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PPP-MQM embrace on the cards

February 23, 2008

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI, Feb 22: The Zardari House in Islamabad remained the centre of political activities on Friday and a number of key political players, including two allies of President Pervez Musharraf, contacted PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to discuss possibilities of cooperation inside and outside the parliament.

In a significant development, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain talked to Mr Zardari on telephone from London and expressed his desire to work with the PPP in the future set-up.

But PPP sources said some party members, particularly from Sindh, voiced serious reservations about possible cooperation with the MQM for its role in the previous set-up under President Musharraf. The sources said a number of PPP members were in favour of forming governments at the centre and in Sindh without MQM’s support.

However, they said, Mr Zardari and some other members believed that it would be difficult for the party to smoothly run the government without MQM’s support.

According to an MQM statement, Mr Zardari said MQM was a political reality and no one could ignore it. “We want to go along with it and work together to serve the people of Sindh and Pakistan.”

Mr Zardari said both parties had suffered in the past and he wanted that such incidents were never repeated.

Mr Hussain stressed the need for unity among the people of Sindh and assured Mr Zardari that there would be no problem for the PPP government in Sindh and both parties would work in cooperation. “If we are united then we would be able to resolve all issues of Sindh.”

Terming the 25-minute conversation a breakthrough, MQM sources in Karachi told Dawn that a meeting between leaders of the two parties would be held soon.

The sources said that MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar was scheduled to address a press conference in Islamabad to respond to allegations of rigging levelled against him by PPP Senator Latif Khosa, but postponed it after the telephonic conversation.

CHATTHA CALLS ON ZARDARI: Former speaker and a key leader of the former ruling PML, Hamid Nasir Chattha who lost the National Assembly election but won a seat in the Punjab Assembly, also met Mr Zardari. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that Mr Chattha had come only to offer condolences to Mr Zardari over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

There were also reports that Mr Zardari went to some unknown location with Mr Chathha and a real estate baron, returning to his residence after some time. However, Rukhsana Bangash, the political secretary to Mr Zardari, denied these reports.

Former opposition leader and chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Mr Zardari in the evening and discussed the outcome of Monday’s elections.

In the morning, Mr Zardari presided over the first meeting of the newly-elected PPP members of the National Assembly and discussed with them the post-election scenario and sought proposals regarding the party’s strategy.

According to Mr Babar, the party had not yet nominated a parliamentary leader who eventually will become the party’s candidate for premiership.

A PPP source told Dawn that during Thursday’s meeting, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif had proposed to Mr Zardari to nominate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan for the prime ministerial office as it would help resolve the present judicial crisis.

But Mr Ahsan, who is now under detention at his house in Lahore and did not contest the election, said in his recent interviews with the media that the next prime minister should be from Sindh and PPP senior vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim would be a suitable choice.

Mr Babar said the participants vowed to work for the restoration of parliament’s supremacy by undoing “undemocratic provisions” like Article 58-2(B), under which elected parliaments had been dismissed.

He said Mr Zardari told members that the election results showed President Musharraf’s loyalists had been completely rejected by the people of Pakistan.

According to him, Mr Zardari had asked the participants to pursue cases of “blatant rigging” with the Election Commission and other legal forums through the party’s Election Monitoring Cell. Mr Zardari said similar consultative meetings would continue during the next three days for taking some hard political decisions in consultation with all.

Mr Babar said Mr Zardari had invited the MPAs of Punjab and Frontier assemblies for a meeting on Saturday and the MPAs of Balochistan and Sindh on Sunday in Islamabad for similar consultations.

On Monday, a meeting of all the PPP candidates of national and provincial assemblies who lost the elections had been called in Islamabad, he said.

The party would announce its decisions after completing the consultative process.