PDM. “PDM has its own stance…even PPP does not agree with every stance adopted by the PDM and so does the MQM-P.”

An MQM-P leader, requesting anonymity, told Dawn that his party did not want any confrontation with any state institution, especially the apex court. “We have suffered a lot when we became involved in the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. We do not want to repeat this.”

He said there was a growing feeling in the MQM-P that both the PML-N and PPP had been using it for their own good and they have no interest in implementing the “charter of rights” they signed with the MQM last year. “Even the federal government is not taking any meaningful step to ensure transparency in the ongoing digital census.”

In a late-night development, an MQM-P spokesperson confirmed that the PTI leadership had contacted and expressed the desire of a meeting with party leaders. However, the opposition party was told that the MQM-P would first discuss the issue in its coordination committee and then get back to it.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2023

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