ISLAMABAD / KARACHI, Aug 1: Piqued by what could be described as a deliberate slight, President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday decided to cross swords with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, saying that resignations tendered by its legislators could after all be accepted and new Sindh coalition partners found if the party chose to be on a collision course with the government.

The MQM incurred the president’s opprobrium when its legislators tasked to discuss Sindh’s deepening political crisis with Gen Musharraf decided to absent from the eagerly awaited meeting following talks with National Security Council secretary Tariq Aziz on late Monday night.

The negotiating team — which comprised MQM coordination committee deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar, Ports and Shipping Minister Babar Ghori, Hyderabad Nazim Kunwar Naveed Jamil and MQM parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Mohammad Hussain –- said they had taken umbrage at Sindh Chief Minister Dr Ghulam Arbab Rahim’s uncharitable remarks about the party.

Sources privy to the proceedings of President Musharraf’s meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan Muslim League president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, secretary-general Mushahid Hussain, Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani and Arbab Rahim said the option of governor’s rule in Sindh was on the table.

Defiantly unyielding, the MQM said they would not be intimidated by threats of the governor’s rule.

The London-based convener of the MQM coordination committee, Dr Imran Farooq, told a private TV channel that some elements were seeking to isolate the president.

“When Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif initiated army operations against us in the past, we told them in no uncertain terms that they would be eventually isolated. We can offer the same advice to President Musharraf,” he said in spine-chilling remarks that fuelled speculation that the MQM was prepared for a ‘do-or-die showdown’ with the establishment.

Dr Farooq said whether or not the MQM would continue to extend cooperation to President Musharraf depended on what steps he would take from now on.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad had accompanied the MQM negotiating team to Islamabad and returned along with them to Karachi. The sources said that the governor, summoned by President Musharraf, hurriedly caught the next flight back to the federal capital.

The sources said President Musharraf made it clear to participants of the meeting that no official contact would be made with the MQM until the party took some conciliatory steps.

Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani told Dawn that the president was ‘perturbed’ by the MQM’s decision of not attending the meeting called at the request of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, in protest against comments attributed to the Sindh chief minister.

The sources said the Sindh chief minister did not escape the president’s ire. “Apparently, President Musharraf had told him that he had two ears and one tongue so that he could disregard the detractors’ critical comments and speak sparingly against them. But he managed to provoke the MQM by making some spiteful remarks against the party known to be quick to take offence,” they said.

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