LONDON, Oct 8: Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain, who is a British national, is said to have agreed to abide by the UK government’s advise to show restraint when PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto returns to Karachi on October 18 and has issued instructions to the effect to the MQM leadership in Pakistan.
According to a report published in the Independent on Monday, leadership of the MQM party – which this year was blamed for violence in the city which left 41 dead – has vowed to keep off the streets on her return.
“Because the MQM leadership is based in London the British are taking the lead and the Americans are working with them,” the newspaper quoted a Western diplomat saying.
The newspaper said British and American diplomats have met leaders of the MQM long at odds with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and obtained assurance that they would do nothing to hinder Ms Bhutto’s return.
Quoting a Western diplomat, the Independent report said British and American officials had spoken with MQM officials in Karachi, Islamabad and London to ensure Ms Bhutto’s safe return.
According to the newspaper, Dr Farooq Sattar, a senior member of the MQM, has confirmed his party had spoken with British officials. He said he could not remember the specifics but said the MQM had publicly undertaken not to disrupt Ms Bhutto’s return.
The Independent said a spokesman for the British High Commission played down its role in the negotiations. He said diplomats met all of Pakistan’s political parties “as a matter of course”. However, he admitted Britain and the EU had “called on all parties to exercise restraint” on the occasion of Ms Bhutto’s return.
What leverage may have been exercised over the MQM is a matter of speculation, said the newspaper “However, the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance signed by President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Friday that cleared the way for Ms Bhutto’s return also wipes clear a raft of charges against other politicians, including MQM members,” it added.