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Opposition slams MQM rally plan

May 10, 2007

ISLAMABAD, May 9: The opposition voiced strong fears in the National Assembly on Wednesday about a potential danger to peace from a rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rally in Karachi on Saturday when lawyers and opposition parties have planned a public reception for Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

But the government and its ally MQM dismissed the fears expressed by opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and several other members as well as allegations that President Pervez Musharraf, due to address another rally in Islamabad on the same day, and his loyalists were seeking to create a law and order situation to pave the way for a proclamation of emergency or another martial law.

“There are no such conditions (in the country) to justify emergency and there is no chance of a martial law,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Khan Niazi said as he sought to justify the plans of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and its allies to hold the rally in Islamabad for the president and of the MQM to hold one in Karachi on the same day.

He wondered whether the opposition parties themselves were seeking martial law, but said: “The armed forces have no interest (to impose a martial law). There will be no martial law, this government will complete its tenure and hold elections on time.”

Maulana Fazl accused the government of following double standards in the prevailing judicial crisis “of its own making” by detaining and preventing opposition workers from joining protests and receptions in support of Justice Iftikhar but sponsoring rallies by the ruling party and said the president himself had become a party by agreeing to address the Islamabad gathering planned to be held on a boulevard outside the Parliament House that has been used for Pakistan Day parades in the past.

“Such double standards are bound to cause anger in the opposition ranks and provocation,” he said, and particularly objected to the MQM’s planned Karachi rally as a potential source for anarchy.

“Is the country being led towards the imposition of emergency and a martial law so the elections could be postponed?” the opposition leader asked, and said “the responsibility for the consequences will be on the government and its patrons.”

While Mr Niazi denied opposition charges that state resources were being used for the president’s rally and said the opposition parties had no right to ask the ruling party to abstain from what they themselves were doing in what he called using a judicial and constitutional matter to advance their political activity.

An MQM member from Karachi, Abid Ali Umang, repeatedly said his party was using its democratic right to organise the rally there and added: “Our effort will be to avoid any clash between us and those welcoming the chief justice.” He asked the opposition to “commit your own people not to engage in any undemocratic activity”.

Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain allowed a discussion on the situation after consulting parliamentary leaders from both sides in his chamber although he had earlier stopped a Karachi member of the People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP), Nabil Ahmad Gabol, from raising the issue.

Mr Gabol later accused the MQM of issuing instructions to its workers to reach Karachi airport on May 12 apparently to counter the reception for the chief justice.

Senior Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal member Liaquat Baloch said the MQM rally could harm national interests while PPP’s Sherry Rehman described the situation as a “war between truth and falsehood” and also complained about what she called posting of army personnel on the parliament house ahead of the May 12 rally for the president.

Pakistan Muslim League-N member Tehmina Daultana said there was “going to be a disaster” on May 12.

The house will meet again on Thursday at 10am.