MQM walks out of coalition

June 27, 2011

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Farooq Sattar announces his parties decision to quit the coalition government during a press conference in Karachi. – AFP

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement said here on Monday that it had decided to part ways with the Pakistan People’s Party and sit on opposition benches in the National Assembly, Senate and Sindh Assembly in protest against the postponement of election on two Karachi seats of the Azad Jamu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

But the most surprising announcement that MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar made at a press conference was of the resignation of Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan.

A spokesman for the Governor’s House confirmed that Dr Ibad had sent his resignation to the presidency.

Later, the governor rushed to London to meet his leader Altaf Hussain, inform him about the situation in Karachi and take necessary instructions.

The MQM had quit the ruling coalition in January, but returned a week later.

And it is the second time that the party has upped the ante by asking its most trusted man, Dr Ibad who has held the highest constitutional position in the province for over eight years, to quit the governor’s office.

On a previous occasion, Dr Ibad had tendered his resignation to President Asif Zardari but it was not accepted.

The decision came a day after MQM chief Altaf Hussain accused the PPP of stabbing his party in the back, warning that by “deceiving a true ally the government has itself set off a process which will bring about its downfall”.

But the party’s decision to join the opposition will affect the PPP-led government neither at the centre nor in Sindh.

At the federal level, the PPP enjoys parliamentary support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q as well as the Awami National Party. In Sindh it has a simple majority in the 168-member house.

“This decision is not at all based on emotions... we have taken the decision in view of the country’s critical situation and dictatorial acts of the government,” Dr Sattar said.

Rejecting the election in Azad Kashmir, he said the government had asked the MQM to withdraw its candidate from one seat reserved for Kashmiri migrants in Karachi in favour of the PPP.

“We were told that if the MQM did not withdraw its candidate the election in Karachi would be postponed. When we refused, the government got the election postponed barely 24 hours before the start of polling on the pretext of security concerns.”

Dr Sattar said the election in Azad Kashmir was a test case. “If the PPP uses all dictatorial steps for the sake of one seat in Karachi, it is not difficult to foresee its attitude in the next general election.”

He alleged that “over 300 leaders and workers of the MQM have been killed during the three years of the present government and criminal elements were also used against the MQM”.

He parried questions about the possibility of a no-confidence motion against the government and whether the relationship between the two parties had reached a point of no return, but said his party would play the role of “constructive opposition”.

According to sources, the federal and provincial ministers belonging to the MQM had already sent their resignations. “All resignations have been sent and now it is up to the authorities when to accept them,” they said.

Reuters adds: Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a news conference: “We will try to remove misgivings and our leadership will do this through consultation with the MQM.”